Aquarium Age by Ralfee Finn
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Weekly Frequency 2008

The Archives are organized by month, with the most recent columns first

December | November | October | September
August | July | June | May
April | March | February | January

All columns © Ralfee Finn

December 31, 2008
2009 is a paradox: At the stroke of midnight, the planets promote pure individualism, with an almost singular concentration on common sense as the key to personal success. Yet the astral emphasis is also on community as the most important means of facing personal as well as collective challenges. It’s a new twist on the needs of the one versus the needs of the many. A twist that leaves no doubt that the needs of the one are the needs of the many, for as the year unfolds, communal effort will emerge as the remedy of choice for personal and collective difficulties.

The good news and the bad news is that all year long a plethora of surprising plot twists continues to turn previously solid ground topsy-turvy. Some of the shifts are welcome, but the constant barrage of change triggers resistance. No one, no matter how committed to change, thrives in a constant state of uncertainty—nervous systems weren’t meant to sustain adrenalin super surges for extended periods. And that resistance, personal as well as collective, is sure to turn into power struggles which means discord on all sorts of levels—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—is likely. 

All year long, the Saturn/Uranus opposition continues to confront the status quo. The second exact opposition is on February 5th, two weeks after the inauguration, two weeks into the new administration, and ten days after a January 26th solar eclipse that is sure to provide hidden information about just how bad the economic situation is. Oddly, many of us already assume it’s much worse than previously acknowledged, which only exacerbates fear and anxiety about the future.

Fortunately, planetary signatures for 2009 signal the potential for hard work tempered by empathy and insight. The year begins with five planets in Capricorn—Pluto, Mars, the Sun, Jupiter and Mercury—a Sign thoroughly committed to doing whatever it takes, including hands on hard work, to accomplish its goals. Those five planets are divided into two sets of conjunctions. (1) From January 1st-6th, a Mars/Pluto conjunction continues to trigger issues of power and control, so if at all possible continue to refuse to use cruel or brutal tactics. At the opening of the New Year, this volatile conjunction is softened by a sextile from the Moon, in Pisces, a positive interaction that offers the potential for genuine empathy. (2) Also from January 1st-6th, a Mercury/Jupiter conjunction provides the solid ground of common sense. Use this positive energy to set your intentions for the year—realistic, yet lofty goals that will strengthen your sense of purpose.

Jupiter enters Aquarius on January 5th, where it will spend the next year amplifying the need for communal cooperation, with an expansive reach that enhances respect for diverse of opinions. Jupiter’s presence in Aquarius will also add a touch of joy to our efforts to work together.

Fortunately, the new President has a lot of experience as a community organizer, a skill set that will prove invaluable throughout 2009 and the years ahead. A community is only as strong as its individual members, and its members are only as strong as the community. Sounds simple and even a little corny, but the thing about clichés is that they are true. Community service as we all know often requires sacrifice, so it might be helpful to know that the root meaning of “sacrifice” is “to make sacred.” Something we might all be glad to do in the days ahead.

December 24, 2008
This week, the sky offers a striking contrast between the surface and the deep. Planetary patterns appear simple and so do earthly interactions. Yet hidden in that minimalism are powerful and profound signatures and as those forces combine with the seasonal emotional undertow, the week unfolds with heightened intensity. Expect meltdowns, yours or others, as coping mechanisms are put to the test. And be aware, you may not need a specific reason to decompensate. 2008 shifted paradigms, personal and collective, local and global. And the soul work necessary to integrate those shifts is mighty. So while external festivities and celebrations may seem like irresistible opportunities to self-medicate, from an astrological as well as a practical perspective, this final week of the year is best spent sorting through the changes of 2008 in preparation for what lies ahead.

One source of power and simplicity this week is a Sun/Mars/Pluto conjunction, which is joined by the Moon late in the day on Christmas. Sun/Mars/Pluto interactions generate a tremendous amount of energy, but because the power to control and succeed drives this current, you might find yourself overextended, overwhelmed, and overtaxed. The solution is to let go of the need to have the holiday be anything other than what it is. Unfortunately, a Venus/Neptune conjunction that longs for perfection feeds projection, making it harder to relinquish attachment to a specific picture of holiday reality. Fortunately, a two-fold source of power and simplicity also kicks into gear, as Mercury/Saturn trine provides clarity and depth, and by Saturday, a Mercury/Jupiter conjunction supplies heaping servings of common sense.

The other big news this week is Christmas. And despite the bad news about the economy, which has sucked the jolly out of many joyous festivities and rituals, Christmas still has a profound meaning that reaches beyond finance, commerce, and statistics. About ten years ago, I wrote a column about the essence of Christmas that I would like to share again:

Christmas celebrates a simple truth: Each of us is a divine child, born fragile and delicate, pure of heart, and magnificent with unfathomable promise and potential.

Daily life makes it difficult to stay in touch with that spark of divine light. We struggle to survive, maintain, and cope with modern life, which increasingly grows more complex and convoluted. We have more information than we can possibly integrate or digest, and seemingly far more responsibilities than we can handle. At sea in a world where we must stay in control, we grow up quickly, and we encourage our children to do the same. Naiveté is seen as a failing. Innocence, a useless flaw in a ruthless world.

And yet the divine child in each of us stays alive and active, even if we are unconscious of its presence. It dwells in our hearts, feeds our imagination, fires our desire to believe. It allows us to hope. No matter what scars of bitterness or brokenness our hearts may bear, this divine child endures. Its innocence nourishes and sustains our resilience, a resilience that supports the potential to survive suffering, no matter how brutal, and to return to life. When we nourish the divine child within us, we look at the world through eyes of wonder and awe, humble and curious about what lies ahead. Willing to try again and again.

Christmas celebrates our innocence. And innocence is non-sectarian. As is joy, happiness, love, and the wish for peace and prosperity. So regardless of your religious affiliation, take a moment to celebrate the divine child. Honor its strength, acknowledge its wisdom, respect its innocence. Make a commitment to help it to mature into a compassionate heart, open and vulnerable, and despite the challenges and complexities of life, skillful at maintaining hope and love.

December 17, 2008
Dramatic confrontations are still a distinct possibility this week — the warriors among us are not only not likely to be worn out from recent battles, they may actually feel empowered to flex even more muscle, a condition that’s certain to make the days as well as the nights anything but silent. Let alone holy. As the intensity continues the brouhaha is sure to become mesmerizingly irresistible, and like a moth to a flame, you could find yourself singed by the heat of the moment. The problem is doing battle, while momentarily gratifying, won’t be satisfying in the long run. Not only are we in the midst of a collective anxiety attack and meltdown over m-o-n-e-y. We’re also in the midst of holiday affective disorder when emotional expectations reach a fevered pitch and disappointment nestles under the mistletoe. Put simply—it’s an emotional mess. Fortunately, ‘tis also the season of the Winter Solstice, the time of year best suited to quiet contemplation (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere). So rather than forge ahead and run the risk of getting swept away, withdraw, and use the next several days—maybe even two or three weeks—to honor the rhythm of Planet Earth.

The source of intensity makes a quantum shift this week, as Pluto joins the ongoing Mars/Sun conjunction. When the Sun and Mars unite, we experience the thrill of pure physical power, energy that can be put to positive use, even though it also has a tendency to turn attitudes prickly. Mars/Sun contacts are also famous for inspiring a competitive spirit. When Pluto joins the team, that ambition easily turns into a need to win at any cost. Be careful how you rationalize your choices, especially if those choices put others at risk. Remember, from a transformational perspective, the means don’t justify the ends—they are the ends. This entire bundle has a tendency toward violence and cruelty; so don’t kick the dog or anyone else ‘cause you can. If you feel the urge to be a bully, go get the help of a therapist. And if you are allowing someone to bully you as an alternative to taking a stand for yourself, also seek the help of a therapist. Sun/Mars/Pluto is a difficult bundle to handle at any time, let alone the most emotional time of the year.

These days before and after the Winter Solstice on December 21st, are actually the shortest and darkest days of the year, days our ancestors in a variety of civilizations celebrated with elaborate sacred sites, all calibrated to the position of the Sun. To the ancients, the Sun was the sacred source of life, and its every move was meaningful, every day. But this time of year, when the Sun seems to standstill, and that’s what “solstice” means—the stand still of the Sun—seemed to have a special spiritual significance. And while we understand the astronomical basis of the solstice relative to the earth’s tilt and its orbit around the Sun, I can’t help but wonder what the Anasazi or any of the other ancient cultures knew. I’m willing to assume the Solstice signified a new sacred cycle of life—all life, not just individual lives. So as you move through another intense week, celebrate the Solstice knowing that the sacred source of life shines equally on all of us, even our enemies. And with that in mind, channel the Sun and let your light be a ray of compassion during these darkest days.

December 10, 2008
I can’t decide whether to write about Santa Claus (and exercise my right to be in denial) or the Grim Reaper (who could be the Ghost of Christmas Present). After all, ‘tis the season…but according to almost everyone from the cab driver to the checkout person to the UPS driver to the broadcast news talking heads ‘tis not the season to be jolly. And while I’m actually not a fan of Santa—I’m more a Solstice type, myself—I certainly don’t want to contribute to the bleak forecasts—nobody needs one more bit of negative information. Acknowledging reality is one thing; dwelling on the dismal is another. Unfortunately, it won’t be easy turning this week’s astral lead into gold. This is the week of accumulated anxiety discharge, when worries, personal and collective, reach critical emotional mass and spill out into all sorts of situations, appropriate or not. You’ll need a strong support system, internal and external, to process through these waves. So don’t hesitate to ask for help, and certainly don’t hesitate to offer it.

The source of angst is the ongoing T-Square between the Sun/Mars conjunction, in Sagittarius, and the ongoing Saturn/Uranus opposition. Put simply, this is not a great interaction. For while it is packed with power, T-Squares always represent tension that must be released. And given our current collective situation, the release isn’t likely to be pretty. We’re already in the thick of it, but beginning December 12th when Mars moves into an exact square with Uranus and the Moon moves into an exact opposition with Mars, and continuing through December 16th, when the Mars/Saturn square is exact, emotional emissions are even more dramatic—if that’s possible. As this bundle unravels so will some of us, so be prepared for you or someone you love to blow a gasket or two. What’s more, because the discharge happens on the Gemini/Sagittarius axis, we’re in for a whole lotta words, but probably not a whole lotta love. Mars/Saturn/Uranus interactions are not particularly sentimental and are well known for brutal frankness that’s unconcerned with hurt feelings.

Given the current financial meltdown, much of what gets discharged over is likely to be about money. We are, after all, in the midst of an economic panic attack that not only seems to get worse daily, but also seems to be completely resistant to anti-anxiety remedies, no matter how many billions of dollars we throw at the symptoms. Personal and collective worry about money has reached such palpable proportions, it’s as if it’s taken on a life of its own—and everyone is possessed by fear. Suddenly no one is quite sure how much is “enough.” And the strain of hyper-caution has set off a negative contractive chain reaction.

Nearly 76 years ago, when the country faced a similar economic crisis, FDR, in his inaugural address uttered the now famous cliché: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And the rest of that sentence (which we never hear) went on to say, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

This week, we would do well to remember those words, and as we discharge, to also start breathing again. We made it through those hard times and we will make it through these.

December 3, 2008
Unsettled and unsettling astral patterns make regular routines hard to hold on to this week, and as the possibility of restraint slips away, attitudes, young as well as old, turn rebellious and rambunctious. Anticipate noise pollution, both internal and external as discussion and discourse morph into declarations and demands. We are, to put it mildly, adjusting to a new frequency. And because major planetary transitions always challenge nervous systems, many of us are likely to feel anxious. Add that astro-anxiety to the already fretful environment, and surprisingly strong and unanticipated resistance is likely to arise, yours or others. The best way through this vibrational jangle is to avoid getting entangled in dramatic confrontations. So whilst it might be impossible, follow the advice of the Taoist Sages and take no unnecessary action.

Several sources contribute to this week’s erratic pulse.

First, now until December 28, a Sun/Mars conjunction supplies a steady current of pure physical power. The Sun is the principle of life, Mars, the principle of energy, and when they travel together, the air turns vital. But it’s a vitality that easily translates into a hot-blooded, prickly, too-quick-to-react attitude. So be careful not to aim this energy randomly or at others and instead, put it to good use by aiming it at specific goals. And if you find yourself a target of someone’s blown-off steam, deflect it as best you can and refuse the temptation to blow that hot air right back.

