Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A pathwork of stars

"Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing."
(Helen Keller)

What you never learn from that sentimental, sanitized play, "The Miracle Worker," is that Helen Keller was a feminist, a socialist, a poet, and an activist on behalf of African-Americans, workers, and people with disabilities. Also, she had a pit bull as a companion. Ergo, she was righteous.

But I'm thinking of that famous quotation in the context of astrology. As I've said here before, I didn't take astrology seriously - nay, I scorned it, like any good humanist skeptic - until I met my teacher. In the astrology that Linda teaches and practices, each person's life becomes a mythic journey, replete with meaning and purpose. We might say that astrology provides a way of reading the text of a life, a method that reveals the sacred in each life. The natal chart is a mandala showing the patterns of the universe from a individual perspective, and providing a mythic template - a map only in the most impressionistic sense - for the life. As I study my chart, as I immerse myself in its symbols and patterns, I come to know myself better.

Right now, I'm experiencing a transition in my life where the modi operandi I've relied on for years are finally breaking down. I literally don't know how to think of myself anymore. When I'm not madly scrambling to hold onto my old patterns, habits, and ways of being, the sensation is like floating in space. I don't know what's next. I'm trying to discern the voice of my authentic being - a voice I've spend years trying to drown out with a chorus of demands. Studying my chart offers me comfort during this time, because as I see the patterns in the chart emerge in my life - however tentatively, like spring buds in the snow - I take heart. My life journey, like yours, has a mythic quality. It is a hero's journey. Even in the midst of all this muck, life has meaning. And our stories light up the night sky.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Where you are planted

When I was in the 9th grade, my best friend was an aspiring actress who was a smash as Lady Bracknell in our school's production of The Importance of Being Earnest. That spring she attended auditions for our local summer stock theater; I agreed to go along to provide moral support. (That's my official story, anyway; secretly, I wanted to audition but was terrified.) We both auditioned; I was cast, but she wasn't. Many people, according to my memory at least, were surprised by this. Our English and drama teacher attempted to comfort my friend by telling her that, "when I was a blonde, I got all the parts, too." (Or so reported my friend, who was not my friend for much longer.) The thing was, I was cast in the chorus of Wiley and the Hairy Man; in order to play a shapeshifter in a swamp, I was swathed in green burlap and rags, and green makeup, covering my head. I wasn't cast for my yellow hair alone.

I've never forgiven that teacher for saying that, or for writing in my yearbook - rather pointedly, I thought - "bloom where you are planted." (I took "and not on stage where my star pupil belongs" to be implicit in that.)

"Bloom where you are planted and not somewhere else where you don't belong." In understanding her inscription thus, I accused my teacher of wanting to limit me. But might we understand the adage another way? "BLOOM where you are planted, rather than wither on the vine or perish in your seed-shell." For much like a flowering plant, we cannot with our wills control where we are planted.

In the astrological chart, the Sabian symbol at the chart's nadir has significance. It's the pile of shit we land in when we come to earth. It's the family matrix. It's our stuff, our shit - our compost, if you're feeling positive. It's what we have to work with. As an adult I've labored for many years under the impression that I can get rid of my shit by willing it away, ignoring it, trying to bury it, being good enough, doing enough therapy, getting enlightened ... somehow. I thought the point of growing up and becoming a mature human being was to get rid of my shit. To be free from it. To outgrow it.

Turns out I was wrong.

My shit is my shit. It's what I have to work with in this lifetime. There is no uprooting. So, now, what does it mean to bloom here? In this shithole?

(My nadir is at 1 degree Leo: "A fat and normally good-natured little man of affairs is bursting with determination to have his own way." Oy. If you only knew how apt this is.)

Accepting the person I am without judgment is enormously difficult. Now I get to watch my patterns as they arise again and again: denial, depression, feeling overwhelmed. These are the places I go to out of habit. The ruts in my ego. And fear. What is the dark swirl of fear that catches me up? Where is terra firma?