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Praise for Mindful Tarot “Mindful Tarot is a delight and joy; a tarot book whose time has come … [It] gives us the tools we need. Wise, eloquent, yet easy to read, Mindful Tarot will stay with you long after you close its pages and start flipping cards. It will transform the way you work with the tarot forever.” —Sasha Graham, author of Llewellyn’s Complete Book of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot “Mindful Tarot is a scholarly look at the cards that asks the reader to look within, rather than without … This book asks you to settle down, breathe in and out, and take a look at the here and now. I love the use of tarot to be present instead of future-oriented.” —Melissa Cynova, author of Kitchen Table Tarot “Tarot has long been seen as a fabulous tool for personal and spiritual development, and Mindful Tarot gives you even more tools to help you on this quest.” —Leeza Robertson, author of Tarot Reversals for Beginners “[Lisa Freinkel Tishman] knows how to turn a question mark into an exclamation point … Listen to Lisa’s voice as she whispers in your ear through the pages of this book, where the tarot becomes a complete practice that shatters itself into the image of our own wholeness.” —Enrique Enriquez, New York–based artist and author of Tarology

Mindful Tarot

About the Author Lisa Freinkel Tishman, PhD, began studying the Tarot as a graduate student at Berkeley in the late 1980s. She has published extensively on Petrarch, the Renaissance poet thought to have influenced the Tarot trumps. An award-winning teacher, Zen Buddhist minister, and certified mindfulness educator, she is a former humanities professor and dean at the University of Oregon (UO) and founding director of UO’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. Lisa is now an interfaith chaplain at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield, Oregon, and continues to offer mindfulness classes, trainings, and Tarot readings through her business, Calyx Contemplative Care. She can be found online at and on YouTube and Instagram as “Mindful Tarot.”

Mindful Tarot

Bring a Peace-Filled, Compassionate Practice to the 78 Cards

Lisa Freinkel Tishman, PhD

Llewellyn Publications Woodbury, Minnesota

Mindful Tarot: Bring a Peace-Filled, Compassionate Practice to the 78 Cards © 2019 by Lisa Freinkel Tishman, PhD. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including internet usage, without written permission from Llewellyn Publications, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. First Edition First Printing, 2019 Cover design by Shannon McKuhen Cover art is from Universal Tarot Premium courtesy Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy. No further reproduction permitted. Illustrations from Universal Tarot © 2001 by Roberto de Angelis, Tarot of Marseille, and Tarot Sola Busca: Ferrara XV Century are used with permission from Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy. No further reproduction allowed. Images from the Visconti Tarot deck are used courtesy of Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy. No further reproduction permitted. Line art from A. E. Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, public domain. Translation of the Rumi poem “The Guest House” used by permission, Coleman Barks. Llewellyn Publications is a registered trademark of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Names: Freinkel Tishman, Lisa, author. Title: Mindful tarot : bring a peace-filled, compassionate practice to the 78 cards / by Lisa Freinkel Tishman, PhD. Description: First Edition. | Woodbury : Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., 2019. | Includes bibliographical references. Identifiers: LCCN 2019001231 (print) | LCCN 2019005658 (ebook) | ISBN 9780738758534 (ebook) | ISBN 9780738758442 (alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Tarot. | Mindfulness (Psychology)—Miscellanea. Classification: LCC BF1879.T2 (ebook) | LCC BF1879.T2 F745 2019 (print) | DDC 133.3/2424—dc23 LC record available at Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business transactions between our authors and the public. All mail addressed to the author is forwarded but the publisher cannot, unless specifically instructed by the author, give out an address or phone number. Any internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific location will continue to be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to authors’ websites and other sources. Llewellyn Publications A Division of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive Woodbury, MN 55125-2989 Printed in the United States of America