Second, by Friday, this bent-for-a-brawl team moves into a T-Square with the ongoing Saturn/Uranus opposition, intensifying the already too intense atmosphere. Prepare for a series of standoffs as just about everyone feels the need to stake out personal territory on how to define “freedom” and “personal boundaries.” The good news is this T-Square occurs in Mutable Signs, which feeds the hope—albeit slim—of compromise. The solution to this difficult interaction is communication. That’s right—finding a way to talk about what’s bothering you will actually lessen the intensity. So find a group, a therapist, or a patient and attentive canine or feline listener and start talking. Articulating your feelings will relieve the need to act out in ways you might later regret.

The biggest news this week—and for the coming many weeks—is Pluto’s move into Capricorn. It entered the Goatish Sign on November 26 and it will stay in Capricorn until 2023. Along with Uranus, Pluto is a primary astral agent of change. With what we experience as an unrelenting insistence on authenticity, Pluto probes the depths of behavior and intention, conscious and unconscious, often to reveal the shadows of what drives values, personal and collective. It powers what Joseph Campbell termed the “hero’s journey,” a journey that includes a descent, a dismemberment or deconstruction of the ego, and then, a rememberment and reemergence into the world, refined and transformed by the process. As Pluto probes Capricorn, we will be descending into issues of structure and authority, as those themes play out through class distinctions, government, and corporations, to name but a few areas.

Given the patterns this week, lots of us are going to be questioning authority, which makes it a great time to start thinking about what authentic power looks like.

November 26, 2008
Thanksgiving 2008 looks more like a mad tea party from Alice in Wonderland than a page from the Pilgrim Story. So don’t be surprised if your trip to Grandma’s house is interrupted by space aliens, visitors from Middle Earth, or a couple of Native American ghosts from Thanksgivings past. (It is, after all, a politically incorrect holiday.) Also don’t be dismayed if the conversation around the tofutti turkey swings the grassy knoll to Obama’s birth certificate to bar codes as the “sign of the beast” to the Illuminati of the New World Order to Area 51. (I’m already exhausted, and I love these stories.) No matter how or what you slice, this Thanksgiving will be like no other.

The source of eccentricity is Uranus, that Mother of Invention, who goes Direct Thursday morning. Uranus represents sudden bolts from the blue, and whenever it alters its course, nervous systems quicken from the shift in celestial perspective. The end of its retrograde phase does include the ongoing opposition to Saturn, but we are so used to this tension, I’m not even going to talk about it. Instead, the focus is on a Uranus sextile to the Venus/Jupiter conjunction in Capricorn. Positive Venus/Jupiter configurations signify the principle of joyous love. And when you add Uranus to the mix, that joy is expressed without reservation. Saturn trines that Venus/Jupiter conjunction, stabilizing the “look at me, I’m free” exuberance just enough to keep most of us from volunteering to return to the Shire with Sam, Merry, and Pippin. (Okay…Lothlorian or Rivendell…maybe.) What’s more, Saturn’s sober presence could prevent a plethora of mashed potato mountains during dinner. (Devil’s Rock, anyone?)

But that’s not all.  A Sun/Mercury/Mars/Moon conjunction in Sagittarius also turns the entire day (actually the whole week) into a talkfest. Sagittarians are a loquacious lot who tend to be versed in any number of arcane subjects. Add Mercury, the symbol for language, as well as Mars, the principle of energy, and the entire bundle turns into a non-stop marathon discussion, capable of moving from discourse to debate to quick repartee in a matter of moments. Of course, the Moon adds an emotional touch, but no one is likely to mind, especially because everyone will be talking at once.

Pluto sings a somber solo note, the night before Thanksgiving, as it moves into Capricorn (where it will stay for the next fifteen years) and doesn’t engage directly with any of its planetary cohorts until the Moon moves into Capricorn on Saturday, a conjunction some of us may feel more keenly than others.

It probably won’t be easy settling down long enough to say a prayer of gratitude, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be wise to make an effort. Thanksgiving is a day set aside for feeling grateful. It may be hard this year for many of us to find a true place of thanks—so many lives have been disrupted by storms, physical and financial, and so much uncertainty about the future permeates the physical and psychic environment. So be sure to include those less fortunate in your heart.

November 19, 2008
The Wheel of Life continues to move in a different direction this week, and even though the course isn’t completely charted, and despite pervasive uncertainty about any number of key issues, profound shifts, individual and collective, also continue. As planetary patterns reflect this transformational process, human reaction to the intensity covers a broad emotional spectrum. On one end, some can barely contain their enthusiasm for the possibilities that lie ahead, while on the other, the immediate struggle for survival focuses on the reality of the current moment.  Most of us may find ourselves vacillating between those two extremes, not quite sure how to find the safety of middle ground. Fortunately, the planets provide the potential for moderation in the midst of turmoil. It’s just that establishing and maintaining a reasonable view could require a Herculean effort.

Several signatures contribute to the intensity. (1) The on-going Uranus/Saturn opposition continues to generate erratic patterns, particularly in the financial arena. (2) One week from now on November 26, Pluto will leave Sagittarius and move into Capricorn. As Pluto begins a new cycle, so do we. Pluto’s first entry into Capricorn earlier this year from February-June gave us a preview of what its next cycle is likely to include—and yes, that’s when the really, really, really negative talk about the economy became the only thing to talk about. And of course, now it’s all we talk about, because part of what will happen as Pluto transits Capricorn is we will look at the societal structures related to money: capitalism and communism come immediately to mind, but we will also look more closely at how financial institutions are structured, and most importantly, why they are structured that way and what that tells us about what needs to change.

(3) This is the last week of Pluto’s thirteen-year journey through Sagittarius, the Sign where we search for wisdom. Pluto, always interested probing the depths, revealed the shadow of Sagittarian wisdom—ignorance—in all its blazing glory, from leaders who could barely speak in sentences to fear-driven fundamentalists of every denomination whose only way of coping with what they can’t understand is violence.  Yet Pluto also answered the expansiveness the Sagittarian reach for the stars, as it combined with Uranus in the mid-nineties to disseminate technology that unites us despite our differences. Technology that offers the promise of eradicating ignorance by infusing everyday life with vast resources of knowledge and information that makes the world smaller even as it deepens our awareness of its immensity. As these last days unfold, ponder, if just for a moment, where you have faced ignorance and where you have expanded knowledge of yourself and your world.

(4) But that’s not all. Uranus goes Direct on November 27—Thanksgiving, here in the United States—and as Uranus prepares to turn around, weekly routines are likely to feel shaky. We always feel a wobble when Uranus changes direction, and this week is no different. So as always with Uranus, expect the unexpected.

As you move through the uncertain terrain of this unsettled week, you may be tempted to freeze rather than flow, to cling rather than release, to force rather than allow. So when possible soften your attitude toward yourself. And as always, try to be kind to your fellow travelers.

November 12, 2008
Waves of release continue to ripple through daily life this week, intensifying the already emotionally charged atmosphere. Some of the discharge is absolutely necessary — we’ve been in a seemingly endless tunnel of anticipatory tension, and now that the election is over that tension is dissipating. But frustration over just how long it’s going to take to implement change and heal the damage done agitates the collective mood. Patience is no one’s favorite word, especially in the midst of a crisis. But this week, patience is a necessary mantra for overwrought nervous systems.

Fortunately, the planets provide a pattern of patience in the form of a Jupiter/Saturn trine, a positive, determined configuration that supports strength and endurance. Jupiter is in Capricorn and Saturn is in Virgo, both Earth Signs that signify a practical, grounded approach to any situation. And as the week unfolds, the fortitude of this solid partnership is amplified by a sextile to both Jupiter and Saturn from Mercury, in Scorpio, a patient Water Sign. Expect to feel inspired by a renewed determination to pursue your goals. Also anticipate feeling confident about your ability to integrate this positive astrological signature into a multitude of endeavors.

Much will be written in the astrological world about how the election symbolized the Saturn/Uranus opposition, perfectly. And in fact it did. Change challenged the status quo and change won. But putting change into practice takes time. We didn’t arrive at this place in our economy overnight. It happened relatively quickly if you measure time on a cosmic scale. But if you’re looking at it through a human lens, it took a while for the system to melt down, even though there were big, billboard-size signs along the way signaling the inevitable outcome. Most of us just weren’t paying attention or didn’t want to. The good news is that we finally have a leader who believes it’s possible to work through and transform our collective situation. And his hope has catalyzed our own. But we will be required to work as hard as he to actualize that hope and make it a reality. Which is why it would be wise to remember there are four more Saturn/Uranus oppositions during this two-year astrological cycle. The next opposition occurs on February 5th. So knowing that foresight means “better prepared,” don’t let the victory of hope turn into complacency. Saturn/Uranus invites all of us to grow past the limitation of our personal status quo. We must be willing to embrace an uncertain future, as we simultaneously summon the courage and stamina to actualize our dreams. We finally have a leader who exemplifies that process. And while we all want him to live up to our expectations, the world will only change if each of us lives up to those expectations.

November 5, 2008
Let me be clear from the start: It’s impossible to write this week’s column. I’m writing five days before the election, and my crystal ball is no magic Palantir from Middle Earth. I have no idea who won. Which means this column is neither a victory dance nor a solemn contemplation on disappointment. So, humbled by the knowledge that what you are about to read will be filtered through my unknowable future and your revealed past, I will do my best to forecast the present.

The week unfolds as any other week dominated by the release of a powerful planetary interaction would—It’s a week of intense catharsis, as all sorts of repressed, suppressed, oppressed emotions discharge during daily routines, transforming regular life into non-stop process therapy. Remember, we are in the wake of the first exact contact of the Saturn/Uranus opposition—there are four more to take place over the next nearly two years. And the after effects of the aftermath are likely to be stronger than the tumultuous warm up to the actual event. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m just trying to dispel the idea that the election is a panacea for what ails. The election decides our collective approach to the huge amount of work that lies ahead.

But back to this week. As the intensity of the Saturn/Uranus release gathers energy, what didn’t feel safe to say or actually what wasn’t safe to say last week, is gonna come streamin’ live from all sorts of feeds. Expect some of what’s said to be angry, edgy, outraged, irritated, and defensive. It’s a rule of emotional physics: the degree to which bottled up feelings erupt is directly proportional to the amount of time they’ve been held under wraps. What’s more, Mars continues to sextile Uranus as well as trine Saturn, and its presence fuels strident opinions and unilateral stands of righteousness. Because this Mars/Saturn/Uranus signature has been operating for the last week, some of what transpires will feel all too familiar. Also all week long, the Sun trails behind Mars, transiting the same degrees, and as the Sun moves into a trine with Saturn as well as a sextile with Uranus, many of us will feel an Uber-need to be free. Declarations of independence abound. And who knows…maybe a rogue state or two will succeed from the union?

Fortunately, Jupiter, the planet of great good fortune, imbues our extended “morning after” with an optimistic air, as it trines Saturn and sextiles Uranus. I’m grateful for Jupiter’s presence. We need its far-sighted creativity, as well as its humor to close the chasms that divide and separate us. We need Jupiter’s faith and hope for the future. But most importantly, if we are going to heal, we need to have faith in each other.

October 29, 2008
Saturn/Uranus Opposition, Part Six:
No one will really breathe before November 5th, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself gasping for air during the next seven days or feeling as if you are moving through molasses at the speed of light. We are in a hugely liminal state that for some is overwhelmingly intense. No matter who wins (and it’s impossible to predict the outcome despite Obama’s many point lead), the next seven days are going to be among the most passionate and purposeful days you have ever experienced. Just about everyone recognizes or has a sense of how significant the consequences of this election will be. It carries a multidimensional time signature that merges past, present, and future, for as individual choices coalesce into collective intention through the fulcrum of the voting booth, we not only choose the next President, we also set the course for Planet Earth.

