In my decade as a professional intuitive tarot reader, I have performed thousands of readings for people from every conceivable walk of life, people from all over the world, people with many different perspectives. Yet there are certain phenomena that appear to cross many different borders, such as some of the most common questions folks have asked me before we begin the reading, "What should I do to prepare? Do I need to do anything special? How does this work, anyway?"
When you are contemplating getting a reading, it is typically because you have some questions about your life, need some clarity, and are seeking compassionate guidance and perspective. Yet when you sit down at the table of a relative stranger, it can be difficult to know how much to offer the reader in the way of explanations, questions, background information, and personal data. It can be hard to know if the reader is trustworthy, if the reader is a clear communicator, and how the reader's own views on life might inform the interpretation of the reading. There are a thousand tiny details that make the experience rich, yet some easily-forgettable ones might really limit your enjoyment if neglected, like being caught in a chilly room without a sweater. By taking the time to prepare yourself for your reading, however, you can approach your experience feeling more grounded, comfortable, and ready for a truly magical moment.
Many of us have had the experience of walking into a tea house, cafe, or festival, locking eyes with a reader, and knowing it was time for a spontaneous divination. These in-the-moment adventures in mantic arts can be some of the best one-reading stands of one's life. I'll never forget the time I was 13 years old, on vacation with my family in Rockport, ME, when I had my first reading in a neon-palm store. The reader was spectacularly eccentric, dressed the part, and drew in a lively crowd of tourists. But she was also very accurate, mentioning pieces of information about my immediate social life and future experiences that have all come true: that I would not marry young, but would travel instead (I'd say moving cross-country and now engaged at 39 qualifies), that I would be a "healer but not a doctor or nurse" (in fact, I am both an herbalist and have served as a Public Health Educator), and - most importantly- that "You could do what I am doing if you wanted to" (and here I am!) In no way am I discounting these awesome, perfect, synergistic moments when life throws you a diviner's bone and says, "Now!" But for most of us, we find ourselves needing guidance at other times, when we might be raw or sensitive, or when Fate does not seem to be serving us up the perfect spontaneous moment out of the blue. Then we have to take matters into our own hands. The little guide I have written below is based on my experiences observing my clients, and will help you get the most out of a reading you might schedule with a professional.
Before choosing a reader and scheduling a reading
Know your intention:
Why do you want this reading? What are you seeking? Clarity about the past, love advice, money/career guidance, a general look at the future, easing challenging relationship dynamics, cutting through spiritual confusion? Take some time to meditate on why your need for a reading arose. Was it motivated by a life event or change? Did you have an intuition that it was "just time" for a reading now? Are you feeling inexplicably stuck or "off" in some way? Lost your mojo? Contemplate your intention before selecting a reader, because many readers have different specialties. The better you know your intention for getting the reading, the more likely you are to select a reader who can meet your needs.
: Do you have any reliable, discerning friends who have raved about a local or national reader? Has anyone mentioned having a wonderful experience with a reading, or a great connection with a reader? Consider posing a query to your friends and wider network, either in person or via social media, asking for recommendations, cautionary tales, and advice. You might find some great leads this way.
Do your homework
: With Yelp, Google reviews, and other online consumer reporting/networking sites, you can find out a lot of information about your prospective reader. What language do the reviews use to describe the reader? Do the key words used most often resonate with what you are seeking, like "accurate," "compassionate," "helpful"? Does anyone mention that they received guidance for an intention similar to your own? Does the reader have a fair mix of mostly good reviews with a few tepid or even negative reviews? Yes, negative reviews are helpful, too. Not every reader is meant for every client, and that is OK. Different people like different things, and have different red light buttons as well. If a negative review addresses concerns that you also might find important, then buyer beware. On the other hand, a slew of great reviews with one or two sour notes suggest that those negative reviews might just have been the result of someone's bad day, not necessarily a reflection on the overall quality of the reader. Use your judgement. Lastly, take a quick second to Google the name of your prospective reader, to make sure there are no known scandals or fraudulent claims attached to the person's name. Once you have amassed your data, look it all over, sift out the readers who do not suit you, and from the rest, choose with your gut instinct. Who do you feel drawn to?
