Developing Your Intuition

A Few Exercises to Help You Read Tarot Intuitively

I’m often asked, “What does it take to learn how to read the Tarot? Do you need to study for a few years? Do you need to rely on your intuition? Do you need to be psychic?”

Although I don’t think you need to be psychic (it couldn’t hurt, though), I do believe that a good balance of acquired knowledge and personal intuition will put you on the path of being a good reader.

Knowledge & Intuition

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re working with the same vocabulary.

  • Acquired knowledge. This is under the domain of the left side of your brain and refers to the descriptions of the Tarot cards that you’ve learned from books, classes, workshops, mentors and fellow readers. This will govern how you analyze and how you think about the cards – it’s how your left-brain processes what you see.
  • Personal intuition. This is under the domain of the right side of your brain and refers to meanings you see in the cards that have absolutely nothing to do with your acquired knowledge. This will govern what you sense and how you feel about the cards – it’s how your right-brain processes what you see.

I wholeheartedly recommend that you continue studying the Tarot – give the left-side of your brain a good workout. Learn as much as you can about the Tarot’s history, its rich symbolism, and its connection or relationship to other esoteric disciplines and divination systems. Explore the various and wondrous ways you can use it as a valuable tool for divination, self-growth and a means of understanding life and the Universe.

I also highly recommend that you explore and develop your intuition. It will come from your very core and enable you to tap into the wonders and gifts of the Universe. It will help you provide a deeper and more sensitive aspect to your readings, and you’ll be amazed at how much it can help you in other areas of your life.

Bringing Out Your Intuitive Self

Going about acquiring a good, base knowledge of the cards is a relatively easy task, but developing your intuition is a different thing altogether. Here are a few exercises that will help you get in touch and in tune with your intuition.

NOTE: Besides helping you with your intuition, the following exercises may provide you with one of two extra benefits:

  1. You’ll likely develop an interest in studying other disciplines and concepts such as astrology, numerology, colors, symbols and glyphs, and the Kabbalah, and how they all come into play within the Tarot
  2. If you’ve already started down this path, you’ll likely see these things from a fresh and more interesting perspective.

Grab your favorite deck and retrieve your favorite card. If you don’t have a favorite card, go through each card in the deck and select one that seems to grab your attention. Lay the card on the table and make sure it is directly in front of you. Now go through the following steps carefully – take your time, there’s no need to rush. (By the way, you might want to have a magnifying glass on hand.) As you go through each step, note how each item makes you feel.

  1. Look at colors in the card.
    1. Are they predominately light or dark?
    2. How do the colors make you feel? What emotions do they elicit? Happiness? Sadness? Anger? Detachment? Thoughtfulness? Silliness?
    3. What would you say is the main color theme? How does that affect the overall way you feel about the card?

  2. Look at the various symbols in the card.
    1. Are there any geometric shapes? If so, how do they strike you and what do you think they mean? How do they play into the overall feeling of the card?
    2. Are there any cultural symbols in the card? (Crosses, pyramids, staffs, coat of arms, types of jewelry or clothing items, etc.) How do they initially weave into the message that comes across to you for the card?

  3. Look at figures in the card.
    1. Are they male or female or both?
    2. Are they young, middle aged or old?
    3. Are they alone, with someone else, or with a group of people?
    4. What are they doing? Sitting? Standing? Running? Fighting? Resting? Riding in or on something?
    5. How are they dressed?
    6. Are they holding anything? If so, what are they doing with it?
    7. What do you suppose they’re thinking?
    8. Who do you suppose they’re feeling?

  4. Look at surroundings
    1. Are they indoors or outdoors?
    2. Are they near water? Mountains? Plains? Valleys? Hills?
    3. Are they in a house? A castle? A church? A palace?
    4. If they’re in a room, how is constructed? Are there windows? Doors? Columns? Curtains? Pillars? Seats? Thrones?

  5. Look at the action in the card.
    1. Are people moving around? If so, how?
    2. Are people interacting with each other? In what ways?
    3. Are there animals in the card? If so, what are they doing?

  6. 6) Look at the numbers.
    1. What numbers seem more powerful to you? Why?
    2. What numbers seem weaker to you? Why?
    3. How (if at all) does a number change your perspective of what you see in the card?

The key to working with the steps above is to note how you sense each of them the initial moment you see the card. Intuition is about doing all of the above without thinking about it. It involves what you initially sense about the card. You may sense all, some or few of these items. How much or how little you sense doesn’t matter. What matters is exactly what you do sense. What does your gut tell you? What does the little bird sitting on your shoulder tell you? What does the tiny voice in your head tell you? If you happen to find that you have two conflicting thoughts about a particular aspect of the card, it’s very likely that your first thought was the right one – it was your intuition speaking to you.

Take two cards and use the previous techniques on both, but now ask yourself how they relate in context to each other. What story do the cards weave? How did you see them both initially, the moment you turned them around? What connections did you immediately notice? What similarities did you see? What opposing factors did you notice? How do the major colors play into the message you see?

Once you get comfortable with using your intuition on two cards, working with more cards is quite easy. Just remember to apply the same principles to each card.

Parting Thoughts

Now you’re on your way to doing readings that combine your intuition and your intellectual knowledge of the cards. Just think of what the cards will reveal to you now and the amazing messages you’ll be able to see as you hone and polish these skills.

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2 Responses to Developing Your Intuition

  1. Helen says:

    Hi Mike! I know what you describe here is how many people define intuition, I prefer to call it “reading by pictures”. For me, intuition is about the cards triggering something stored in my brain (a memory, a song, a poem) that relates to the message in the cards. It is about unlocking a coded message, connecting the dots and coming away with a cohesive personal message that is relevant. It is not so much about right versus left brain as it is about accessing a deeper, less conscious part of my brain. If there is another word for that process, please let me know. 🙂

  2. Hi Helen:

    Thanks for your great and thoughtful feedback! Actually, I agree with your description, as I think it is part of the broader definition of intuition.

    As I read your reply, it struck me that the items you referenced (a memory, a song, a poem) are all things that would invoke a particular feeling, which would then relate somehow to the message on the card. I think this is still in line with my definition of Personal Intuition and supports my notion of focusing on how the cards make you feel. If I may make an assumption here, we’re both trying to see the message within a card instinctively rather than analytically.

    Many a beginning reader ends up over-analyzing a card he or she is trying to read intuitively. She tries to make sure that the meaning she felt intuitively actually makes sense; it’s at that point that she starts getting in her head too much. Hence my discussion on right-brain/left brain and my instruction to use some or all of the techniques I’ve presented without thinking about it.

    Some people come by their intuition naturally and easily, and others must learn how to unlock it. My hope is that folks can use these exercises to practice developing their intuition and to learn how to approach the cards from the perspective of their feelings.

    Thanks again, Helen! ;?)

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