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Sunday inspiration: Why me?

Art by NC Wyeth

Art by NC Wyeth

I have two good friends with cancer, so this question is coming up a lot these days. And recently I did a reading for someone who was taken ill with pneumonia and since then suffered a seemingly never ending series of health problems and pain.  I’ve had clients who have been in terrible car accidents that paralyzed them.  Horrific abuse as children. Being fired from a job at which they excelled.

These events may seem terrible on the surface, and it would be easy when undergoing a drastic and terrible time to feel like Job in the bible on whom Jehovah visited a never ending series of trials.  But hidden in nearly all of these events is a kernel of magic that can transform our viewpoint and the way we see our world.

Cancer has been much on my mind lately because of my friends.  The last thing they want to hear from me is that there is a gift of magic hidden in their cancer.  I’ve never had cancer, so how do I know?  And is that really helpful?  What if they can’t find that gift, does that make them somehow a lesser person?  And yet there are many stories of people with serious illness who have found a new way of looking at their lives that completely transformed them.

Nine years ago I wrote this article about “the bright side of cancer.”  In this article I quote a number of people, including Lance Armstrong who said “Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I don’t know why I got the illness, but it did wonders for me, and I wouldn’t want to walk away from it.”  But clearly, not everyone is able to look at their life from that perspective as you can see here.

We typically see these dramatic events under the influence of Pluto or Uranus.  Pluto is, after all, the planet of death but also rebirth – the regeneration that comes when we must leave behind every known aspect of our life and emerge into the Sun, naked and alive, transformed by the power that comes when we face the end of consciousness that we call death.  Uranus is the Awakener – he brings events to shock us out of our sleepwalking through life and bring us into a heightened state of consciousness.

Tony Robbins always says “If you’re getting the wrong answers you’re not asking the right questions.”  The question “Why me?” will only serve to anchor us into a spiral of negativity.  Better questions may be “What can I learn from this experience?”  “What practices will help to heal me?” “What do I need to change in my life to promote healing and remove fear?”

When we examine our lives from inside of ourselves, all we can see is the story and feel punished by life.  But there is a different story unfolding at every moment – the story of a personal journey of inner transformation.

By | 2016-10-08T12:17:06+00:00 August 14th, 2016|Favorite posts, Inspiration|2 Comments

Sunday inspiration: when bad planets happen to good people

dark night of the soul

Art by Willow Arlenea

I mean the title as a bit of a joke – an homage to the self-help book from the 1970s by Harold Kushner.  But it’s no joke when tragic events happen in our own lives or to someone we love.

Over the past five years of such intense planetary drama these stories seem to occur more frequently, at least in my life.  The bride-to-be whose fiance dies of a heart attack five days before the wedding.  The parents who lose two children in the space of a year.  The friend who waited over 40 years to find her soulmate and build their dream house, only to have him die of a brain tumor less than five years into their marriage.  Another friend in a difficult marriage who loses her husband and father within six months.  All of you have your own stories, perhaps from your own lives.

This kind of event that turns our world upside down generally occurs under the auspices of Saturn or Pluto.  And sometimes both.  My sister was an astrology skeptic until I started my blog under her tutelage, and then she became curious.  I’m still not sure she’s convinced in its accuracy, but she is interested enough to want to know what the planets are doing when things get rough.

Over the past few years she has had a ridiculous lineup of planetary transits and progressions including a big lineup of planets to Pluto in her progressed chart and her second Saturn return.  During that time she lost a job, found another one, her husband lost his job, couldn’t find another one, our mother ended up in the hospital with a chronic illness and died, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, one of their cats (with no kids, their cats are their children) died, her husband was diagnosed with a rare brain disease and then died of that, and most recently her second cat died just as the Pluto lineup was finishing.

We can’t say that Pluto itself causes these events, and Pluto cycles don’t always bring this sort of devastation.  Pluto is the principle of Shiva – the destroyer who wipes the decks clean so that a new beginning can occur.  Sometimes Pluto transits bring powerful new experiences without annihilating our former life.  But sometimes the annihilation occurs and all we can do is watch as the tsunami comes and our lives are swept away, never to return.

Religions teach that if people are good and follow the rules of the religion, bad things won’t happen to them.  Of course this is not the case – life happens and sometimes brings happiness and sometimes great pain.  So how are we to find faith and hope in the midst of our personal agony?

