Astrology and Therapy: A Match Made in the Heavens

We are born at a given moment in a given place and like vintage years of wine we have the qualities of the year and of the season in which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything else. –C. G. Jung

As a college student in the 1980s, I was drawn to exploring different ways to understand my life, my purpose here on Earth. I changed my field of study several times and often felt overwhelmed at the need to choose a career path. It was during this time that I had the fortune to meet a professional astrologer. I booked a reading with her, and she drew up my chart. I left the reading deeply moved at the way she seemed to understand my past and my present. She did not predict my future but helped validate what I already knew and gave me a sense of what I might work toward. I graduated with a Master of Social Work Degree and feel blessed each day with the work I am able to do as a therapist.

After the reading, I told myself that someday I would study astrology in depth, so 25 years later when I was preparing for empty nest, I jumped in with both feet! That was six years ago, and I continue to be blown away with how helpful a birth chart can be within the context of therapy. From depth psychology insights to basic symptom reduction, astrology can be a wonderful resource.

Modern astrology tends to be strength based. Traditional therapy models tend toward a focus on pathology. We diagnose, and the definition of diagnosis is: “the process of identifying and determining the nature of a disease or disorder by its signs and symptoms.”  In psychology we speak to the personality, the ego. In Astrology we look at the ego as it interacts with the ongoing evolutionary journey of the Soul.

Here are three reasons why I choose to include astrology as part of my professional life:

  1. Psychological Astrology is strength-based, dynamic, and hopeful
  2. Astrology can be incredibly accurate if incorporated as a conversation in the therapeutic milieu
  3. Astrology has been around for about 4900 more years than the field of psychology and incorporates ancient wisdoms, the germ of which have not changed through the eons

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that people should avoid engaging in more traditional approaches. Each person is unique and resonates with various counseling modalities. I am saying that, for me as a therapist, astrology adds depth, profound perspective, and a dynamic vehicle for change.

Now, here is the weekly weather for December:

December 1 thru 7:  We start out with strong relationship energies. There can be the opportunity to reflect on family responsibilities and how they fit. How are we different and where would we benefit from being more independent? There is also a heavy Pisces/Neptune vibe this month, so it would be important to do a reality check before making any changes. The pathway forward can be confusing or vague. Toward mid-week, Chiron’s conjunction with the Moon can activate the urge to break free from that which binds us a little too tightly!

December 7 brings a full Moon in Gemini. The Sun illuminates the Moon as well as Mars, so there is quite an intensity to our need for knowledge, clarity, and dynamic communication, especially the ability to communicate our unique, personal needs.

December 8 thru 15:  The energy to think of or express our needs continues to be present. This is a good week to plan travel (for now or the coming year) if that is something that inspires or excites you. Toward midweek, we may find ourselves daydreaming more or wanting to escape into fantasy. Meditation could take us to new depths BUT staying grounded is also important this week. The planetary energies are a bit watery for a few days.

December 16 thru 23:  Jupiter moves into the sign of Aries on December 20, squaring the Sun in Sagittarius, bringing enthusiasm, travel, and a sense of expansiveness to the week. The new Moon in Capricorn on the 23rd invites us to plant the seeds of practicality and structure in our lives. Sun in Capricorn allows us to reflect on our wisdom, building solid foundations.

December 24 to 31:  Mercury stations retrograde in the sign of Capricorn on December 29th. What a wonderful opportunity to review your year! Remember, the holidays are meant to be enjoyable. With Mercury in Capricorn, we could feel a bit down or burdened with all the expense and tasks the season brings. So, get a little sunshine each day, reach out to others, and take loving care.

Remembering Gabrielle Roth

“Our soul, our true self, is the most mysterious, essential, and magical dimension of our being. In fact, it is not a separate reality, as traditional Western thought views it, but the cohesive force that unites our body, heart, and mind. It is not a ghost trapped somehow in the physical machinery of our body but the very essence of our being.”                  Gabrielle Roth

We are upon Gabrielle Roth’s 81st birthday on February 4. Though she crossed over in 2012,  she continues to inspire me through her music and her 5Rythms work. My favorite collection of her music is “Bones” and I immerse myself in the tracks for journaling, creating art, or sometimes meditating. With a quiet mind and a settled body, the rhythms facilitate a deepening into non-ordinary states of consciousness. It is at this level that the muse as well as the inner healer is empowered to speak to us.

In this time of tension, opposites, major adjustment, and isolation, music and movement are a means to explore inner spaces. Rather than escape, it could be a form of inner retreat, finding the gifts within, working with the grit to smooth rough edges, polish what is already radiant, release what is no longer helpful.