Yes, I know I sound dramatic—I mean to. Because November 4th, in addition to being Election Day in the United States, is also the first of five Saturn/Uranus oppositions over the coming two years—five contacts that will change the world. Saturn represents existing cultural structures, Uranus signifies the principle of revolution, oppositions symbolize tension, and the ensuing confrontation between these forces results in the failure of the status quo. A failure because as necessary and stabilizing as Saturn may be, change is inexorable. It is the nature of things. And no matter how well-prepared for it we think we are, the one thing about this particular shift-signature, is that it will surprise and challenge even the most fluid and flexible among us. Maybe not all of us on the same day, but sometime in the coming two years, most if not all of us will be humbled by waves of unstoppable transformation. Of course, we don’t need astrology to tell us something’s got to give. But astrology is a succinct way of talking about the complex forces at work in our culture, as well as our psyche, personal and collective.

For the last several weeks, this column has looked at the historical implications of Saturn/Uranus and also tried to point out groups of individuals who may be experiencing this first opposition quite keenly. For those of us who didn’t feel the immediate shock or have yet to feel the aftershocks of the financial tumult or who aren’t having this opposition triggering other volatile personal circumstances, the opposition will still have a dynamic impact. Whatever the particulars—a new friendship, a new romance, a divorce, or a decision to change your career—what will be at work in all our lives is an unstoppable creative urge to break free from any situation that enslaves, confines or restricts. Use this power wisely. And when possible, respect the needs of others to be as absolutely free as thee.

October 22, 2008
Saturn/Uranus Opposition, Part Five:
This week, yet another chapter in the Saturn/Uranus saga unfolds and it’s likely to be even more surprising than previous episodes. So while you may have relaxed a tad, thinking you’ve finally caught its erratic beat, don’t be too sure. Uranus is always about displacing what’s irrelevant, and what’s irrelevant isn’t always easy to discern. Unlike previous installments, the next two — this week and next week — also carry a combative signature that easily engenders an argumentative atmosphere, where words morph into action in the blink of an eye. Be careful — extraordinary quantities of excess energy are available for all kinds of purposes, which makes it important to avoid getting so caught up the excitement of the moment that you “wake up” entangled in a brawl. Let go where necessary, and remember, often what we cling to is what we most need to examine.

The added source of intensity this week and next is the presence of Mars. Mars is in Scorpio, one of its favorite Signs, and from now until November 8th, Mars forms two positive, powerful interactions with Saturn and Uranus. The first, a trine to Uranus, provides a seemingly unending source of energy that supports unusual efforts and exceptional accomplishments. From a personal perspective, you can aim this energy at your goals and access the potential to make great gains. Just be careful not to push too hard or too fast. This configuration tends toward haste and not only does haste make waste, haste can also lead to carelessness and that can lead to accidents. From a collective perspective, a Mars/Uranus trine is all about the courage to take a stand for freedom. Expect lots of people to throw off their chains, whether those chains are ideological, economic, or political, and declare a need for independence.

The second positive Martian interaction is a Mars/Saturn sextile. While Mars/Saturn contacts are often difficult, the sextile is inherently positive, and has the potential to provide endurance, stamina, and fortitude. Again, from a personal perspective, this sextile supports concentrated effort and the ability to overcome even the greatest obstacles. From a collective perspective, this interaction points toward tests of strength — can our culture make the necessary and perhaps painful shifts to insure our safety and well-being? And when you add Uranus to the mix, the entire bundle heats up with resistance, provocation, rebellion, and an inclination to literally slug it out. But interestingly, this very same aggregation of astral forces also has the power to evoke the intervention of a higher understanding, capable of clarifying the immense imponderables of our collective situation.

As the intensity of daily life increases over the next two weeks, emotional bodies are sure to quiver with every new twist and turn. While that level of reaction may be stimulating, it could also be exhausting. So be sure to find healthy ways of coping with the stress.

October 15, 2008
Saturn/Uranus Opposition, Part Four:
The Saturn/Uranus opposition continues to tighten its grip, and daily life continues to feel surreal—and for good reason. We’re in one of those life-changing phases of human history where individual reality, as well as collective reality, is busy being born. And while many of us feel powerless before the constant shifts and ceaseless tumult, we actually aren’t without the tools to handle this crisis. Yet using those tools wisely means first being clear about what’s dying and then, surrendering the need to resurrect the past. Clinging to life as it once was won’t work. Neither will unrealistic expectations about the future, which are, if you’re willing to look closely, mostly another way of holding on to the past. Times like these, times potent with power of change, require staying grounded in the now. One of the best ways to do that is to be a Spiritual Warrior, an approach that assumes consciousness, courage, common sense, compassion, and honesty as guiding lights of behavior at all times, not just in times of crisis.

Each of us is experiencing this opposition somewhere in our individual charts. For some, this event is happening on a personal point. Saturn, at 18 degrees Virgo, or Uranus, at 18 degrees Pisces, may be exactly conjunct someone's Sun, Moon, Ascendant, or other planet in their birth chart. Many of us are encountering the opposition as part of a generational shift. For example, those born in September/October 1920, or April-July 1921, November/December 1949, January/February 1950, August 1950, or September/October 1979 are all having this opposition as part of a Saturn Return. Saturn Returns signify a time of taking stock, which means those people currently in the midst of a Saturn Return are going to take that inventory as part of an already intense process of evaluation.

The generation born during the 1965-1967 Saturn/Uranus opposition series will feel the current opposition quite keenly given that many of those people have a Saturn/Uranus opposition in their birth charts. Be aware, during the last Saturn/Uranus opposition series, their positions were reversed; Saturn was in Pisces and Uranus was in Virgo, conjunct Pluto, also in Virgo, which from an astrological perspective was another reason why the world turned upside down. Not everyone born during that period had the Saturn/Uranus opposition at 18 degrees Virgo or Pisces, only those born at the end of February or the beginning of March 1966. But even though the other previous oppositions didn’t occur at the same degree as the first opposition of the current series, a deep resonance will be triggered in all those birth charts.

What’s more, people born between October-December 1965, January-March 1966, and August/September 1966, are experiencing the current Saturn/Uranus opposition as part of their astro-midlife crisis, a time when transiting Uranus opposes its natal position, triggering realizations about the passage of time—no longer young and not yet old—that tend to inspire dramatic changes.

While there’s more generational information, there’s no room in this column to cover it all. So we will pick it up next week. Until then, be thankful Mercury is Direct, and most importantly, be as kind to your fellow travelers as possible. Lots of us are in great need of a kindness.

October 8, 2008
Saturn/Uranus Opposition, Part Three:
Nervous systems continue to chafe from the constant strain of uncertainty, and this week, the unsettled air is making many of us more than a little sensitive. Anxiety about the future is pinning personal meters in the red zone, so be prepared for all sorts of “normal” interactions to be anything but. Even casual comments made without malice have the potential to turn certain situations acidic. The best way through these uncertain times to take each day as it comes, and to stay focused on the “now” because that is, after all, where the past and the future converge.

The source of stress continues to be the Saturn/Uranus opposition. This week, it tightens its grip, and as it does, the Wheel of Life accelerates. Saturn represents stability, Uranus represents volatility, and oppositions indicate tension, all of which translates into collisions between stagnant structures and the inevitable power of change. For the last several weeks, we’ve felt the first insurgent tremors of this opposition in the financial world. And while I don’t want to be overly dramatic, those quakes are likely to continue for the duration of this Saturn/Uranus cycle, which lasts until August 2010.

But this week, the signature of this opposition moves from collective to the individual experience, and that shift excites emotional bodies, which means strong feelings and strong reactions. Don’t be surprised if your way of looking at the world is suddenly challenged by new information. And while that information may not be what you want to hear, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Pay attention: your strong reaction could be an indication of just how much you need to listen. Just don’t expect an obvious or traditional solution.

Also anticipate that once useful modes of behavior may no longer work. Getting high, for example, could devolve into acute paranoia rather than blissful anesthetization. Or you may find yourself or someone else saying “no” instead of “yes,” or “yes” instead of “no,” a shift that could engender resistance or criticism. Notice your reactions, especially if you’re feeling resistant. Resistive structures, while frustrating for others, are strong indicators of deeply embedded defense mechanisms—which could also be called internal structures—that have the potential to trigger regressive juvenile or infantile states. Regressive behavior isn’t easily explained; it’s just experienced. And change is hardly ever logical, which means intuitive skill is necessary to identify old patterns, and then to move through and heal those arrested states with awareness. If you don’t know how to do this on your own, don’t hesitate to get some help. This is a rare opportunity to get down to the bones of behavior we know intellectually doesn’t work but we keeping repeating anyway.

This week, avoid future shock by staying grounded in present time. Yes, the world is in upheaval, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to match external intensity with internal anxiety. Now is the time to put spiritual practices to the test and to live the highest ideals. Remember, karma yoga is the yoga of living with the awareness that action can be a form of love.

October 1, 2008
Saturn/Uranus Opposition, Part Two:
This week, and the next several weeks, a clear mind will be your greatest tool. The Wheel of Life is moving quickly, and most of us can barely keep up let alone figure out where we stand on the great mobile mandala. Be aware, this is not a Ferris wheel ride at a carnival or county fair. The decisions we make and the stands we take are pivotal for Earth and all her dwellers. No matter how insignificant you may think your day-to-day choices are, those choices contribute to collective destiny. So best to practice Karma Yoga—the yoga of action—where everything done is done in the service of others, with a deep devotion to universal love and without attachment to reward.

Minor news first: Mercury Retrograde is in effect and continues until October 15th. While most of you know the drill, those that don’t here’s the skinny: Mercury Retrograde is a great time to review what’s already in motion; it’s not a good time to initiate anything new.

But really the only subject to talk about this week and for the next several weeks is the Saturn/Uranus opposition. We are already feeling its impact, and the first exact conjunction even doesn’t occur until November 4th. Saturn signifies the status quo. Uranus symbolizes rebellion. And when they challenge each other, boundaries are breached in the name of revolution, and walls come tumbling down.

Every opposition cycle begins with a conjunction, when two or more planets share the same degree of the Zodiac. The conjunction related to the current opposition began in 1988 with a series of three conjunctions in the last three degrees of Sagittarius. The same degrees Pluto’s been revisiting since its retrograde back into Sagittarius in June. (Pluto goes back into Capricorn on November 26th.) In 1988 Gorbachev introduced sweeping reform in the Soviet Union by allowing privately owned business—something that hadn’t occurred since Lenin took power in 1919, which by the way also happened during a Saturn/Uranus opposition, just like the one we are in now. He also implemented Glasnost, which providedgreater freedom of speech, as well as freedom for political prisoners and dissidents. Less than a year later in November 1989, the Berlin Wall, the structure of the Cold War as well as the emblem of the Soviets, crumbled. And the message of the 1988 Saturn/Uranus conjunction was clear:  communism didn’t work.

In 1999, during the first Saturn/Uranus square related to the that 1988 conjunction, the Gramm-Leach-Bililey Act repealed the Glass Steagall Act, which was enacted in 1933 as a response to the stock market crashes of 1929 and 1930-32; Glass Steagall separated commercial and investment banks.Now, as the current opposition moves into place, Wall Street, the structure of the world economy, as well as the emblem of the free market is trembling from its free reign. The message of the Saturn/Uranus opposition 2008 seems clear: capitalism ain’t working either.

While hindsight is mostly 20/20, current affairs can be myopic, especially when issues of survival dominate the airwaves. So don’t be dismayed if it’s hard to discern at first exactly what status quo is being challenged: The greed that underlies the entire system? Or, the blind acceptance of rapacious appetites? From my perspective, it looks like we need a new system, one that incorporates the needs of the individual as well as the needs of the collective. After all, we are all in this together, even more than we may have realized in the past.

September 24, 2008
Saturn/Uranus Opposition, Part One:
This week is the first week of a three-week push/pull planetary pattern that could make even the calmest among us antsy with agitation. On one hand, Mercury Retrograde, from September 24th-October 15th, demands a deliberate pace, a pace some are likely to call glacial, especially as Mercury slows daily routines to a crawl and insists on reading the fine print. On the other hand, the Saturn/Uranus opposition begins in earnest and as it does, an unmistakable sense of urgency intensifies the already agitated air, a condition that’s sure to make lots of us balk against Mercury’s devotion to detail. Nervous systems are already shot from the first tremors of this opposition—and we’re only at the beginning.