Buddhism teaches that attachment is the root of suffering – if we can only let go of our attachment to things then we will achieve peace.  This is far easier said than done – we live in the world and we are of this world, and unless we renounce the world to meditate in a cave these attachments do inform our lives and everything in it.  We have children, husbands, family members, friends that we love.  We have homes that we live in and pets that give us joy.  We have jobs that we need to put food on the table.  The loss of any of these things leaves us feeling less than who we were, and not knowing who we are to become.

During these times we experience a true “dark night of the soul,” when we find ourselves alone and not knowing where to turn.  Theologians advise turning to their god during these times, and for believers this can be a powerful time of faith.  But unless we are able to broaden our understanding of what our incarnation means  and who we are underneath the trappings and associations of our lives, any superficial faith serves as a lifeboat but does not lift us out of the ocean of pain. The sense of being stripped of anything that is outside of ourselves and being left alone and isolated with only our true and core self falls under the domain of Pluto.

During these dark nights we find ourselves alone and crying out in the wilderness. Whether we or not we believe in the Judaeo-Christian idea of God, or the Islamic Allah, or the many Hindu gods and goddesses, or the Celtic or Nordic or Santeria pantheons, each of us is deeply connected to a spiritual source – a source of love and comfort that exists both within and outside of us.  Some of us call this god or goddess, some call it the “higher self,” some call it our guardian angel or spirit guides.  We have all heard this voice speaking within us although we sometimes confuse it with our own minds.

When we find ourselves in darkness and great pain we are the most receptive to the voice of the soul which calls to us in its own language if we can let go of our story and listen. In the end, this is all that is real – it is all we can count on.  We love our family, our children – we find joy in our lifestyles and our pleasures.  But Pluto reminds us that at the core, beyond the story of our lives and beyond the story of our pain, lies the magnificence of life itself and the experience of absolute love that is hidden deep within our own hearts.



By | 2017-04-01T09:22:33+00:00 February 2nd, 2014|Favorite posts, Inspiration|8 Comments

Fate and the progressed chart

fate or free willThe question of fate vs. free will is a thorny debate among astrologers.  Traditional astrologers, such as those who practice Hellenistic, Vedic or Medieval astrologers, tend to believe more firmly in the concept that the unfolding of our lives occurs in a predestined pattern and that we as humans have very little choice in the process.

It’s clear when you learn to read the astrological symbols that fate and destiny are tightly interwoven.  We are born with certain planets in certain placements which enables someone like me to be able to identify psychological patterns of a perfect stranger across a phone line with no previous information, just from looking at the birthchart.  And yet, you can take two different people born at the same moment in the same location, with identical charts, and while there will be similarities in the underlying dynamics of the chart their choices and outcomes will be completely different.

AK asked in the comments:

I have a question about your series on fate and free will. I always wondered why progressed chart should show how we “evolve”, if we have the free will to change our destiny. In other words, if we are born with certain challenges, lessons to be learnt (during transits to our natal planets), but at the same time have the ability to choose our destiny, we can evolve very differently than what progressed chart might show us. Progressing our natal planets somewhat assumes we are born with a certain fate…..

I thought this was an important question that deserves its own posts.  I’ve written on this topic before, but it’s an ongoing question that never gets old.

The progressed chart is the natal chart “progressed” forward through time, revealing unfolding patterns in the psyche that may or may not be reflected in the outer events.  Some astrologers say that planetary transits (which occur when a planet in the sky makes contact with a planet in our chart) stimulate events and progressed movements of the chart stimulate inner change, but I haven’t really seen that to be strictly true in any kind of predictable fashion.  Carl Jung wrote that “‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

When we are young we react against our inner impulses, fulfilling the problems of the birthchart.  Difficult relationships, insecurities, inability to assert ourselves, lack of self-confidence, failure to hold down a job – these are all potential problems of certain chart patterns.  As we grow older and hopefully wiser, if we become more self aware we start to work with those patterns and learn more about where they originate and how they can be transformed.  If we don’t go through this self-reflective process we are less likely to be able to effect change and alter our destiny.