There is a wonderful documentary on Gabrielle and her work on YouTube if you are moved to learn more. Below is a list of works by or about this amazing woman (taken from Wikipedia):

Books

  • Roth, Gabrielle (2004). Connections: The Five Threads of Intuitive Wisdom. Tarcher. ISBN 978-1-58542-327-9.

Music

Raven Recordings

  • Jhoom
  • Still Chillin’
  • Bardo (with Boris Grebenshchikov)
  • Tribe
  • Refuge (with Boris Grebenshchikov)
  • Zone Unknown
  • Stillpoint
  • Tongues
  • Luna
  • Trance
  • Waves
  • Ritual
  • Bones
  • Initiation
  • Totem
  • The Raven Classics – 4-CD boxed set
  • Endless Wave
  • Endless Wave 2
  • Music for Slow Flow Yoga
  • Music for Slow Flow Yoga 2

Other producers

  • Path: An Ambient Collection (1995) Windham Hill Records
  • Conversations With God: A Windham Hill Collection (1997) Windham Hill Records

Television and video

  • I Dance the Body Electric (1993)
  • Secret Egypt (1995) Mystic Fire Video (Directed by Sheldon Rochlin)
  • The Spiritual Path to Success (1997) Quest special on PBS (now part of the Quest Life Trilogy, only available in the Quest Wisdom Collection).[30]
  • Sukhavati: A Mythic Journey (1997 [music]) [DVD 2005] for Joseph Campbell Foundation and PBS (Produced, Directed, and Edited by Maxine Harris and Sheldon Rochlin).
  • The Wave (2001) Sounds True VHS (DVD 2004)
  • The Power Wave (2001) Sounds True VHS (DVD 2005)
  • The Inner Wave (2001) Sounds True VHS (DVD 2005)
  • Ecstatic Dance Trilogy (2004) Sounds True
  • Dances of Ecstasy (2003) [featuring: Michelle Mahrer, Nicole Ma, and Gabrielle Roth] BBC / Opus Arte
  • Open Floor: Dance, Therapy & Transformation (2002) Raven Recording
  • The Great Lesson:[31] A New Film About Mind and Body: Featuring Gabrielle Roth

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There….

Does your life sometimes resemble the old game show, “Beat the Clock”?  For those of you who are too young to remember, contestants in this game show were given multiple things to carry or handle while completing several tasks simultaneously.  They had too keep it all together and not drop anything before the buzzer sounded.  I know my life has sometimes resembled this wacky combination of mental gymnastics and physical acrobatics. How many times does a of this scenario happen in your day-to-day:  you are on the phone with a friend in crisis while cooking dinner and writing a check for a bill you meant to pay yesterday when the delivery person rings the doorbell and the dog starts barking and your husband/wife yells from the bathroom, “Honey, can you get that please…..”?  And, oh yeah, your teenager is waiting impatiently for a ride to a friend’s house who just happens to live across town…where all the traffic is….and he can only find one of his favorite socks.

Certainly there are systems we can devise to prepare us for a less chaotic, ordered life, but life doesn’t always give us that chance.  Unexpected things come up, or the needs of our selves and our loved ones face off in a competition.  So, we can change some things, but eventually we cannot avoid chaos on the outside that can lead to tension on the inside.  We can, however, fortify and protect our inner selves.  My family has a group of “Thelma-isms to help convey the feeling and to redirect our expectations using humor.  Thelma-isms are based on the sayings of a very dear (but earthy and irreverent) aunt of mine.  When her schedule was filled beyond capacity and someone would ask her to do that “one more thing”, she would say, “Just stick a broom up my ass and I’ll sweep the sidewalk too.” 

Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

*While going about your day-to-day, notice what you say “yes” to, how you interact with people.  Notice what kind of energy you are taking on from them by asking, “How does it feel to be with this person/these people right now?  Ask yourself, is this efficiency OR is it frenzy?  If I can’t avoid the multiple tasks at hand by delaying them or reassigning them to someone else or another day, then how am I perceiving my well being in this very moment?  Am I expecting to be miserable or am I letting go of expectation and focusing on the moment-to-moment experience?  Am I able to see the humor/irony in being so incredibly trusted with such a plethora of tasks?

**Life hurls us into the deep waters at times and there appears to be no life preservers or islands of land anywhere in sight.  What do we do?  Well, we have choices.  We can flail our arms and legs around, screaming and cursing the churning surf.  If we do this, our chances of drowning are very high.  We can also gently and steadily tread water until we find something to drift to shore on or our rescue ship arrives.  Our chances of survival appear to be far greater with the latter choice. Take some reflection time today and think about the last time life hurled you into the briny deep.  What was your reaction and how did you negotiate the circumstances?  What did you learn from that experience?  How did your perceptions of the situation drive your behavior?  If you had the chance for a do-over, would you choose to respond differently?   

