The Ace of Swords - the card denoting the potential for insight. From The Röhrig Tarot by Carl-W. Röhrig © US Games, Inc.
The Ace of Swords - the card denoting the potential for insight. From The Röhrig Tarot by Carl-W. Röhrig © US Games, Inc.

I've been working with Tarot for about 15 years now, and one of the most frequent desires that I came across in my prospective clients and students when I was reading and teaching was the ability to look into the future.

Because it's tempting, isn't it? To find out what's going to happen; to see past what feels hard to look at right now.

I'm not only a cartomancer. I'm also a life-long student of psychology - my own, as well as others'. I grew up, like many people, in a family with what I'd loosely term 'functional dysfunction'.

On the outside, to those who didn't really know us that well, we seemed fine. We were fed, clothed, and raised in comfort. However, my parents were also high-functioning alcoholics, whose drinking was, I think, an attempt to paper over cracks that ran so deep that they feared they would disappear into them at any moment. Drink was the wall-paper glue - as was codependency. It just about held things together, until it did not.

Why do I write all this? Because I know something about the power of looking into the future and what it promises to avoid, as much as what it promises to reveal. I used to read my own Tarot cards to avoid pain and a confrontation with what was asking to be seen. I used to read them in the hope they would reveal a magical partnership that would take me away from myself and change my life. Luckily for me, Tarot was having none of it.

What we tend to forget in our rush to get out of 'now' is that we can't jump over it or run around it: we take it with us - and we discover this when we find ourselves repeating the past.

So by all means ask Tarot about the future, but if you're looking for something else, here are three other places where you can look instead, and which may just shift something that has continued to defy or elude you:

1. Look At The Present

"Right now" isn't just a good a place to start: I'm suggesting it's probably better and more productive than anything else. The present is the one place you have access to; it is the one place where you can have a direct and immediate effect.

"Tell me what I need to see right now."

This is one of the most powerful statements you can make to the Tarot cards - and the Tarot will respond in kind. When you are clear in your intentions, the cards are clear in their reply. Now you have something you can see. Now you have something to work with.

2. Look Inside

Instead of asking about someone or something else, try asking about yourself:

"What's going on inside me right now?"

Simply asking this question can start shifting something in and for you; it puts you at the centre of your own experience by putting you at the centre of your reading. It is a great antidote to codependency, and, because of this, I also know how uncomfortable it can feel at first. Where is the anchor? What in the reading grounds me into my external life? Well, you are, and you do. Become the hero/ine of your own story.

3. Look at What Was Hiding And Is Now Ready To Be Revealed

The Self - the whole "you" that lies at the heart of you - presents you with opportunities to explore and discover emerging aspects of yourself that are surfacing into consciousness to be integrated. The integration itself can take time, and, while Tarot can assist the process, it can't do that integration for you. However, what it does do really well is to provide a mirror in which you can see those aspects emerge.

By looking at a Tarot card with the question:

"What is emerging in me that I am ready to see?"

... you are essentially approaching the reading as you would a looking glass: what looks back at you, however unfamiliar, is what has stepped forward to meet you. All you need do in return is to remain aware - and curious.

In a world where we are expected to do, do, do all the time, the beauty of self-discovery is that we don't need to 'do' much at all. Everything happens as a result of our awareness. To be aware of the possibility that there's more to you than meets the eye, is to be aware of the possibility of the Self. And unlike anyone or anything else, the Self remains a constant throughout your life.

Isn't that a relationship worth nurturing?

They say that the future is not what it used to be. In the context of Tarot, I'd say that's because we have the opportunity to wake up to the value of the present.

Staying in the present - staying present - asks a lot of us. That's the bad news. The good news is that we don't have to get it right, we don't have to be perfect - and, actually, the imperfection of our journey of self-discovery holds the real treasure. Our imperfections are the hidden seams of gold that we tend to miss when we're on the search for the flashy flawlessness of something that is unattainable, because it doesn't exist: it always seems to be out there, in someone else, somewhere else, in the future.

The paradox, of course, is that when we stay present, that's when we have the greatest impact on our future. And when we do this, we begin to realise that the real excitement is happening right here, under our very noses.

You could even call it a form of magic.

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