In the Rider Waite tarot deck, the five of cups card is an illustration of grief; an image of a cloaked woman who appears to be in mourning. Her gaze is fixed on three overturned cups whose contents have spilled, and disappeared into the earth.
Immediately behind her, there are two cups standing upright.
On the whole, the five of cups is about perspective. Frames of reference. Mindset. Objects of focus. It’s about the choice that we have as beings with human brains to narrow, broaden, shift, refine, expand or switch up the scope of what we are aware of at any given time.
The day after I found out my ex-boyfriend was in a new relationship, I’d received a somewhat cryptic package from him with nothing inside but a lightly-worn copy of The Art of Possibility.
I was still hurting from the news. I buried the book in the corner beneath a stack of last winter’s New Yorkers.
A few days later, I took up my tarot deck and pulled my morning card. Five of cups.
I went to the corner and opened the book.
Let us suppose now, that a universe of possibility stretches beyond the world of measurement to include all worlds: infinite, generative, and abundant. Unimpeded on a daily basis by the concern for survival, free from the generalized assumption of scarcity, a person stands in the great space of possibility in a posture of openness, with an unfettered imagination for what can be.
Just as the figure in the card makes the assumption of scarcity as she stands weeping over what has been lost, altogether ignoring the upright, full cups behind her, we often get in our own way by assuming lack as well.
What do we miss out on when we choose to fix our gaze on what we don’t have and in doing so, neglect to acknowledge the abundance that exists in the world beyond our chosen perspective?
The five of cups asks: How can we shift our mindset to not just hope for but to expect positive outcomes? To consider closed doors nothing less than helpful, effective road signs, and to take constant stock of what what we do have, rather than incessantly make note of what we’re missing?
What blessings are you missing out on because of your preoccupation with limitations, negative orientation, and scarcity?
The five of cups doesn’t discount the reality that when we love someone or something with all of who we are and the time comes to let go, grief is a normal and healthy part of that process. In fact in such cases, it’s often necessary to make a concerted effort to allow that pain to exist inside of us and to let it pass through in the unique time and space it needs to do so.
But it’s a balancing act. We must not become preoccupied with loss, obsessed with it, or overly identified with it. If we want to move forward and experience love and prosperity again, we must orient ourselves toward abundance, not scarcity.
In fact, results of a recent research study suggested that the ability to pick up on and engage with negative information may actually be an important factor of happiness. In the words of the researchers, “happy people are joyful, yet balanced.”
Another study found that while humans do have an evolved negativity bias, we may be able to compensate by making a conscious decision to focus more on the positive. In other words, we can make the choice to focus on the two upright cups behind us, rather then the three that spilled out.
But how? We are not fools. Thoughts are not easy to change. What is the practical way toward orienting ourselves to abundance?
“Look for thoughts and actions that reflect survival and scarcity, comparison and competition, attachment and anxiety,” write Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility authors.
Also, giving thanks helps. Daily, hourly, as often as possible. Make it a habit to look for things to say thanks for throughout the day.
Train your brain to seek opportunities for gratitude.
When you wake up and make your coffee, say thanks for the gas that heats the water. When you step onto the yoga mat or place your foot inside your running shoe, say thanks that the bones, muscles and nerves in your feet are in tact, and functioning.
And when you have to let go of something you cared for in the deepest part of your soul, give thanks for the capacity to feel such a thing, because not everyone can do that. And choose to orient yourself toward the abundant possibility that you will one day feel that again.