2 of Swords – Impasse

The 2 of Swords shows a rock filled body of water where no ships can dock and a waxing moon hanging above it. A blindfolded woman sits calmly in front of the water holding two swords crossed over her chest. The swords are so large that great effort must be required to hold them up. How long can she remain in this position?

Her stoic demeanour suggests that she is not anxious to move anytime soon. If anything, maybe she prefers to be in this difficult position, immobile and blind to the world around her.

This card suggests an impasse, when solutions to a problem cannot be found and thus, no action can be taken. This precarious situation may be the result of not having enough information to make a sound decision. In this case, it may be wise to remain still for the moment.

However, this situation may also be caused by a lack of desire to see the situation clearly. It may be that we are indulging in willful ignorance in order to avoid making a difficult decision or seeing the truth. Perhaps, our intuition has already sensed an imminent unpleasant confrontation but we are ignoring these warning signs to delay this event.

When this is the case, the advice of the 2 of Swords is that one must put down the swords that have been raised over the heart to block out the world and remove the blindfold. As difficult and frightening as the truth can be, it does no good to deny it. The truth does not disappear when we look away. Refusing to be a part of it will only make matters worse in the long run. The earlier we accept the truth, the more control we can gain over the situation.

To be sure, the card also advises caution. Although confrontation may be necessary, one should not recklessly rush into a situation of danger or difficultly. Tread slowly, carefully and act with diplomacy where relations are an issue of concern. Remain calm, factor in our emotions but allow our intellect to take command. Think clearly and consider all possibilities and alternatives.


Hexagram 39 – Obstruction

This hexagram is comprised of Water and Mountain. Since water carries the meaning of danger, the image this creates is that one is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with danger in front and difficulty behind. Available options are little to none.

During such times of adversity, the I Ching advises us not to lose hope in order to persevere. Keep in mind, however, that perseverance does not mean to forcibly continue down a path regardless of the obstructions ahead. While there are some obstacles that require brave confrontation and some that require us to find creative ways around it, there are others that need to be avoided altogether. One of the key lessons in dealing with obstructions is to know when not to advance.

When advancement is not possible, we can still make good use of the situation by turning inwards and self-reflect. While inferior people may blame other people and fate for their misfortunes, the superior ones will utilize this period as a time to learn from one’s own mistakes. Examine our own thoughts and behaviours; consider how we can act differently in the future and then take responsibility for all the decisions that have led up to the present moment. In this way, our options are never completely limited as we can always choose to behave as a superior person would.

Six on line 1:

During the initial stages of a difficult situation, we should refrain from acting until we are confident that we have all the information required to make sound decisions. Such refrain will not be mistaken for cowardice but will be met with praise.

Six on line 2:

Although we shouldn’t rush into situations that we aren’t certain we can manage, there are times when duties require us to endure such difficulties. There are times when we must face danger in order to stand up for what we believe in or protect our loved ones.

Nine on line 3:

When we realize that we are in the midst of a losing battle, the wisest course of action is retreat. The worst part about making a mistake is being too proud to acknowledge the error and refusing to change course. We must think not only of ourselves but the bigger picture, including all the people we are responsible to/for. Even if we can’t humble ourselves to admit error for our own sake, we must do so for those who depend on us.

Six on line 4:

There are tasks that cannot be completed alone. When the source of difficulty lies is the sheer volume of work or that the nature of the work requires more than one person to complete, we should pause and search out allies who can assist with the task.

Nine on line 5:

This line describes a situation in which friends come to our assistance in times of need. This is not luck, but the result of our loyal and virtuous behaviour towards our peers. If we have not proven ourselves to be true friends in good times, we will surely find ourselves alone in bad times.

Six on line 6:

This line advises us to ask for help and guidance. While independence is a highly valuable trait, it is also important to know how to ask for assistance when that is what a situation demands. We shouldn’t always feel like we have to bear the world’s burden by ourselves.



Difficulty can manifest in countless different forms. Whether it is an argument with a loved one that we don’t know how to reconcile or not having enough money for basic necessities, the first step to resolution takes place in the mind.

Think clearly in order to understand what the problem is. Next, ask yourself what actions are available to you. Most importantly, remember that the goal is to deal with the situation at hand, not dwell on regret, resentment or fear. Even if the situation is dire and it seems as though there is no way out, you can still choose to approach it constructively or destructively.