Other Books by Lisa Freinkel Tishman, PhD Reading Shakespeare’s Will: The Theology of Figure from Augustine to the Sonnets (Columbia University Press, 2002)

for Ezra “take what comes, love covers all� & in memory of Homer

CONTENTS List of Images xi Preface: A Life of Largesse xiii

Part One: From Mantic to Mindful Tarot Chapter 1: This Is All There Is 3 Chapter 2: Cartomancy and Mindfulness 13 Chapter 3: The Wheel of Life 25 Chapter 4: Learning to Drop Anchor 37 Chapter 5: The Four Suits and the Boundless Abodes 53 Chapter 6: The Trumps: All or Nothing 73 Chapter 7: The Daily PULL: Pausing, Unknowing, Looking, Leaning In 89

Part Two: Reading the Cards Chapter 8: The Trumps 115 0 • The Fool: Beginner’s Mind 118 I • The Magician: Alignment 120 II • The High Priestess: Unknowing 122 III • The Empress: Unfolding 125 IV • The Emperor: Structure 127 V • The Hierophant: Holding Truth 130 VI • The Lovers: Becoming Whole 133 VII • The Chariot: Harnessing Desire 136 VIII • Strength: Facing What Scares Us 138 IX • The Hermit: Waiting for Light 141 X • The Wheel: Turning Over 144 XI • Justice: Making Right 148 XII • The Hanged Man: Renunciation 151 XIII • Death: Rising and Falling 154



XIV • Temperance: Reconciliation 156 XV • The Devil: Enfettered 159 XVI • The Tower: Ignition 162 XVII • The Star: Faith 164 XVIII • The Moon: The Depths 166 XIX • The Sun: Restoration 169 XX • Judgment: The Trumpet Call 172 XXI • The World: Letting Go 174 Chapter 9: The Pips 179 The Aces: Gift 184 The Twos: Reflection 193 The Threes: Synthesis 202 The Fours: Stability 211 The Fives: Perspective 220 The Sixes: Recognition 229 The Sevens: Steadiness 238 The Eights: Surrender 247 The Nines: Culmination 256 The Tens: Going Beyond 265 Chapter 10: The Courts 275 The Pages: Care 277 The Knights: Compassion 286 The Queens: Cheer 294 The Kings: Calm 302 Acknowledgments 311 Works Consulted 313

Images All cards in this book are from Lo Scarabeo’s Universal Tarot by Roberto de Angelis except for the images on pages 85 (Marseille Tarot), 87 (Sola Busca Tarot), 146 (Visconti Tarot), 180–181 (Visconti Tarot), and 281 (Marseille Tarot). The Fool card: new beginnings xvii Wastrel in the Four of Cups: the “Four of Cups dilemma” 9 Seeker in the Eight of Cups 10 The waxing/waning moon in the Eight of Cups 12 My current Wheel of Life spread 27 Three of Wands 28 Eight of Swords 33 The Aces in all four suits: Pentacles, Wands, Cups, and Swords 54 The Pentacles: tending the garden of the caring heart 55 Two of Pentacles: a life in balance 57 Tao symbol 58 The Wands: kindling the responsive heart of compassion 59 Seven of Wands: What am I fighting for? 63 The Cups: blessing the grateful heart of cheer 64 Ace of Cups: the waters of life 66 The Swords: grasping the expansive heart of calm 67 Five of Swords: double-edged victory 71 Death (XIII) and Judgment (XX): Triumphs of Death and Judgment 82 Death with his scythe in Trump XIII of the Marseille Tarot— from everything to nothing 85 Judgment with the trumpet of resurrection— from nothing to everything 86 Sola Busca Fool 87 The Emperor 98 Today’s Chariot spread 99 xi



The Lovers 100 Four of Pentacles 101 Today’s expanded five-card spread 108 The Chariot 111 The Wheel of Fortune in the Visconti Tarot 146 Ten of Wands 161 Detail of the rising/setting sun in the Death card 170 Zero 175 Detail of the wreath in the World card 175 Four of Coins in the Visconti Tarot 180 The Emperor in the Visconti Tarot 181 Rainbow in the Ten of Cups 262 Elemental Associations of the Court Cards 277 The Knave of Wands in the Marseille Tarot 281