Scheduling your reading
Make an appointment
: Most reputable readers will accept appointments, and several of us prefer them to on-the-spot readings. The reason for this is simple: a person in crisis is less likely to be truly present to get the most out of the guidance a reading can offer. If you are getting a desperate reading in the middle of the night at a neon-palm-shop about the date who walked out in a huff two hours ago, you are more likely looking for comfort and a shoulder to cry on than wisdom from the Universe about the steps you need to take to create the kind of life where the right love shows up and stays. So, even when life hurts, try to take the time to schedule a reading for a day or so ahead (at least), take some deep breaths, give yourself lots of extra care and nurturing, and then approach the reading ready for real answers and perspective on not only the situation at hand, but the road that brought you there and the road that will lead you forth to greater happiness.
Choose a day and time when you can prepare beforehand and process afterward:
Many of my clients who come flying in from traffic, or a meeting, or the gym, have a harder time focusing on the reading. It often takes us a few precious minutes just to get them calm enough to really open up their consciousness with me. Similarly, folks who have to dash off immediately afterwards are frequently checking their watches or phones, worrying about getting everything answered quickly, and have a harder time allowing themselves to really relax and receive the reading with all its possible depth and nuance. So the ideal is to leave at least 30-60 minutes on either side of the reading for everything from finding parking to sitting and taking notes afterwards while the reading is still fresh in your mind.
Make sure you know where you are going:
Are you headed to a familiar or unfamiliar part of town? Do you know where you will park? Have you checked traffic to make sure there are no roadblocks, construction, or other delays to the area? Do you know which bus/train/car service can take you there? Or is this is distance reading? Do you need to log in or ring up somewhere? Do you have the number or URL, and have you checked it twice? Do you have sufficient battery charge for the call? Being on time and prepared for your reading, in person or via electronic means, will translate into a more relaxed, present, heart-centered experience rather than a mad dash or a big wall of transportation or tech frustration.
Preparing for the reading
Adjust your mindset:
You are about to leave the literal realm and move into the mystical realm. Keep in mind that even if you are naturally skeptical, it doesn't hurt to open up your mind to possibilities and allow your creative thinking to take center during the session. Get ready to adjust the story you tell yourself about your life, to stretch, prune, or otherwise shape it to accommodate new information and perspective. Get ready to have a big mirror held up to you, to have your consciousness sifted for nuggets of gold, and to have potentially startling truths revealed, confirmed, or questioned. Allow for the fact that this experience might not be logical, tidy, or simple to understand, and allow for that to be a valuable, though occasionally messy, form of learning.
Ground, Center, Open
: Spend a few moments before your reading getting grounded and centered. Contemplate your questions and circumstances. Think about your desired outcomes as well as any known obstacles in your path. Open yourself to the wisdom that will emerge from the reading by being ready to listen on multiple levels, ready to ask for clarification if necessary, ready to be confirmed and/or surprised by what you find out. Reduce fear and anxiety by remembering and repeating to yourself: "I am here for a reason, I have set my intention, and while this might be life-opening or life-changing, it also might simply be a confirmation of what I am already doing. I am prepared for anything that might happen, and I am confident in my ability to make this reading, and my life, a great experience." When you go in to a reading with this confident openness, your intuitive reader will likely have a much easier time accessing your answers, connecting with you, and will also be more keenly sensitive to your questions and queries if there is anything that becomes confusing or unclear in the reading.
Ask your Higher Powers for their blessing:
This might not be necessary for everyone, but if you feel comfortable, take a moment to sit silently before your reading and ask any Higher Powers that are important to you to be present and assist you during the reading. Then, observe for little signs of their presence in the things the reader says. Did you ask Aphrodite to be present, and then the reader keeps mentioning red roses or mirrors? That might be a subtle way for Aphrodite to call your attention to something. Did you ask Great-Aunt Jane to be present, and the reader brings up reference to a grandmotherly person who watches over you? This practice might prove very helpful and make the reading that much more personal for you. The reader may or may not sense these guides, gods, ancestors, or Powers, and might or might not mention them. You also might ask a receptive reader to try to connect directly with these guides if you like, but know that whether or not this connection is possible or correct for the reading, your own devotional relationship with your Higher Powers can be a source of magical, seemingly coincidental allusions, turns of phrase, or symbols presented by your reader.
