5 of Cups – Pessimism

At first glance, this card seems to indicate nothing but despair. The sky is painted a shade of purplish-red that indicates neither sunrise nor sunset, but mere gloom. There are spilt cups on the ground and a man covering his face. A closer inspection, however, will reveal that things are not as bad as the man believes it to be. For while there are three spilt cups, two are still standing and while his surrounding may seem barren, there is a castle just across the river and a bridge in the distance that can get him there.

The 5 of Cups is a wake-up call. We have found ourselves in an unpleasant situation but it does not place judgement or blame on how we got there. Instead, it invites us to reflect upon our situation and ask if we are choosing to stay in this state. Are we merely going through a necessary period of recovery or are we lingering in a wasteland, indulging in regret and self-pity?

When things do not turn out as hoped, it is important to reflect upon the unsuccessful venture. However, the attitude with which to contemplate the matter should be a desire to learn. Understand where things went wrong, how we can do better in the future and then move one.

Dwelling on pain and regret without any attempt of understanding will only result in resentment and pessimism. We all experience disappointments and losses. As hard as it may seem, we must work to get out of these situations as quickly as possible before these negative emotions become habitual. Don’t let set-backs turn into utter failures by refusing to pick ourselves back up. Focus on recovery and salvaging what we can from the situation.

When we find ourselves in this wasteland, the goal is to figure out how to deal with the pain, move past the state of disappointment and learn how to feel hope again. Fortunately, the 5 of Cups tells us that we need not look too far for inspiration. Just as there are still two cups that are upright, not all is lost in our lives. Switch our focus from lamenting the losses to treasuring and nurturing what we still have and, eventually, we will become strong enough to build new dreams and goals.


Hexagram 18 – Decaying

The gentle movement of Wind is halted by the looming stillness of Mountain. This is the image of decay due to an inability to move forward. One is held back, haunted by the darkness and corruption inherited from one’s past, culture, family upbringing or loved ones. Such times call for change. While this may seem daunting, the I Ching tells us that the current situation is actually good fortune because once we become aware of this perilous position, we are motivated to change and grow. Facing corruption bravely to forge a new start is one of humanity’s most ennobling acts.

In order to successfully address decay, one must work diligently and adopt the correct attitude. There needs to be a balance between decisiveness and care. While it is of utmost importance to gain momentum so that one can move past built up bad habits and indifference, it is equally important to move with consideration. Before acting, one must first know the cause of the problem in order to solve it. Then, once action has been taken to remedy the situation, one must remain careful not to let the work go to waste but maintain faithful upkeep.

Six on line 1:

The first line of this hexagram speaks of corruption resulting from over dependence upon tradition and habit. Good fortune lies in the fact that the situation can be fixed if one is willing to take responsibility for it. Do not waste any more time blaming others and understand that, regardless of how the situation has unfolded into its current state, only we can get ourselves out of it.

Nine on line 2:

To be rid of decay, one must clear away what is rotten. This can mean letting go of people, things and beliefs that hinder our growth. The most difficult part of this task is that it is not a straight forward process. It is not as simple as biting the bullet and enduring the pain of cutting off the decayed parts of our lives. Instead, we must tread gently and be aware that it is not always possible to hold firmly to our ideals when other people’s well-being are factored in.

Nine on line 3:

As with any endeavors and learning, mistakes will be made along the way. Some errors can be fixed while others cannot and wisdom lies in knowing the difference. Having that said, until such wisdom is achieved, it is better to err on the side of being too eager then to be indifferent about mistakes.

Six on line 4:

Do not tolerate the corrupt behaviours of others due to fear of hurting their feelings. It is not love or support when we indulge others’ wrong doings by turning a blind eye to it – it is weakness. Such weakness is one of the main sources of corruption that brings about decay.

Six on line 5:

To rectify corruption, it may be useful to concentrate on the positive instead of negative. Instead of assigning blame and administering punishment, use encouragement whenever possible. Motivate rather than instill fear and guilt. Genuine support only comes when people willingly join our cause.

Nine on line 6:

In the end, we all must forge our own paths. While we should always be civil and consider the greater good for all, we must also remain true to ourselves. Only then are we genuinely contributing to society. As such, sometimes, the best thing we can do is to not become involved in others’ affairs and focus on self-improvement. Just be sure that we don’t take this attitude to the extreme until it becomes selfish or judgmental.



To be human is to feel. We all want to feel good but bad times can be good fortune in disguise if we can learn from them. None of the great men and women in history accomplished their life’s work without setbacks and failures. The ones who succeed in life are not those who have never made mistakes or never experienced hardships. Rather, they are the ones who are strong enough to learn from their own mistakes and brave enough to remain strong when all odds seem to be against them.

In the face of difficulty, do not despair. Losing something we value, making mistakes, experiencing injustice – none of these makes us losers. We become losers the moment we give up.