A Life of Largesse I am large, I contain multitudes. —Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass

  hat if we could live, in every moment, a life of bounty, openheartedness, joy, and generosity? What if, despite our life circumstances, despite our individual challenges with health, wealth, relationship, and family, we could live with ease and intimacy? What if we could live with hope for our planet’s future, despite twenty-first-century difficulties such as climate change, political demagoguery, and global conflict? What if our hearts could be made tender by the suffering of others while we nonetheless became engaged and energized by the positive opportunities unfolding all around us? These what-ifs are not idle questions. They are invitations to you, dear reader. There’s a wonderful old-fashioned word for the kind of generous, easeful disposition of mind I am describing: largesse. The word means openhandedness and bigheartedness. In fact, it literally means adopting a big outlook on life. Largesse derives from the word large, and so in a sense we could say that largesse means living large in the best of all possible ways. It means living from the standpoint of the Big Self: the self with a large S that is aware of its




interconnectedness to all things. This is the Big Self that the nineteenthcentury American poet Walt Whitman describes in his poem “Song of Myself ”: I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. For Whitman, the individual self is large because it shares in all of creation. It is composed of, and decomposes into, every atom of this good earth. “There is that lot of me and all so luscious,” Whitman exclaims, exulting in a life lived in intimacy with the whole planet and all its history—with the whole lot of living creatures, human cultures, rocks and minerals, sun and stars and moon. “Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,” he declares, pledging allegiance to the wide world around him. What if Tarot, when practiced mindfully, could teach us to live with this much joy and bounty? What if it could help us turn toward the world, even in the midst of confusion and trouble, embracing what is with clarity, with love, and with a sense of possibility? This book invites you to embrace your life, yourself, writ large! It invites you to embrace the world. Will you join me on a journey of Mindful Tarot?

A Complete Practice Mindful Tarot is a complete practice: a practice that is as much about learning to live a more abundant and mindful life as it is about deepening our connection to that wondrous gallery of 78 archetypes, the Tarot. A complete practice. What do I mean by that? First and foremost, I am signaling the integrity of this work: the integrity born from a path dedicated to integration. (Those two words, integrity and integration, come from the same root: the Latin word for wholeness.) I am inviting you onto a path of practice that has the capacity to transform your life one breath and one card at a time. But, perhaps paradoxically, I am also suggesting that in an important sense this transformation will change nothing. Mindful Tarot is a complete practice because it recognizes that this moment, where we are right now, is already complete. In this moment, nothing is lacking. We don’t need to do

A Life of Largesse


anything or fix anything. Mindful Tarot is a practice that helps us live in the midst of that completeness. Now don’t get me wrong. The Tarot is also a very good tool for simply getting stuff done. The Tarot deck was invented in Italy in the 1400s as a card game, but even in those early days Tarot found other uses in gambling, writing poetry, and drawing lots (a form of divination). In the modern era, the Tarot has revealed even more versatility. It can very handily and beautifully be used for a variety of extrinsic and esoteric purposes. It can be used in magic, ritual, art, and psychotherapy. It can be used to channel guides and spirits, and it can be used (of course) to tell fortunes. It can be used as an oracle, and it can be used for veneration. It can even be used (as it still is in France and other parts of Europe) for its original purpose as a card game. In this sense, learning to read the Tarot can be like learning yoga postures. A modern-day yogi might simply practice their asanas (postures) as fitness, aiming for flexibility and strength—and there’s certainly nothing wrong with a nice, firm “yoga butt”! But yoga can also be practiced on its own terms: as a complete, self-contained path of transformation and liberation. In contrast to the Tarot-as-tool approach, Mindful Tarot takes up the Tarot as an end in itself. It considers the Tarot in its own right as a path of self-discovery. Mindful Tarot is both a mindfulness practice anchored within the language of Tarot and a Tarot-reading practice anchored within mindful awareness.

How to Use This Book You do not need to have any prior knowledge of either mindfulness or Tarot to benefit from this book. The book is designed to accompany you, step by step, into the practice of Mindful Tarot. When it comes to Tarot, it’s easy to get discouraged by the sheer volume of esoteric information out there. Just gaining familiarity with basic card meanings and correspondences can seem like an endless chore. Similarly, when it comes to mindfulness practice, it’s easy to feel daunted by the stressors in our environment or by the sheer noisiness of our own hearts and minds. Finding calm and peace in the midst of our lives can seem like a hopeless task.