The path of the progressed chart is already set when an individual is born because the natal chart is advanced through time, but so are the movements of planetary transits.   Once the natal chart is established we can predict every planetary cycle from birth into the future.  Some events that occur in our life are likely the result of fate, but the choices we make out of those events are what creates our destiny.  Terrible occurrences such as rape and abuse can later prove to be the seed of personal transformation.  A death of a spouse can be followed by a life of greater self-awareness.  Very rarely is there a disastrous event that is not followed by some sort of rebirth, as the archetype of Pluto reveals.

My sister recently had a big lineup of planets including her Moon, Mars and Venus aligning with Pluto in her progressed chart.  It was clear that something big was going to happen though it would have been impossible to predict exactly what.  This kind of dynamic could indicate a complete transformation of a marriage through shamanic therapy just as easily as divorce or death.  However, as it turned out her husband did become ill and died – an event which has already transformed her life on many levels. It’s hard to imagine that anything she did would have changed the fact of her husband’s death; the thing she has control over is whether she will allow herself to be transformed in the fire of the destruction of her old life and enable herself towards greater empowerment and healing.  (The good news:  she IS.)

I suppose none of us will ever know how much of what happens in our lives is fate and how much free will.  But my personal belief is that we have incarnated to face these challenges and learn and grow from them, and if every moment was predestined there would hardly be a point to incarnating at all.

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By | 2013-12-14T17:52:16+00:00 December 14th, 2013|Fate, Favorite posts|4 Comments

The “Freedom/Closeness” Dilemma in relationships

Breaking Pointe

Breaking Pointe

My new guilty television pleasure is the program “Breaking Pointe,” a reality show about dancers in a ballet company in Salt Lake City.  They ran last year’s season on BBC America which is where I found it, and then this year’s season ran on the CW network.

One of the featured dancers, Allison, is involved in a classic push me/pull you relationship with Rex, another of the dancers.  In this kind of relationship one partner is pushing to be closer and the other one is distancing – pushing away.  However what often happens is that the roles switch and the formerly distancing partner becomes the one who wants to be closer.

In the Allison/Rex dynamic, Allison was involved with another man, Jonathan.  Then she and Rex had an affair and she broke up with Jonathan.  Rex still wanted to be with her and she pushed him away.  Then she realized Jonathan was a jerk and now she wants to be with Rex.  Now Rex is saying, not so fast – I’m not so sure I want this.

Howard Sasportas and Liz Greene coined the term the “freedom/closeness” dilemma to describe the conflict between the basic need to attach and feel safe with another human being and the need to differentiate the Self and become more comfortable as an autonomous individual.  This is a process that begins in infancy but it can become distorted and corrupted in certain family situations.  But really, those of us with this dynamic were born with a prospensity towards this conflict, and this is evident in our birthcharts.

Certain signs and planetary placements crave closeness and security, and others indicate a push for greater autonomy and freedom.  The water and earth signs tend to crave attachment and safety; the air and fire signs yearn for freedom and space.  Neptune, Venus and the Moon are connectors – Mars, Uranus and Jupiter are detachers.

Often in this kind of chart we see an individual who may be completely unaware of their need for space, who longs for connection but who habitually chooses unavailable partners.  Or they might be in long-term relationships in which intimacy is avoided as a means of finding space.  Most often we vacillate back and forth – in one relationship we are the pursuer and in the next we take the role of the pursued.   One individual with an intimacy/distance conflict will nearly always attract another with the same conflict until we understand and recognize that the conflict is actually in our own psyche.

We can see that clearly in the Allison and Rex dynamic.  Allison was unavailable, and Rex wanted to be with her.  Jonathan had moved away and then Allison wanted to be with him.  Then she realized Rex had always been there for her and Jonathan was a bit of a jerk, so she decided she loved Rex after all.  And now Rex says, “Not so fast, lady.  I’m not so sure I want this.”

Astrology’s magic lies in its ability to draw open the curtain and reveal the workings of the psyche.  Once we understand why we behave the way we do, making changes where necessary to lead a  happier and more productive life becomes easier and more rewarding.

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By | 2013-09-20T07:13:29+00:00 September 20th, 2013|Favorite posts, Relationships|16 Comments

Transits and Transformation: Turning Crisis into Healing

Art by Susan Seddon Boulet

Art by Susan Seddon Boulet

As humans, we tend to think that happiness is better than sadness, that good luck is better than bad. We may avoid difficult confrontations and pursue more comfortable situations. When tragedy strikes our well-protected lives, we shout out to our god of choice: “How could you do this to me??” We believe that our birthright is the pursuit of happiness, and we spend our lives trying to protect ourselves from sorrow.