Just Remember to Breathe, Breathe, Breathe

Have you ever watched a new born baby sleeping?  Such a relaxed and peaceful state!  If you were observing closely, you would notice that they breathe from the diaphragm.   As we grow up this natural way of breathing gradually gives way to shallow breathing from the chest.  Retraining yourself to breathe is an important part in restoring the proper flow of oxygen to the body.  Not only do we receive the gift of the air we need to nourish our physical selves, we get the benefit of tension release.

*Try this:  Stand or sit comfortably, back straight.  Place your hands on your belly and imagine that it is a big balloon.  As you inhale, the balloon inflates.  Feel your belly rising.  Take as deep a breath as you are comfortable with, filling the chest and diaphragm with fresh, clean air.  Now release the breath and feel the balloon in your belly deflating.  Repeat this several times.  Do you feel different?  Maybe a little light headed?  Try to remember to do this at points of the day when you have a few moments, like breaks, lunchtime, when you are stuck in traffic, or before bed.  The more you practice this full breath, the more you will be conscious when you are not getting enough air.  

The Daily Intention:  Nourishment for the Evolving Soul

Cheshire Cat:  Where are you going?

Alice:  Which way should I go?

Cheshire Cat:  That depends on where you are going.

Alice:  I don’t know

Cheshire Cat:  Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.

The alarm goes off and you get up, maybe you snooze it for ten. Once your feet hit the floor you go about getting ready for the day. Much of the day’s preparation is gathering thoughts like what must be done, what we will eat, wear, etc. Certainly, those bits can blow about your brain like dandelion tufts! You have launched. The day has begun.

But what if before the feet hit the floor you dedicate your day to a particular feeling, state of mind, or habit? What if you start your day with intention? “Today I will _________. “    Maybe it is cultivating a state of mind, like positivity, relaxation, joyfulness, kindness. Or maybe there is a habit that we wish to address, like healthy eating or increasing physical activity. Whatever the case, if you begin the day with an intention, you are planting seeds that can support you and nourish  your soul.

Sometimes we can ask ourselves, ‘how did my life get here?’ or ‘how can I climb out of this rut I seem to be stuck in?’   The words we repeat to ourselves are enormously powerful. If we wake up and tell ourselves that it is SSDD (same sh*t, different day), then there is a high likelihood it will be. Now, there are circumstances beyond our control that can be painful, agonizing, boring, terrifying. I am not saying we need to slap on a happy face and push it all down. But maybe if  we approach those circumstances from a different angle, it can make the difference. Instead of following the same rabbit hole we change things up a bit. We take charge of our inner lives and add some direction, some opportunity to change the internal conversation which can then increase our sense of well-being.

For example, if we are undergoing some emotionally painful times, we might set the daily intention to be kinder to ourselves, to tend to self-care first, or to reach out to others. If it is a habit we are dealing with, we set a positive intention. We tell ourselves we will make healthy choices today.

Here are some thoughts about maximizing success with intention setting:

  • Make sure the intention is stated in a positive way. Example:  Instead of saying, “I won’t smoke cigarettes today” or “I will cut out all sugar,” you might want to say, “I will focus on healthy lungs and fresh air today” or “I will make choices that support my desire to be healthy in mind, body and spirit today.” 
  • Schedule a few check-ins during the day to remind yourself of the intention. Natural breaks like noon or when you leave work for the day are easy to remember.
  • At the end of the day take time to review. How did you do? If it was not a smashing success, do not beat yourself up! Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start.
  • Try writing your intention down and practice soaking them in during the day. When we can witness our own words and wishes they tend to stick better.
  • Keeping with the same intention for several days, a week, or a month might allow you to reinforce and deepen the process.
  • Resist the tendency to work on too many things at once. One or two intentions go a long way and is a simpler way to remain focused.

I recently saw this quote, “Energy flows where intention goes.”   Harnessing the energy of intention is breathing life into our future being. And this future being grows from the inside out, so let’s experiment with filling our insides with what we want to manifest on the outsides.

Namaste

Meditating With Your Astrological Archetypes

Several years ago, I began to arrive at the office about an hour before I saw my first client.  I kicked off the morning with coffee, meditation, and spending precious time with my journal.  Since COVID-19 hit and I am only providing telehealth, finding solitude has been a bit more challenging.   I am just now getting back into the routine of morning meditation on my birth chart and all things astrology. 

