4 of Cups – Unsatisfied

A man sits underneath a tree. There are three cups before him and another one being offered to him but he pays no attention to any of them. Rather, his eyes are closed as he contemplates on other matters.

This image can be interpreted in two ways. The first is to note the crossed legged position and that he is underneath a tree. This is reminiscent of the Buddha as he sat underneath a tree to contemplate on the meaning of life. Like the Buddha, this man is not pleased with his fortunes and seeks something more meaningful.

The other way to view this card (which is more prominently emphasized in some of the more modern decks) is that this man simply isn’t interested by all that is before him and is napping out of boredom. Either way, this card addresses one’s lack of enthusiasm and appreciation for one’s current lot in life. Thus, it is state of being unsatisfied.

From the first perspective, being unsatisfied can be a good thing. Sometimes, we are unsatisfied because we feel empty and lacking in purpose. Once we become aware of this, we can churn this unpleasant feeling into motivation by setting higher goals and working harder towards something meaningful and worthwhile. It forces us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to break our habits in order to achieve our potential.

The second interpretation of this card is boredom. Boredom is a negative state when it is produced by a lack of appreciation and gratitude for what we’ve been given. Be mindful that this feeling is different from wanting more or better. For example, you can be in possession of a good job but still be working hard for a promotion. Ingratitude is when one doesn’t acknowledge one’s good fortune.

Of course, boredom doesn’t always stem from ingratitude. Often times, it is a result of something trivial, like reading a book that doesn’t engage our interest. This card asks us to question the difference whenever we find ourselves unable to engage wholeheartedly in what we are doing.


Hexagram 16 – Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is like thunder bursting out of the earth, awakening and motivating us all. This is a very powerful state as it contains a lot of energy, but it is also very short. Likewise, a state of enthusiasm doesn’t last forever. It if it not properly nourished in the beginning, it quickly fades. As such, the I Ching teaches us that we should utilize this time to gather strength and rally support.

A deeper look into the lines that support this image further reveals the necessity to act with caution and care. It is all too easy to indulge in such a pleasurable feeling and forget the true purpose of enthusiasm as a motivation to act.

The lesson in this hexagram is that enthusiasm, and the pleasures it brings, is a tool and not an end goal. And as a tool, we should use it as motivation to follow or create our own destinies. It should lead to action. If not, it can devolve into indulgence and we end up wasting away this precious opportunity in idle fantasies and false happiness.

Six on Line 1:

To properly utilize enthusiasm, it must be displayed without arrogance and with consideration to those around us. Not only should it be used to express positivity, it should be done with the intent of sharing this joy. Enthusiasm that is displayed for show will only lead to resentment and cannot inspire fellowship or goodwill.

Six on Line 2:

Enthusiasm should be tempered with firmness. Be inspired, but not controlled by excitement. Don’t let it cloud your vision. Be mindful that excitement can lead to recklessness and only the ones who maintain control may master the gift of enthusiasm instead of being a slave to it.

Six on Line 3:

A person who can only look to others for satisfaction will never find true happiness. Do not wait for others to stimulate and move you. If you are always waiting for others to bring you joy, or if you are constantly indulging in material pleasures, you will end up missing out on the present moment, along with the opportunities for change and growth.

Nine on Line 4:

Enthusiasm can be the magnet to attract what we seek. Be confident that we are motivated for the right reasons and follow through on these feelings with action. Such a path will not only strengthen us but inspire others as well.

Six on Line 5:

When enthusiasm runs low, confidence and perseverance is required to keep one’s hopes and dreams alive. In such a state, question whether such perseverance is noble or in vain.

Six on Line 6:

Enthusiasm may lead to great things but there are also times when they are mere indulgences and false satisfaction. Excitement and joy not grounded in reality are only fantasies. When we realize that the foundations of our enthusiasm is not stable, walk away before we are caught in a crumbling tower. Although it may seem like a sad ending, it is actually a blessing because we are now free to move onto other more worthy endeavours.



The 4 of Cups expresses a lack of interest while Hexagram 13 gives advice on how to properly channel our energies when we are excited. The theme that ties these two together is motivation.

Most of us will wake up to the sound of an alarm and go to school or work even if we do not find these activities engaging because we understand that they are necessary. Effort beyond meeting our basic survival, however, requires motivation. When we don’t need to finish a painting in order to pass a grade or get paid, the only thing that keeps us sitting in front of an easel for hours on end is ourselves.

Because it is these extra efforts we make in life that produces happiness and satisfaction, we must master the lesson of motivation. Know what drives us and work to channel that drive into productivity.