The keyword for the Saturn/Uranus opposition is “a challenge to the status quo,” but don’t let that fool you into thinking this opposition only symbolizes a struggle between the powers that be and the powers that wanna be. This opposition operates on a personal as well as a collective level, and that translates into all kinds of shifts. Saturn represents authority. Uranus questions authority. And approximately every 45 years, as they oppose one another, we struggle with structures and foundations, individual and collective, in need of a serious overhaul. Notice what’s stagnant in your life, and be prepared to transform your situation, even if that means being uncomfortable—very, very uncomfortable.

Within a Saturn/Uranus opposition cycle, there are five actual exact oppositions. This current cycle will occur from November 2008-July 2010. The first direct contact is exact and separating on November 4th, Election Day in the United States, but while this election can easily be seen as the perfect symbol for this opposition, it would be wise not to think in terms of a single event. Think of the coming two years as a period of rebellion against stagnant systems that no longer work but are resistant to change, individual and collective.

The two most recent cycles of this opposition occurred from 1918-1920 and 1965-1967. During the 1918-1920 cycle, Mussolini founded Fascism in Italy, women in America and Britain got the right to vote, the Communist Party was born in China, Gandhi became India’s leader for independence, and Gertrude Stein coined the term “lost generation.” During the cycle of 1965-1967, Betty Friedan founded NOW, Chairman Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march in Selma, Malcolm X was assassinated, 50,000 people marched on Washington to oppose the Vietnam War, Miranda rights became mandatory, Indira Gandhi became prime minister of India, and the counterculture revolutionized nearly every aspect of life.

Of course it can be argued—and rightly so—that upheaval is a constant part of our earthly situation. What astrology offers is the ability to identify patterns within that existential flux so we can better understand the forces at work in our personal and collective experience. Notice where you are determined to hold on to the status quo and why, and then see if you can open to the possibility of change. Remember, we co-create the outcome through out individual efforts. 

September 17, 2008
Expect lively discussion, heated conversation, and idealistic fervor to turn the days and nights of life on planet earth into a non-stop barrage of opinion. As lots of us feel the need to share ideas, passion amplifies an already intense atmosphere. But that’s not all. Beneath the discourse lies an inescapable sense of urgency, and over the coming weeks, as that urgency intensifies, the strain on nervous systems, personal, collective, and planetary will steadily increase. The best way through is to keep breathing, deeply, until you feel grounded. As always, remember to listen respectfully to your fellow travelers. You may not agree, but you can still respect your common humanity.

The source of lively discussion is a trine between a Mars/Mercury/Venus conjunction and Neptune. When Mars Mercury, and Venus share the same space minds move into overdrive. Neptune represents imagination, and its positive presence makes the power of mind primary. And while we’re on the subject: Mercury goes retrograde from September 24-October 15, so start to prepare now. Back up everything before the September 20.

The mounting tension riding the surface of daily interactions is attributable to the building Saturn/Uranus opposition that is exact on November 4. This opposition is a rare occurrence. It hasn’t happened since the 60s, when it took place five times between 1965 and 1967. This current series of oppositions also occurs five times from November 2008 through July 2010. The prior cycle, 1965-1967, were years of tumultuous non-stop upheaval. The coming cycle, 2008-2010, is too.

The keywords of this opposition are “challenge to the status quo.” But doesn’t necessarily translate into “power to the people.” The status quo has become so skilled at spin that the people keep getting fooled again and again and again.

I promised last week I would write about the Saturn/Uranus opposition during the next several weeks—and I will. But before launching that series, I need to explain why I’m taking such a strong political stand. While I am committed to a path of compassion, compassion doesn’t necessarily translate into neutrality. Compassion often demands a stand. And during what I consider to be this crucial period in our history, I am willing to take mine. From my perspective, this election isn’t about Democrats or Republicans per se; it is about who will be the wisest choice for all the sentient beings who inhabit this planet, especially those who do not have a voice. And I’m not just talking about the millions of species for whom hope hangs by a thread. I’m also talking about all the children who may not have a chance to experience the beauty of Earth because so much of its splendor will be lost as a result of climate change. I fear that any candidate who does not believe that humans shoulder the brunt of responsibility for the condition of Planet Earth will not have the skill or the heart to guide the planet to safety in these critical times.

September 10, 2008
Deceptively simple celestial signatures continue to contrast complex terrestrial themes, and the disjunction between the realities of heaven and earth are as deeply disturbing this week as they were last week. From the straightforward tone of the Democrats to the disingenuous choice of the Republicans, it’s as if we’ve fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole, and nothing is familiar. It’s a reality test, but it’s not so much a matter of “Do you see what I see?” It’s more like “I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Can you?” And the shock of disbelief isn’t just about politics and politicians. Have you ever seen so much traffic on the Hurricane Highway? Gustav, Hanna, Ike, Josephine, and probably by the time you read this even more. Again, the stars are pretty quiet—there are interactions, but none that would produce such intense turmoil. Well…maybe one, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

It’s always a bit disturbing to some astrologers and astrology lovers when what’s “above” doesn’t really match what’s “below.” To be sure, there are astrologers who can correlate what’s currently taking place through a series of esoteric calculations. Not me. It’s simply not what I do, well. But that won’t stop me from offering my opinion on why the gap between heaven and earth seems so wide: The stars are in simulcast, but we are in “futurecast,” experiencing the first bands of a brewing astrological storm that we can feel bearing down on us, even though it won’t arrive for a couple of weeks. It’s an opposition between Saturn and Uranus, an opposition that hasn’t happened in forty some-odd years. And just like the residents of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, Florida, or the Carolinas, we’re anxious about how hard it will hit and what the aftermath will be.

Saturn symbolizes the status quo, Uranus signifies revolution, and when they face off, existing structures are challenged. Saturn doesn’t surrender easily and Uranus doesn’t back down. The last time Saturn and Uranus opposed each other was in the 1960s, a time infamous for upheaval. The current opposition arrives at the beginning of October and is exact and separating on November 4th—that’s right…Election Day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Obama is going to win. McCain or Obama, either way, the status quo will not hold. It didn’t in the ‘60s. It won’t now.

Lots of us can already feel the brewing intensity symbolized by the Saturn/Uranus opposition. This week, a Sun/Uranus opposition will rile the rebel spirit, and on Thursday, the Sun will occupy the same position Saturn will occupy on Election Day. Which means what transpires on Thursday could be a preview as to how the opposition will unfold. Forewarned means better prepared, and over the course of the coming weeks, this column will be devoted to exploring the Saturn/Uranus opposition.

September 3, 2008
This week and the coming weeks unfold with deceptively simple celestial signatures. But don’t let that simplicity fool you into thinking life will be a breeze. While the patterns of the sky appear uncomplicated, life on planet Earth continues to be complex. Of course, we don’t need astrology to remind us of life’s delicate balance. All that’s needed is the nightly news. But what astrology can do is provide a broad perspective capable of facilitating an expansive attitude. And right now that’s just what’s needed to make sense of what’s goin’ on.

The source of solid ground continues to be a trine between Jupiter, in Capricorn, and a Sun/Saturn conjunction, in Virgo. This configuration combines three interactions, with two timetables, into one big beneficent bundle that radiates with practical common sense. The Sun/Saturn conjunction lasts until September 11th. Traditionally interpreted as a serious, sober alignment with a hypercritical eye, this conjunction is softened by the presence of Jupiter, who transforms the flaw-finding tendency into a firm decisive intelligence.

The trine between Jupiter and Saturn is with us all month long. This is a patient, peace-loving interaction that fosters the realistic pursuit of happiness. I love this trine so much, I’m considering celebrating Thanksgiving two and a half months early on September 8th, when the Jupiter/Saturn trine is exact. Use this constructive combination to support all your endeavors—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Venus and Mercury continue to travel in tandem, and now as they both move into Libra, they catch up with Mars to form a triple conjunction. We’ve been basking in this creative light since mid-August. Now, as Mars joins the team, its presence strengthens this conjunction with physical vitality and passion—lots and lots of passion. Spend this energy well by devoting your attention to areas of your life you want to see flourish and grow.

On September 7th Jupiter goes Direct, and on September 8th, Pluto also goes Direct, beginning the end of its brief retrograde back into Sagittarius. We don’t tend to experience obvious or dramatic events when Pluto or Jupiter turn around, but given the overall quiet of the week we might have a chance to notice sky rhythms with greater clarity.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a prolonged period of simplicity, so take advantage of the astral quiet by continuing to rebuild and replenish your reserves. And as always, remember to be kind to your fellow travelers.

August 27, 2008
The stars support a positive, patient approach to life this week, and their expansive perspective is a welcome remedy to our unsettled air. We’re in the season of transition, and as almost always, the shift from one season to another tends to be awkward and uncomfortable, especially the change from summer to fall. Blame it on that back-to-school-end-of-fun-see-you-in-September conditioning that defies the modern, quarterly semester system and keeps most of us, even those who don’t remember Sandra Dee or Troy Donahue, thinking that Labor Day is the day we go back to serious life. Blame it on the weather — it is hurricane season, after all, and given the climate crisis, no one feels confident about either the end of storm cycle or guesstimates about potential heating bills. Or, blame it on that instinctual end-of-summer need to squirrel away nuts and berries for the coming winter (at least here, in the Northern Hemisphere), a need this year that seems driven by an increasing sense of economic and political urgency. Certainly no one is sweetly singing Que-sera, sera. But no matter how disconcerting the coming days may be, that doesn’t mean this year’s seasonal shift needs to be tortuous. It is possible to live comfortably in a state of uncertainty, particularly if you’re clear about what you cannot control.

The source of this week’s potential for clarity is a trine between a Saturn/Sun conjunction, in Virgo, and Jupiter, in Capricorn. We love this trine because it’s stable, staunch, and straightforward, qualities that translate into common sense, honesty, and the ability to assess most situations, even emotional entanglements, with clear insight, as well as far sight. Use this profound configuration to look at your goals and desires, as well as what motivates those aspirations.

This week’s potential for transformation stems from a square between the ongoing Mercury/Venus conjunction and Pluto. While squares are fractious, this particular interaction doesn’t carry a pernicious signature. It does indicate a clash of values, but it simultaneously supports transforming the sparks of conflict into creative fire, especially if you can find the strength to witness rather than react. Assume an objective stance, and the power of this square can help to sort through previously impenetrable or confusing issues. Listen closely and you’ll hear all sorts of relevant information. Remember, people always tend to say what they mean, even when they aren’t telling the “truth.” We’re just not trained to listen to the energy riding the waves of words. Take the time to listen at a deeper level, a level unencumbered by desire, and the capacity to hear what’s really being said expands exponentially.

This week, do your best to listen closely to all the hearts around you, including your own heart, even if it is fluttering from anxiety about what will be. Remember, we co-create the future, every moment of every day through our thoughts, words, and deeds. And while that creativity doesn’t translate into control, it does have the power to transform the paralysis of fear into positive, life-affirming action.

August 20, 2008
The avant-garde contrasts the status quo this week, and as the unconventional highlights the norm, it’s not only possible to see what needs to change, but also to recognize what needs to remain the same. For those of us struggling to simply maintain daily stamina—inside and out, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual—the stars provide help. But the primary source of relief isn’t outside assistance. It is a renewed sense of self-reliance, as well as the determination to complete the process, no matter how arduous. The good news is that this week’s planetary pattern has the power to replenish reserves, again on several levels simultaneously, a restoration that is essential in preparing for what lies ahead. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but as the coming weeks and months unfold, the struggle between the “new” and the “old” will dominate most sectors of life, individual and collective. Which means each of us will need clarity about what no longer serves—belief systems, attitudes, or politicians—and what continues to be beneficial. So use this time to fill bellies, minds, hearts, and souls with an appreciation for necessary change, as well as an awareness of the value of stability.

An opposition between Uranus and a Mercury/Venus conjunction supplies this week’s eccentric signature. When Mercury and Venus share the same position, they engender a deep desire for grace and beauty. Add Uranus to the mix, and that artistic aesthetic is skewed toward a revolutionary palate. This is a freethinking, unfettered sensibility capable of demanding change for its own sake. Be prepared for several unexpected plot twists and don’t be surprised if you encounter rebellion everywhere. Keep in mind, this is not a pernicious influence; it’s an inspiring one.

