We tarot readers are so focused on how to best interpret the cards, that we totally overlook the actual process of reading them.
And this is why many beginner professional readers lose the wonder and feel only stress when pulling cards for clients. Without proper preparation, we can become suffocated by the expectation, distracted by our own projections, or disconnected from our intuition. We throw ourselves into the ring and then can’t understand why we struggle to give guidance to our clients when it comes so easily for ourselves.
But the truth is, our skill and knowledge are not enough. We need to work in cooperation with the universe. We need to become the channel. We need to leave our conscious minds behind and enter deeper space, the realm of profound intuition. And the key to this is not unlocking some psychic power, it’s simple preparation.
So if you’ve been struggling to find a good rhythm reading for clients, or pulling cards makes you feel more anxiety than awe, maybe it’s time to rethink your process.
Here’s the 4 steps I’ve curated in my experience as a tarot professional to ensure extraordinary readings for myself and my clients. Don’t skip the preparation, my friends, it really makes all the difference.
1. Clear your head & your space
Before you give someone a reading, you have to make sure your life is turned off to an extent. Like a therapist or a teacher, your stress has to be checked at the door to be fully present for your client. So perhaps this looks like meditating beforehand, or journaling it out, or going for a walk.
Personally, I don’t like to do something that takes up too much time, because then I start to get a little anxious. About 10 minutes before I meet with my client, I’ll set up my space, organize my desk, pull out my cards, drink some water. I’ll also use some magical items, like spritzing an intuition enhancing spray over my cards, and anointing myself with special oil. Then, I take a deep, cleansing breath, and I’m ready.
Whatever feels best for you, make sure to feel like your physical space is cleared of the heaviness of the day, and your mind is free, open and receptive.
2. Discover & set the intention
If there is no intention for a reading, there is no set lens through which to read the cards, and often those sessions can feel chaotic and overwhelming for a reader. Of course, we don’t need our clients to pose questions like, “When should I leave my boyfriend?” because that sort of specificity doesn’t always come naturally through the tarot, and often the cards pull us in unexpected directions anyway.
That being said, the client will often know what it is they want to probe in the reading, and you should ask that question at the beginning. I know this seems a bit obvious, but many readers will jump into pulling cards before processing what the client is really trying to explore. There’s a sort of impulse to prove your psychicness or talent by showing that the cards can reflect a client’s situation before they’ve even told you about it. But this is stressful, and sometimes disorienting. Ask your client not for formulated questions, but what needs to be brought to the table. Ask them to explain what has brought them to you, what it is they need to process, and listen deeply.
At this point I usually like to repeat this back to my client in my own words, making sure that I understand what they need to explore, but also making sure they feel heard and understood. Then from this information, I’ll pull out an intention (or question) for the cards and ask my client if this feels right to them, or I’ll ask them to offer one themselves. Once we’ve decided on one, I’ll light a candle to symbolize that intention and keep it lit for the length of our session together.
3. Enter the lowered level
When giving a reading, we want to be as open to intuitive insights as we can. This is why we want to deliberately lower our state of consciousness, or become more receptive to unconscious messages. In writing about divination, psychologist Carl Jung illuminated a concept highlighted by a contemporary Pierre Janet, called abaissement du niveau mental, which means a lowering of the mental level. This is a sort of state of lowered consciousness, so that you are more able to connect to the collective unconsciousness, to the deepest place of the psyche from which our intuition draws. The Oxford Reference defines this experience as “a reduced state of concentration and attention, accompanied by a loosening of inhibitions and relaxation of restraints, in which unexpected contents may emerge from the unconscious.”
Before I pull any cards, I like to draw my client and myself down into this state of lowered consciousness together. This usually looks like a brief meditation, a visualization of sinking, going quiet, entering the dark. But whether you want to lead your client into this space or simply enter it yourself, before you shuffle is the moment to drop. As you reach for your cards, exhale everything out of yourself, as if you are breathing out your entire ego-mind, leaving it to be picked back up at the end of your session.
This is a strange experience to be sure, but it has totally changed by tarot practice. My readings are clearer, my intuition louder, and an overall deeper experience. Practice ways of letting go of the mind and entering the receptive state.
4. Shuffle with excitement
Finally, you are ready to shuffle, and this should be the most thrilling moment of the whole experience. Jung was clear that the state of a person’s mind reflected the success of their ability to tap into the unconscious realm. Once the level of consciousness has been lowered, we must anticipate what Jung described as the “archetype of the magical effect”.
Psychologist Ira Progoff explains that after analyzing studies on psychic receptivity, Jung realized it was not the individual that had the clearest success, but their state of mind. When the participant held a sort of hopeful expectancy of guessing the right image behind a card, they were more likely to guess correctly. This is because “the process itself activates something at the archetypal level of the psyche”, meaning the very act of participating in divination stirs up the unconscious mystery in us, bringing us into the depths where absolute knowledge resides.
Therefore, when you start to shuffle you should open yourself to that excited tingle. Rather than hoping the cards are right, you should choose the radical faith that they are, and nurture that sense of wonder at asking the enormous, magnanimous universe to channel this essential wisdom through you. Let it feel big, let it feel like a miracle. And then true magic will happen.