Not to worry, dear reader! Mindful Tarot has your back. You don’t need to memorize card meanings and you don’t need to clear or calm your mind. This book will gently guide you into greater self-compassion and awareness just as you are right now. Together we’ll explore greater intimacy with the present moment and greater familiarity with the 78 cards. If you’re completely new to the Tarot, you may want to pay particular attention to the discussions of Tarot history and the structure of the Tarot deck in chapters 4–6 before trying to work through the book as a whole. Reading part 2 of this book in its entirety may also be useful as you start. There I offer a unified system of card meanings that is designed to resonate with mindfulness practice but is also traditional and flexible enough to use with any Tarot deck you choose. Don’t try to learn these card meanings by rote! Instead, dive into the sequence of meanings like you might read a good novel or a collection of stories. Read to get a sense of the big picture—the whole story. Getting a sense of the whole is what Mindful Tarot is all about. If you’re new to mindfulness practice, part 1 of this book will introduce you to mindfulness concepts, methods, and skills that build upon one another. You don’t need any special tools, background, beliefs, or training. Mindfulness is simply the art of paying attention, with basic kindness and curiosity, to the full range of human experience in the present moment. It’s the art of noticing how things are for us right now—without our getting hooked or derailed by our reactions, stories, aversions, and desires. Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned. That’s why we practice it. It’s a state of awareness that can be cultivated and deepened over time. Mindfulness practice is also what pharmacists call “dose-independent.” Some medicines require a certain threshold, a saturation point, before they are effective. In contrast, mindfulness practice is the kind of “medicine” whose impact is linear: it seems to work no matter how little exposure to it we have. With a little practice, we’ll see a little impact. With more practice, we’ll see a greater impact. The more we put in, the more we get out. But even a teeny bit of mindfulness practice has the capacity to change our lives. In chapter 7, “The Daily PULL,” I introduce the fundamental methods of a daily Mindful Tarot practice. I share my own daily practice, step by step, along with a sample Mindful Tarot reading from my own experience. The chapter also includes a coordinated set of guided mindfulness exercises that are available as

A Life of Largesse


mp3 files on my website ( -practice). In fact, wherever you see a bell symbol ( ) in the text, you’ll be able to find an associated mp3 file. These exercises are meant to support and help you develop your work with the Tarot, but they can also be used on their own, in any order and as often as you like, to deepen your habit of mindful awareness, with or without the use of Tarot cards. And, of course, if you’re already well versed in both Tarot and mindfulness, there’s nothing like beginning anew, taking the daintiest of steps into the unknown, into this present moment—like the traditional image of the Fool, the first figure in the Tarot deck, who steps off a cliff and into the future, with that little dog nipping at the heels. All you need to do is turn the page—and breathe. Welcome!

The Fool card: new beginnings



A Note about Gender Whenever possible I have avoided the use of gender-specific pronouns, such as she or he, in favor of gender-neutral forms, such as they. That said, it remains important to grapple with the binary oppositions that we find in the cards. The Tarot is a product of Western culture, and shares its deep history of dualism. Binary oppositions flood the Tarot’s imagery. Everywhere we look we’ll find dualities of male/female, white/black, active/passive, spirit/ flesh, heaven/hell, etc. Nonetheless, the Tarot continually invites us toward nondual wholeness. Thus, throughout this book I will note the traditional gendered and dualistic associations where relevant while also disrupting them as much as I can.

