4 of Swords – Rest

The 4 of Swords shows a knight resting on top of a tomb with his hands pressed together in a praying gesture. A sword lies beneath him and three more hang above him. In the corner of the image, there is a stained glass window depicting a woman and child.

Although the knight is resting, there is a sense of unease. He is so still that he appears stiff like a statue – as though he is part of the tomb he rests upon. In addition, the swords above him imply that his challenges are not yet over and are still hanging precariously above him.

The advice of this card is that we must all take some time to ourselves for rest and contemplation. This is a lot harder than it sounds, especially during those periods when it seems like the workload never ends and there is never enough time to get things done. Faced with such daunting stress, it is tempting to forego sleep and leisure but these are actually the times when rest is most necessary. Our bodies and minds cannot function indefinitely without pause. Forcing ourselves beyond our capabilities will only result in breakdowns.

Furthermore, as our society is filled with evermore activities, entertainments and gadgets, we are endlessly preoccupied with distractions. It is to the point where many of us no longer know how to be alone. While long periods of seclusion may lead to loneliness, being alone once in a while is necessary for deep contemplation. Without time to reflect, we cannot know who we are and what we want. As a result, all our actions are merely a series of reactions and we are never in control.

Yet, for those who are so used to a jammed pack schedule or those who are always connected via social media, taking a break may be more stressful than functioning on no sleep or being too busy for even a bathroom break. For such people, having time off does not make them feel in control. In fact, it can be frightening. As discomforting as it may be, however, we must challenge ourselves to get past it. Knowing when not to act is one of the hardest lessons to learn in life, but also one that is most rewarding and beneficial when mastered.


Hexagram 36 – Light Injured

Fire below Earth creates the image of a setting sun. As such, this hexagram describes a time when light fades and darkness reigns. When petty and corrupt people are in power, it is dangerous for those of noble hearts and minds. During such times, it would be foolish for those who are upright to speak their minds for their opinions will not be valued. Instead, they will be ostracized and, perhaps, even punished for their honesty.

The I Ching is translated as The Book of Change because the heart of its message is that change is the essence of nature. It speaks of different type of changes; there are times when change is a product of action and times when action is a reaction to change. Wisdom is acting when we have the power to bring about change but remaining still when the situation is beyond our control.

Hexagram 36, Light Injured, speaks of a time when we do not have the power to produce our desired outcome. As such, the wisest course of action is to stay out of the spotlight and mask one’s own awareness. Although it is tempting for those who are compassionate and just to speak out against evil, remember that pointless martyrdom only harms the cause we are trying to support.

Nine on line 1:

The moment we realize we are in a dangerous situation, we must make every effort to remove ourselves from it and not rest until we are safe. In places where there are no friends but only gossipers, we must not let other people’s words defeat us. We find the strength to keep on going through our faith in our beliefs. And just as our beliefs protect us, we must protect it in return. Thus, it is our responsibilities to see ourselves to safety so that we can safeguard what is important to us.

Six on line 2:

The risk of danger has materialized into a crippling injury. Perhaps the gossips spread have tarnished our reputation or worst, our self-esteem. Or maybe things have been taken away from us, leaving us frightened and vulnerable. Although it is difficult, we must keep on moving. Let the determination to survive become our strength and carry us forward like the aid of a swift horse.

Nine on line 3:

Here, we have determined the source that oppresses the light. Yet, this knowledge alone isn’t enough to act upon. Other factors, such as our own strength and resources, as well as timing, need to be considered as well. Do not wage war on your enemies if you do not have what it takes to secure a favourable outcome.

Six on line 4:

After entering into the heart of darkness, we realize just how dire the situation is. There is a time for hope and a time to be pragmatic; if the situation is beyond what we can handle on our own and we have no allies, we must leave. Exit as swiftly as possible to protect our dignity and the essence of who we are.

Six on line 5:

Clarity and intelligence doesn’t have to shine outwardly. Not speaking is not the same thing as not having a voice. Do not be discouraged by how little power we appear to have. What is important is that we hold onto what is firm and correct inwardly. In this way, we can remain true to ourselves even as we hide our identities.

Six on line 6:

What shines so brightly in the sky eventually sinks into the earth. Such is the way of power. One minute, it may be ours to command and the next minute, it may be the source of all our fears. Thus, even if we are the figure that currently shines, be gracious and compassionate as this state will not last forever. If, on the other hand, we are the figure hiding in darkness, don’t lose hope for the night will not last forever.



There is a time for action and a time to refrain from action. For those who are active, stillness can cause more anxiety and stress than running on no sleep. For those who are passionate, not speaking their minds may be more difficult than enduring the punishment for speaking out of turn. Yet, there are times when such hardship must be endured because action will do more harm than good.

Not everything needs to be tested to the limit. Requiring rest is not a weakness and refraining from action is not the same thing as cowardice. Knowing when to retreat from situations in which we cannot provide positive contributions will prevent mistakes and regret.