Use your tools:
bring a pen and paper, a recording device, or a camera to capture the moment
(ask permission of the reader, of course)
. I allow my clients to record their reading via whatever means they like, but I do not provide my own recordings. Some readers do. Other readers prefer you just be present and not be distracted with note-taking. I typically allow clients to photograph their card spreads, and sometimes me, as a way to remember the reading. Some readers are more squeamish about this. When you make your appointment, find out what the reader allows/prefers so you can approach this piece of the reading with respect. I'm in favor of recording the reading and leaving note-taking to the end or not at all, so the client can be more present during the reading itself. Worst case scenario for someone who likes to document a reading: the reader says, "No notes, no recordings." Fear not! You can always have a notebook and pen or recorder handy and go immediately to imprint your memories of the reading in private afterwards.
During the reading
Have your questions ready
: If you want to ask the reader for very detailed, specific answers, you might want to offer more detailed, specific information in your question, thus saving time and cutting through the backstory. If you want the reader to give broader, more systemic answers, a more general question will usually get the ball rolling. If you choose to ask no question at all, understand that you are a vast spiritual being, and what comes up naturally in the reading might not be what was immediately on your mind. Know that even with the most detailed question, occasionally an answer will arise that is related to something else entirely. After all, the reading will offer you what you need to hear, and will drag a net under the surface of your consciousness to find whatever that is.
Be ready to speak up and participate:
Most readers don't want to just sit and listen to ourselves talk for the whole reading (thought many of us CAN go on and on, at times!) We appreciate your feedback, course corrections, and finer points as we go along, and this makes for a more engaging reading for you, as well. For example, I might tell someone seeking a new mate that I sense a jealous spirit near them who is interfering with their dating, and they might reply by filling in the blanks: that their former partner was quite possessive before s/he passed on, and that they have felt like s/he was lingering nearby now that they are thinking about dating again. Together, you and your reader make sense of the messages that come, and apply them to your life, exploring the subtle shades of meaning. Don't be afraid to speak up to get the clarity you need, or to offer perspective on a message the reader might find confusing or unrelated to your question. Even the most gifted psychics are still looking through a smoky glass, and some pieces of the puzzle might seem obscure to them unless you offer some context or additional information. Peeling back the layers of the onion together can form a closer bond of trust between you and your reader as well, which can mean that the readings get even more accurate and specific over time as you establish a solid working relationship.
Think about your possible needs
: Prepare well to avoid the things that might distract you from the reading. Do you run cold? Bring a jacket or sweater just in case. Do you tend to get thirsty? Bring your own water. Do you get a nervous cough? Tuck a lozenge in your pocket. Do you tend to get weepy or emotional when you are in sacred space, or is your question a tender one? Bring a hanky. Most readers will be able to provide for your comfort in many ways, but it's a good idea to be ready to meet your own needs according to your own preferences for maximum comfort.
Respect the sanctity of the reader's process:
There are so many tiny rituals that any given reader might employ during a reading, such as prayer, special card shuffling, specific ways of cutting a deck, use of minerals and semi-precious stones, Reiki, visualization before or during the reading, lucky talismans in the space, and so forth. Even if seeing that crystal skull on the table isn't really your thing, even if you don't understand why the reader wants you to shuffle three times, even if you feel confused about why the reader counts out a specific number of cards or does any other seemingly eccentric behavior during the reading--providing it is not harmful, just relax and see where it goes. Readers, like baseball players, can have a wide variety of practices, personal rituals, and superstitions they observe as part of a reading. These small rituals help them build power, ability to enter the divinatory state, and accuracy. They might not need to make sense to the client in order to work for the reader. However, if your reader does anything you find objectionable, for example, asking a vegan to hold an animal skin, or asking a scent-free person to put a scented oil on her/his body, it is always OK to politely but firmly decline.