The stability of the week is brought to you by a Jupiter/Saturn trine. Trines are always good news, but this one is especially appealing because Jupiter is in Capricorn and Saturn is in Virgo, both Earth Signs, which translates into grounded, practical, firm support. Jupiter is the planet of expansion. And while Saturn is often thought of as the “Great Inhibitor,” it is also a planet of growth—Saturn symbolizes the process of refining experience into wisdom. When Jupiter and Saturn work together, that union offers opportunities to gather knowledge, and a broad perspective.

And a wide lens view is always a good idea, especially now, as we start to move into the fall, which promises to be a time of profound transformation. In approximately six weeks, we will begin a series of Saturn/Uranus oppositions that will challenge the structures of the status quo. Ultimately, that challenge will distill down to questions of value. This week, as Uranus catalyzes aesthetics, personal and collective, we have a small preview of what lies ahead. Use this intensity to contemplate what matters to you and why. I’m not preaching doom and gloom. I’m simply suggesting that awareness will be a great asset during the coming season of change.

August 13, 2008
The stellar winds shift this week, and while it will take a couple of days to feel the air clear, the new environment is decidedly less cranky. Just don’t anticipate complete calm. We’re still in an eclipse cycle and that means regular routines continue to be disturbed by unanticipated interruptions or interventions. The good news is that there is also an abundance of good sense, which makes it possible to reason through this week’s transition. Don’t by shy about trading your sun hat for your thinking cap — a little brainy weather maybe just what’s needed.

The Lunar Eclipse occurs on August 16th, at 5:10 PM EDT, with the Moon, in Aquarius, opposite the Sun, in Leo. During a Lunar Eclipse, the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. From an astrological perspective that means ethereal concerns take a back seat to earthly matters — a cigar stays a cigar and dream work takes a back seat to concrete action. But that doesn’t mean this particular eclipse event isn’t esoteric. Neptune, also in Aquarius, is conjunct the Moon and opposite the Sun, and Neptune’s presence has the potential to translate the event into deeply mystical experiences. Neptune symbolizes the cosmic urge to merge, as well as a wide range of altered states. It also represents the capacity to lose oneself in those alternative realities, which becomes problematic if you can’t find your way back home. Leo is the Sign of self-expression, Aquarius is the Sign of the rebel, and as these various energies coalesce, the entire eclipse bundle could manifest as the revolutionary who sees his or her way as the only way. It could also reveal itself as an idealism that comes from the heart.

The Mars/Pluto square ends the day after the Lunar Eclipse. When hard aspects separate we tend to experience the brunt of the interaction, so be prepared for plenty of power struggles. A Pluto/Sun trine from the 14th-27th continues to feed a need to lead, but because this is a positive interaction, it’s not quite as ruthless as the square it replaces.

The good news/good sense current of the week, and a major contributor to the “change of air” comes from a trine between Jupiter, in Capricorn, and a Saturn/Mercury/Venus conjunction, in Virgo. Mercury and Venus are traveling in tandem, giving birth to a sense of beauty through an appreciation of art and love. We love this and wish it would last forever because when we calibrate our consciousness to what’s beautiful, that attunement can become an antidote for all sorts of negativity. It’s that old rule: whatever we focus our attention on becomes our reality.

Saturn’s presence doesn’t interfere with this beauty-fest at all; it provides a serious desire to concretize creative aspirations.

But the best news is attributable to Jupiter and its trine to Saturn, Mercury, and Venus. We love this even more, because it’s a positive, optimistic aggregation capable of shifting minds and hearts away from conflict and toward beneficial, valuable unions and alliances — an approach we all can use to joyously embrace the coming week.

August 6, 2008
The planets present an Olympian challenge this week—and it’s not just for athletes competing in Beijing for gold, silver, and bronze medals. This astral invitation tests the mettle of any mortal aspiring to live a conscious life. For some, it’s tests of strength or skill, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. For others, it’s trials and tribulation, again, on every level. And for even more, competition devolves into testy intolerance, harsh confrontations, or conflicts based on pride and/or power struggles. Most, if not all of us are likely to feel the force of this week’s planetary configurations simply as a struggle to survive, actual or imagined, physical or psychological. What’s needed to meet this challenge is a joyous, generous heart that refuses to engage in any negative or harmful behavior. So do whatever it is you do—pretend it’s Christmas if you must—to align with an optimistic spirit capable of hoping for a pony.

The source of stress and strain is two-fold. First, the Mars/Uranus opposition separates, on August 6th, and when difficult interactions pull apart, either the tension releases on its own, or we feel the need to release it through our actions. This opposition spurs sudden and erratic action, which translates into impulsive deeds and reckless abandon. While I’m not suggesting you necessarily defer to bullies, I am advising that meeting upheaval with even more upset won’t improve any situation. No one benefits from violence for its own sake. Unusual achievements are possible under positive Mars/Uranus contacts, and this week would be one of the weeks when working to transform an opposition into a trine would be a worthy endeavor.

As Mars moves out of its opposition with Uranus, it moves into a square with Pluto. This fractious interaction begins on August 9th, lasts until August 23rd, and is exact on August 17th, the day after the Lunar Eclipse. The problem with a Mars/Pluto square is that it pushes hard, almost always too hard, and as that tendency coalesces with the already agitated Mars/Uranus air, sheer brute force becomes attractive as the “only” way to solve a problem. Rather than insist, desist, and wait for a more propitious time.

I wasn’t really kidding when I wrote, “pretend it’s Christmas.” It’s one of the few collective holidays that requires us to put down our swords and celebrate peace. There are only 140 days left until Christmas, and while it’s way too early to start shopping, the spirit of the season, especially glad tidings, could provide a strong antidote to this week’s tendency toward the rash and the brash. But if Christmas doesn’t work for you, figure out a holiday that does. The only requirement is that it encourages goodwill and sympathy for our fellow travelers.

July 30, 2008
Forget about the lazy, hazy dog days of August. The planets are shakin’ it up, which means this week and the next several weeks (okay, all of August) life here on Earth is punctuated by unexpected shifts in action, attitude, and perspective. And while a large portion of what takes place absolutely interferes with regular routines, not all of what transpires is negative. Actually, despite the general discomfort of any transition, this planetary phase offers many creative opportunities for individual and collective transformation. Be prepared for some of what takes place to rattle the deep, surfacing both surprising and familiar issues and reactions. But don’t be fooled into thinking certain situations can be handled by rote. The planets aren’t phoning it in, and neither are we.

A Solar Eclipse on Friday, August 1st at 6:21 AM EDT strikes the first unsettling chord. During a Solar Eclipse, the Moon overshadows the Sun, Dreamtime obscures Real Time, which from an astrological perspective, translates into unconscious drives overshadowing conscious concerns. In ancient times, even though eclipses were known to occur with seeming regularity, they still disturbed the domination of the brightest lights of heaven, and were believed to deliver powerful omens about the future, particularly concerning the King and his realm. And although we now understand the mechanics of an eclipse, that doesn’t necessarily mean eclipses are powerless. Quite the contrary; they still seem to disrupt or dislocate daily life. What’s more, because eclipses are thought to distort time, their effect is said to have a three-month time range on either side of the actual event. The election of the next president of the United States occurs almost exactly three months from the date of this eclipse. And interestingly (and yes, I mean that exactly as it sounds) Mars occupies the same degree in the eclipse chart that Saturn will occupy in its opposition to Uranus on November 4th. (But more about that opposition in columns to come.)

Back in present time, a Mars/Uranus opposition makes it almost impossible to distinguish the difference between the eclipse effect and the “normal” turmoil of any Mars/Uranus interaction. This opposition begins July 30th, and lasts until August 13th; it is exact on August 6th. Mars represents the Warrior. Uranus symbolizes Revolution. And when they face off, we experience extreme tension that seeks its release through a non-stop need for freedom. This interaction can be brutal, intolerant, and harsh, so please do your best to avoid mean-spirited confrontations you might later regret.

Recently I attended a lecture by the Dalai Lama. Someone in the audience asked what was the quickest most effective way to end suffering. He thought for a moment and replied, “Smile.” As we all work our ways through the coming days of upset and turmoil, something as simple and generous as a smile could help many of us to handle the intensity with greater skill.

July 23, 2008
For the second week in a row, an absence of astro-complexity augurs a respite from earthly intensity. Of course, just like last week’s lull, this week’s planetary “pause” doesn’t necessarily mean we’re returning to the “normal” of yester-year, when dramatic events seemed to happen at a “reasonable” pace. What’s been set in motion is going to stay in motion from both the individual and collective perspectives, which means this week is bound to feel as intense as any other in recent history. It also means that learning to handle the intensity continues to be the primary challenge to mind and body, as well as heart and soul.

Fortunately, a Mars/Jupiter trine supports the necessary qualities for facing this week’s intensity with a positive attitude. Mars symbolizes strength. Jupiter represents optimism. And when they work together, they generate a beneficial field that promotes a desire to live life fully, with strength and honor. Use this enterprising energy to empower plans and projects, yours or others.

Venus moves into an opposition with Neptune by the end of the week, and while this interaction could foster disappointment in love, it could also inspire receptivity and idealism—something most of us could use more of.

Especially these days when so much doom and gloom pervades individual and collective psyches. Drastic economic forecasts have everyone agitated about what’s going to happen, as if some Mad Max/Road Warrior state of existence will commence at any moment. Don’t get me wrong; I think our planet and its inhabitants are in dire straits. I just don’t think focusing on fear is a viable method for dealing with the situation. What we need to focus on, individually and collectively, is finding effective, creative ways of transforming the problems we face. If, for example, each of us redirected all the energy spent on anxiety about the future and focused it instead on finding solutions in present time, our individual and collective worldview would shift into a positive perspective.

There are several ways to meet the challenge of this week’s intensity with skill. The first would be to strike a balance between mental and physical activity. If you’re only in your head, make an effort to move into your body. The second would be to continue to search for healthy ways of self-soothing—becoming immersed in a creative project, increasing your meditation, or actively seeking inspiration. Next, when you start to churn with anxiety, concentrate your time and energy on specific, positive goals. Finally, spend as much time as possible helping others. Being of service to those in need often serves as an antidote to existential angst because it provides a concrete way of transforming helplessness into hope. Remember, it’s the little acts of kindness that change the world.

July 16, 2008
The planets aren’t particularly busy this week—no one bold signature dominates the skies or earthly attitudes. And while I’m tempted to say the absence of astral activity translates into a lull in intensity, even as I succumb to temptation and write those words, I know my prediction won’t be true. Nature, as the rule goes, abhors a vacuum, which means while astrological intensity is somewhat diminished, all the other kinds of intensity, particularly emotional turmoil, are unperturbed by the celestial quiet and will continue to carry on. Because most of us are already accustomed to a high level of stress, and because recent planetary patterns have exacerbated the strain on personal and collective nervous systems, the trick this week is figuring out how to avoid the lure of brouhaha, yours or someone else’s. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not promoting apathy. There are real dramas unfolding and some of those developments require participation. What I’m suggesting is, given the current state of adrenal activity, it might not be all that easy to identify a real emergency from an addiction to crisis. And while we finally have a break in the “weather,” it would be wise to use the next several days to recharge instead of discharge.

I realize some readers won’t consider this week a complete pause in astro activity. The Sun/Uranus trine is still operating, as is the Mars/Saturn conjunction. And while both of those configurations have stirred more than a fair share of unrest, as they continue to separate, their disturbance quotient diminishes. Certainly the Moon continues to interact with other planets as she moves through her cycle. Yet the week still feels like a respite.

But taking advantage of this planetary pause might not be as easy as you think. Very few of us know how to self-soothe because we were never taught how. From infancy to adolescence, we made it up as best we could, cobbling together coping skills and survival mechanisms. (Which, when we are adults, cost us thousands of dollars and years in therapy trying to understand neurotic behavior that only makes sense to a child.) Some babies cry themselves to sleep or dissolve in tantrums. Still more go numb, withdraw, and freeze.  We suck our thumbs, cling to a blanket, or eat. Even more learn to please. And when we finally do “grow up” many of those behaviors turn into addictions we just can’t seem to kick no matter how hard we try or how well we understand their detrimental effect. We can’t let go because we don’t know any other way of quelling our anxiety. The child in us still longs for a gentle voice to soothe our restless heart.

This week, take an intermission from the drama, and find a way to quiet your anxiety. Meditate, contemplate, walk, sit--just be sure to be gentle.