Did you know that you can dialog with your birth chart through astrological archetypes?  Well, yes, you can, and I am here to tell you that it can be fun, interesting, and extremely helpful in understanding the Self. 

What is an archetype in psychological astrology?  It is a model that is intrinsic, universal, that guides, reflects or influences our behaviors.  Example:  Leo the Lion is an archetype for the Sun.  Some of what Leo embodies is passion, energy, prominence, showmanship, strength, and power.  We all have an inner Leo, though mine is probably experienced differently than the next person, given the nuances of my personality, my personal traits, my family, and my culture.

I’ll give you one example of how the dialog played out for me.   At the time, I was working on being more conscious of overextending myself and taking on responsibilities.  Here is an excerpt from my journal recording  on January 15, 2019:

 Last time I sat for a meditation session with my chart, Capricorn wouldn’t talk to me.  Instead Cap kept walking back and forth, unloading boxes from the back of a truck, then reloading them into a pile by his front door.   When I tried to ask him questions, he told me that he wouldn’t even entertain my presence as long as I insist on staying too busy.  But today I decided to try to go back to Cap and try him again.  It has been a few weeks. 

At first, he was sort of furtive, like “psssst, over here”.  Then he relaxed a bit and told me I was doing OK with changes, but I needed to work hard at working less, and I have a long way to go.  I asked if there was another archetype who could be helpful.  Taurus came up, eating some grass and getting ready to take a nap in the sunshine—a big, slow moving bull.  Taurus became upset with Capricorn because Capricorn pushes too much, too hard, too restrictive and negative at times.  Capricorn says Taurus needs to “tighten up”.  I asked if anyone could help mediate, and Libra stepped up—a crooner in a plaid suit, soft talking and pleasant, spoke to the fact that they are all part of a larger circle and must learn to work together if anything is to be accomplished.  Capricorn and Taurus appeared ready for this bit of inspiration, though looking a bit sheepish. They looked at each other for a moment, then Taurus agreed to be more proactive and work on the fear of change.  Cap agreed to try to be empathetic toward Taurus and less severe and critical.

Ahhh, the struggles I have with Capricorn at times with my Sun, Saturn, and Venus all under the rulership of that formidable sea goat!  And all in the second house, which is where Taurus naturally resides.  But we are talking and it’s all good!  Even when Cap is in his deepest, rockiest place, he shows me what I need to know in order to gain some perspective, to let go of or to rebuild.  He helps me understand boundaries and discernment when it comes to the responsibilities I take on.

So, take a look at your birth chart.  Are there signs that seem emotionally charged, challenging, puzzling, or inviting?  Choose one and do a little research.  Search images, myths, stories about this sign.  Begin to have an appreciation for it, keep it in the back of your mind, and your imagination and the archetype will do the rest.  You may want to have a question or two ready if that seems appropriate. 

Here is how I begin my meditations:

1) Find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed and either lie down or sit.  Turn the phone off and let the cat out of the room.  You may want to have a blanket handy in case you become chilly.  Be prepared to sit for at least 10 minutes.  Longer is good, too.

2) Close your eyes and settle into  your inner landscape by taking a few deep, cleansing breaths.  Be prepared to allow your imagination to have free license, no matter how silly or strange it may seem.  Suspend disbelief.  The goal here is to begin to explore and expand inner vision.  Have fun with it.

3)  After a few moments, begin to picture in your minds’ eye a staircase leading down to a landing.  It can be brick, wood, stone, heavy recycled plastic—whatever seems sturdy and will support you as you descend to the landing.  Allow yourself to be there, hearing the sound of your footsteps, the temperature of the air, and anything else that adds depth.  If you don’t ‘see’ anything with the third eye, that is fine.  Maybe the experience comes more as a thought form than a vision.  Everyone is different and there is no right way to do this meditation. 

4) As you near the bottom of the steps, see or sense a doorway in your minds’ eye.  Again, any doorway that comes up for you is the correct one—no right or wrong way to do this.  If it feels right, open the door and step through.  I consistently experience a wide ledge that overlooks the ocean, but you may find yourself in a meadow, a forest, or in the middle of a busy city. 

5) Gain your bearings.  Look around and, again, be there.  What is the temperature?  What is the time of day?  Are there any sounds, aromas, textures?  Now you are ready to call out to the archetype (sign or planet).  I have found that some are more forthcoming than others.  If something other than the archetype shows up, discern if it is kind and wise.  If it isn’t kind or wise, then you may want to try again at a later time.  If it feels right, ask to be taken to the place where the archetype lives. 