Part One

From Mantic to Mindful Tarot

Chapter 1

This Is All There Is


t was a mild Oregon winter morning about a dozen years ago. The low sun filtered through the mist. The air was damp but crisp. Bundled in a fleece blanket in a rusted garden chair by the side of the building, I tucked my legs underneath me, sitting cross-legged like I might on a meditation cushion. But I wasn’t meditating. I was sipping my tea during a break in the seven-day silent retreat at this urban meditation center. I was also crying. My heart, in fact, was literally aching. I could almost feel the cracking of bone and cartilage across the sternum. There was nothing wrong. I had a great marriage and a fulfilling job, all my loved ones were safe and healthy, and I myself was healthy as an ox. My heart wasn’t breaking from any external forces. Instead, it felt like my core, the inner reaches of my chest, my chest cavity itself, had become a vacuum so acute, such a yawning and empty space, that my heart was now splitting open from the inside. I had spent the previous four days in silent contemplation, wrestling with all the myriad ways that I tended to lose myself through daydreaming, through sleepiness and the heaviness of boredom, or through the giddiness of restless energy. I had been grappling with all the habitual ways that I would often push and pull my world, leaping forward into the future or obsessing backward into the past, always trying to escape the confines of the present 3


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moment. In short, in the last four days of contemplation, I’d been assiduously working with my own chronic dissatisfaction. In the ancient Indian language of the Buddha and his followers, this state is called dukkha: a word that is often translated as suffering but literally means something more like “unsatisfactoriness.” Dukkha describes our deeply ingrained sense that this present moment is not enough, that we can’t be sated or full or find abundance in the world as it is right here and now. Things that are good are either not good enough or too temporary to soothe our hungry hearts. Things that are bad need to be shed and shoved off quickly. And things that are sort of meh—that we neither want nor reject—are pretty much unacceptable too. Dukkha shapes our world into the mobile-app terms of swipe left and swipe right. Thanks to dukkha, we see our lives as a series of thumbs-up and thumbs-down, likes and dislikes. Dukkha is the currency of a world in which we lose ourselves continually, because we are always darting off somewhere, seeking that other something that (we imagine) will finally fill us up. I had just spent four days perched cross-legged on my meditation cushion striving to overcome my chronic state of dissatisfaction. I had kept reeling myself back in, reminding myself not to look for meaning or juiciness somewhere else. I had kept bringing my attention back to my breath, to the sense of my hips poised on the cushion, to the weight of my body, to the concrete sensations of my skin, nose, eyes, ears, and mouth. I had kept reminding myself: There’s nowhere else. There’s nothing else. There’s just right here and right now. And right then, sitting with my perfectly good tea, the waves of dissatisfaction were swelling to tsunami proportions. This bleeping universe—this is all there is?! Really? This is it? This tea, and this winter morning, and this silly body of mine, and this silly sky overhead, and this silly broken heart, with these silly tears mingling with snot and chilling in the air against my skin? Really? Are you kidding me? Is this silliness all there is? Is this really all there is?

This Is All There Is


I’m not sure who I was talking to, but I just kept repeating those words, silently to myself at first and then out loud—in that funny, masochistic way we have of repeating words that name our pain. Really? This is all there is? This is all? Really? This is all there is?! And then the sounds of a city morning burst in. There was a clattering of glass and an echo of hydraulic gears engaging and disengaging. In the midst of my existential crisis, the city sanitation truck had arrived at the meditation center and was clearing away our garbage and recyclables. And then I noticed the chirping of the thrushes and towhees and the scratching and scrambling of squirrels at the base of the yard’s gnarled and spreading fig tree. And a slight breeze brought the tang of woodsmoke and the mulchy, slightly moldy smell of dark, waterlogged earth. And the taste, like green wood, of my tea still lingered on my tongue. And the cold and heavy ceramic of my mug weighed smooth in my hands. Something shifted—in me, in the world. My heart softened. My breathing slowed and deepened. This is ALL there is. As surely as the cup in my hands contained the swirls of my tea, this moment—this silly now—contained the whole universe. This is ALL there is. There was a world of difference between the two ways I had understood the same phrase: This is all there is?! At first, my imploding broken heart had yearned for something else, for something further and deeper than the meagerness of the present moment. And then came the recognition that, yes, this is indeed all there is: it’s ALL here, nothing is missing, nothing is left out. In the space of a heartbeat, I had gone from the devastating sense of scarcity to the raucous joy of abundance: This is ALL there is! Wow! Nothing is left out. In this present moment, in the evidence of my five senses and the pulsation of


