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Tarot Cards: How to Use Them for Deep Inner Work

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Even though we’re living in the 21st century, I still get raised eyebrows whenever I mention using tarot cards for deep inner work. While this wonderful deck of cards is synonymous with divination and foretelling your (often dire!) future, I refrain from using them to predict anything but what’s going on within.

When I was first introduced to tarot cards as a tool during my shamanic explorations, it was to help me tap into my intuition. The third eye plays a crucial role in our spiritual development in that it’s the gateway to our deepest, inner consciousness.

Ever since that first foray into dabbling with these mystical and beautiful cards, I’ve introduced them as an empowering tool in my life coaching program.

I’m extremely respectful of everyone’s spiritual and religious beliefs and get permission first before pulling cards for my clients. Not everyone is comfortable with these cards and some are scared of what they’ll see in the tarot. They are, after all, a mirror of our inner selves.

What is Inner Work?

In simple terms, inner work is about creating an awareness of Self through exploring and understanding our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It allows you to tap into your deepest resources and touch the soul within your human body.

Inner work is about getting in touch with your essence, your source, your true SELF.

When you take a journey into your inner realms, you’re starting the process of healing yourself, both physically and psychologically. This is when you start to grow, to expand, to find creativity, light, joy, and love.

Inner work is about self-exploration, self-discovery, and self-reflection. Admittedly, it’s messy work and often leaves you drained as you surrender to all that is within you. But, it’s the first step to finding your source and living a life full of purpose and meaning.

When I do inner work with my life coaching clients, it’s about unpacking the conditioning that leads to limiting and empowering beliefs. Being the human beings that we are, it’s those darn limiting beliefs that need to be shifted in order for personal growth to take place.

If you’re not fully prepared for the process and what it entails, you could end up resisting going within. Often, this painful path is only taken when you face a tragedy of some sort. Or, when you’re dealing with a catastrophic health diagnosis such as cancer or some terminal illness.

Only then may you consider taking the journey of inner reflection.

Resistance often crops up when newcomers to my life coaching program begin to realize just what they’ve let themselves in for! And, this is where tarot cards play an essential and powerful role.

Using Tarot as a Practical Tool for Inner Work

Starting a journey of change is frightening. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be and most times, you’re faced with the unknown. This kind of uncertainty threatens your sense of security, even if it’s false most of the time.

It takes a brave person to choose change and I can tell you, without a doubt, everyone has courage. Some just need a bit more nudging to find it. So, I use tarot cards initially to help a person find that courage and to start to verbalize what they couldn’t tell me (or recognize themselves) in the beginning.

It’s only natural to feel embarrassed when acknowledging you may be experiencing any of the following emotions, feelings, and behaviors:

  • Shame

  • Guilt

  • Anger

  • Sorrow

  • Control and manipulation

  • Stress and exhaustion

  • Projection

  • Laziness

  • Feeling like an outsider

To admit to your coach for the first time that you’re prone to any of the above isn't easy. But, when they’re laid out in front of you, like a mirror to your soul, you can’t help but smile and nod your head. How many times have a client’s eyes lit up and with a shrug of their shoulders, admit to me, “Yip, that’s me. I do have a terrible temper/I feel so guilty/I am no good/I am lazy” and so on?

What’s even more powerful about the tarot card is how it helps a person to discover parts of themselves they were never aware of. Oh, you know you’re always shouting your head off at everyone around you but you never realized it was all that anger suppressed deep down within you. I get the usual response, “But, I’m not an angry person. I just get irritated…..”

How Does Tarot Work?

For those of you who are familiar with tarot, you’ll know they’re made up of 78 cards. The deck is divided into major and minor arcana cards and each is depicted with an image. The major arcana cards are typically archetypal images displaying the spiritual journey of the human being.

The minor cards are depictions of life experiences you face often throughout your existence as a man or woman. These images are more personal and detailed for different phases of development.

When you use tarot for inner work, you learn quickly that these cards act as a mirror of your Self. This is where it can get scary for some people because whatever card is pulled, it’s a TRUE reflection of what’s happening within.

How does tarot work? My personal opinion is that your energies are directed to the cards and on a very deep level, you connect with these cards. Whatever card is pulled will trigger something within yourself that needs to be noted and worked on at that particular time.

No matter how much you try to suppress your deepest emotions and feelings, the tarot reaches even further down! The power here is to have faith in the process and trust the wisdom that sits within yourself and use it to do the necessary healing work.

The tarot images and symbolism are meant to trigger your unconscious mind. Only then can you touch base within your Self and do the shadow work required to remove all that holds you back. By gaining self-knowledge, you’re empowering yourself to tap into your own inner wisdom.

With your inner wisdom, you can begin to unravel the shadow that’s holding you back from reaching your full potential. You’ll be able to identify:

  • What negative emotions you’re holding onto

  • What you’re really battling with

  • Lessons that must be learned

  • Blockages within yourself

Tarot aids your intuition or third eye in revealing what needs to be done to resolve a difficult situation, find the solution to a nagging problem, or nourish your wounds with self-love. I often turn to my tarot cards when I’m facing some personal difficulty and I’m not sure how to handle it for my own good and for the greater good.

Which Tarot Cards for Inner Work?

My favorite tarot decks are my personal preferences and the ones I use all the time in my spiritual and life coaching work. The first deck is the Osho Zen Tarot: The Transcendental Game of Zen.

It’s a powerful tarot for getting to the nitty-gritty of those emotions and feelings as well as beliefs that reside within you. The cards are beautifully illustrated and all my clients are encouraged whenever they’ve had a reading with these cards.

The other deck I use often, especially when dealing with matters of the heart, is The Mythic Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Greene. The images portray the people's emotions and help querents understand what emotions are really driving the situation.

I love using my Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson for rounding off a full spiritual reading with a final message that always resonates with my client. These beautiful cards are depicted with images of animals and are intended to assist each person on a spiritual pathway through the medicine and teaching of these creatures.

My favorite oracle deck is the set designed by Jane Struthers called Using the Wisdom of Trees Oracle. These are excellent cards and as a lover of all things trees, I turn to these cards often for a dose of daily wisdom and guidance.

Final Thoughts

Inner work is hard, messy, and painful work. And, yet the reward is similar to finding the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel! You finally find some meaning and no longer feel something is “missing” from your life. At last, your life has a purpose and makes sense in so many ways. But, taking the journey within is no easy ride.

This is why I love using the tarot as a tool. It brings a sense of reassurance that you’re not alone on this journey and they open your intuition so you can delve deep within. Nothing quite tells the truth as the tarot card.

But, you need to be open to the messages these cards want to share with you, and only then can you tap into your deeper realms of the unconscious and discover the amazing powers that is YOU, your source, your Self.

This post was updated on February 17, 2023.

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