Readers Studio 2015 – Part I

tarot conference

Just under three months ago I sat at a charging station at the airport charging my so-archaic-it’s-almost-not-smart phone with my Morgan-Greer tarot deck nestled discreetly in my lap. I was a bubbling spice and fuel filled mess of anticipation. Think overdone curry in a pressure cooker or space rocket preparing for lift off. I was ready for my trip to the Reader’s Studio in NYC, a wonderland for tarot enthusiasts from all over the world. I wanted to be there already, to know what would happen next and, as often happens with that “need to know” feeling, I wanted to pull a tarot card. I spared a few seconds to hold my deck and listen to the monkey mind song in my head before I caved. The song went to the tune of:

I’ve never done a card pull in such a public nonmetaphysical space and what if the people I’m touching elbows with become uncomfortable?”

I smiled, large and toothy. A smile to make native New Yorkers uncomfortable on the train. Because I knew the monkey mind song wouldn’t stop me, at most there was a 15 second pause, only three breaths, short by any standards. Because there are worse fears to have and worse ways to react to those fears. I could be at the airport bar, late for my flight and downing my second shot of Jameson, trying to kill the monkey mind song about how I’m gonna die on the plane. Doesn’t sound so bad on paper. Different story 6 years ago in real life when it was me before every single flight.

My card pull was everything I hoped…

Morgan-Greer by US Games 1979

Look at this line up! Morgan-Greer by US Games 1979

I have a confession. I used to be deathly afraid of flying. I’m late with that I know. With time and mindfulness I realized that I’m not actually afraid of flying or dying on a plane. I am uncomfortable with rocking motions where I’m not in control. Like on a bus, boats, sometimes while dancing, amusement rides, riding in cars. I live with the mother of all motion sickness and countless anxieties to boot. Luckily I continue to find options for dealing with my stuff and for the most part my body cooperates with me.

Earlier this year at another conference I discovered that I love me some hypnosis. So I figured I’d give myself a suggestion that I was relaxing on a beautiful beach for the duration of my flight. Lucky thing too because as we flew toward our connection in Chicago, we went through the choppiest wind I’ve ever been in. The results of my suggestion were nuts. I could feel the motion in my belly that normally sets me off, I could feel part of me ready to panic in the background, but the bulk of me was calm and observing since that’s what you do at the beach. I would use this trick throughout my trip since I commuted to the conference every morning and evening via bus, something that I would NOT have done as recently as last year.


On Thursday, the first night at RS2015, I realized several important things. I wasn’t just at a conference in my home town with lots of people. I was at a conference with lots of intuitive people, some of them psychics, all interested in some form of ritual or higher consciousness, lots like me having done work to transcend past experience and limiting beliefs. Seeing so many people with similar stories and gifts let me in on some secrets about myself. Apparently I wanted permission to tell a simple fortune and to value my own voice.

I moved a lot as a child and somewhere along the line I got the idea that being the new kid meant I ought to stay quiet, blend in, and not tell my unique story. Especially not the part where sometimes I can see the future or see and hear things that aren’t there. Best to keep that tidbit to myself. The experienced folks know better than me anyhow I figured, so better to be the fly on the wall. I learned from Sheilaa Hite:  There’s No fly and No wall. Community seems to start with valuing my own distinct experiences. Who knew?! That night I saw mediums, therapists, psychics, and tarot readers. Leaders. People with no shame with unique stories. People who were different like me. Their energy was palpable. Following their example I gave myself permission to admit my own wacky truth. I knew the first night that the conference was going to mean more to me than I had anticipated. This was before it even started!


Friday morning I told myself I was just going to browse the Merchant Faire briefly and make note of anything I liked. I had my eye out for the super limited edition Fountain Tarot. Isn’t it easy it is to want something that’s limited in quantity and that everyone else wants? I looked at the oil painting imagery with it’s cool gray and blue colors and my brain told me that I NEEDED that deck. My heart wasn’t so sure. Either way I quickly learned that the Fountain Tarot was sold out as far the conference went. I was relieved to delay that purchase. It’s still haunting me though. I saved the artist’s info just in case.