Chapter 1

my heart, in the waves of emotion and the currents of thought in my mind, the whole universe is here with me. This silly moment contains MULTIVERSES! My whole body tingled with joy: with the sense of fullness, of gift—of the present moment as, literally, a present. Where before my body had ached with yawning, yearning emptiness, now it was bursting full. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh describes this sense of abundance as a recognition of “interbeing”: of the ways in which all things exist, at the same time, together, completely cooperating and coexisting, molecule by molecule. Nhat Hanh tells us that nothing exists simply on its own. Instead, all things inter-are (a verb he coined himself). All things exist only because countless other things also exist. He invites us to notice the ways in which even a lowly sheet of paper contains all of the conditions that make it possible: “If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper.” 1 Even the thinnest page of a book, like the one you hold in your hands right now, contains its grounds of possibility. And, as Nhat Hanh teaches, if we investigate those grounds deeply enough, we will indeed discover everything that is. The deeper we look into this one thin sheet of paper, the more we will see. The whole solar system enters this paper. Without the sun rising and falling, the forest could not grow and the tree could not survive. And if we look closer at that thriving tree, so essential for this single sheet of paper, we’ll also see the logger who cut the tree. And if we look even more deeply, we’ll see that the logger relies on the farmer whose crops sustain life. There can be no sheet of paper without sheaves of wheat, and this thin sheet of paper can’t exist without the miller who grinds that wheat or the baker who shapes the loaves, and so on. Without sunshine, tree, wheat, logger, farmer, and baker, there is no paper. As Nhat Hanh puts it, all these things inter-are. The prefix inter means “among” or “between” and indicates cooperation, mutuality, reciprocity. For example, an inter faith community invites diverse religious traditions to worship together. When threads are interwoven, they form a fabric reinforced by the inclusion and interaction of many fibers. To say that the paper and the sunshine and the wheat (etc.) inter-are means that no one of these things 1. Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding, 3.

This Is All There Is


stands alone. All participate together, weaving the fabric of life. “As thin as this sheet of paper is,” Nhat Hanh tells us, “it contains everything in the universe in it.” 2 Interbeing is Nhat Hanh’s name for an infinitely abundant universe, but it is also his name for precisely the kind of emptiness I had been encountering in my state of chronic dissatisfaction. To say that this thin sheet of paper contains everything in the universe is also to acknowledge that, in and of itself, the sheet of paper is empty. No one solitary thing exists on its own. In one sense the paper contains multitudes: everything in the entire universe is necessary for this simple pulpy sheet to exist. In another sense, the paper lacks any essential “papery” qualities. It seems real and solid enough, but no matter how much we analyze and probe and dissect it, looking for its essential nature, we will never find it. There’s no separate and distinct “paperness” that we can point to, independent of all the other molecules and atoms of the universe. The paper has no essential qualities of its own. It has no intrinsic meaning or merit. It has no enduring or immutable qualities. It can be burned, it can be torn, it can be crumpled up and completely obliterated. There’s nothing about the sheet of paper that is fixed and permanent. We might think of it this way: If the sheet of paper were a hundred-dollar bill, we would probably get a little excited. A hundred-dollar bill—that’s really something! Think of how many Tarot decks you could buy with that Benjamin! But if you’ve ever come back from a trip abroad with a lot of foreign currency in your pockets, you’ve encountered the truth that there’s nothing particularly special about these pieces of paper. It doesn’t take much to realize that our money is worth something only because we can trade it for other things—because it connects us to a whole world of goods and services. In and of itself, a hundred-dollar bill is just a measly sheet of paper. Money is just one example of this broader principle of emptiness and abundance (although in our consumerist world, it may be the most salient example). Money has value only as currency: it’s valuable only in the context of the flow (the current) of goods and services. Even so, we tend to want to hoard and save it, clutching it for dear life like Gollum with his Preciousss, as if in and of themselves these pieces of paper or slivers of metal contain meaning. Or perhaps if we’re savvy, we use the metal and paper to buy things 2. Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding, 5.