July 9, 2008
Navigating the seas of conscious living requires special skill this week. Willful winds inform conscious and unconscious intentions, personal as well as collective, and as those purposes encounter opposition even the most determined or most patient among us are likely to meltdown with frustration. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Emotional crosscurrents of surprisingly equal strength also interfere with the smooth execution of even the most detailed agendas, disturbing the equilibrium of those who thrive on consistency and, again, provoking meltdowns. Actually, the flow of feelings may be so intense the normally mild-mannered are going to find it hard not to act and react in the drama of the moment. And that spontaneity challenges the ability to maintain an even keel. Some of us will take to our beds or self-medicate through drugs or alcohol. Others will simply try to deny the stress and strain of turbulence. But lots of us will figure out how to set our internal compasses on patient, and then do our best to hold steady on a course of kindness and understanding.

The source of this week’s headstrong wind is the Mars/Saturn conjunction, which is exact and separating on July 10th. For the last week, this difficult configuration has been turning egos edgy and tempers testy, as many of us have pushed others or ourselves for precision and perfection. The not so good news is that as this conjunction separates and the tension releases, many of us are likely to experience vacillations between being in and out of control. Please don’t let the need to feel in charge motivate you to kick the dog, yell at the cat, or punish a child, spouse, or friend just because you can. The good news is that as the impact of this conjunction decreases so will striving for the unattainable. Remember, it’s the process not the product that grows the soul.

The emotional currents of the week draw their strength from several sources. First, a Sun/Uranus trine between the Sun, in Cancer, and Uranus, in Pisces, amplifies the need to be f-r-e-e. The Fourth of July may be over, but this trine just keeps declaring independence and enumerating individual rights. Revolution is good, but do your best to avoid allowing this spirited signature to coalesce with the hard brutality of the Mars/Saturn conjunction. Second, as the Moon travels through the week, it squares the Sun, trines the Sun, and then conjuncts Pluto, all of which contribute to the already agitated atmosphere. And since the Moon symbolizes the feeling body, as she interacts with the Sun and Uranus, intense mood swings are probable.

This week, become an antidote for negativity. Instead of agreeing with everyone about how dreadful the state of the world is, focus on what’s happening that’s positive. If someone complains, listen politely and then ask, “So what are you doing about that situation?”

July 2, 2008
This week, and the next couple of weeks, planetary complexity creates a complex system of parallel universes, and while it’s not quite the Twilight Zone, each dimension does have its own peculiar brand of intensity. In one world, minds are busy with anything but trivial pursuits, as imagination feeds artistic and intellectual visions and ideas pour forth with unbelievable ease. In another reality, a grueling need for precision stimulates an equally intense nee to blow off steam through confrontation, warranted or not. On still another plane of existence, an irrepressible desire for personal freedom collides with a current of exaggeration, and the combination tilts human behavior toward extreme actions and reactions. As these different dimensions coalesce, daily life could turn a little odd, so don’t’ be surprised if you find yourself humming “do-do-do-do.”

For the next ten days, a Mercury/Uranus square, as well as a Mercury/Neptune trine makes minds busy. Mercury symbolizes all intellectual processes. Uranus represents eccentricity. And when Mercury and Uranus combine, eclectic choices become the only choices. So be prepared to paint the walls orange one day, and the ceiling purple, the next. Add Neptune, which signifies the imaginal as well as the spiritual realms, and you just might find yourself inspired to go on a meditation retreat, attend a Landmark workshop, or create your own “Fantasy Island” episode.

Unfortunately, utter escapism isn’t likely. From the 1st-20th, exact and separating on July 10th, a difficult Mars/Saturn conjunction creates a “challenging” environment. Mars is the Warrior who thrives on action. Saturn is the Critical Eye who thrives on seeing what needs to be made more perfect. Mars wants to move. Saturn sets limits. And they share the same space, Saturn inhibits Mars, Mars resists Saturn’s authority, and frustration, irritation, and aggravation are the result. On the negative side of the spectrum, this conjunction symbolizes a potentially destructive energy that focuses on finding the flaw in an often harsh and brutal manner. On the positive side, a Mars/Saturn conjunction can give birth to a persevering determination to get the job done no matter how difficult the actual doing of it may be. Some of us will experience this conjunction as a test of strength. Others will use it to concentrate on a specific goal. But most of us are likely to feel as if we are vacillating between depression and excellence—a polarity that could be more than a little disturbing, and because this conjunction leans toward angry, you may find yourself lashing out at others as a way of coping with the tension.

The good news is a Sun/Jupiter opposition, from the 2nd-17th, fosters humor as a coping mechanism. This opposition also turns appetites of every variety excessive. Don’t be surprised if you encounter several hungry ghosts. Also be aware, humor at another’s expense often causes more harm that it is worth, so as you move through the week, please be kind to your fellow travelers.

June 25, 2008
Anticipate getting lost in a muddle of contradiction this week. Mercury is direct, which should mean no mechanical malfunctions meddle with forward motion. But—and this is a big but—Uranus begins a five-month retrograde on June 26th, and as Uranus turns around, daily life turns a little cranky, at least for the first week or so as some of us struggle to adjust to the new direction. Uranus symbolizes sudden twists of fate that tend to translate into startling turnarounds. On one hand, these Uranian events could be seen as interference, but on the other, and perhaps with the guidance of hindsight, what transpires could just as easily be seen as intervention. How you choose to see the situation, yours or others, is key to handling what might be a bumpy ride, so do whatever it is you do find a positive attitude and to hold on to it.

Much of what Uranus reviews during this retrograde will relate to what was put in motion during the last four months, especially events catalyzed by the Jupiter/Uranus sextile which was in operation during that time period. The positive interaction between Jupiter and Uranus was the epicenter for much of the excitement, personal and collective, during the last several months, and now as that presence is lessening some of what was put into motion at that time could be refined, and in some cases, contained. The Jupiter/Uranus sextile will return briefly in November, punctuating the end of Uranus Retrograde as well as Pluto’s move back into Capricorn. Not that I want to skip five months ahead, but the planetary patterns of November mirror the intensity and significance of the Presidential election and its outcome. What we review and reconsider during Uranus Retrograde—the oil crisis, the mortgage crisis, and the weather crisis, and of course, the ongoing crisis of war—will all have an effect on who Americans will choose as their leader.

Pluto Retrograde is also asking us to reflect on choices made during the last 13 years, particularly personal and political decisions made since 2001, when, from an astrological perspective, the Pluto and Saturn opposition signified the huge contractive response to September 11th. As fear permeated the atmosphere, many moved into survival mode, relinquishing civil liberties and living in dread of the future. Sagittarius represents all philosophical themes, and most importantly the capacity to integrate philosophy into action. For the last seven years we’ve had plenty of opportunities to witness the power of fear to override the intellect and prevent positive, evolutionary integration. Now, as Pluto moves back into Sagittarius we will have plenty more opportunities to witness the consequences of our actions.

Of course, Pluto’s review presents us with chances to transform those choices. We can reach for courage; we can seek solutions based on wisdom; and while the future has always been uncertain, we can strive to find meaning in the present moment, meaning that could allow hope for the future.

June 18, 2008
This week, a maze of mirrors creates confusion, making it difficult to discern fact from fiction and fantasy from reality. Expect to be baffled, bewildered, and more than a little discombobulated by blurry boundaries. Also anticipate feeling trapped by projections, yours or others. Almost all of us are likely to make assumptions about what others are feeling and why based on our own unconscious and uncomfortable emotions. Be wary of pointing fingers and ascribing blame simply because it feels better to accuse someone else rather than deal with your own funk. Also try to temper your reaction if or when someone accuses you falsely. Lots of accusations are going to be flying around. And while some may be true, most of those indictments are meant to deflect attention from the real deal. But that’s not all. Bullies are also emboldened this week, and as they feel the power surges, the desire to torment or intimidate an opponent is pretty much irresistible. So also anticipate mean-spirited interactions. As always, the best way through is thoughtful consideration for your fellow travelers. For some, the intensity will simply be overwhelming, making it all the more important for those capable of persevering to offer a helping hand.

Several configurations create this week’s labyrinth. (1) A Mars/Neptune opposition feeds the need to project. Mars wants to individuate. Neptune wants to merge. When their energies clash, Neptune’s diffuse, but persistent, sympathy turns Mars mushy, making boundaries an issue. (2) Yet some boundaries remain impervious to the merge thanks to a Mars/Pluto trine, as well as a Mars/Sun sextile, both of which carry a decidedly martial signature. (3) But the bully factor derives from a Sun/Pluto opposition, a powerful interaction that craves domination. And there’s more. (4) Venus is conjunct the Sun, as well as in an opposition Pluto, which puts a creative, but highly emotional mark on the entire bundle. It’s complex and as the week unfolds, it won’t be easy delineating the specifics or handling the tangle of intensity.

The most important factor in this week’s web of planetary interaction is Pluto’s retrograde back into Sagittarius. Don’t be surprised if you are suddenly catapulted back in time, confronting circumstances you thought were resolved. Pluto’s thirteen-year transit of Sagittarius sought Higher Love and Higher Knowledge and in the process revealed the shadows keeping us from attaining such lofty goals. Pluto always exhumes what inhibits transformation, before it supports positive change. Which is why we often get stuck in the muck in the midst of Pluto transitions. During its final transit through Sagittarius, that “stuckedness” translates into ignorance and fanaticism. So during this final Pluto phase in Sagittarius, be prepared to come up against places that have previously evaded shift.

As you move through this week’s intensity, remember, kindness is always the best remedy. Just don’t confuse compassion with codependence or compliance. Sometimes the most compassionate act is to tell the truth, even if the truth is painful.

June 11, 2008
Visitations in a variety of forms punctuate the days and nights of this week and the next several weeks. And while it’s not the season of the ghost of Christmas past, ‘tis the season of review, personal and collective, which means it’s almost certain some specter or spirit from long ago will show up to guide a review of previous triumphs or transgressions. Be prepared to revisit circumstances or situations—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—still in need of resolution, including those you thought were done. Also expect you or someone you know to be resistant to this process. But as the Borg would say, “Resistance is futile.” Not because what arises is necessarily stronger. Resistance is futile because what rises to the surface of daily life during this period has long and strong tendrils rooted deeply in the body, mind, and soul, and it is simply time for some of those patterns to shift.

The source of this review is two-fold. (1) Mercury Retrograde continues to hold us in its thrall, insisting on a compulsive attention to the details of what is already set in motion. As mentioned last week, the current Mercury Retrograde is unusual because it is filtered through Uranian activity, and Uranus just doesn’t have the patience for the slow-mo rewind pace of Mercury Retrograde. Uranus is a rebel. It doesn’t follow any rules. Even if that rebelliousness culminates in countless redoes. This week, while Uranus doesn’t form a direct connection to Mercury (which means attention to detail could get more than a little tiresome), Uranus does square the Sun/Venus conjunction in Gemini  (which is not the least bit boring). Gemini is a convivial charming Sign that adores conversation, and when the Sun and Venus share the same space in Gemini, hardly anybody can stop talking, a signature that persists after the Mercury Retrograde ends on June 19th.

The second source of review is slightly heavier and more intense than Mercury Retrograde—even with the added Uranian flavor. (2) Pluto retrogrades back into Sagittarius on June 14th, where it will stay until November 26th. This retrograde begins on a tense note: from the 14th-28th, a Sun/Pluto opposition has the potential to strain the air with power struggles, so refuse to be a despot, benevolent or otherwise.

As Pluto retraces its path through the final degrees of Sagittarius, we are given one last chance to reexamine the meaning of its thirteen-year cycle through the Sign that symbolizes religion, philosophy and belief systems. Remember, the shadow of Sagittarius is ignorance that tends to manifest as fundamentalism and an inability to embrace diversity. The antidote to the bigotry of narrow-minded prejudice is the capacity to include all variety of beliefs without losing the capacity to discern what’s right. This is not a facile antidote, but rather a remedy that requires tremendous depth, especially if we are to find solutions to the poison of polarization.

June 4, 2008
The planets are definitely playing mind games this week, and while druid dudes aren’t likely to be lifting veils of consciousness, that doesn’t mean the week won’t have a retro component. We are in the middle of Mercury Retrograde after all, where the past is more than a little present and a compulsive devotion to the details of the moment is a must. For those of you bored by Mercury Retrograde (or still living in dread of repetition) the current phase is anything but normal, for while it is gnarly with delays and detours, this retrograde also crackles with creativity. And that’s a nice change from the tedium of communication snags and snafus.

