I recently began using the tarot in my mindfulness and personal development practices. Yes, tarot!
Now I know that when most people think of tarot, they think of divination. They conjure up a mental image of an old fortune teller laying out the “Death” card in front of a trembling querrent in a candle-lit tent while incense smoke swirls around her.
Or, depending on your upbringing, you may think of something akin to the Ouija board, where cards with unusual symbolism can tear open a portal that invites all manner of demonic or negative spiritual activity in the home, setting the stage for your own personal Amityville Horror.
But tarot isn’t just about divination, nor is it necessarily “spiritual”. In fact, that’s not what it was even invented for.
Tarot got its start as a simple card game during the late Middle Ages or Early Renaissance. There is no secret, occult, or even ancient history to the tarot.
As with tea leaves, runes, bones, and all manner of otherwise mundane items humans have used to divine the uncertain future, tarot became swept up into the “occult”, New Age practice, and associated with “darkness” or “evil” among certain religions.
Can tarot tell the future? No. Personally, I don’t believe that at all. That’s not what I use my decks for.
However, tarot is a fantastic tool to use for personal development and daily mindfulness practice. The imagery on most tarot decks are wonderful prompts for journaling and meditation.
The standard deck of 78 cards in the ubiquitous Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck (the one you are probably most familiar with) contains 78 images rich with symbolism and characters that spark imagination, hone intuition, and mine the subconscious in a way that can help problem solving, build perspective, aid self-reflection, and bolster mindfulness.
While you tend to think of “fortune telling” when you think of the tarot, I’m going to share how I use my cards for personal development and mindfulness.
And you don’t need to know ANYTHING about the card meanings or symbolism. Your own intuitive meanings and feelings that you get by looking at the cards are valid for this type of self-discovery work.
Tarot For Journaling Prompts
I’m a HUGE fan of daily journaling, so of course I write about the cards that I draw each day.
There are a couple ways to get started with tarot journaling for personal development work.
First, start with a 1-card “daily draw”. Each morning, shuffle your deck and draw one card. Either look up the meaning, or stare at the card for a minute and go with your first impressions you get as you take in the image.
Then open a notebook (or a fancy tarot journal) and write about how that card pertains to your life, a specific situation that you are going through, and what solutions or perspectives it might show you.
If one card feels too vague or completely irrelevant, draw a second “clarification card”. However, don’t just ignore a “irrelevant” card.
A card may seem irrelevant on first glance, but after journaling, meditating, or contemplating the card and evaluating the situation you are going through, you can often make profound connections that help you think differently about the problem.
The tarot is set up in a way that just about any card you draw can have some relevancy to an aspect of your personality, your life, a situation you are going through, or a decision you are facing.
Quite often, a seemingly random card draw can add a jolt to your intuition, creativity, and problem-solving prowess.
Tarot For Meditation
Similarly to journaling, you can pull a card and then meditate on it for 5-15 minutes. Just relax, take a few deep breaths, and then draw a card.
You can look up the meaning before you begin meditation, but I recommend just using your intuition. Just stare at the card.
What is going on in the image?
What are the characters doing? Is there a particular character you identify with? Can you relate to them?
What emotional response does the card illicit from you? Does it make you happy? Uneasy? Bored? Why?
What symbols do you see in the image, and what do they mean to you?
How do the colors make you feel?
You can also “enter” the card in meditation by imagining that you stepped into the landscape featured on the card. What’s it like? What is the card NOT showing? Is the character friendly? What do they have to say to you? What question would you ask him or her (or it)?
Do you feel drawn to walk down a path, or splash in the river, or enter the building pictured? What would you do and where would you go if you could enter this world? What lesson awaits?
Tarot For Reflection & Self-Discovery
Tarot is fantastic for self-discovery. In addition to tarot journaling and meditation, you can use cards to mine your subconscious, or prompt self-exploration.
For example, every morning, I do a simple 2-card Energy/Action spread. I lay out two cards. The one on the left is my energy for the day. Perhaps the card is telling me that I am unbalanced, or that anxiety is running the show instead of calm focus.
I look at that first card and relate it to the energy I am starting the day with, and it gives me insights into what to watch out for. Perhaps I need some self care. Maybe I need to stop procrastinating.
The second card is my Action card. This card tells me the best course of action that day. You can often tie both cards together.
You can shuffle your cards and ask any question like:
- What do I need to know today?
- How should I show up in ______?
- What do I need to work on?
- How can I overcome this challenge?
- What aspect of my mindset (or personality) is sabotaging my goals?
Then draw a card or two and reflect on them. Journal. Meditate. What lessons are in the cards that you can use to begin transforming your life, and becoming aware of patterns?