6) Allow the scene to unfold but don’t try to push it, especially the first few times.  It may take some practice to surrender to this inner world.  Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this meditation and you may very well make modifications to suit your own style.  This is what has worked for me.

Our inner teachers are waiting and ready to share their wisdom and guidance.  All we need do is be still, get quiet and listen.

Namaste. 

Scorpio Rising

When I was a child, my Aunt Thelma would wait for the Scranton Times-Tribune to check out Sydney Omar’s daily horoscope column.  She would sip her coffee and read the daily prediction for whoever was sitting around the kitchen table.  I was always polite, but never really thought he was very accurate.  Looking back though, I guess her enthusiasm for things like astrology planted a seed within my curious mind.  Scorpio is my rising sign and I believe it is responsible for my desire to look beneath, to plumb the depths.  Fast forward many decades and I am devoted to promoting another type of astrology, psychological astrology, as a vehicle for growth and change.  I have the feeling that if more people really understood astrology, they could benefit greatly from a consultation.  Psychological astrology is not predictive nor is it a psychic art.  It is, however, a wonderful tool to support a deeper understanding of the self, especially if incorporated as a tool in psychotherapy. 

Here is what Carl Jung had to say about the matter: “Obviously astrology has much to offer psychology, but what the latter can offer its elder sister is less evident. So far as I judge, it would seem to me advantageous for astrology to take the existence of psychology into account, above all the psychology of the personality and of the unconscious.”

So, what can modern psychology learn from astrology?   I do believe that the natal chart (given an accurate date and time of birth) can act as a map for our greatest potential.  From childhood on through our adult years, we can look at factors influencing our journey, depending on the planets and the way they communicate with each other.  Imagine the zodiac wheel is a big conference table.  When we are born, the planets are sitting in assigned seats and each seating position designates an integral part of us.  As time passes, the planets move around the table, each trying out the comfort or goodness-of-fit of each other’s seats and roles.  Their perspectives and behaviors change, depending on their position around the table.  We grow older and our inner dynamics evolve with the time and culture. 

When I look at a client’s natal chart, I do not automatically assume my deductions are correct, but it sure gives me a good starting point of questions to ask and where to look with the client about healing.  The process is similar to Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) or parts work.  We begin to look at presenting issues and what planets or tensions in the chart might be worked with.  So, for instance, if I am feeling impulsive, angry, or competitive in relationships and my Mars is in Libra, I might be looking at how to express my Mars in a more constructive way.  I can then focus on Mars, dialog with my Mars, write about my Mars, do artwork to express my Mars and ultimately own and understand the process of my issue from a deep place of self-awareness.  

Of course, this approach does not work for everyone, but I encourage the reader to be curious and investigate further before discounting the potential of astrology to assist in the healing process.  There are some pioneers out there who have written about psychological astrology, and here are a few:  Noel Tyl, Richard Tarnas, Glen Perry, and Liz Greene.  If you lean more toward a belief in reincarnation as a vital part of the the soul’s journey, Steven Forrest and Jeffrey Wolf Green should be on top of the list.

Are Men Really From Mars?

If you identify as a man are you from Mars?   I am a woman and I have a Mars, so does that mean I’m not from Venus?   Well, the answer is we all have a Mars and we all have a Venus and it gets tricky when we assign gender to planets.  Personally, I like to keep gender out of the discussion when it comes to planetary energies.  Our understanding of astrology and ultimately our understanding of ourselves is sculpted by our culture and customs.  In our culture Mars and Venus are highly charged with gender stereotypes and these prevent us from going deep into a place of knowing the true Self.  Certainly, they prevent us from getting beyond the superficial.   

Here is a more helpful way to look at the planets without getting mired in the dogma.

There are two categories of energy that planets manifest:  yin energy and yang energy.  Yin  pulls energy inward; its process and focus are internal.  Yang pushes energy outward, is dynamic and external.  Each planet also possesses the essence of an element (earth, water, fire, air).  These elements interact with yin or yang energy, creating a unique dynamic.  So, let’s use Mars and Venus for examples to illustrate how this works.  Mars is yang and the element is fire.  It rules the first house, our beginning, our act of continually becoming.  This calls up images of extroversion, boldness, courage, initiation, and high energy.  Venus is yin energy and is earth, making it more an inner process of harmony, grounding, sustenance, and beauty.  In this way we can see that the planets have much more to teach us if we look beneath the surface of stereotype.

Now that we have tweaked our vision of Mars, let’s take a peek at this planet’s upcoming retrograde and what that might mean for us.  For those who do not know what retrograde is, it is a perceived change in the movement of a planet through the sky.  The planet appears to be traveling in reverse, but it is an illusion created by our view of the retrograde planet from the earth.  The earth’s orbit is moving faster than the retrograde planet at a particular time of the year. 

