Since 1972 I’ve generally followed Eden Gray’s advice about not asking my sitters to tell me their specific question or topic of interest in advance of a reading, instead letting the cards speak their piece with no subconscious “preconditioning” due to foreknowledge on my part. Sitters silently invest the cards with their inquiry during the shuffle and cut, and their reactions to my observations help to steer the narrative along productive lines, allowing the exact details of the situation to remain private if that is preferable. While presenting the question pointblank would seem to cut right to the chase, the twin concerns of client privacy and unintentional “contamination” of the subconscious channel with my own assumptions and preconceptions have kept me from doing it.
Occasionally, I’ve experimented with asking the sitter to identify which of four major life areas is of the most interest according to elemental correspondences: Wands for the beginning of something (an enterprise, initiative or ambition of any kind); Cups for affairs of the heart, romantic or otherwise; Swords for mental pursuits and challenges; and Pentacles for purely material matters. This has the advantage of letting the reading zero in on specifics with less time spent laying the circumstantial groundwork.
In practice, the original question usually emerges in fragments as the dialogue progresses, but only at the sitter’s option, not as a result of my prompting. Lately I’ve been thinking that the best approach may be to point the sitter down this path right from the start. It would go something like this:
Me: “I don’t want you to tell me your question before we start. Keep it to yourself and concentrate on it while you shuffle the cards. As we go along you can reveal as much of it as you like if the reading touches on key points.”
Sitter: <Concentrates with furrowed brow while shuffling the deck>
Me, after laying out the spread: “This first card suggests blah, blah, blah . . .”
Sitter: “Hmm, that could relate to this, that or the other thing.”
Me: “OK, tell me which connection seems the most important to you in light of what the card is saying.
Sitter: “Well, ‘that’ has been on my mind for a while, let’s look at it first.”
Me: “The card suggests that you should pay attention to ‘this’ regarding ‘that’.”
Sitter: “Oh, that makes perfect sense. I was going to <gives specific details of the situation>.”
This serves the same purpose as letting the true focus of the reading emerge organically during the conversation, but sets up an active expectation for it to occur to the extent the sitter is comfortable. Moments of dead silence while sitters struggle with the idea of revealing sensitive personal information should be minimized. If they know it’s coming, they can decide how far to go before the moment arrives. The more of themselves they are willing to put into the reading, the more they are likely to get out of it. When the question is purposefully “sharpened” as the result of our interaction, it may change into something even more pertinent to the sitter’s situation. To my way of thinking, that’s what clients pay us to do.