Tarot For Decision-Making & Problem Solving
Besides “telling the future”, this is the second most common use for tarot cards.
While I don’t advocate letting cards dictate your actions, nor should you leave life’s important decisions in the hands of a deck of cards, tarot can certainly help you ferret out pros/cons of decisions, and prompt solution-oriented thinking that may be otherwise clouded by the emotions that you have about the problem.
Tarot is impersonal. You lay a card down and it may validate, or it may tell it like it is. Go with it.
Suggested Tarot Spreads
These are two of the self-discovery tarot spreads that I use just about every single day!
1-Card “Daily Draw”
The simplest and easy to get started with tarot is by pulling a simple 1-card tarot spread, usually called a “Daily Draw”.
Simply shuffle the deck and pull a card. Right before you pull the card, ask one of these questions:
- What is the theme for today?
- What do I need to look out for?
- How do I need to show up today?
- What do I need to let go of today?
- What do I need more of today?
You can also do a daily draw at the end of the day to find out how you showed up that day. What can you do better tomorrow?
2-Card Energy/Action Spread
My favorite daily spread is the Energy/Action spread. Every morning, I shuffle my cards and lay out two of them. Card 1 is my energy. Card 2 is the action I need to take that day.
Your energy card helps you focus on an aspect of your energy, mindset, feeling, or belief that you are beginning the day with. Sometimes it’s positive, other times, it’s negative.
It may tell you that you’re juggling too much (2 of Pentacles), or that you’re fired up but may not be considering all consequences of your actions (Knight of Swords), or that you’re feeling stuck, or trapped and can’t see a way forward (8 of Swords).
Your action card tells you what you need to do that day. Often, this card relates to the energy card, or balances it out. Sometimes, the action card will resolve (or mitigate) a negative energy card.
For example, drawing the 4 of Swords as an energy card clearly suggests that you need to take time out for self care so that you can better handle the challenges you are facing.
The 10 of Wands may show you to keep trucking forward, even if you don’t see the end, or the reward, just yet. The Sun or 4 of Wands may remind you to celebrate what you have, or any victory however small.
3-Card Tarot Spreads
Three-card tarot spreads are a great way to gain insights into any situation in your life.
Three cards give you more depth of meaning in your readings.
Here are 25 of my favorite 3-card tarot spreads.
How To Get Started
If you are brand new to tarot, here’s what you need to get started.
What Deck To Use: There are literally hundreds of tarot decks on any theme you can think of. There is a Dog Tarot, Game of Thrones Tarot, even a Gummy Bear Tarot! Whatever you are into, there is a tarot deck for that!
If you are serious about learning tarot, I recommend starting with the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck. If you don’t care for the dated artwork on these cards, take a look at either the Centennial or Radiant Rider-Waite decks.
For personal development and self-discovery work, however, ANY tarot deck that resonates with you will be totally fine.
Tarot vs. Oracle Cards: I also use oracle cards in my daily meditation/mindfulness practice. So, what’s the difference?
The tarot is a 78-card deck that has four suits and 22 “Major Arcana” cards. There is structure and symbolism in each card, and most tarot decks on the market are based on the classic Rider-Waite-Smith system.
Oracle cards, on the other hand, do not have suits and do not follow a set structure. Oracle card decks may have anywhere from 20-60 cards, and typically feature a keyword for phrase in addition to images.
Tarot Journals: While there are quite a few tarot journals that you can buy, you don’t NEED these. A simple notebook will suffice.
I HIGHLY recommend recording your daily readings and journal about the card meanings, or how you interpret them, and how they pertain to your life, a situation, or a decision.
Where to Learn About Tarot Meanings: There are tons and tons of online resources. Biddy Tarot is my go-to for card meanings for the Rider-Waite-Smith cards.
YouTube has some awesome channels where you can drool over the latest deck unboxings, or actually see readings and interpretations to help you learn how to interpret your own card spreads. My favorites are Hermit’s Cave and Katie Flower’s channel.
Most tarot decks come with companion books that provide meanings for the cards, as well as suggested spreads.
As for books, the first tarot book I read was Tarot for Beginners: A Holistic Guide to Using the Tarot for Personal Growth and Self Development by Meg Hayertz.
I never felt drawn to tarot or oracle cards before, but now that I’ve been using them in my personal development and mindfulness practice, they have become indispensable tools for self-discovery.
You do not need to believe in divination, or even be spiritual, to use tarot.
Instead, let tarot prompt your thinking, guide you to solutions, and uncover aspects of yourself that you may not even be aware of.
Do YOU Use Tarot For Self Growth?
If you use tarot of personal development or self growth/mindfulness practice, please post a comment below! I’d love to try out more spreads!