I like to forage for wild mushrooms and collect edible wildfood. It is a gentle way to sink into a place and learn local ecology.
It also provides us with some really delicious mushrooms and herbs as well as knowledge of local poisonous plants; for example, our front yard is abundant in snakeweed, which was what killed Abraham Lincoln’s Mother.
Cows can digest the plant but the poison will leak into her milk and kill people! Interesting, no?
So, what does any of this have to do with Tarot? Well, actually, a lot, and from the practice of finding mushrooms I have become a better reader.
Being good at spotting things in nature requires the art of soft focus, soft focus is absolutely the opposite of what most of us do in our daily lives. Our lives are grounded in hard focus; on the road, on our phones, at our emails, etc. The beam of concentration is sharp, but pinpoint small. Soft focus is blurry with a wide field of view and increasingly, we as a society are engaging in soft focus less and less often.
So just as I begin a walk in the woods with soft eyes and alert and calm mind, so to do I begin a reading. The Tarot spread is like a patch of woods, and perhaps there will be mushrooms, edible nettle or even a fawn off the trail. The Tarot spread just might have an answer I am looking for, or it contain might something else.
We are just taking a walk in the forest, open to what we experience. As a mushroom hunter, I have in mind a number of mushrooms I would like to see in the woods but I make no personal expectations about what will happen. That is the first very important tip, have no expectations. As a reader I begin a spread with no expectations about what I will see, including answers.
Once I have checked my own expectations, I spread the cards and I invoke soft focus. Those of you who meditate probably know what I mean by soft focus. We ‘soften’ our eyes by allowing our vision to be less focused, we are not “looking” or ‘paying’ attention to anything in particular.
We are allowing the whole vision of the scene to be as it is.
So more concretely, what does it mean to engage in soft focus during a reading?
Here are some guidelines to help you :
- Do not specifically look for any card.
- Do not specifically try to find the narrative.
- Do not even specifically look at the cards- i.e., who is facing in which direction, how many wands, how many “bad” vs “good cards.
- Do not try to create connections between cards.
- Do not panic if nothing makes sense to you.
- This is a non-thinking process, by that I mean do not strain for anything.
- Just breathe and sit… with the cards. Walk in their forest, slowly.
And when you do that… YES!… there’s your shining mushroom all the sudden out of nowhere, as if it appeared.
The message, the connection, the intuitive information hits you, usually out of nowhere. It is as if the information bubbled up between the cards. I am not sure how I can explain it more than that, but that is how it works for me… the information comes between the cards, and it is shining and by itself, and it is accurate, but I can never strain for it, or ask for it. I just sit without anxiousness and it will appear to my conciousness if it will.
The act of reading Tarot is truly an act of surrender.
This kind of soft focus reading can be extraordinarily challenging. Our rational/anxious/monkey mind wants to immediately set to work to figuring it all out. And you will engage the ordinal part of you later, but when you first lay out the cards have no expectations, do not “set to work” just walk in the forest of the tarot spread and allow the subconscious/intuitive part of you do what it does.
If I am actively trying to focus my attention on every tree and shrub I would never find my woodland snacks; there is too much information everywhere.
But when I stay quiet, I move slow and I look about but in that place of soft focus I am allowing the information to bleed past the line of sight and into something deeper. Like vision, you can either have a narrow and sharp focus OR a hazy wide field of vision, why not use both tools in your readings?
Give it a try, lay out your cards and refrain from the emphasis to make meaning. See if anything pops up, and if it does not, then go about your normal tarot reading, but do give it a chance first.