Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Coldest Reading of All

Sooner or later, many readers are called upon to give a "cold" reading- someone you don't know well, or at all, or someone who doesn't have a clear question in mind. An inability to formulate a question isn't that big of a deal, really. If someone comes to you, just generally wondering what the future holds, the first question is usually, what do you want it to be? And how are you working to make that future happen? Remember that we all have free will, and can guide our own lives. Having your querent formulate a question can help to make the reading a little more specific, and can focus attention on one area instead of across the board. It's like taking your car in to a mechanic and having the mechanic guess what the problem is. It could be something you can get from clues, like say half the transmission is dragging behind the car or there's smoke boiling from under the hood. Likewise, context clues and questions can help to guide the person and help them determine which area or areas they'd like to focus on. At the same time, there is something to be said for these types of readings, in the right time and context.
Usually people don't come to a reader unless they have a question. You don't go to a doctor just for the hell of it, usually there's something wrong that prompted you to seek medical advice. But then again, it's not a bad idea to go in for a checkup also- nothing could be wrong but still, it's not a bad idea to be certain, and get an expert opinion. This is also a reason people might consult a Tarot reader. I've heard these types of readings referred to as "gestalt readings". The term gestalt is a German word for shape or form, and in this case means an overall look at what's going on at present. What led the person up to their current circumstances? What continues to influence them, and what can we expect from these influences? The term gestalt reading here doesn't refer to a specific spread or layout, rather it's a method of reading the cards, kind of with no preconcieved notions or ideas. Obviously some spreads will lend themselves better to this type of reading than others. I make use of this on occasion, starting a session with a general look at the present situation. If the person is asking a specific question, I'll use that question as a starting point for interpreting the spread, then usually follow up with a second spread, taking the information from the first and using that to guide the interpretation of the second. The context of the question can help to clarify the meanings of the cards- what we're specifically looking for can serve to emphasize one or more aspects of the cards, and draw attention to that particular aspect of the question.
Reading Tarot is a very interactive process- somewhat like the Socratic method in many ways. We work through the question together, asking further questions, gathering information and coming up with an answer. The more in-depth we get, the more specific the answer can be, either from discussions with the person or from the cards themselves. It's been my experience that a good reader doesn't necessarily dictate answers like a magic 8 ball, but rather can work with a client to go from generalities to specifics.
The Tarot itself works kind of like a big library, both in the sense of providing specific answers and in this more general sense. If you know what you're looking for, you can go to that section of the library and find the information you're looking for. Doing a gestalt reading is more like just wandering through the stacks. You're bound to find something interesting, and when you do, this initial spark can develop into further avenues of inquiry, again going from the general to the specific.
This type of reading can be useful when a client can't put their finger on a specific issue, or is unsure of how to phrase a question, or even is simply unsure of what questions to ask, perhaps confused and feeling overwhelmed. Recently I was engaged in a guilty pleasure- reading short horror stories, when I came across an odd little story called "The Man On The Ceiling", by Steve Ransic Tem and his wife, Melanie Tem. Based on the lady Tem's fear of things she can't quite figure out, it describes the fear we may feel when shadows move on the walls, or something catches our eye in a dark corner of the room. The reason for writing, the Tems go on to say, is to name things. Why name them? Because when we can name and describe a thing, we are taking the first steps to understanding it. And fear very often comes from the unknown- not what we know will happen, but what we don't know. Most people are not simply outside observers to their own lives and thoughts, and so have at least some idea what's going on. In this case, one of two things generally can happen- either they can form a question, something they would benefit from clarification on or reassurance on, or they can begin to direct their questions to what's revealed in the context of a reading.
This brings up another question I encounter on occasion- do you, or for that matter should you, read for yourself? There are positives and negatives to doing your own readings. But gestalt readings can help here as well. Reading for yourself is not as easy as it might be at first glance, because you're not really an objective source. No one knows your own thoughts, hopes and fears better than you yourself. This means you have much more insight than someone else, but also that you can be much less objective in that understanding. There's always a chance of kind of interpreting the cards to fit what you hope for, or are afraid of, and this is something you'll need to keep in mind when reading, either for yourself or others. So doing a cold reading for yourself can sometimes help. What is each card telling you that you might not be seeing? When you come to the point of simply reading the cards, then begin to extrapolate what the meaning is in your own life. What does it mean to you, and what is it trying to tell you? Fearless reading is not always easy, and we all have hopes and fears.
Using gestalt readings can be beneficial in the right context and the right situations. It's like the old joke- I almost had a psychic girlfriend. She dumped me before we met though. A question I often get is, can you tell the future? Yes and no. If you throw a rock at someone, I can generally predict that it'll probably hurt, and you'll probably get cursed at. What you do determines your future- the question is, how can your thoughts and habits influence decisions? What are you not seeing that prevents you from taking control of the future, and what are you afraid of or hopeful for that also guides your decisions? This can heavily influence the decisions you make at present- and this, in turn, influences the outcomes of those decisions. We don't read in a vacuum; neither do people live in a vacuum either.

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