October 2017: the Four of Cups

from the Dark Days Tarot.

from the Dark Days Tarot.

I haven't seen the Four of Cups in so long I'd almost forgotten about it. It's funny how Tarot cards do that; you pull certain ones over and over again while others stay hidden in the deck for months. The Four of Cups has been hiding for a while, but pulling it now, for this new month of October 2017, seems very appropriate and very needed.

The Four of Cups means a gift is being presented to you, and you're ignoring it. There's an opportunity the universe is holding out, just for you, and you're too busy in your head to reach out and take it. First of all, don't feel bad-- we all do this. It's all too easy to get caught up in our heads. We're humans-- that's what we DO. But that's why we have to stay vigilant about questioning ourselves, seeking out new experiences, and constantly learning, so we can expand our awareness and not stay stuck in our own cyclical thoughts.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Four of Cups shows a figure sitting under a tree, contemplating his cups-- (cups representing the emotional or creative realm)-- and ignoring a cup held out to him by a cloud (i.e., ya know, the universe). Maybe he doesn't see it, maybe he doesn't want to. He's contemplating three choices, but he doesn't see the fourth divine choice behind him. He's not looking around; he's got tunnel vision.

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When I pull the Four of Cups for folks, it's usually because there's a choice they're not considering. If you're making a decision, what choice have you ignored? What's possible to you that you've written off? As the Dark Days Tarot guidebook suggests, this card is a good prompt to take a contemplative break. You're not ready yet to make a decision, because you haven't considered all your options. Take a contemplative rest like this figure underneath this tree, so you can look around and take into account ALL your options.

Another dimension of this card is the possibility that we're being willfully ignorant. You know how when you're sulking, you're kind of determined to be upset about something? That's another part of the Four of Cups figure. He wants to sit underneath his tree and sulk, and so he doesn't get to enjoy the divine gift being handed to him. He doesn't want to see the good that's there, he just wants to pout.

First of all, as someone who is currently in a marathon state of sulking, let me say that I don't think it's always bad to sulk. We all do it from time to time, and if you beat yourself up about it, you're just going to feel bad for longer. It's natural not to like every situation we're in, and you can feel sorry for yourself if you want to. Sometimes shit sucks. Sometimes things are frustrating and annoying. I'm having a hard time adjusting to my new job, and today I was in back to back meetings for THREE HOURS, and then I drove home to find NO parking spot, so I had to pay TEN BUCKS just to PARK where i LIVE.

And yes, I sulked about it.

I let myself be frustrated and annoyed, and I took a moody walk, and I texted my friends about how I want to quit my job, and I poured a glass of white wine. And you know what? After about forty minutes of sulking, I was bored of it. So I decided to do something new.

So that's the new way I'm deciding to treat my own sulking. Like the figure on the Four of Cups, yes, sometimes I need to sulk alone for a while. I'm not going to beat myself up about it. But I also must remember to keep looking around for the gift, and not get stuck focusing on the negative. Because the negative gets real boring after a while, and I want to look around for something new.

A great exercise for countering that Four of Cups narrow-mindedness is naming one thing you're grateful for, each time you think of something negative. I'm not saying negative stuff doesn't exist, I'm just saying there's at LEAST as much good stuff happening too. So each time I complain about my job or current situation (i.e., those meetings were SO boring and I hate sitting still for that long) I also name one thing I'm grateful for (I'm so glad that my job pays me enough to pay my rent and buy myself healthy food). It restores a state of balance. It keeps me looking for the gift, even when I'm upset about certain things.

I like the Dark Days Tarot version of the Four of Cups, because it also warns against over-indulgence. When I'm feeling self-pitying, that's definitely when I sneak back into unhealthy and super-indulgent habits. (Why yes, I did eat a dinner of sourdough bread, dark chocolate, and wine tonight, thank you). Feeling trapped or stuck in negative thoughts is also when I'm tempted to drink too much. The Dark Days Four of Cups shows us a mermaid who's perhaps indulged too much. I'm sure it feels nice now, but when she sobers up, will her problem still be there? You bet. Drinking is a temporary cure, and therefore not much of a cure at all.

This card invites us to find a cure that's more satisfying and long-term. Because look, just above her head is a shining cup from which she hasn't yet drunk. What is that cup full of? The Dark Days guidebook says, "perhaps it is time for a pause.  The curative cup remains full in a place more obvious than you might think."

I love that idea. What is the curative cup-- the healing remedy you haven't yet tried-- and might it be easier than you think? Take a rest. Take your time. And ask yourself what you haven't yet tried.

Lots to chew on for October, folks!

I think the main takeaways here are:

1. When you start to feel trapped, distressed, or caught up in your head, TAKE A BREAK. Take a solitary moment. This will stop the trainwreck of overindulgence and over-stress from continuing.

2. If you're complaining about your current situation, that's fine-- but challenge yourself to list one GOOD thing about your situation each time you name something bad.

3. When you're in need of self-healing, TRY SOMETHING NEW. If you usually reach for a drink, a smoke, or a sedating TV show, try something else. Just try. Just see, as an experiment, if that may provide a relief that your old ways didn't.

4. When making decisions this month, challenge yourself to see the options you haven't yet considered. Remind yourself there are always divine gifts being held out, if only you look for them.

In fact, that last point speaks to the main theme this month, that the Four of Cups reminds us: Gifts always abound, if only we look for them. This doesn't mean it's not okay to be sad or upset-- of course it is. But is there a gift in that sadness? Is there some grace, some redeeming beauty, in your current situation? There is something you're not seeing. ZOOM OUT. Get outside your own head. The curative cup is not so far away. Look around. Reach for it.

Here's to a glorious, magical October.

Blessed be. xx