After the reading
*To tip or not to tip:
Where tipping is natural and expected as a response to excellent service in certain industries, tipping for a reading can be a nebulous area. Typically, if you have enjoyed a reading and gotten a lot out of it, a tip is a gesture that shows the reader your appreciation. However, some readers build their fee structure in such a way that tipping is not necessary or even appropriate. When the reading is at an end, listen to your gut and see if you think a tip will be the right thing to do. Even if the reader chooses not to accept, or graciously defers the compliment, you still know you offered acknowledgement of her/his skill. Conversely, you should not feel pressured to tip if that is not what you want to do.
*Review your notes/recording:
Take the time to read your notes or listen to the recording of your reading within 24-72 hours of the experience, to lock the details in, to give you food for thought, and to consider further interpretations that might arise separately from the original event of the reading. Set a date in your calendar to go back and review the reading again in 6-8 weeks, to see if anything has changed, if dates and events came true as predicted, if the messages take on a new meaning given the passage of time. Come back to your reading notes/recording as often as needed in order to observe how the subtler nuances of meaning might reveal themselves. The Universe is always writing these little love notes to us in the form of multi-layered insights that iterate and change shape as our lives shift and plunge forward. A symbol that was important three months ago for one reason might now have a whole new meaning that gives you a magical thread to follow and new realms to discover. A good reading will leave you with some of these expansive, dynamic inspirations to consider for months, and maybe years, to come.
*Schedule a follow-up if necessary:
Folks often ask me when they should come back for their next session, and I always say the same thing, "You're not required to come back ever, and if our paths never cross again, I wish you the very best. However, if you'd like to come again, I'd be happy to see you anytime after about 8-12 weeks, provided nothing significant has changed. If anything significant happens, we can consider meeting sooner." There should be no pressure by the reader for you to come back at any specific time, or contract further services unless you really want to pursue them. This is an at-will professional service relationship. If you don't need an oil change, don't get one. But if you need one, and you know it, get one. Right? Readings are the same way. If nothing has really changed too much and there isn't a problem since your last reading, you probably don't need fixing. But if you feel the need, or if energies are just plain "stuck", work with a reputable reader who is available to you but doesn't encourage you to develop a dependency on her/him.
*Offer a review:
If you enjoyed your reading, take a moment to write and post a simple, heartfelt review in your own words, either to the reader directly for use in promotional materials, or on Yelp or a similar site. It doesn't have to be fancy, but in a business where word of mouth is everything to a reader's reputation, this gesture is one of the best compliments you can offer for good work. Sending a note, e-mail, or best yet, a review on a social networking site is a gesture of kindness from a client, to be sure. If you did NOT like your reading, talk to the reader about it. Let her/him offer to make it right. Everyone has wonky days sometimes, but if the experience was really bad, or if the reader just totally missed the mark or was rude or difficult, a negative review can also be a good idea, inviting the reader to brush up on their skills, attention, or business practices.
Take your action items seriously:
Most of us are not leading lives blindly governed by Fate. Our free will, goals, and actions are likely to have greater results than waiting around for a magical confluence of stars and situations to yield the results we want. Plus, part of our journey here is to do, be, and grow. I typically review my longer notes from a reading the day afterwards and pull out several action items, or things I know I can do right away, to get the ball rolling toward the outcome I desire, or to mitigate any bad news that came through. For example, if told that I will have a new job within the next three months, I might place a casual call to a friend in the industry to see if they know of anything awesome about to open up. If I am told I am likely to travel abroad within the year, I might start a "Vacation" envelope where I save up and make that a reality. If I am told my friendships are likely to suffer due to miscommunications, I might make the effort to reach out more gently and be more compassionately present and careful. Bottom line on action items: if amazing circumstances arise naturally to support me without any effort at all, my willingness to walk down the path of that destiny with active engagement may still make it easier or more enjoyable for me. If my difficulty is unavoidable, by staying proactive and alert I can often make the decision not to take things personally, and to get quickly beyond freak-out mode into solutions mode. Your reading has given you valuable insight. Now it is time to put it to work.
