Ten Lords a-Leaping: Reading the cards requires a leap to a different state of mind.

In order to read cards successfully, I believe we have to make the leap into a non-ordinary state of consciousness. When we read cards, we are — or should be — in a state of mind different than the one we use talking around the water cooler (or coffee/tea pot!) at work, balancing a checkbook, cooking dinner or making love. Although it’s interesting to consider that all of these activities and reading cards have similarity in at least one respect: that of focus.

 Over time, most people develop or evolve their own techniques of focus. For me, as I shuffle the cards my mind naturally clears while I think of the question. This becomes a sort of non-thought, as if I’m left with the echo of the question which has cleared out unrelated thoughts and takes up my mental space without being anything concrete. That process has developed over time as I’ve worked with cards. What can a person just starting out do, or if extra help is needed to calm the mind?

Meditation or Focus

Meditation is probably the best thing. That word scares a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to. If it scares you, substitute “focus” or “mental quiet” because for card reading, that’s what you are after. Anything you do to let the mind calm and focus on something can be called meditation. You don’t have to sit in a knee-crunching yoga pose, wear Lulelemon clothes, burn incense or light candles (unless you want to). You could sit, shuffle your cards and watch the shuffling process, until you realize your mind has slowed down. It’s as simple as that.


BuddhaDog (by SuperFantastic) has excellent focus!

Of course, for most of us it’s not really that simple, or at least not at first. That’s why there are so many meditation teachers, books and audio programs available. However, I’ll share some simple techniques you can try today. I have tried all of these at some point, and will attest to their value.


Breath awareness is a very popular way to focus. Sit in a comfortable position, preferably with a straight and upright spine, and be aware of your breath. Do you hear it? Do you feel it in your nostrils? Or can you feel your belly expand? Taking gently deep breaths is helpful; the exhale of a full breath relaxes the body by triggering the parasympathetic nervous symptom, also known as the relaxation response. Please note that breathing should be gentle and natural; forcing it can lead to breathlessness or worse.**


Combining breath with counting techniques is popular and effective. It’s the basis of many meditation practices, self-hypnosis techniques and the Silva Mind Control method. Count each out breath mentally, from 1 to 10, repeating the counting cycle until your mind is calm. If you find your thoughts drift, start over with 1.

A counting style I favor from my interest and experience in self-hypnosis is counting down. Try counting each exhale from 10 down to 1, with the intention that you are calming with each number. Picturing the numbers as you mentally say them can be effective.

You could enhance the counting down process further by saying, “relax,” “calm” or some similar word after every counted number.  Or picture each part of your body as you count and let that part relax. In this method, you may wish to spend a few breaths on each count to give the body parts ample relaxation time. I like this sequence:

  • 10 – Head
  • 9 – Neck and throat
  • 8 – Shoulders
  • 7 – Arms and hands
  • 6 – Chest (including upper back)
  • 5 – Abdomen (including belly, lower back and groin)
  • 4 – Thighs
  • 3 – Knees
  • 2 – Calves
  • 1 – Feet

Another classic from self-hypnosis, which is popular although it doesn’t work well for me, is to visualize a beautiful staircase which you are standing at the top of. As you count down, imagine you are taking a step down with each count, until you reach the bottom. If you aren’t calm enough, imagine another round or two of stairs: repeat your journey down another staircase.

Triggering a State of Focus

Eventually, the technique you favor or find most effective becomes a trigger that settles your mind. The trigger or ritual action is associated with the outcome of mental calmness, and starting the technique you use is like telling your mind, “Hey! I need to visit that focused state of quiet now!” Of course your mind is pretty smart, and over time it doesn’t need to be told because the response is conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs who learned to salivate when they heard a bell ring.

This is how shuffling has become an automatic technique for many experienced readers to leap out of their ordinary mental state and into that used for reading. The cards and the shuffling have been a que for so long that their minds have made the association. “Oh, you’re shuffling and intend to read, I know what we need to do,” their mind might say.

So that is the basics of how to reach a focused state for reading. Experiment with these techniques or others to find what works for you. I’ve only scratched the surface but I believe these basics are all you need to develop a technique that works for you.

What’s your preferred way to leap out of an ordinary state of mind for a reading? How do you help beginners with this? Or do you disagree that a focused state is necessary? Let me know in the comments!

** I favor watching the breath and letting it do its own thing; for me my exhales tend to naturally lengthen. I figure my body is generally smarter than me. If you choose to experiment with breathing techniques, be gentle to yourself and play it safe. I am not responsible for your use or mis-use of any breathwork.