Mercury Retrograde began on May 26th and continues June 19th. The normal retrograde wisdom is to suspend initiating anything new and instead to concentrate on what’s already in motion. But the current retrograde is far too active to follow the regular rules, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself unable to comply with conventional wisdom.

Here’s the breakdown: (1) Mars sextiles Mercury, Venus and the Sun, which are all conjunct in Gemini, Mercury’s Home Sign. Gemini thrives on collecting and distributing information, which means from the ordinary to the extraordinary, we’re likely to be inundated with material from many sources. Mars needs to move and when it positively supports three planets in Gemini, the Sign of Communication, tongues move, too. Anticipate conversation – lots of it – and don’t expect the talking stick to move quickly. Some conversations will sound like confessions and some will sing with poetry.

And it isn’t likely anyone will be bored because Uranus, planet of surprises, squares Mercury and that translates into eclectic choices. All Mercury/Uranus interactions are akin to the universal symbol for invention, and this week, those light bulbs of insight are sure to illuminate previously darkened places of the mind or heart. This square is also about reaching for new ways of thinking about old problems. Use it to investigate stagnation. Be brave, and try on a new point of view. Better yet, try on the point of view you’ve been resisting the most.

One more bit: Mercury Retrograde can also clear up old misunderstandings: For the longest time, actually all of my adult life until…well…just today, whenever I listened to “Mind Games” I thought John Lennon was singing about the “mind gorilla,” an enlightened ape in search of peace, holding flowers, and saying “yes.” But while writing this column, I checked the lyrics, and now I know, the gorilla is wearing Che’s beret. So this week, as the mind games unfold, when possible, get into your gorilla suit, put your soul power to the karmic wheel, and make love the answer.

May 28, 2008
This week, and the next several weeks, you’re going to need brain food — and lots of it. Mercury, symbol of all intellectual processes, as well as all things related to transportation and travel, rules the days and nights and matching its quicksilver pace is going to be a challenge. Of course, some of us will thrive on the busy, brainy climate, while others will be hard put to keep up. Those who do manage to sustain the pace, but aren’t enjoying the buzz are at risk for exhaustion. And that could turn quite a few moods cranky and crabby. The best way through this mental maze is to find a comfortable personal pace that allows for flexibility on every level — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

This week, the mind games begin with Mercury Retrograde. For those of you new to Mercury Retrograde, here’s the skinny: Three times a year Mercury appears to be moving behind instead of ahead (relative to Earth’s position), and when Mercury moves backward, all things related to its vast domain tend to move backward as well. Phones won’t work. Voice mail and email get lost in a void — the same place socks go when they disappear in the dryer. Schedules liquefy. And travel delays become the norm. Put simply, it’s a mess. Which is why Mercury Retrograde is not a good time to initiate new plans or projects.

But this Mercury Retrograde is tricky for several reasons. (1) Mercury turned around in a trine to Neptune as Neptune also began a retrograde. Neptune represents intuition and imagination, and when it works with Mercury, it amplifies sensitivities of all kinds. Be prepared to be sympathetic and empathic to other people’s lives. Also anticipate an ability to feel into situations that defy logical explanation and can only be understood intuitively. (2) But because a Mercury/Uranus square turns some of those insights brutally honest, you’re likely to be disturbed by what you are finally able to understand. Instead of rushing to judgment and abandoning compassion, give yourself a little time to get used to such penetrating clarity.

Continuing on a Mercurial note, this week, the Sun and Venus are conjunct in Gemini, one of Mercury’s Home Signs. This beneficent combination is likely to manifest as a convivial desire to think and talk about everything. Even strong silent types, male or female, are going to be inclined to delve in detail. Yes, Saturn squares both Venus and the Sun, but its sobering influence only adds depth to the conversation.

As Mercury Retrograde unfolds, several planetary nuances tweak it in unusual directions. So do whatever you do to stay agile in body, mind, and spirit. Most importantly, be kind to your fellow travelers.

May 21, 2008
You’ll need to keep your wits about you for the next several weeks. We are in the midst of an astral convergence where several planetary patterns meet, merge, and diverge in a powerful junction of potential. As is often the case at a crossroads, choices must be made about what direction to take next, but the problem is almost every option feels weighty with unpredictable consequences. And because the collective direction feels suspended or paralyzed with uncertainty, personal decisions suffer from doubt and hesitation. Oy. It’s a dilemma, and it’s not getting solved any time soon. So make patience, as well as moderation your allies. As the Taoist sages might advise, during certain times of crisis and upheaval, it is often best to take no unnecessary action.

Several themes contribute to the atmosphere. First, the ongoing Jupiter/Uranus sextile is exact and separating on May 21st. This sextile has been sending bolts from the blue for the last several weeks and will continue to shake things up another several weeks. Yet while this sextile is volatile, its signature has everything to do with Divine Providence, which strictly translated would frame recent upsets as painful but positive. But this would hardly be an argument to present to the people in China or Myanmar who survived the earthquake and cyclone, but lost their lives. The sudden deadly power of Mother Nature gives birth to a unique perspective on the fragility of human life—what a fleeting gift it is. And the waves of grief emanating from that region of the world are sure to affect us all.

The second converging pattern is really three-in-one. Mercury goes retrograde on May 26th and as it prepares for its second review of the year, it trines Neptune, as Neptune goes retrograde about half an hour after Mercury. Mercury Retrograde is best spent reviewing, reflecting, and reconsidering previous choices. Expect certain areas of life, particularly communication and travel, to be littered with detours and delays. Normally, you could assume a trine with Neptune would facilitate inspired thinking. After all, Mercury symbolizes all things mental and Neptune represents intuition. But they are both “turning around” and that could throw thinking and insight into a tizzy of projection. Don’t assume or presume you understand all the details of any situation. Instead, stay open, but take your time acting on hunches you’re sure you can validate with “fact.”

The third contributor to the uncertain air is Pluto. On June 14th, Pluto will retrograde back into Sagittarius, where it will stay until November 26th. Pluto’s pull feels inexorable, despite its demotion to a planetoid, and over the course of the next five months, we will be revisiting many of the themes and issues of the past thirteen years. It’s one last look, and it is bound to be insightful.

May 14, 2008
Bearing witness would be the wisest posture to assume this week, but observation without participation isn’t likely to be anyone’s first choice. There’s simply too much going on, and because so much of what’s happening is emotionally charged, refraining from opinion or action would make you a candidate for sainthood. Much of the brouhaha is the result of even more startling revelations, as secrets, personal and collective, seem to stream from an irrepressible fountain of truth. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by the recent plethora of disclosures, and while it is hard to imagine there could be anything left to surprise, this week and next, the planets are upping the ante on spilling the beans. Which is why it would be wise to make every effort to objectively observe rather than subjectively react. Not every revelation will have the power to confound, and those that don’t can go quietly. But those that do are certain to require contemplation prior to action. So do whatever it is you do to stay centered and calm, but don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself in the midst of a drama. Just take a deep breath and do your best to relax, and think before you speak or leap.

The source of this charged air is the ongoing sextile between Jupiter and Uranus. Exact in exactly a week, this sextile, while positive, catalyzes whatever is stagnant, and that process translates into personal and collective upheaval. One minute the marriage is on and the next it’s not. You’re sure you want to move to Italy, but suddenly you realize Hawaii is a better choice. Obama’s the candidate…wait…no, it’s Hillary…no it’s Obama, and so on and so forth and so on. But it’s not the vacillations that are unnerving – it’s what underlies the change of mind that sets pulses a twit. And it’s those motivations and intentions that have the power to take your breath away. The good news for this week is that the Sun still trines Jupiter and sextiles Uranus, an alignment that makes humor available to soothe those shocked nervous systems. And for the optimist, this configuration guarantees a pony.

The other potentially nerve-jangling current is a looming Mercury Retrograde. Yes, Mercury goes retrograde on May 26th, which seems like a long way away, but it is not. Especially because there is so much happening between now and then that the retrograde is likely to arrive unnoticed, which means unprepared. Back up everything, now, and then, just to be safe, back it up again.

While I don’t think it is possible, this would be the week to avoid getting embroiled in disputes or displays. Yes, the temptation to jump in will be strong, but it will be even stronger over the next several weeks, so rather than spending your energy impulsively or recklessly, conserve.

May 7, 2008
The planets play with paradox this week. Stability clashes with upheaval, clarity collides with confusion, and as these contrasting patterns unfold, we mere mortals might find it increasingly difficult to hold the tension of opposites. The interplay of energy isn’t quite as simple as one hand versus another, and that complexity is sure to strain already stressed-out nervous systems. The good news is no pernicious celestial interactions interfere with the mechanics of daily life. The best news is that even in the midst of contradiction a sense of wellbeing manages to inform a variety of situations and interactions.

A Sun/Jupiter trine is at the heart of this week’s positive potential. Jupiter signifies humor, the Sun represents spirit, and when these bright lights work together the capacity for laughter becomes present even in the most serious situations. We love this, especially given how serious life is at this particular moment in time and space – life is hard and it seems to be getting harder every day. Which is why I’m thankful for any opportunity to allow laughter to lighten the load. Humor almost always provides the perfect antidote for overloaded hearts and minds.

Uranus also makes a contribution to the contrasting signatures of the week. First, its ongoing sextile with Jupiter continues to provide a positive but unsettled atmosphere, and that instability is at the core of this week’s inconsistent pattern. Uranus also sextiles the Sun, and while that relationship is essentially positive, it’s sure to provide several additional startling disclosures.

But that’s not all. A Sun/Neptune square provides a heightened state of hypersensitivity and susceptibility making it all too easy to be influenced by people who appear to be secure in quick-fix solutions which might do more harm than good. Be careful who you listen to and always remember to rely on common sense as well as intuition.

It’s never easy to handle the contradictions of daily life. Here, in New York, where a broad spectrum of polarized personal realities play out on the public screen – rich and poor, male and female, old and young, kind and mean, white and not just black, but every color of the rainbow – it’s almost impossible to find a way through the maze of conflicting ideologies and agendas. Of course, simply trying can become a path of its own and millions of us make that effort everyday. And not just in New York. But making that effort doesn’t necessarily diminish the stress of living under the pressure of that kind of intensity.

So as you move through the paradoxical signature of the week, keep in mind, holding the tension of opposites doesn’t always lead to the relief of resolution. What it can deliver is an increased capacity to stay balanced in the midst of turmoil – a skill worth developing and refining, especially if it’s seasoned with a compassionate heart that’s capable of laughing at life’s ironies.

April 30, 2008
This week and the next several weeks, the planets array themselves in simple patterns, and while it wouldn’t be exactly accurate to call these designs “astro-lite,” it also wouldn’t be completely correct to continue to focus on the heavier side of the heavens. What can be said with certainty is that these weeks offer opportunities to take a break from what has felt like an oppressive non-stop ever-present current of anxiety. And it’s a break most of us could use. Be aware, the intensity doesn’t disappear or evaporate. But the load does feel lighter, and that makes daily life, with all its complex interactions, a much easier ride.

Venus joins the ongoing Saturn/Pluto trine, this week, creating a Grand Trine in Earth – Saturn is in Virgo, Pluto is in Capricorn, and Venus is in Taurus. We love this positive ménage a trois because it is a perfect astral union. Taurus is Venus’ Home Sign, and her passage through Taurus enhances her felinity. Not that she needs the help – Venus is the goddess of love and beauty. Add in a favorable aspect to Pluto, and her already exceptional sensuality becomes extraordinary. Expect everyone – even the normally prudish – to go willingly astray.

Lusty displays aside, for the less love inclined or the more material-minded, this Grand Trine in Earth is still worthy of worship because Venus, in Taurus, also puts the emphasis on money. Add in a favorable aspect to Saturn, as well as Pluto, and profitable and permanent financial opportunities abound. Tangible gains can be made under this influence, but as you place your bets, keep in mind, Earth Signs don’t really like to gamble. They are much more comfortable with practical, pragmatic investments capable of yielding consistent, reliable, and predictable returns.

But practical isn’t likely to be anyone’s first choice this week or the next several weeks. The ongoing Jupiter/Uranus sextile continues to support eccentric choices, and it seems no one is immune to this tendency. Be prepared for you or someone you love to behave in strange or peculiar ways.

