Sometimes clients talk about their reading like it’s therapy. There are many parallels. A Tarot reader is like a therapist. A mystical, underqualified therapist with feathers braided into her hair, but close enough anyway. What we have in common is that we are paid listeners. And we share a skill that is critical to therapists and Tarot readers: the ability to detach.
Detaching primarily boils down to not taking things personally. But the more you explore that idea, the more applications it has. What does it mean to not take things personally? How do you remove your personal self, your feelings, or your ego, from the process of reading cards? And why is this so vital to providing excellent, professional readings?
A Tarot reading is a tool for personal growth. When you’re reading for a client, you are providing a service to stimulate their growth. That should be your one and only focus in the reading. The conversation is between the client and the cards. For all intents and purposes, you the reader do not exist. You are only there as an interpreter for the cards. You facilitate the conversation. It’s important that you don’t pollute it by bringing yourself into the mix.
Detachment helps you deliver a more lucid message, so the client has a more enriching experience. But it’s important for your protection as well. What does it mean to detach? Let’s look at some of the basics.
Don’t Pick Up Baggage
Clients come to you with problems. If you’re seeing ten clients per week (or per day! Good job!), you can’t possibly make all of those problems your own. You would wither before you got your practice off the ground. There’s no way to export the amount of energy it would take to weep and worry about all of your clients all day every day.
Reading for friends about their crushes is one thing. The stakes are higher with paying clients, who come to you with real problems–they’re losing their business to a vindictive lawsuit; they’ve just found out that their spouse is unfaithful; a loved one committed suicide. They may be bringing tremendous pain and laying it before you. Your job is to help them sort through and understand that pain, not to adopt it as your own.
In the midst of a reading, practice compassion but not empathy. This goes against conventional new age teaching. Empathy will cripple you as a reader. Compassion means you see your client’s suffering and you want to relieve it. Empathy means you suffer with them. If you are going to be a rock of good counsel for people, you cannot make their suffering your own.
A solid mindfulness practice helps with this. When a client is describing their suffering, mentally rise above it by observing that this client is suffering. The simple observation of the fact distances you from it. Remember that you are there to help. Your job, unlike a therapist, is simply to deliver the message of the cards. Try not to be shaken. Just facilitate. Let the cards do the work.
When the reading is over for the client, it’s over for you, too. Wash your hands, go for a walk, or do whatever ritual you need to do to let go and move on. Occasionally a client will try to foist their baggage upon you during your off time. But you need to take care of yourself. Outside the reading room, make yourself one thousand percent unavailable to listen to your clients’ problems. Compassionately redirect them to book in with you. Don’t answer questions for free. Don’t cave under the pressure of inappropriate guilting. Your time is valuable. This is your job.
Don’t give out your phone number. If you’re working through a shop, refer clients to the front desk to book in. If you’re handling your own bookings, use a business email address or a Google voice number instead of your personal line. This will help you maintain a staunch perimeter around your personal life, which will keep you from getting entangled in other people’s drama. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Leave Your Opinions At the Door
Don’t offer personal or political opinions. That’s not what your clients are paying you for. Just like detaching from a client’s baggage and drama, you need to be able to detach from your own. If you need to prove to everyone what a genderfluid anarchist you are, start a blog, not a Tarot practice.
A reader is an interpreter, not a zealot. You can’t choose your clients, and the occasional deplorable will turn up at your table. Don’t judge, or try to convert them; you have an opportunity to help someone who might need it more than your usual visitors.
And don’t expect the Tarot to support your opinions. In fact, plan to get messages that you don’t agree with. Be prepared to deliver them anyway. It’s okay to say:
- This is unexpected, but the cards are saying x.
- For whatever reason the oracle is advising you to x.
- This may not be the message you were hoping to hear, but it clearly says x. Whatever you do with that message is up to you.
Sometimes you’ll find a long term client who opines in ways harmonious with your views. In this case you may have a little more leeway to speak freely about personal thoughts. But be sure they set the precedent. Don’t introduce the conversation unprompted. When personal opinions do arise, it’s critical that you identify them for the client.
