Thursday, March 18, 2010

Intuition and Making Shit Up

What is this thing we call Intuition?  So many, including myself, urge tarot novices to rely on this intangible concept, that "other knowing" "gut feeling" "flash" that some label psychic and others intuition, but what if you stare at the cards and see nothing but pretty, or not so pretty, pictures?  No flash, no nothing?   You rely on the ascribed meanings, you read the cards by rote, but what if you can't see or feel or sense or intuit anything else?  That's pretty much the way things started for me.  I loved these interesting cards, but the pictures on them told no story, whispered no secrets.   Beyond the varied assigned meanings to each card, I had no idea what the cards were supposed to be "saying" because for me they were mute fanciful images.

I don't do as well with pictures as I do with words.  I graduated early from picture books to novels because words always told a better tale for me.  Picture books frustrated me for their lack of detail and dialogue.  While I love fine art for the beauty and capturing a moment, they are for me like snapshots, frozen timeframe. A still picture doesn't provoke much in me but questions.  Little did I know then that those questions were precisely the place to start listening.

Take, for example, the 5 of Cups.  The image is sad, no doubt.  The shrouded figure, the sloped shoulders and bowed head all denote palpable regret and grief.   Even the Thoth shows five empty cups labeled "Disappointment."  While I understood the card's meaning -- loss but with something remaining, inheritance but not as one had expected -- and the image makes that obvious, I wanted to know more.  What happened that made the cups spill?  Did the figure knock them over himself, or did someone else do it?  What was in the cups that would provoke such intense sadness?  Were the contents of the three downed cups more important than the upright two?  Why? And why is everyone so quick to point out those standing cups and not incline themselves to empathize with the grieving?  Does the card make us that uncomfortable?  Is the grief so tangible that we want to so quickly move towards looking on the bright side?  As I began reading for others, these questions became crucial in my understanding the unattributed meanings of each card.  By "unattributed" I am speaking of the meanings that are gleaned in each individual reading that is specific to that reading and not the general meaning that is always (or most of the time) true of the card itself.

So I would look at the card and these questions would arise.  I sit for a moment with the questions and if nothing comes to my mind in answer, I might ask the querant these same questions.  What happened to cause the sadness you now feel?  Why was this loss so significant to you?  You're having a hard time looking past it, right?  You try to let go and move on, but it's just so difficult.  Having a hard time finding your way "home" are you?  These wonderful cards provoke questions more than give answers and these questions are key to finding our own answers within ourselves.  Use these unbidden, curious questions to tap into the answers your intuition can relay.  Don't be hesitant to ask your querant, also, because interaction makes for a much better reading experience.  I have learned so much and been so enriched by the stories my clients tell of their experiences and struggles.  They have answered questions I didn't know I had until I read for them.  I learn a little more about these tarot cards each time I read for someone because the questions the cards provoke in me are specific to their situation and so are a bit different each time.

One tarot exercise I found early on has you lay out three cards and tell a story with the cards, beginning, middle, and end.  I couldn't do it.  Like picture books lacked a certain flow for me, so did the cards.  It's a good exercise, and I can do it better today than I could then -- my imaginative and intuitive muscles are stronger now -- it just didn't do much then but frustrate me.  It frustrated me in part because I was trying to fit the ascribed meaning to the cards in a flow of a story instead of just looking at the images and imagining the connections between them.  But the other part was just that I wasn't very good at telling a story beyond the very simple and I wasn't satisfied with that.  I wanted more, much more, as I had seen and heard other tarotists read the cards, and my simplistic tales lacked so much that I just said fuggetaboutit and moved on.

If, like me, you find yourself in a similar block, move to the questions.  Look at the images and ask yourself about them.  Find out what happened to create this snapshot.  Make up shit.  That's good reading right there! Pull it right out of your hindparts! Seriously!  Don't be afraid to play, to make shit up, to fantasize and wonder, to spin yarns and knot them, unravel them again and find out through it all what this card is telling you.  It's great practice and they don't call them exercises for nothing.  This sort of thing strengthens your intuitive abilities and allows them to roam around unchecked, like children playing in an open field.  It's good for children and it's good for your intuition.

Another reason this type of exercise is great is because there is no "right" or "wrong" interpretation.  There's no second guessing yourself to check if you got it right or if you're accurate or not.  It's just a story.  That's all.  And when you realize that all our lives are just a story, that each situation a querant comes to you with is just a story,  then you become a better storyteller even if you never could tell one before.

I now recognize when my intuition is kicking in.  It's when my rational mind in my left brain chides the fanciful  right side of my brain, "Now you're just making shit up."  Whenever I hear that I know I've hit on something. That party pooper, my left brain, was the bane of my readings for a while.  I would listen to it and not to the other side that apparently knew what it was talking about.  Enough feedback from clients told me to freaking LISTEN to that storyteller part of me, particularly when  the rational side of me protested, because that rational side is a bit of a control freak and doesn't like uppity right brain interference even when correct.  Other tarot friends encouraged me, "Stop second guessing! What's your immediate interpretation? NOW! What do you see?" Don't give yourself time to "interpret," go with that first impression.  The more time you give your left brain, the more control it will take and the less intuitive your reading will be.  I'll never understand readers who say they stew over a reading for days.  WTF? I can't give my logical left brain that much time or it will totally fuck things up.  So make shit up, I say!  You'll be astounded at how very right that shit is.
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