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and then fantasize that our new acquisitions will fulfill us—that even if paper bills and metal coins are ultimately empty, the consumer goods we can buy with them will be plumped up with intrinsic value and worth. But how often do we discover that, like our bills and coins, our possessions also feel empty once we’ve brought them home from the store or torn open that exciting Amazon package? Meaning and value always seem to be elsewhere. I like to think of this problem as the “Four of Cups dilemma.” In his 1911 book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Arthur Edward Waite—the progenitor of the modern Waite-Smith Tarot 3—describes the fourth card of the suit of Cups in the following way: A young man is seated under a tree and contemplates three cups set on the grass before him; an arm issuing from a cloud offers him another cup. His expression notwithstanding is one of discontent with his environment. Divinatory Meanings: Weariness, disgust, aversion, imaginary vexations, as if the wine of this world had caused satiety only; another wine, as if a fairy gift, is now offered the wastrel, but he sees no consolation therein. The Four of Cups is the card of dukkha, depicting our chronic human state of dissatisfaction. Nothing fills us up. We can drain every vessel on earth in an attempt to slake our thirst, but no satiety will last forever. Always looking elsewhere, we find no fulfillment. Even the fantastic proffered gift, an offering from beyond (“a fairy gift”), leaves us restless and unsatisfied. We fail to recognize true grace when it arrives. Our cup is always empty, and we remain ever unable to recognize the profound offering of this present moment. “Our sheet of paper is empty,” writes Thich Nhat Hanh. “[…] It cannot just be by itself. It has to inter-be with the sunshine, the cloud, the forest, the log3. The 1909 collaboration between English occultists Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith has most commonly been referred to as the Rider-Waite Tarot, in reference to Waite’s direction and the earliest publisher of the deck, the company then known as William Rider & Son. More recent conventions have aimed to credit the fundamental contributions of artist Pamela Colman Smith. Modern Tarot practitioners refer to the deck as the Rider-Waite-Smith, RWS, or Waite-Smith Tarot. I use the last designation, since it separates the art and philosophy of the deck from its publishing history.

This Is All There Is


ger, the mind, and everything else.” 4 As long as we hope to carve off a piece of the world’s abundance as our own personal and permanent treasure, we will remain the inconsolable waif underneath the tree. We will literally be a wastrel (as Waite puts it), wasting away in our own discontent, and content to waste away the preciousness of the world.

Wastrel in the Four of Cups: the “Four of Cups dilemma” It’s like collecting river rocks. I remember as a kid being drawn to the beautiful stones glittering in the riverbed, dappled and dazzling in the sunlit ripples of the water. I’d grab the green and blue and russet gems in big handfuls, thrilled with my treasure. And then, inevitably, my heart would sink once the stones had dried and revealed nothing more than a dull taupe and a chalky gray. What had made the stones glorious was their interbeing with the 4. Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding, 10.


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water, the current, the sun, the silt, and the soil. My error had been to imagine that I could simply grab and possess a piece of that magic. Of course, as grown-ups, many of us have more subtle ways to grab and possess pieces of the world’s magical bounty. Many of us look less like the bored wastrel under the tree in the Four of Cups and more like the pilgrim figure in the Eight of Cups. In the Waite-Smith deck, the Eight of Cups depicts someone turning their back on the world and heading toward the mountains. This figure seems to be moving on from disillusionment, brushing the unsatisfying dust of the world off their feet and heading toward the holy hill. But indeed, the path of the renunciate is only a more nuanced version of the wastrel’s dilemma. Both express disappointment and loss. Both figures are isolated and disillusioned. Both seek fulfillment somewhere else.