The soul, however, has a different journey. The soul travels an ancient evolutionary path that seeks wisdom and connection with the divine. Often in our desire to defend ourselves from discomfort, we erect barriers within ourselves. Often we become so effective in compartmentalizing our emotions we become cut off from our very selves, our soul and our spirit.

In astrological terms, the orbiting planets form geometric angles to our birthchart planets, or “transits.” Each transiting planet has its own nature, its own personality and its own purpose-calling upon us as the ancient gods they represent to bring forth something in ourselves that has been lost. The inner planets move quickly: a transit of Venus will encourage relationships and creativity, a transit of Mars demands that we defend ourselves appropriately. Easy Jupiter transits can bring financial opportunity, or liberate us from difficult situations, whereas the challenging transits can cause reckless and risky behavior. The outer, or transpersonal planets, including Saturn which acts as the bridge between the personal planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter) and transpersonal (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto), take much longer to traverse the zodiac and therefore their effects are felt for a longer period of time.

The planets in our birthchart also “progress” through time, particularly the inner planets which move more quickly. The placement of the planets in our “progressed” chart offer additional information about the person that we have become; this serves as a transparent overlay that defines us at this moment in time. The relationship of the planets in our progressed chart to our birthchart offers additional information about our current situation.

These transits can initiate great opportunities and personal distress for us, but even in the most difficult of crises, hidden in the pain is a gift that opens the doorway into the realization and connection of the soul. Each planet can be identified as a god demanding us to delve deep within ourselves. Encounters with these gods through the challenging planetary transits (squares and oppositions) bring burdens, but also offer great gifts. In making an offering to these gods, we are better able to receive their gifts of transformation.


The myth: Saturn was the son of Uranus (heaven) and Gaia (earth). During his rule he created the division of time and the seasons, establishing cosmic order and history. Saturn, fearing that his children would depose him, swallowed each child at birth. His last child, Zeus, eventually overpowered Saturn in a great war and imprisoned him in the Tartarus, a dark gloomy region at the ends of the earth.

The burden: Saturn places restrictions and obstacles before us, making it difficult to move forward in our desired direction. We may feel sad, lonely, and weighed down by an overwhelming sense of inertia. Saturn is the god of time, telling us that time is fleeting and we must take our lives seriously. He wants us to be responsible, to respect society’s structures. He is the difficult father that can instill insecurity and self-doubt. During a Saturn transit we often feel dark and lonely, mirroring Saturn’s gloomy imprisonment. The structures and rules that Saturn values so much can feel oppressive. We are likely to experience difficulties in our daily lives: back pain, dental problems, automobile breakdowns – events that limit our ability to move forward as we desire.

The gift: Saturn is like the Beast in old fairy tales; behind his ugly and fearful exterior lies the Handsome Prince. Herein lies the alchemy over which Saturn presides: the psychospiritual process in which pain and difficulty leads one to greater wholeness and integration. Saturn is not stingy in his rewards when we delve deep and obey his call for introspection and discipleship. The limitations and obstacles are simply tools to encourage us to look within and convert the lead of our existence into the gold of increased awareness.

The offering: When we enter into discipleship with Saturn, we discover the truth about ourselves and our nature. Saturn demands that we look deeply into our motivations, our desires, and our truths. Spend as much time alone as possible, journaling, examining the structures of your life and look at ways they can be improved. Offer up a plan for the future and Saturn will reward you with spiritual and material success. Open gently the doors to feelings of sadness and insecurity; this is the base material for the alchemical process. When you face your darkness with courage, you allow the light to enter and Saturn’s blessings will certainly follow.


The myth: Uranus was the sky god married to Gaia, the earth mother-god. Uranus ruled the limitless space of the heavens. He and Gaia had many children, all of them odd and deformed: the giant Titans, the Cyclopses, and monsters with multiple limbs and heads. These children did not meet his ideals, and Uranus forced them back into Gaia’s womb (the earth). Ultimately his son Saturn castrated Uranus , symbolizing an archetypal battle between these two gods.

