Tarot for Self-Care: The Four of Swords
“Just take some time to relax and think things over.” Isn’t this the perfect example of advice we don’t really want to hear? Many times when I pull this card for myself or others there’s a palpable sense of disappointment. That’s it? Just some guy lying in a room with some swords? It’s not what one expects when asking the tarot for advice. Usually when we seek guidance we’re looking for an action. The classic, Bruce Willis kind. We want to be seen and praised for being so proactive. We want to be a hero.
But what about the things we do to care for ourselves that don’t appear to be much at all? What happens when the hero simply needs to chill out? This is the part of the story that gets glossed over. It doesn’t even get a cool montage.
Because of this we often don’t have a blueprint for the kind of actions the Four of Swords advocates. It’s the kind of self-care that involves lying down, being still and silent. Meditation, rest, journaling, and introspection all fulfill the main objective of the Four of Swords: to quiet the chatter of our thoughts and get a feel for what we’re really feeling. Only then can we get to our feet and get going.
This card instructs us to shift our values away from the external and to spend time gathering strength. Sit still, rest, and hold off on acting. Though we might not be able to quantify or measure how it benefits us, the clarity, focus, and decisiveness that come from taking some time are undeniable.
Beautifully enough, granting ourselves this peace opens up room for unexpected and unexplainable messages. I love the imagery of this card. We first notice the reclining figure, the swords, the greyness of the surroundings. But not so fast. There's also a colorful window higher on the wall that looks like it's made of stained glass. We can imagine the soothing light that filters through it, gently illuminating the person resting below.
This illustration shows us there's more to this card than the intense intellectual bent of the suit of swords. The window introduces an element of the divine, whether we see it as from a higher power, a higher version or ourselves, or simply as inspiration. That is, when we fall into our bodies, relax, and make room for it, we leave space for beautiful messages to come through from something beyond ourselves.
I'd like to invite you to meditate on this idea. One of my favorite ways to integrate tarot meanings is to put myself in the place of the characters seen on the cards. Below is a basic rundown of how I like to work with the four of swords. Feel free to embellish or simplify as you'd like.
Four of Swords Meditation
Get cozy in a dimly lit room. Go to town if you're feeling inspired. Light some candles, burn some relaxing incense or essential oils, and make a plush nest for yourself.
Lie on your back with your hands on your chest like the figure in the four of swords. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, gently filling your lungs and exhaling slowly. Bring your awareness to your body, noticing any tension and directing your breath to each area with the intent of releasing it in the exhale.
Allow yourself to sink deeper and deeper into your being. Feel your back against the ground (or sumptuous pillows/blankets/cushions.) Find rhythm in your breathing and, when your mind wanders, direct it back to your bodily experience.
When you feel relaxed and calm, begin visualizing the room from the four of swords. Contemplate the grey color of the walls, it's blankness and gentle tone. You are safe and removed from the bustle of the outside world. You have endless time.
Shift your focus to the swords beneath you and on the wall. What do they have to tell you? Listen. It might be something silly or something important, it might be nothing at all. Take it in and let it go.
Breathe deeply and sink deeper into relaxation. When you feel ready, direct your attention to the gentle glow coming through the window above you. Imagine the colors dancing on the inside of your eyelids, the warm glow of yellows, oranges, and golds. How does it change your perception of the room?
Take deep breaths and notice how you feel. Do you feel warm? Secure? Is the color too much? Does it remind you of anything. Accept any insights with nonjudgment and let them filter in and out. Imagine calling inspiration and guidance from the source of the light if you feel inspired to do so.
Imagine absorbing the light, opening up to it, and calling it into your life. When you feel ready, gently allow yourself to come out of the meditation, taking time to bring your awareness back into your body.
I hope you find this exercise as enjoyable as I do. I've been lucky enough to have several clients share with me their "four of swords moments," little (or big) times when they've felt a touch of something more during rest, meditation, and calmness. Do you have a four of swords moment you'd like to share? I'd love to hear it in the comments below.
And in closing, the four of swords is a stepping stone like any tarot card. The ideal is not to recline in this swordsy room forever. If we treat the self-care message of this card the same way we realize that we’re constantly given opportunities to practice its meaning. We can meditate for a quick five minutes, find peace in sipping a cup of tea, and think our options over before acting. If we work on slipping these smaller moments into our day we can carry the serenity and peace of the Four of Swords with us always. I'd certainly like that.