Forget fortune-telling, tarot has many more applications as we’ve suggested previously in Uses for Tarot Cards. In this post, we’re going to focus on using the cards for self improvement and learning how to apply them to strengthen your optimism and resilience. Two qualities we all need to live life fully.
We’re going to give you two exercises, which you can do in order, or just pick the one you like. There are no rules.
Grab Your Tarot Deck
Firstly, of course, you need a tarot deck. It’s completely up to you which one you use. Just make sure the images speak to you. The idea is to let them open up new possibilities and to help you extend your thoughts and emotions. If the artwork doesn’t appeal to you, it’s not going to help. Pen and paper will also be necessary.
1. Self Improvement with Tarot: Optimism
This exercise will be using a Major Arcana card. Shuffle the deck and slowly turn the cards until you reach the first Major Arcana. It does not matter which card it is. The exercise is valuable, especially if it seems to be a less than optimistic card.
Look at the card carefully. Note all the small details in it you might not have noticed previously. List or write out in paragraphs why this card holds a message of optimism for you on this day. What is in this card that lifts your spirits? What can the card teach you about feeling positive and enthusiastic? Don’t worry if the card doesn’t reflect where you are in life, simply look for the positive message.
And it doesn’t matter if you aren’t that familiar with the card. Simply look at the image and see what you can get from it. Or if you are less confident look at the meanings given in the LWB (little white book) and build on them—they are usually very succinct and sparse on detail.
Here’s an example. I’ll take one of the perceived ‘negative’ cards, the Tower.
The Tower shows a chaotic scene, an explosion, catastrophe, destruction. People falling to their death (although we can’t always see that; they may be falling into water where they could be rescued). The worst has happened. Where do we go from here?
As I look at the card I find the positive aspects of the Tower. It means cleansing, clearing out of stale energy, and the prospect of a new start. Once the dust has settled the air is clear and I can at last breathe knowing that from where I am the whole world lies before me. That now the worst has passed, I can move on. I start to feel a growing confidence that perhaps all is not lost. After all, I have skills, I have my personality and I can do whatever it takes to face my future. I am ready.
If it helps you to make a list instead, it might look like this:
- New beginning
- Obstacles gone
Fill your whole being with those positive thoughts and messages. Keep your card near you all day and continue to think about the positivity within it. Anytime in the future, you feel negative and pessimistic, grab this card and remember how it made you feel today. Remember how you sought the optimism within. You can do it again.
2. Self Improvement: Resilience
Building resilience is essential for maintaining mental health. When you are resilient you can withstand life’s knocks. Resilience helps you navigate the most difficult situations without becoming overwhelmed. Resilience gets you up in the morning and keeps you going. Make it a key factor in any self improvement work you undertake.
This exercise is a kind of active meditation. You don’t have to close your eyes and empty your mind, though you can if you want to. Go through the deck and pick out these three cards:
- The Five of Pentacles
- Nine of Wands.
Place them down in that order. Now look at them carefully. Don’t rush this exercise.
The Five of Pentacles
The Five of Pentacles is usually illustrated by two people in dire circumstances. They are being challenged on a material level. They may have lost their home, not have any food or shelter. Just for a moment, be one of those figures and feel what it must feel like to be there, in the cold, with little hope.
Look at them again. They may be walking or resting. They haven’t really given up. They’ve come to a place where they are almost assured of getting the help they need. If they don’t get help there, they’ll move on to the next place. Again, be one of those figures. You get up, you put one foot in front of the other and you just keep going. Because all circumstances change if you keep moving.
Now look at the Strength card. Often shown as a woman gently caressing or leading a lion. Imagine the lion is the personification of your fear, or rage, or anxiety. It’s so big it threatens to overcome you. But in your deepest self, in your core, there’s a place you can draw on to calm the beast. We all have access to this calming self-influence. We all can take a breath. Relax and allow our gentle, rational self to take control. Feel it now.
The Nine of Wands
Next, look at the Nine of Wands. See the figure, bruised and battered. He (or she) looks defeated, unable to go on. But he’s still standing. He still has a lot of resources (wands) at hand. He’s not beaten at all, merely gathering his strength. Imagine you are that person. Perhaps, you can link it to a memory. Maybe you were bullied but somehow held it together, kept yourself going? Or perhaps you were stressed out by a different kind of situation? An illness, the breakdown or decline of another person? You managed. You did it. Got through it. Feel the solid core of resilience within yourself. It’s there and you can tap into it any time.
Next time you need to draw on that core of resilience, remember this self improvement exercise. If you can, pull the three cards out and repeat it whenever you need to.
Deck used for illustration: The Universal Waite, pub USGames.