Mars will station retrograde on September 9 and will stay there until November 13, 2020. Mars stations retrograde about every year and a half or so.  If you would like to see where Mars retrograde will be impacting you, locate between 28 degrees to 15 degrees Aries in your birth chart, give or take 5 degrees on either side.  What house does Aries rule in your chart and which of your planets are in Aries?  Do they make any significant angles (conjunctions, squares, oppositions, sextiles, or trines) to other significant points or planets?   

In general, retrograde Mars can be a time of overdrive, making it difficult for some to relax.  Retrograde motions tend to direct energies inward and Mars is a planet that is yang, so it isn’t quite comfortable hanging back and listening to the grass grow.  It’s a bit like gunning the accelerator of your car and at the same time pushing down on the brakes.  Tension can build from a slow boil to a burst of scalding steam if we don’t mind our minds and our bodies!  Making sure to eat nutritious foods, getting adequate exercise and taking time to rest and relax are all ways to manage these potentially volatile energies.  Mars retrograde can make it difficult to face situations head-on, so you may want to postpone any confrontation or launch of a major project.  If you can’t, then using a journal or some other tool for self-awareness can be a godsend.  It will allow you to sort feelings and to defuse any untended psychological land mines.  Retrogrades are always a fantastic opportunity to grow in our understanding of our selves as we take our yearly trips around the Sun.

Other astrological points of interest for September 2020:

Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn are still hunkered down in Capricorn.  Pluto will remain in retrograde throughout the month, but Jupiter stations direct on September 12 and Saturn stations direct on the 29th.  This threesome will be squaring Mars (which will be in retrograde).   Look at 17 to 25 degrees Capricorn is in your chart.

Full Moon in Pisces, September 2 at 1:22 a.m.   The Sun in Virgo brings a sense of realism and focus to our dreams but be careful not to limit your imagination.

Sun enters Libra at 9:31 a.m. on the 22nd.

New Moon in Virgo, September 17, bringing a focus on how we serve ourselves and others and how we strive (or don’t) to be the very best version of ourselves.

(Much gratitude to Sarah Bachman for allowing me to display her wonderful graphics along with this post!)

Owning Your Eris

Lately, I have been keeping my eyes on Eris, second-largest dwarf planet in the Solar System.  Eris was discovered in 2005 and is named after the Greek goddess known for discord and contention.  This dense little planet about the size of Pluto takes 550 years to complete an orbit around the Sun and is currently at 24 degrees Aries.  It is interesting to note that Eris entered Aries in the 1920s, when our world saw the rise of fascist parties in Europe.  If Eris is the mean girl planet, then Pluto is the bad boy planet and they have been slow dancing at an exact square with each other since the end of April 2020.

Ever see the movie, Mean Girls?  Some of us did not even have to watch the movie!  We lived it in our middle and high school years.  Perhaps we found our vulnerable young selves discounted at the hands of kids that did not even know us.  Couched beneath their façade of ‘I’m your best ally’, the mean girl is most likely an angry soul who struggles with envy, insecurity, status, and control.  She blindsides you.  She sets you up for humiliation, struggle, or strife and all the while she would have you believe she is sweet and helpful.   Underlying all of it, she is fiercely competitive and will not only win, she is rather sadistic.  She delights in creating pain and discord.  Yikes, right?

But Eris has some positive sides if we stop to ponder and delve deeply into her competitive spirit.   Here are two key points in appreciating the energy of Eris: 

1)  Competition is not all bad.  It helps give us the oomph to be better at what we do, whether it be a painting, a poem, or growing tomatoes.  Without competition we might not have the motivation to refine and improve the way we operate and the things we create.  

2)  In the myth of Eris, she is the epitome of the uninvited.  She was deeply bitter because she was excluded from the guest list of a wedding party and her vengeful, wounded nature ended up causing the Trojan War!  We all have a bit of Eris in us, some more than others.  It is reflected in how we treat (or do not treat) each other with respect and dignity, even in the face of losing.  Eris can help us look at what it means to win.   Eris helps us ask ourselves if we want to win for the right reasons, or if  we want to win just to see the ‘other’ suffer?  If we feel left out or wronged, do we lash out and wish ill will to fall upon the other? 