The burden: Uranus demands freedom of expression, revolution against repression, an idealistic utopia. Uranus rattles our cages, pressuring us to remember that we are creative and unique individuals. If we cling tooo tightly to Saturn’s structures and the security they bring, the challenging Uranus transits can increase anxiety and shake our very roots. We may suddenly crave changes in all structures of our life and experience insomnia and restlessness.

The gift: Uranus offers the gift of individual freedom and new beginnings. Uranus often provides brilliant insights and breakthroughs of awareness. A veil is lifted, and we are able to see past our fears to more freedom, an ideal life that better suits the person we have become.

The offering: Uranus requires us to let go of old habits, routines and structures that keep us from actualizing our potential. It demands that we open our minds to new ideas, new visions. It floods us with electrical energy and asks that we channel it into new pathways of thought, of feeling, and of living. Think outside the box; imagine new ways of structuring your life that serve your own unique potential.


The myth: Neptune was the brother of Pluto and of Jupiter, and after the three brothers overthrew their father Saturn, Neptune received dominion over the seas. Neptune was known not only for his watery domain, but also for his legendary rage which caused him to create great storms with his trident and gave him control over earthquakes. Neptune had many lovers, but fell desperately in love with the water nymph Amphitrite who later became his wife.

The burden: Neptune commands the dissolution of ego and the yearning of the individual for a divine experience. During a challenging Neptune transit, the dissolving process can be confusing and disorienting and leave us vulnerable to fantasy and deception. In our search for the divine we may seek solace in drugs or lose ourselves in excessive media exposure. We are more likely to be deceived at these times due to a temporary inability to discriminate between fantasy and reality. We may be overly empathetic and lose our sense of self.

The gift: Neptune unites the soul and the self with the divine and facilitates the ascension process. During a transit of Neptune we have a direct doorway into the wisdom of the unconscious. Our dreams speak loudly to us if we listen, and provide information from the collective unconscious as well as our own subconscious mind. Neptune also offers the gift of empathy, psychic ability, artistic creation and music.

The offering: Neptune calls upon us to dissolve the boundaries of our individual ego and merge with the consciousness of the divine. We can honor Neptune by spending time in meditation and contemplation, and in body/mind/spirit activities such as yoga or tai chi that will unite and align us with the wisdom of our inner selves. We can ask to recognize where truth lies so that we can follow Neptune’s higher road of spiritual awareness. Neptune’s gift is none other than realization of the individual soul.


The myth: Pluto is the god of the underworld, of death. Pluto owned a helmet that rendered him invisible, and he left no traces on the earth. Pluto is also the god of wealth and bestower of riches. He was often portrayed as being deaf to prayers and unappeased by sacrifices. He fell in love with Persephone and abducted her into the underworld, making her his queen and demonstrating that he wasn’t completely without heart.

The burden: In psychological astrology, Pluto represents the will of the higher self, the transpersonal self. Pluto’s realm is empowerment and transformation; he is unconcerned with our individual desires and plans. Transits of Pluto instigate death and rebirth, endings and beginnings. A Pluto transit can feel like a tornado in which one’s entire world is picked up, spun about, and dropped in a completely new and different place. Pluto takes us into the underworld and forces us to view emotions and qualities that have long been buried in the unconscious.

The gift: Pluto offers nothing less than complete spiritual evolution, the release of the caterpillar into the divine destiny of the butterfly. Pluto is the god of buried treasure – he reveals the ugliest aspects of our nature: jealousy, aggression and rage, revealing our true inner power that lies beneath. He forces us, often kicking and screaming, to let go of those aspects of our life that no longer serve our empowerment process, freeing us to realize our greatest potential.

The offering: Pluto insists that we step aside to let him facilitate our transformation. He demands that we trust the process, to let go of our own desires and plans for our future and allow the transformation to take place. Surrender is the key here, and a desire for wisdom. A Pluto transit may bring us the ultimate power struggle – that between the will of our higher self for transformation and our own individual desires.

The synchronicity inherent in the cycles life offers us many opportunities as well as challenges. Understanding the nature of these cycles provide insight that can assist us in our own evolutionary process.

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By | 2013-08-16T14:05:46+00:00 August 16th, 2013|Consciousness, Favorite posts, Lessons|5 Comments