If you get a bad reading
Maybe Mercury is retrograde, maybe your reader has a head cold, maybe you are having a bad day already...whatever it is, sometimes a reading just doesn't go well. Many readers, when we sense this is happening, will simply address it and bring the reading to a close gracefully, admitting that we do not feel the connection or that we cannot perform the reading. However, sometimes both parties don't share the same vibe. The reader might be chatting away while the client gets colder and colder, less and less engaged. As the consumer, you have both a right and a responsibility to speak up for yourself at times like these. First, if the reading is going badly, feel free to interrupt and stop the reader, gently stating that your expectations are not being met and that you would like to pause to reflect if you should continue. Explain what is not working: is it the energy in the room? Would it help to change the topic slightly or reframe the question? Are you having strong emotions and cannot process what is coming in? Is it just way off, as if it was for someone else? Tell the reader details about what is bothering you. S/he might have some tools, insights, or options to turn the situation around (for instance, shifting to a different deck of cards, or doing some breathing exercises together, or burning some sage).
If that doesn't work, discontinue the reading. There is no shame in saying, "I'm sorry, but this is really not working for me. I would be happy to pay you for the time we have spent together, but I feel it is best for me to leave now." A reputable reader will either comp or prorate your reading and let you go with good will. However, if you are more than half the way through the allotted time, be aware that you may still be responsible for some of the fee. Our time spent with you is valuable, even when the reading doesn't yield the results either of us wanted. So if something isn't working, please speak up right away and the reading can either be saved or ended expeditiously. That keeps everyone from getting upset at the end if the reading didn't work out. Just as there are some readers whose exorbitant prices and cheap parlor tricks make for suspicious clients, there are also enough clients out there who have scammed readers by complaining or threatening us with bad press just to get a free reading that it makes us wary, too. Clear, direct, polite communication and willingness to meet halfway make for the best possible outcome in this occasionally-awkward moment. Fortunately, these do not happen often.
If your reading has not worked out well, a good reader will often invite you to try again another day, or give you the name of someone who might be a better fit. There is an importance to right fit between client and reader. Many of us know other readers who have different styles and approaches than we do, and will gladly recommend our colleagues to someone if we have not been able to meet their needs. This is rare, in my experience, but it does happen sometimes. There is no need for either the client or the reader to feel badly...it's just important to make sure that the client can get their needs met and the reader has been ethical about it. Then all can part ways in peace.
However, should a reader not behave ethically, taking your money and not performing services as agreed, threatening you, accusing you of having bad energy or being cursed, or trying to extort you, you should write a strongly-worded, preferably notarized letter (possibly even getting one prepared by an attorney, depending on how much money you have gone in for) to ask for recompense and/or set your boundaries, and then feel free to contact your local consumer agencies, Chamber of Commerce, newspaper letters to the editor, consumer review/networking sites, and other media outlets to ensure that this person does not take advantage of anyone else. I jumped into action the time a client called me in tears because she had gone for a spontaneous reading on the street and been taken for a ride to the tune of several hundred dollars. She was calling me because she felt badly about herself, ashamed at being had, and also pretty scared because she had been told she was cursed. First, I assured her she was not cursed, and had just been the victim of a charlatan. I recommended things she could do for free in the safety of her own home to cleanse her energy of this negative experience (a saltwater bath, a prayer of purification). I gave her a free mini-reading to just get her back into perspective and re-centered. But I did not stop there. Consulting the local ordinances, I looked up the exact text of the law against this type of extortion, sent it to her, and encouraged her to go and demand that her money be given back, in cash, immediately. She called me from the street outside the small, shabby parlor a few days later to tell me that she had been successful, had gotten her money back, and felt so much more empowered for having done so. There IS recovery after a bad reading, and lots of people have had them. Don't be a disillusioned statistic. Take matters into your own hands and see if you can do something about it. And...don't let it scare you away from getting spiritual consultations in the future, if they are important to your well-being. Just choose a bit more carefully using the methods I recommended above.
Divination, prophecy, and psychic arts are beautiful ways to connect with yourself and your Higher Powers, to make sense of things, and to gain valuable information about your path. I highly recommend to anyone curious that you give it a try sometime, and I hope the thoughts I have shared on how to make it successful are helpful to you. Blessings to you on your journey.