Think of a lawyer: as your attorney, I advise against any illegal activity. But as your friend, let’s hop over the fence and see what happens! You have a post (Tarot reader) that entails certain responsibilities, and a personality that is made of opinions and tastes. They don’t always agree. This is also part of why it’s ill advised to make friends with your clients.
They need to know the difference between when you are speaking as you, and when the cards are speaking through you. So tell them clearly. Speaking personally, it sounds like you should leave him. But the cards are recommending patience and quiet strength. It’s up to you which approach you decide on. When in doubt, and when you’re with a first time client, keep your opinions to yourself.
Remember that words are like wild horses. Once they leave your mouth you have no control over where they go, how they’re interpreted, and what damage they might do. Also remember that people are coming to you vulnerable. It’s an abuse of power to take advantage of impressionable people by inflicting your views on them.
It’s Not About You
An amatuer talks about herself. A more professional reader eschews the words I, me, and my. And a true professional doesn’t discuss her personal life, even anecdotally, in the reading room. If you need to tell a story from your own life to make a point, pretend it’s about a friend, or something you read somewhere.
Instead of saying When I was traveling in Peru I met a shaman who changed my life… try A friend of mine was traveling in Peru and met a shaman who changed her life… If that takes the wind out of your sails, perhaps you were trying to work the story in for the wrong reason. Phrasing a personal anecdote this way allows you to make your point with modesty and discretion.
If you need to strengthen your personal image, work on branding. If you want to give Tarot readings, get your damned ego out of the way! Your brand may be about you, but a reading with a client should never be.
The way a client reacts to a reading is not about you, either. If they love the reading, that’s because the cards struck something deep inside of them. If they storm out furiously, it’s also because the cards struck something deep inside of them. Either way, don’t take it personally.
You’ll be surprised how many angry clients come back to you after two months and say the reading was spot on. Even then, don’t take personal credit. It doesn’t make you great. It simply demonstrates the mysterious power of the cards. Do your job and enjoy observing the process.
How To Detach
Mindfulness meditation is a Tarot reader’s best friend. The simple act of observing your breathing can do wonders for your readership. It teaches you to detach. The ability to rise above emotions and greet the world with objective neutrality takes practice. So practice!
If you haven’t tried mindfulness meditation before, try this excellent routine by Thich Nhat Hanh:
- Sit straight and comfortably.
- Breath in and out at a regular rhythm.
- Mentally say to yourself:
-As I breathe in, I know I am breathing in.
-As I breathe out, I know I am breathing out.
- When you’re interrupted by a spontaneous thought, go back to step 2.
That’s it! It’s harder than you think. And despite the simplicity of this exercise, the effects of regular practice are profound. Once you get the hang of it (e.g. you can concentrate on your breathing for several minutes uninterrupted by thoughts), you can replace the mantra above with the following, repeating each couplet for a few minutes:
-As I breathe in, I see myself as a flower.
-As I breathe out, I feel fresh.
-As I breathe in, I see myself as a mountain.
-As I breathe out, I feel solid.
-As I breathe in, I see myself as a lake.
-As I breathe out, I feel still
-As I breathe in, I see myself as space.
-As I breathe out, I feel free.
This is a wonderful and expansive meditation. Don’t take my word for it, though. Find out for yourself! For the card reader, the most important part is the simple first step: observing your breathing with detachment. If you can do that well, you can observe your emotions with detachment, too. This detachment will distance you from your ego. And it will help you deliver better Tarot readings to your clients.
So detachment can help you refrain from picking up your clients’ baggage, and it can help you check your ego so you can give more lucid readings. Cause even though you’re really cool and good looking, your clients are coming to you for your ability to deliver a message, and that message should be clear and unpolluted.
Reading cards with a professional detachment will increase the effectiveness of your sessions and the professionalism of your delivery. Detachment is a powerful skill that gets easier with practice. So build your strength of mindfulness, detach instead of taking things personally, and watch your practice grow.