So, like Pluto, Eris can be a harsh teacher but there is gold to be gleaned in the grit.  The gold lies in recognizing how these energies manifest in our lives.  They can be the catalyst to transform old structures, to get back on courses with behaviors that promote cooperation and goodwill.  They can point us to areas of growth that bring true peace and unity rather than an ‘us vs. them’ world where no one truly wins.   I do not know about you, but I believe healing our divided places is possible.  All we need to do is pay attention to the mirror we gaze at each day.  It will help us locate where Eris, the uninvited,  resides within our hearts.  Because she could be invited in.  There is enough room for everyone at the party……

Astrological events of note for this month:

July 1:  Saturn retrograde enters Capricorn—Here we go again!  Saturn will travel retrograde to 25 degrees Capricorn by late September, where it was on February 1.  This time it will be within 3 degrees of Pluto, which is also in Capricorn.  And there is also the Jupiter/Pluto conjunction, also in Capricorn. I see this as heralding trumpets for USA’s Pluto return in 2022, but that is for a future post…..

July 5:  Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn at 13 degrees–This particular Sun/Moon blend (Capricorn/Cancer) may connect with the energy of family, emotions and emotional vulnerability (Cancer) with the more practical aspects of life, like work and attending to the business side of things.  Eclipse energy can be a catalyst for change. 

July 12:  Mercury stations direct at 5 degrees Cancer.

July 20:  New Moon in Cancer—heightens our potential to look within the watery depths of our psyches, to nurture what needs to come to light, to arrive at deeper levels of emotional security through understanding the Self.

July 22:  Sun enters Leo

Shadow Boxing

This morning as I was drinking my coffee, a swirl of memories came to me from childhood.  My mother and I had a repertoire of songs, poems, and rhymes that we would share during quiet times and this one stood out today:

My Shadow

by

Robert Louis Stevenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow–

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,

And he sometimes goes so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me, he’s a coward you can see;

I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Reading through it again as an adult brings up a new understanding about the concept of “shadow”.  On the surface it appears to be a happy little cluster of rhymes, but underneath the words point to its tricky and elusive nature.  Our shadow is that part of us that remains unconscious and conflicted.  Shadow hides deeply within us and produces shame, guilt, fear, and self-defeating patterns.  Shadows are universal and they are very human.  We each possess within us our own unique shadow, constructed out of beliefs about ourselves that do not serve to enhance our spiritual growth.  Shadows, if left in the dark, trip us up and keep the light within us muted.  Shadows can make us wonder after the fact, “What was I thinking?” or, “Why in the world did I do THAT??”  The shadow can jump out at us with recognition of what we feel is deplorable and unacceptable about ourselves.  Some examples of shadow are  lying, cheating, jealousy, hatred, anxiety, guilt, shame, destructive behaviors toward others, blaming, addiction, selfishness, and anything else that creates emotional conflict and confusion.  It can also push down those talents and attributes that we know are present but seem unattainable.  If you feel you are unworthy of your talents and gifts, the shadow will snatch them up and bring you to a feeling of unworthiness or failure. 

We cannot “get rid” of our shadow.  Doing so would deprive us of growth and the lessons our humanity brings to the depth of our souls.  What we can do is recognize our shadow when it occurs, embrace it, and put its lessons toward emotional and spiritual growth.   This is the challenge and the gift at the same time.  It is the going within, the trust and courage to take an honest look, and the persistence to work with the shadow rather than rejecting it.  Awareness and self-reflection are the balms we can use to heal this rift between our conscious light and our underlying shadow.  Perhaps this fundamental part of ourselves reduces down to the two forces that govern our emotional world:  fear and love.  If we choose love, we accept ourselves in all our worst moments, in all our ugly ignorance and our hidden motives.  If we choose  fear, we feed the greedy belly of the shadow and continue to reject parts of ourselves that lead to fragmentation and alienation with our most intimate truths.  Accepting the shadow is truly a declaration of our humanity and it leads to the understanding that we are simply fine and truly miraculous, powerful beings JUST THE WAY WE ARE! 

*To set the right environment for working on your shadow, you might find it helpful to make a vow to practice courage and patience with yourself.  Courage is for looking within in a spirit of “I accept whatever it is I find and will deal with it”.  Patience is for allowing time and reflection upon those experiences that may create some pain or discomfort.  Again, sitting with it long enough to work it through is imperative.  Part of our natural human protection system is to flee when we sense danger or pain.  A vow will assist you in keeping focus on your goal:  to recognize, understand, and embrace the shadow.

