2 of Wands – Attention

A ruler watches over the land, observing all that is happening and reflecting upon what he sees. He contemplates how to maintain peace and order as well as any possible areas of improvement. Then, once his ideas are implemented, he will continue to observe the land to see the effects of his actions.

Such careful attention is a key element of success not only for a kingdom, but for any endeavour, including life itself. To achieve any goals, we must first become familiar with our situation in order to understand the challenges and opportunities. In addition, we must also know our own capabilities and weaknesses. To gain such understanding, we must pay attention.

Paying attention requires us to be in the present. Only in the present can we observe and see things as they truly are and not what remember, wish or fear it to be. And, yet, it is not merely seeing things as they are. It is much more than just taking a snapshot and memorizing it.

In addition to observation, we must also reflect upon the things we’ve observed. Facts are meaningless until we contemplate upon them. It is through the act of contemplation that words and measurements become tools to our benefit. Thus, only through a constant effort of ceaseless observation and contemplation can we truly understand reality and adapt ourselves to its endless transformations.

Paying attention allows us to interact with our environment with some degree of control. By knowing what is happening around us, we can plan and make decisions instead of simply reacting to changes after they’ve already occurred.


Hexagram 20 – Observing

In this hexagram, the gently penetrating wind glides over the contours of the receptive earth. The image this created in the minds of the ancient Chinese is very similar to the 2 of Wands, which is that of an emperor travelling throughout the lands, going everywhere like the wind, to observe the state of his empire.

Just as it is important for the emperor to observe his empire, it is important for us to observe our own lives. The theme of this hexagram is the way we see ourselves, others and situations. Its goal is to teach us to see ourselves for who we truly are. This is foundational to any success in life because, in order to build virtues, we must first rid ourselves of the bad. To see the bad in ourselves requires an honest, untainted view. We need to learn to distinguish truth from falsehood, hopes from fantasies, and the distracting from the truly beautiful.

Six on Line 1:

To observe the world from the viewpoint of a child is to see without understanding. It is observation without contemplation. For a child, such innocence is valued. For anyone who aspires towards truth and wisdom, however, this attitude is shameful.

Six on Line 2:

It is important to realize what vantage point we are viewing a situation from. There are times when we are only privileged to a limited view and cannot see the whole picture. During such times, we must gather as much information as possible and concentrate on finding what is beneficial. Do not let these moments be wasted for such limited opportunities may be all that is available to us.

Six on Line 3:

Here, we transition our focus from outward to inward. It is time to observe our own thoughts and behaviours. We must be honest with ourselves and consider whether our actions are leading us towards or away from the person we want to become. Only when we become aware of ourselves can we create the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world.

Six on Line 4:

Once we know ourselves, we can further gain by learning to see from other people’s points of view. We can consider other ideas without identifying or agreeing with them and benefit by incorporating thoughts and beliefs that can broaden our horizons.

Nine on Line 5:

Here, we learn to see our lives as a king see his realm – as something that we are creating, something that we are in control of. It is to examine ourselves without illusions or guilt. Only when we feel in control and are honest with ourselves can we take responsibility for our actions. It is time to reap what we’ve sown.

Nine on Line 6:

In addition to paying attention to ourselves, we must also pay attention to the others around us. While we must be aware of how we live our own lives, it is just as important to understand how others live their lives. We need to know our friends and enemies alike if we are to truly understand the workings of this world.



The 2 of Wands and Hexagram 20 both show us that, in order to live consciously and conscientiously, we must be aware. Following the order of the tarot, this is the first lesson we must master after a new beginning. Awareness is the first step towards control and having control is the key difference between gaining mastery over one’s own life and being a pawn of fate.