Instead I searched for a deck  that I’d seen before but didn’t yet know it’s name. I found it at the Schiffer publishing table, Emily Carding’s Transparent Tarot. It intrigued, delighted, and frightened me. The perfect combination. I bought it right away and piled it with all the other goodies I had somehow accumulated in the first 10 minutes.

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The goodies, Opening Session and interviews were kind of a blur for me. I’m a morning person but I don’t usually become a people person until well after June. Still, I atleast got to see and “feel” the instructors and get excited about their presentations. Then I got to exchange the best ever Foundation Readings with my partner, Rick Bouchard.  The foundation readings are exchanged between two partners at the beginning of the Studio. The same cards are read once more at the end of the Studio after all the workshops and classes. They show you what you learned during the conference. My partner and I used his brand spanking new deck for all the readings.I recognized a kindred spirit in him. We both loved artistic details, beautiful objects and accessories, and open hearted spontaneity. His reading intrigued, delighted, and frightened me. The perfect combination.

The experience with my partner reframed reversals for me. They double the images you use in a deck and add context, depth, and nuance. Among other things they are the dream images, the messages that aren’t yet sent to your conscious mind, an invitation to go deeper. As I read for Rick he modeled how to receive a reading with reversed cards.  This reframing was a big deal because apparently reversals freak me out. Well not in general but when someone pulls them for me. All reversals?! Really? I thought I was past this. *laughing at myself*

I haven’t seen a reversal aimed at me in at least a year because I stopped using them in most of my readings. I wanted to unpack my beliefs about reversals before I used them in readings with others. The break from reversals was step one, this re-entry into reversals is step two. And I’m pretty sure I’m heading to a point where it doesn’t matter which way the cards face and I won’t bother with the reversals. I got to hear a little drama unfold in my heart over my Foundation Reading and it left me in a better position to view reversals with tact and compassion when reading others. It took the entire conference to really sink in. For good measure I picked up Mary Greer’s book on Tarot Reversals to get me back in the swing of things and integrate Rick’s message: let’s come back to the reversals. Our Foundation Readings were solid, dug deep and hinted at solutions. How could they get any better?

Reconcile Reversals &
Laugh at myself. Check.

If only I could go back in time and take all these photos with my new phone…

Cheryl’s first timer ritual was really cool. She invited us first to look at ourselves as blank slates, like tarot cards before messages and art.

Doesn’t that blank card look free? No old stories, fears, or limiting beliefs on there. I liked this small ritual. I got to view myself within the context of the Reader’s Studio. She then invited us write our own stories or meanings onto the blank cards.

And the big kicker, she let us newcomers see one another. There were a lot of us. When she called us up I expected to do a newcomer walk of shame with 5 other people. We represented somewhere between a third and half the room! That is a growing, diverse, community right there. I was excited to see faces from all over the world, faces different than mine, and I was excited to see faces like mine as well, young and also people of color. I’m not used to seeing much diversity in metaphysical community. The times are slowly changing.

Sometime after lunch my introvert bubble of doom grew. I managed to squeak out another reading during Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s presentation but me and my Osho Zen Tarot weren’t seeing eye to eye and this led to playful distraction. I had fun introducing my decks to one another and re-envisioning the elements through Ellen’s presentation and the brilliant add-ons from the audience. I’m pretty sure I didn’t find my way back into my body until after I found more food. (NEW YORK CITY PIZZA!) That night I had some pretty amazing conversations and made some amazing friends. I had plenty of time to write up notes of everything that happened since a construction crew was jackhammer-ing outside the place I was stayed. (Yay NYC! Yay self care!)

