In a moment of panic, my world went flat and heavy, though my heart was beating faster.
The edges of my vision blurred as tunnel vision crept in. I couldn’t find my center through the sea of negative thoughts in my mind. I vacillated between blaming someone else and beating myself up. “Why did he say that?” “What’s wrong with me?” “He knows better!” “I can’t deal with this!” And then a not-so-wise, self-blaming voice added: “You know better than to buy into any of this garbage!”
I ran out of my house in full fight-or-flight mode, knowing I had unwittingly triggered a PTSD response in myself. I sat in my car breathing deeply, sobbing, attempting to “meditate” back to calm. It wasn’t working, and I was not in the mood to watch this stormy sea of emotions pass through.
A single moment of clarity came through: “I need help.” I knew that seeking external guidance would help me calm down enough to allow the emotions to pass and the thoughts to flow without perpetually recycling them. But it was near midnight, too late to even call my meditation-teacher friend.
Then I remembered my tarot cards, and a feeling of profound relief washed over me. I could take a moment and sit with myself. I could quietly shuffle the cards for a moment and then lay them out, allowing the symbolism representing universal themes to pierce my subconscious in a way I was currently incapable of.
Utilizing the Tarot as a Healing Tool
I wasn’t looking to “predict the future” in this reading; I was seeking to shift my current perception of the world, unravel my negative thinking, and parse out what might be helpful to remember in times like this.
My experience has shown me repeatedly that sitting with tarot cards this way is like sitting with a trusted friend or spiritual guide. The cards encourage me to ponder my inner experiences, reignite my intuition, and remember truths I can’t see in an agitated state and won’t access through logic or reasoning.
As I spread a pretty piece of fabric out and began the physical act of shuffling my cards, my attention naturally shifted away from my negative thoughts, noticing instead the sensation of the cards in my hands and the feeling of curiosity as to what they might reveal.
I pulled the first card, which I would place in the center of my preferred five-card layout (more about this below) in the position of “the issue.”
The card I pulled stood for “trusting life.” Immediately upon seeing it, my whole body relaxed. Tears flowed again, but this time they were accompanied by a feeling of gratitude. “Oh, that’s right,” my inner self cried as my hunched-up shoulders dropped. “I don’t have to figure everything out! I can allow life to unfold.”
The rest of my reading offered further insights.
By the time I finished this reading, not only was I re-centered, but I was ready and willing to go back in the house, now armed with empowering insights: that I should relax and trust life; that pain can also make me alert; that a spinning mind rarely says anything helpful; that I might learn more about myself if I turn my judgments of others around; and that even my dark moments are necessary.
I encourage you to try this yourself!
How to Practice a Meditative Tarot Reading
Under any circumstances, it is humbling to ask for help, for we risk not being in control. When querying tarot cards, we tend to face some of our biggest questions in life. And we tend to be fully aware that our go-to, conditioned way of dealing with a situation has not helped. Plus, the “who” we are asking for help is not a renowned scientist, but the unseen mystery of the universe.
The value of deciding to do a tarot card reading, particularly a meditative tarot card reading, is that it helps us reimagine and create new and unexpected possibilities. Sitting down before tarot cards is a way of stripping away our old way of being, responding, and opening to a new way of seeing. We learn to be open, listen carefully, become attuned to resonance, and surrender what we think we know.
Plus, working with tarot cards is fun! Learning on your own is also convenient; there is no financial or scheduling barrier to cross each time you want to consult them. I love diving into the allegorical symbolism of the cards. Humans are unique, yet we face many of the same iconic struggles.
What happens when we do a meditative tarot card reading? We use the tool to expose what we already know but are unable or unwilling to recognize. Using tarot cards this way allows us to have a detached perspective—to open a window to our naked souls.
What Makes a Tarot Deck
A traditional tarot deck contains 78 cards divided into two groups: the major arcana (22 cards) and the minor arcana (56 cards).
The major arcana cards represent the structure of human consciousness. They include classic life lessons, karmic influences, and big archetypal themes that can influence your life and journey. When these cards show up in a reading, pay attention!
The minor arcana cards, divided into four groups or suits, tend to relate to what’s happening in your daily life and have a more temporary influence.
The four suits are Cups (representing feelings, emotions, creativity), Pentacles (finances, work, possessions), Swords (thoughts, words, actions), and Wands (energy, motivation, passion). Each suit has 10 numbered cards and four court cards (King, Queen, Knight, and Page). The four court cards represent different personality characteristics.
The Rider-Waite deck (also known as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck) is one of the most widely used traditional decks. I have used this deck quite a bit and dabbled in several others as well. The one I use the most is the Osho Zen Tarot deck. I find the pictures to be beautiful and mesmerizing. The Osho Zen Tarot deck is divided similarly to a traditional deck but with different word choices and, thus, a different focus. The suits are Water, representing emotions; Rainbows, representing the phenomenal world; Clouds, representing the mind; and Fire, representing intuition. There is one extra “Master” card.
Choosing the Right Deck and Cultivating the Right Attitude
What is most important is finding and using a deck that feels good to you. Do the pictures appeal to you? Can you easily decipher their meanings? Do you like a deck that looks more traditional or modern?
Equally important is entering into the reading with the goal of learning more about yourself rather than predicting your future. A meditative tarot card reading helps us see that the external circumstances of our life reflect our inner world. Often when we do a meditative tarot card reading, there will be an immediate “knowing”—a feeling of resonance—in response to a particular card. Pay attention to that!
How to Perform Your Own Meditative Tarot Card Reading
Select a deck to work with. Elena Nicolaou, a culture editor at OprahMag.com, says, “There is no one correct deck. Look for the one that will literally speak to you.” Have the guide booklet (which usually accompanies any tarot deck) set aside to consult with.
Find your question or issue. Sit quietly and ponder your present issue until you know what you want to query. For example, when you are agitated, you might ask the cards for insight into your current anxiety.
- Select a layout. Usually, the booklet that comes with the cards will have some suggestions, ranging from a one-card draw to a ten-card layout. I almost always use a five-card format for a meditative tarot card reading.
Card 1: The center card which represents “the issue.”
Card 2: The card left of center which represents “an internal influence of which you might be unaware.”
Card 3: The card right of center which represents “an external influence of which you are aware.”
Card 4: The card below center which represents “what is needed for resolution.”
Card 5: The card above center which represents “the resolution.” (Note: If a card appears that seems negative, you might notice that it represents “the end of…” whatever the card symbolizes.)
Shuffle the cards. Imagine that the cards are a receptacle into which you pour your energy.
Fan the cards out using your left hand, which is said to be the receptive hand. Carefully choose the number of cards your layout requires and place them in order. Having a designated, attractive piece of fabric to lay these on can further engage the senses at the outset.
Stay in the moment. Allow your issue or question to be in the forefront of your mind.
Turn over the cards. Take a moment to look at each one. Notice if one jumps out at you more than another. Consider what place it holds in the layout. Pay attention to the symbols on each card. Read the descriptions of each card offered in the accompanying booklet. Be open to what wants to be heard.