The Four Pauses: Pathways to Mindfulness of the Minor Arcana

The 4 of Cups, Wands, Pentacles and Swords are all grounding cards with immense awakening potential. In their own unique way, each one of these cards bring us to a nurturing space and to a platform for healing. Number 4 in the tarot is a digit connected to pauses, stability and form. The tarot cards imbued with 4’s energy appear in our lives when we are being offered a restorative container and a platform in which to pause, and then upon which to build further growth. In this sense, the 4’s of the Minor Arcana are pathways that lead us to a grounding, deeply healing space. We very much need this cocoon to sort things out, to practice presence as to the current circumstances, and to reach equanimity amidst the high energy of life. From here, we can observe not only our present reality, but we can gain insight into our actions and karmic patterns and find release from restrictive cycles. Each of the 4’s of the Minor Arcana guides us towards different variations and flavors of this mindfulness practice, depending on the particularities of their suit, corresponding element, and related areas of the self. These exercises in mindfulness are not a luxury. They provide us with stable foundations from which we can live peaceful lives and sow the seeds of our continued evolution and awakening as fully present beings.

We can use each of these 4 card’s elemental and numerological associations as a jumping point from which to deepen our understanding of their deeply healing, restful, awakening medicine. Let us start with some keywords for each below, and then dive deeper into their meanings and practice in the following section.

4 of Swords: Mindfulness of Thought. Mindfulness of thinking, ideas, inner discourse, dialogues, words, and decisions. Presence of mind. Awareness as the Inner Witness.

4 of Cups: Mindfulness of Being.  Mindfulness of emotions, states of being, and connections to others and to humankind. Presence of heart. Emotional presence and presence in relationships.

4 of Pentacles: Mindfulness of the Body and Life Structures. Mindfulness of our relationship to the Earth and its resources. Presence in the body. Awareness of our legacy.

4 of Wands: Mindfulness of Effort. Mindfulness of Spirit. Mindfulness of Energy. Sexual mindfulness. Pauses between our drives, our desires, motivations. Mindfulness of connection to our spirit. Spiritual presence. Presence in effort and action. Energetic presence.

As you can see, when combined, these cards encompass the four corners of our being and provide a comprehensive container for awakening to presence in the different areas of our lives and of our existence in this incarnation.

Let’s see how these meanings unfold in practice. The embodiment questions below tap into the particular energies of each card 4 of the Minor Arcana of the tarot. They provide prompts for self-inquiry that funnel our awareness towards the specific healing space offered by each of these grounding cards. You may use these questions whenever you pull one of these cards; or when consciously picking them out in order to embody their specific energies.

Embodying the 4’s

4 of Swords: throughout your day, or during a special sitting, put gentle attention on your thoughts and the contents of your conscious awareness. What types of inner dialogues are you engaging in today? What sorts of ideas are emerging? What kinds of decisions are being brought forth? Today, set an intention to pause between moments of intense mental activity; or even between one topic of inner discourse and the next one. As you pause between thoughts, ideas, dialogues, words and decisions; observe what transpired in your mind. Are there any patterns? Are there any of usual, repetitive mental hooks that keep us bound to certain states of being? No need to take any action. Today, simply observe.

4 of Cups: throughout the day, or during a special sitting, place an open focus on your heart and its emotions and feelings. What types of emotion rise and fall throughout this day, or this moment? What is the flavor of reality from moment to moment? What does it feel like from one state of being to the next? Does your heart feel constant and steady; or is today full of ups and downs? Is there any discomfort, trauma, or challenging emotions that are particularly influential today? Place gentle focus on your connections to others in your life. Do they feel supportive, disruptive, or something else? How does your connection to the entire human species feel like at the moment? How is the world influencing your moods and states of being today, or in this moment? With self-compassion and patience, observe the landscape of your heart and try to put a pause in between one of its movements and the next.

4 of Wands: pause between your drives, the efforts you take throughout the day. Pause between the individual motivations that drive your day. Pause to connect with the sense of sacred, with your connection to Spirit, with your spiritual practice, with your own wholiness.  Does everything seem to be coming together? Or does it feel like it’s falling apart? There is no need for casting a judgment of life circumstances here. Simply observe what it feels like. Does your drive seem scattered, or are your energies focused? Again, no need to take any action on this: simply note. Does your inner fire seem bright, does it feel dim, or stable, or somewhere in between? In this moment, is your energy ebbing or flowing? Are we feeling spiritually connected, separated, or something else? Is there passion burning for something or someone? Or does the heart feel dispassionate? Look into your past efforts, and see if it feels like your past work has created a sturdy platform for further endeavors? Observe your horizons… are they expanding or contracting? Is this a moment to let your inner flame burn bright, or is a time to tend a weak flame back to life? What does your sexual impulse feel like? Pleasant, intense, absent? Does our sexual energy seem to particularly influencing other areas of life right now? Be present to our inner fire this moment, and let its warmth bring healing for your whole being.

4 of Pentacles. Check in with your body and the earth plane in this moment. Is anything that’s going on in the body a source of anxiety or distress for you? How may that be affecting your state of being, your thoughts, or your sense of connection to spirit?  Does the body feel restrictive today, or liberating? Are you feeling attached or detached from your connection to the material world? Are you being particularly affected today by your life structures: your work, your money, your sources of support and material well-being? What does the word “work” evoke for you? Do your efforts feel like the building of a legacy, or simply a waste of time and resources? Do you feel broke today? Or do you feel like you are materially all-set, or something else? Does any of that even matter to you? Is the reality of life on this planet affecting you particularly strongly today? Does the reality of living within the world’s social and financial systems cause you contraction? Or do you find them a source of growth? Whatever arises in your mind and heart today regarding the physical plane—simply make note of it today, without attachment to any particular thoughts. Make a pause on the movements and functions of your body; pause while you eat and savor the food; and pause as you work, noticing the emotional background above which you engage in your efforts. Have a quiet pause while you buy and consume, and perhaps see what kinds of invitations such pauses may evoke. Pause as you live as an incarnate being living on planet Earth, noticing the daily moments of your existence in this plane.

See also: Tarot Numerology Spread: the Foundations of Four