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Saturday was an unexpected tribute to the east as both Master classes featured Yogic tradition as a means to deepen your tarot practice. Theresa Reed’s experience as a Yoga instructor came through loud and clear in her practical advice for How to Read Tarot in any Circumstances. I was excited to be able to access her wisdom before it even hit her website. During that class I recognized that I was not putting all of my passion to use. Rather than separate my interests I was inspired to let them enrich each other, as Theresa had done flawlessly in her presentation. The class made an impression on me. Enough for me to misplace some of my notes and head to the meditation room afterwards to process in silent meditation. It was delicious. By the time I headed  to the second Master Class I was blissed out.

The next class began with a trance induction that blew me away. I somehow lost the name of the woman who led it but I look forward to updates about her work.  Carrie Paris’ class was a tour de force of the bridges between the subconscious and the conscious. She used art, intention, and Jungian influences to deftly navigate the known and unknown, the forest of personal history and spark of passionate purpose. As a result of my solo meditation and the group trance, I experienced her class as a dream-like haze. I was introduced to the Lenormand and other oracles, such as Carrie’s Magpie Oracle. As a result of her class, I expanded my concept of divination and its relationship to spiritual practice and life purpose. And I wrote a poem:

Love poem
from my soul’s mission to myself

I am not the long dark chasm of your world
even though you go to your edge
in order to meet me
in that secret vulnerable slit.
I will take you no further
than you are ready to go.

There was an EPIC dance party Saturday evening.

I have a love/hate thing with dance parties. On one hand I grew up dancing, it was a family thing, a big deal, and something I have tons of practice with. On the other hand, I am an Introvert (note the capital). By that I mean I don’t always deal well with large crowds of people. Growing up I cheated my body’s anti-people system with alcohol and danced my heart out. Now that I don’t drink, most of the time I am your typical wallflower. I hang back and wiggle a bit but mostly wait until I’m convinced that everyone has forgotten I exist before I move. An exception is when the DJ is very very good. A second exception is when I walk into a room so thick with dance ecstasy that it doesn’t make sense to do anything other than jump in or stretch in preparation. The dance party wasn’t quite the feral abandon I’ve come to expect from ecstatic dance, but it was pretty close. I learned that I don’t yet have the stamina to dance with the best people to dance with. Actually, with my fitness habits, it’s more accurate to say I don’t yet have the breath. Whatever anxiety I have about dancing is the same as with swimming. It shrinks my lungs and makes an otherwise fit person double over out of breath. My lungs and nerves are a work in Progress.

On the last day

We revisited our foundational readings on the last day. It was the gentle nudge I needed that morning since I was still exhausted. Not too exhausted to notice the difference in our readings. The cards were the same but my interpretations had deepened, widened, changed for the better. I was better at receiving my reading from my partner. I was better at delivering a reading. We had all relaxed a bit. I learned that readings in general can stand to be a little more relaxed, more comes through that way.

James Wells’ Tarot Incubators were outstanding. They showed me the breadth of expertise in the room with me. I am still getting to know the tarot community so every opportunity for my peers to connect, educate, and shine helps me feel closer. It was hard to choose where to spend my time between the half dozen tables. Gina Theis‘ Tarot Incubator on Audience Building was just what I needed to wake up the rest of the way. I learned during that brainstorm that my drive to connect with people and my fascination with storytelling is and will be at the core of any work I do to build an audience. My obsession with connections and stories meant that I knew more about audience building than I had realized. It was encouraging to realize that I was able to add to the conversation.

I had more amazing experiences than I was able to catalog here. I met fascinating and powerful people. And throughout the entire experience I had the foresight to regularly take time for myself to recenter. I was exhausted by the end but I was never beyond my edge even with all the potentially triggering activities: buses, people, delicious NYC lactose. In the next part of this series I’ll write tips about self care for sensitive types inspired by what I did before, during, and after my Tarot Adventure at the Reader’s Studio. Self care was a big part of my fabulous experience. I recommend this event for tarot lovers, go if you can!

Calling cards of some of the fabulous people I met!!

 Where you there too?
Are you going next year??
Say hello in the comments below.

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