Questions might be the Key to Unlocking a Tarot Reading

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I have been seeing a lot conversations around how tarot readings work and how to best learn to read the cards lately. Often these conversations come with a strong feelings on some peoples part that their way is the best way. Reading the cards for me encompasses many tools, techniques, skills, and abilities. I want to share this series as a non-dogmatic exploration of all the answers to the question “where great tarot readings come from?” All the posts in the series can be found here.

Counselling and Questions – Where Great Tarot Readings Come from Part 2

Last post talked about the mystery of tarot. Once we know that we can’t know everything this frees us to explore the unknown. One of my favourite way to do so it with questions. I spent a long time studying counselling techniques and counselling in a peer environment. Some of the most universally useful skills that I posses come from my training in counselling. The ones I use most often are:

• the ability to listen.
• that witnessing is sometimes enough.
• often people already have the answer in them
• that a good question can open everything up.
• what people say reveals a lot about what is going for them.

How well do you listen?

Try trading 5 minutes of attention with someone and see how you do. Are you waiting to respond. How does it feel to just listen without the usual back and forth of conversation. What do you see or hear differently in this setting? The more deeply we listen to more clearly we can here what is needed and the source of the issue.

5 of Pentacles - Rider Waite Smith Tarot

In this card we have beggars outside of the church. Aside from them not having money they are also outsiders. They are out in the cold instead of inside the warmth of the church.

With clients it is not uncommon for the stated issue to not be what is truly on a persons mind. Their initial question might be real but there are deeper issues that are more important. They are upset about work – because they are miserable in their marriage. They want more sex but all they talk about is loneliness. If we are listening we can hear the hidden issue in their part of the conversation:

“I feel so sad when I get home from work.”
“Oh do you feel sad at work too?”
“Well no actually just at home.”
“So how is your home life going?”

With this exchange in mind we can change the question from “How can I get a better job?” to “How can I improve my home life?” The whole focus of the reading shifts.

I used to think that my job as a reader was to provide the answers. Now that is much smaller part of what I do with people. This same example might also play out in a reading that is underway maybe in relationship to a card that is pulled. The 5 of Disks might cause me to ask if they feel like their “home is their sanctuary”. [see side bar for why] A question like this in a reading about work life can also bring out the same tears. I don’t need to know what is wrong at home only that a question about home life is important at this point in the reading. The client can tell me the rest.

I can lead with a question by just ask the client what they think about this card. By getting them to talk about how they feel about it, what they think is going on in the card, and maybe what it is leading to, it is possible to answer everything they need to know –  from the wisdom they already have.

Sometimes I don’t even need to say anything. A client came in recently and I spent an hour with them resolving their issues – mostly just by listening. My witnessing encouraged a higher level of clarity and 9 of the 10 questions they came with were cleared up in their own process. “I wanted to ask you if I should sue this person… but I think I should just talk to my lawyer about it.” The client knew the next step and it was not in the cards. In an hour we only flipped a few cards for the questions that were left over that required external input. It was powerful and important – just not important for a lot of cards or a spread to be on the table.

Don’t for get yourself in this process!

I think the final piece readers can learn from counselling is the need for self care. As a reader I often deal with people who are facing life’s most challenging issues. Illness, death, loss, the end of a relationship, and on it goes. Getting some good attention to help me keep it all in perspective has been crucial to my ability to keep showing up at work. So think about building a support network for yourself of people who can listen well. Every month I get together with a few people and we trade time to help each of us keep clear in our lives. It is one of the smartest things I have ever done.

Thanks for Reading
Andrew McGregor

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“Couch” image used under creative commons license.

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