Seeker in the Eight of Cups

This Is All There Is


Certainly my own Four of Cups moment—that broken-hearted moment a dozen or so years ago at the urban retreat center—arrived in the context of my lifelong spiritual seeking. I didn’t look like the pouting profligate under the tree. Instead, I looked like the pious pilgrim, the seeker who renounces the pleasures of this life, wisely turning her back on delusional pursuits. My Four of Cups looked a lot more like the Eight of Cups. I was determined, not disaffected. I was resolved, not restless. Just like the Eight of Cups pilgrim, I had shaken off the dust of this life to head toward the spiritual heights. I was seeking the higher ground that would give my life meaning. But indeed, the pilgrim’s search for meaning is ultimately not so different from the wastrel’s ennui. Both figures reject the offerings of this life. Both turn away from the present of this present moment. Moreover, both fail to realize that emptiness is a necessary precondition to fullness. The suit mark for both of these Tarot cards is perfectly apt: Cups. It is only because a cup is hollow—an empty vessel—that it can be filled. Eastern philosophy has understood this paradox for at least 2,500 years, whether on the Indian subcontinent through Buddhism or in China through Taoism. As the fifth-century classic of Taoist literature, the Tao Te Ching, explains: We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends. We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.5 The “space where there is nothing” is required for something to exist. For this reason, there’s an inherent ambivalence in cups and vessels; their state of hollowness is precisely what defines their use. That’s why the same cup can be understood from the pessimist’s perspective as being half-empty and from the optimist’s perspective as being half-full. In the deck on which the modern Tarot system is based, the Waite-Smith Tarot, artist Pamela Colman Smith depicts the Eight of Cups with a simultaneously waxing and waning moon hanging over the pilgrim’s head. The ambiguously full and empty cup 5. Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 11.


Chapter 1

is like the ambiguity of this moon: simultaneously replete and depleted, full and new. Depending on our vantage point—whether light hits it like so or like so—this moon bespeaks either newness or decline.

The waxing/waning moon in the Eight of Cups And thus it was with me, a dozen or so years ago, as I struggled during my tea break at that meditation retreat. I was caught between emptiness and fullness, devastated by the thought that this little life of mine was all that I would ever have. But, as it turned out, my life is anything but little.

Body, Mind & Spirit / Tarot / Mindfulness

“Tarot has long been seen as a fabulous tool for personal and spiritual development, and Mindful Tarot gives you even more tools to help you on this quest.” —Leeza Robertson, author of Tarot Reversals for Beginners “Through the pages of this book . . . the tarot becomes a complete practice that shatters itself into the image of our own wholeness.” —Enrique Enriquez, New York–based artist and author of Tarology “Mindful Tarot asks the reader to look within rather than without . . . I love the use of tarot to be present instead of future-oriented.” —Melissa Cynova, author of Kitchen Table Tarot

Read Tarot in the Present Moment, Full of Joy, Prosperity, and Peace Fill your heart with abundance and ease by uniting Tarot with the modern mindfulness movement. Combining the card archetypes and meanings with today’s well-researched methods of meditation, this groundbreaking book shows you how to find a clearer path forward through compassion. Mindful Tarot cultivates our capacity to live and love what is unknown and unresolved. It is a practice of patience and openness, encouraging you to embrace the present moment: complete, lavish, and unconstrained. Lisa Freinkel Tishman teaches you to develop skills on three levels: mindful awareness of yourself and your querent, a deeper relationship with your cards, and a transformed understanding of the Tarot system. She also provides exercises, guided meditations, analyses of all 78 cards, and step-by-step examples of her own daily practice. LISA FREINKEL TISHMAN, PhD, began studying the Tarot as a graduate student at Berkeley in the late 1980s. An award-winning teacher, Zen Buddhist minister, and certified mindfulness educator, she is a former humanities professor and dean at the University of Oregon (UO) and founding director of UO’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. Lisa is now an interfaith chaplain at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield, Oregon. Visit her at

$17.99 US


ISBN 978-0-7387-5844-2




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Mindful Tarot, by Lisa Freinkel Tishman, PhD  

Fill your heart with abundance and ease by uniting tarot with the modern mindfulness movement. Combining the card archetypes and meanings wi...

Mindful Tarot, by Lisa Freinkel Tishman, PhD  

Fill your heart with abundance and ease by uniting tarot with the modern mindfulness movement. Combining the card archetypes and meanings wi...

Profile for llewellyn