I started reading tarot a few years ago after my friend Lori gave me a deck for my birthday. At first I was kinda overwhelmed by all of the symbology. My deck came with a book, and so I started flipping through it, trying to understand what the cards were telling me. I thought about trying to memorize meanings and spent a lot of time pouring over what that book and other books told me about the symbols and intentions that were contained in each image.

I decided that I needed some outside instruction to help me make sense of it all. Another friend of mine who was learning tarot too, at the time, invited a tarot expert over to her house and we sat down with our decks and flipped cards and talked about meanings and applications and possible spreads. And do you know what I learned?

It’s not about the cards. It’s about you.

Our tarot teacher that night showed me that what I bring to the table, what I see in the cards, is far more important than anything that the cards are supposed to mean. Sometimes what the symbols meant to me when I read them was way off from what the actual meaning of the card was. And sometimes it was exactly in line with it. But the point was, what I saw mattered most.

I went to the tarot party that night looking for formula for reading so that I could get it right every time, so that I could see what the cards were trying to tell me. What I got was a powerful tool for unlocking my mind so that I could more clearly see the truth that I possessed all along.

The cards became a tool for introspection.

That’s the method that I teach to others now. If you come to the tarot looking for someone else to tell you what you should do with your life, what’s going to happen in your future, or give you an answer to your problems, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. The future is always changing and giving your power away to someone (or something) else always falls short of your expectations.

If you come to tarot and ask yourself what you need to hear most, it will show you what you already know in your heart. The cards always show you what you need to know — you bring the answers to the table with you. But you have to take the time to work out what they mean. Because in the end they’re only reflecting you back to yourself. What do you see? What do you need to know? What do you want most?

I grew up believing tarot could invite demon possession, but I don’t believe that anymore. The cards have only the power we give them. And that can be a lot of power! Our spirits and our need for meaning are strong.

Once (for me) tarot was a tool of witches (which meant it was bad), something that had power over your life, a vehicle for bondage and possession. Now tarot is a way for me to ask myself what I’m missing and look at things from a different perspective, to tap my subconscious and find the answer I’m looking for, to recognize thought patterns that are holding me back and set myself free.

Last year, last February to be exact, I painted my first rock. Well, that’s probably not entirely true. I’m pretty sure I’ve painted rocks before last February, but never with the purpose and intent with which I began painting them in February of 2015. I had been cultivating a list of mantras for myself, of courageous and encouraging phrases to help me battle the demon Anxiety and her cousin Depression, two monsters I have fought for years now. Be brave. You are bigger on the inside. Don’t hide who you are. Words of power. Words that I desperately needed to grow and find the freedom and strength to do the things I dared with my life.

As wonderful and as meaningful as the phrases were I was collecting, I felt a need for something more tangible, more concrete to help me be reminded of the things I wanted to embody. Words on the wind blow away from you as quickly as the come. And so I painted my first rock. Love more.

Have you ever tried painting rocks? I highly recommend it. It’s great fun. Needless to say, between the powerful words and buckets of fun, I soon had quite a collection of “rock balms” as a friend of mine calls them. And for the past year they’ve sat on my counter, near the door, where I and anyone who comes into my home can see them and draw strength from them.

As with anything I make, at first I love it so much that I can’t bear to think of letting it go. And so the rocks have stood as solid reminders of the things I need to hear, the words I need to infuse my life with. Trust more. Let love in. Yes you can!

But last week, I could tell… I could just tell… it was time. And so I took three rocks on the walk with N and the dog, three mantras that I wanted to release into the world. Choose love. You have permission. Believe in yourself. I placed each of these rocks along the path that we took, left them for others to find. I hope that they’ll make their way to people who need to hear the words they carry. Or if they don’t, if they stay in the spots they were planted in, I hope that they’ll be noticed by people who will take the words to heart.

It was such a fun process that I know I’ll do more. I have quite a few rocks left in my pile and new mantras on my heart to write in stone and put out into the world.