**Have there been times lately when you have said or done something that creates an emotional conflict?  Consider these examples:

  • you are exhausted, yet you agree to take on another task at work, then feel resentment and anger
  •  you lash out at your loved one in anger over something that, upon reflection, is very insignificant in the grand scheme of life
  • you become extremely jealous when your friend tells you she has won an award for outstanding work and will be getting a raise
  • you look at a piece of art or a recipe a friend creates and think that you could never do something that good
  •  you lie to your partner about spending more money than you agreed upon at the store

Any of the above scenarios sound familiar?  For the next few days, keep track of those conflicting emotions that come up for you.  Take time at the end of each day to reflect on them.  Awareness is the first step in creating change and it is perhaps the most challenging.  This step is so important in helping you truly know yourself.  By recognizing motivations behind the shadow, you will be more open to altering those patterns as they pop up for you.  Keep trying and stick with it and remember your vow of patience and courage.  (If you didn’t already make a vow, you may want to do so now.)

***Are there emotional places you have been able to identify in which you feel stymied and stuck?  Chances are this is the work of that sneaky shadow again!  Try breaking the situation down into three areas:  thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Reflect on which thoughts bring about conflicting feelings that serve to trigger confusing behaviors in your life. 

Example:  When I get home from work, I think about all those chores that need to be done.  I am tired and experience a sense of frustration, anger, and a general sense of being overwhelmed.  When someone speaks to me, I am short with my answer or I may respond with an irritated, loud voice.

Notice the chain of events that create disrupting and sometimes even destructive behavior.  Remind yourself often that you are human, and this is a journey.  Be kind and gentle with yourself.  Frustration that manifests in self-deprecation and self-hatred or self-punishment requires a patient mind and an open heart.

****Notice where you experience the feeling of conflicting emotion in your body.  Is it a lump in the throat?  A twinge in the solar plexus?  A pain in your heart?  A rumble deep in your gut?  These physical sensations can assist you in detecting the origin and the nature of the issue.  (Refer to appendix on chakras).  What does the physical feeling point to regarding the roots of the issue from an energetic perspective?  You may want to meditate on this chakra  or consider bodywork or Reiki with special focus on this chakra.  Next time the sensation comes up for you, try breathing into it.  Does this help in alleviating the discomfort?  Does this help you feel a sense of self-nurturing and calm? 

New Paradigms Evolving

Carl Jung was a serious student of astrology and spent much of his adult life exploring it. He proposed that the human psyche could be understood through the study of symbols, myth, and archetypes (or universal principles) and astrology is based upon these.  Through what he coined ‘synchronicity’ (simultaneous events that appear to share meaning but have no causal relationship), a person’s astrological birth chart could point them in the direction of deep understanding of the self.

 In 1932, Jung began a relationship with Wolfgang Pauli and their dialog spanned decades until Pauli’s death.  Pauli, a pioneer in the development of quantum physics, worked together with Jung on understanding how physics and psychology are integrated, and astrology was one topic they explored.  Now, I am not a mathematical whiz nor am I deeply schooled in theoretical physics, but none of my education included an appreciation of quantum mechanics.  I am guessing most of us have grown up with a fairly cut and dried Newtonian approach to the way we interpret our world, especially the unseen.  And this Newtonian approach seems to make mysticism and science mutually exclusive.  Somehow, the fact that many of our brightest lights in science were inspired by mysticism has been lost in the drying of the ink in the history books.

Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Erwin Schrodinger gained inspiration from the Vedas (ancient Sanskrit texts that are primary to Hinduism).   Albert Einstein once reflected, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift”.  I believe there is much evidence that science, psychology, and mysticism can work together to interpret our human experience and can help us navigate this meaningful and rich landscape that is our lives.

When I was starting out as a psychotherapist in the 1990s, some of my colleagues made fun of me because I talked about things like meditation and energy.  Fast forward to 2019, and it seems most folks are on board with mindfulness, meditation, and things like acupuncture and tapping.  I am again taking a bold step into woo woo (though I find that astrology can be perfectly accurate and not so woo woo at all!).  This is not the newspaper sun sign kind of astrology that rarely makes any sense.  This is astrology based upon the language the planets in our solar system speak as they travel through the 12 signs of the zodiac.  Indeed, working with what we call your birth chart (a diagram of the heavens at the precise moment of your birth), astrology can be an excellent tool for self-discovery, understanding and personal growth (plus, it is a heck of a lot of fun!).

As a psychotherapist, I cannot tell you how helpful a client’s astrological chart can be.  Your birth chart is unique to your individual life process.  I like to call it the ‘Earth School Orientation Sheet’.  It can show you  where the greatest potential for growth and development resides in your life.  Most importantly, though, it is a process, a conversation between us,  and not some type of predictive monologue where I tell you who you are.  You already know who you are!  I am there to help you uncover the treasure, the gold.  My dream is that more and more therapists will begin to speak the language of astrology and they will use it to help their clients in ways that traditional talk therapy cannot touch.