One of the most important elements of a successful tarot reading is context. Setting clear intentions from the beginning, with a tarot question and spread, will help create boundaries for the tarot reading. By looking at the cards within these boundaries, your interpretations will be clearer and provide more useful information.
To demonstrate, I've taken three cards, created three different sets of boundaries and interpreted the readings based on the intention of each.
The first reading is a general reading, which basically reveals general information about a current situation. Although this isn't as direct as a presented question, it can provide a lot of useful information. The spread I've set for this reading is the three card - past, present, and future.
General Reading - Spread: Past, Present, Future
You recently experienced a much needed break. This may have taken the form of meditation, daily napping, or simply pauses throughout the day to rest your brain. There is the possibility this break wasn't your idea at all, a sickness which kept you in bed, a work layoff, or maybe even an imposed vacation. Whatever has pushed you to take this break, you've been able to have the time to rest your thoughts, clear your head.
The results have been a renewal of your hopes and dreams. You stand in a moment when you know anything is possible. You are capable of success, with no limitations. Your positivity factor is at an all-time high.
Opportunity is before you. You are faced with a time to plan for your future. The wands are energized by action. So don't just plan. It is important that you also act on these plans, to take advantage of the opportunity before you.
For the second reading, I pulled a single card to assist in developing a question. 10 of Pentacles - What steps can I make to get the most out of this gift of life? The spread is a progressive style, each card leading to the next.
What steps can I make to get the most out of this gift of life?
Allow yourself time for personal reflections and mental rest. You may find meditation or yoga a helpful tool in making these moments more productive. Tarot and other spiritual tools may also be a part of getting in touch with your true self. The important thing is to allow your mind to rest and approach life with a clear head. (4 of Swords)
Believe in yourself and your ability to manifest your dreams. Hope is an important ingredient. It can carry you through life's challenges and joys. (17 Star)
Set tangible goals and follow through on your plans. Hope alone can keep you strong, but without a vision you won't get very far. Don't waste time waiting for your dreams to come true. Take the steps to acquire them. (3 of Wands)
For the third reading, I pulled another card to assist in developing the question. 5 of Cups - How can I move past the pain and allow myself a new outlook? The spread is similar to the above progressive style, each card revolving into the next.
How can I move past the pain and allow myself a new outlook?
First, you must allow yourself to work through the pain. Emotions are a state of mind, a result of one's experiences. Find a quiet place and assume a comfortable position. Allow the emotions to flow through you. Meditate on its source. Question its meaning, its purpose. (4 of Swords) As you work through the issues, allow a bright white light to fill the holes produced by the lifting pain. (17 Star) When you feel yourself completely filled with light, begin searching for the steps toward your new future. (3 of Wands)
What does it look like? Where do you see yourself going? What can you do to get you there? Are there other's around you? Are they familiar or do strangers welcome you into this new light? After you feel you've exhausted all avenues of approach into this new bright world, take a deep breath and allow yourself to come back into focus with now.
Take a moment to look around. Are the colors brighter? Do you see things you might have missed during your state of gloom? When you feel ready, you might want to drink some water. And as soon as possible, jot down some thoughts of your experience; record any insights you might have had about your future.
I wish you happy journeys in your tarot development. As with any venture, practice, practice, and then a little more practice.