The sextile between Jupiter and Uranus also stimulates shifts guaranteed to unsettle even the best-made plans. We’ve been under this influence since February, which is plenty of time to adjust to its erratic frequency, but the sheer volume of changes has over loaded nervous systems, personal and collective. Yet even though the changes keep coming, there is still a sense of positive value, no matter how uncomfortable the actual process.

As the coming weeks unfold, do your best to attune to the rhythm of the Earth. This is the lusty month of May, when the Earth reveals the potential of her fertility. Stick your hands and feet into the ground and feel the presence of that primal source of life, and then let the power of that creativity inform your thoughts, words, and deeds.

April 23, 2008
The planets crystallize into precise patterns this week, and as heavenly positions solidify, human storylines clarify. The ambiguous becomes definite, the obscure becomes apparent, and the potential becomes possible. Yet while the arc of the week is essentially positive, an underlying anxiety pings through the days and nights making it hard for nervous systems to settle down. The contradiction between clarity and anxiety is likely to play out as friction between definite decisions and an “I just can’t put my finger on it” concern about any unforeseen potential consequences waiting in the wings of an unforeseen future. These are, after all, uncertain times –that’s what we are being told and that’s what many of us feel to be true. Uncertainty always longs for resolution, which is why the clarity of the week feels like relief. But it would be wise to remember that we are in a prolonged period of profound transformation and the outcome is not written. Put simply: enjoy the clarity, but don’t let it turn into magical thinking. During times of great change, humility is often a more valuable asset than certainty.

The source of clarity is a Grand Trine in Earth between the Sun, Saturn, and Pluto. We love this positive, powerful configuration because it generates a realistic, practical approach to almost any situation. It also supplies vitality, strength, and the determination to see a plan through to its fruition.

The source of nervous anxiety – beyond the normal levels of existential angst – is the ongoing sextile between Jupiter and Uranus. As mentioned in previous columns, this is an essentially positive alliance, but because Jupiter symbolizes expansion and Uranus signifies nervous systems, their combined influence amplifies networks of reactions – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And is often the case with complex systems, when one system overloads, the entire systems feels the pressure.

It’s also important to acknowledge Pluto’s move into Capricorn as another contributor to the astral zeitgeist. Pluto is currently retrograding back through the first degrees of Capricorn, preparing for a final foray into Sagittarius on June 14, where it will stay for approximately five months. Pluto’s retrospective is sure to fray a few already-ragged neuroreceptors, so don’t be dismayed if you suddenly feel as if you’ve made no “progress” at all. And don’t give in to critical self-recrimination because some of what you’ve been working on needs to be reconsidered, reconfigured, or refined.

Transformation is an experiential process and it often defies intellectual delineation, not only because the shifts are felt, but also because they aren’t necessarily logical or linear. This week, as you move between a clear view of what’s possible and anxiety about the future, give yourself permission not to know. It may be an uncomfortable position to hold, but simply trying will keep you open to the power of every moment.

April 16, 2008
This week, another wave of unusual astral weather continues to excite the ethers, and as these fronts blow by, daily life continues to reverberate with shift. Not that change is bad. Most of the time change is good. But an unrelenting storm of change can often cause a deluge of reactions, and the resulting intensity exhausts bodies, minds, hearts, and even souls.

The good news is that while it seems as if the shifts won’t stop, this week, the ground doesn’t seem to quake quite as easily, and that stability makes it possible to walk through the tumult with a fair degree of confidence and strength. So even if you feel as if you can’t take one more moment of intensity, take heart. While the stars don’t promise a complete break, they are offering moments of respite, and those moments can be used to replenish internal reservoirs as well as external resources.

The source of strength is the ongoing trine between Saturn, in Virgo, and Pluto, in Capricorn. This week, the Sun and Mercury, both currently in Aries, and both traveling in tandem join Saturn and Pluto to form a Grand Trine. On Friday, Mercury moves into Taurus and by Saturday afternoon, so does the Sun, which means by Sunday, the entire bundle turns into a Grand Trine in Earth. This is a positive, settling, and industrious combination that is sure to stabilize daily routines for the next week or so.

And we certainly could use a little stabilizing, especially as Mars moves into a trine with Uranus and an opposition with Jupiter. Mars/Jupiter oppositions tend to feel like a seesaw, with the ups and downs determined by personal, as well as collective intensity. Add Uranus to the mix, and you’ve got a pattern of volatile fluctuations that could manifest in any number of areas, again, personal or collective.

Frankly, it’s hard to isolate any one particular area because part of what’s driving the intensity is a sense of just how fluid reality seems to be. From the macro to the micro, everywhere you look, it seems as if the world is coming apart at the seams. Whether it is dying oceans, scarcity of food, diminishing oil supplies, the stock market, the housing market, the venal videos on YouTube, or the countless egregious ways we harm each other and violate life through denial, fear, or ignorance, daily we are bombarded by the symptoms of collapse. And while it can be argued that the world needs to fall apart before it can heal itself, that doesn’t mean it’s useless to try to make the world a better place to live for all of its inhabitants, now.

As the week unfolds, rather than worrying about what shift will happen next, focus on creating the world you want. And don’t forget, true change happens one person at a time, one heart at a time.

April 9, 2008
The Wheel of Life continues to spin at a ridiculously rapid rate this week, making it next to impossible to take an individual or a collective pulse, let alone slow down and reflect on what’s goin’ on. I’m loath to repeat myself, but life certainly isn’t boring. Confusing, maybe, but definitely not dull. The problem is so much is happening so quickly and much of what’s occurring is so extreme, that differentiating a moderately intense situation from a dire emergency requires skill. Simple tasks have a sense of urgency, and regular routines are punctuated by crisis. At the risk of sounding like a drama queen, whether it’s a broken mirror, a parent in distress, a child in anguish, or a literal trip to the emergency room, everything feels uber urgent. And if all that isn’t enough, these calamities also seem to be occurring with peculiar time signatures, distortions that make me wonder if I’m writing about last week, next week, or this week. But that’s not all. Even though some of the disruption seems excessive, in certain instances, the intensity seems fated, as if the mirror is meant to break because it’s time for a new reflection. There is no simple, calming solution or remedy for the current unraveling. It’s simply a matter of making it through, moment-by-moment, guided by a desire to do no harm.

The sense of urgency stems from two sources. The first has to do with two Mars combinations: a Sun/Mars square that continues until Sunday and a Mercury/Mars square that persists until Tuesday. Both of these fractious interactions occur between the Cardinal Signs of Aries and Cancer, both of which tend to thrive in dire straits. So don’t be surprised if your normally lethargic neighbor springs into action and stays in overdrive. Just be aware, while certain responses may seem extreme to you, those response may be completely appropriate to the person experiencing the event.

The second source of urgency is likely emanating from the Jupiter/Uranus sextile, and even though this sextile is a positive interaction, this particular combination is unstable and unpredictable. The good news is it is also a signature of divine intervention. So while getting fired isn’t necessarily a “good thing,” it could be the perfect liberating bolt from the blue that sets you free from a negative situation.

And there is more good news. In the midst of all this volatility, the ongoing Saturn/Pluto trine continues to hold steady, offering opportunities to feel internally grounded. Use it to find a reliable inner pole star capable of helping you to hold true to yourself. And then, as the week unfolds, do your best to stay on course.

April 2, 2008
This week and the next several weeks, the planets skew the psychic ground of daily life even more toward the absurd, as the constant diet of unexpected plot twists continues to unsettle the already unsettled air. We’re changing, it’s true, but the reactions to those changes pack the power to spin the wheel of life in an entirely different direction. The good news is life isn’t boring. The better news is that while the terra firma of daily life shudders with shift, the planets simultaneously support the potential to stay steady. Yes, there are bolts from the blue, but those blows don’t necessarily signal disaster. They also present opportunities to drop the pretense of control, and instead, show up for existential uncertainty with a good attitude. Yes, letting go can be messy, but there are times – special times – when releases feel guided by grace. And this is one of those exceptional times. We are under a providential astral signature for the next several weeks that can be used to transform painful circumstances into instances of profound healing through a sudden, yet true change of heart.

The source of this grace in the midst of upheaval is a Jupiter/Uranus sextile, which is exact almost all month long. This sextile is a powerful alliance that challenges the status quo, so don’t expect to tackle anything through a normal routine. Nothing is going to happen by rote, and some of the alternative choices, yours or others’, could be a little strange. But what this sextile also provides is a sense of being in the right place at the right time, even if what makes it “right” is totally unexpected or weird. I’m not trying to be cryptic, but sometimes you can think you missed the prize until you realize the greater blessing was being out of harm’s way.

Fortunately, the ongoing Saturn/Pluto trine continues to provide the tenacity to persevere no matter how shaky the situation. Best known for its ability to inspire excellence through extreme self-discipline, this trine can also foster stern attitudes. Please remember to be kind as you deliver criticism – what may be firm to you could feel punishing to others. Also be aware, this trine supports the determination to win, which makes it the perfect configuration for competitors in a variety of fields. The tricky thing is figuring out how to avoid pushing yourself or others too hard. Keep your expectations realistic and you’ll maintain moderation.

As this week and the coming weeks unfold, open to a state of grace. Providence may not look like what you imagined, but that doesn’t mean it won’t feel exactly as you hoped it would.

March 26, 2008
Welcome to Pluto in Capricorn, where structures of every denomination — personal and collective as well as physical and psychic — are unmasked to reveal the bare bones of what lies behind or beneath; where wrathful deities, dressed in primary colors, challenge corruption as they simultaneously encourage authenticity; where government officials, financial institutions, and just about every other prototype of authority seem to crumble from the weight of meaningless modus operandi. It’s no wonder lots of people just want to stay in bed—it’s exhausting keeping up, let alone bearing witness to the non-stop shocking disclosures. What’s more, these bombshells strike at the core of personal survival issues and that translates into continuous tension that is stressful and wearying for the heart. After all, if an elected crime fighter can’t hold a moral center, how is a “normal” human expected to navigate the temptation to lie and cheat? And if “reputable” financial institutions can fool the pundits, advisors, and experts, how is an average citizen expected to feel safe and secure about the future? For a pessimist, Pluto in Capricorn is a perfect Henny-Penny moment: the sky is falling, and who knows what piece is going to crash to Earth next. But like a true optimist, I’m always wondering, “Where’s the pony?” Surely all this angst must have a purpose. And perhaps that purpose might be for each of us to find or refine the integrity of our individual internal moral and ethical foundation, and then to act in the world on the basis of that clarity and strength.

Fortunately, the on-going Jupiter/Uranus sextile lends support for standing certain situations on their heads and figuring out a different way to approach persistent problems. This sextile desires the type of knowledge that supports a philosophic perspective. It also supplies the ability to stay present as you simultaneously assess future consequences. But it’s important to keep in mind that Uranus is always stirring what’s stagnant, which means relationships of every kind could get rattled where rattling is least expected. Currently, Venus and Mercury are both conjunct Uranus and trine Jupiter, a multiple alliance that packs this entire bundle with creative inspiration, a devotion to beauty, and a ton of ideas. And while the influence of this configuration can be seen as a tendency toward rash decisions based on declarations of undying affection and allegiance, romantic, political, or professional, this bundle could just as easily stir innovative thinking capable of bypassing the same-old-same-old, and instead spark a truly revolutionary approach. Something we could use right now to enliven our ability to find creative solutions.

As the week unfolds, despite the intensity of the Pluto in Capricorn signature, do your best to be an optimist. Remember, while it may not always appear to be obvious, each of us co-creates our own reality — a process best started with an attitude capable of propelling us into positive motion.

March 19, 2008
It’s a week of disconcerting contradiction: The seasonal shift from winter to spring amplifies the promise of a fresh start, but the transition from cold and dark into warm and light is also likely to trigger a sense of overexposure or vulnerability. What’s more, normal seasonal urges to get physical are thwarted by obstacles, real and imagined, internal and external, and those impediments push patience to the breakpoint. The coming days are a complex maze of conflicting impulses, and there is no quick fix or easy out. We are in new territory and the “same old same old” just won’t work.

Fortunately, the potential for fresh solutions is supported by the Sun’s move into Aries on March 20—it’s the start of spring, when new beginnings seem probable. Unfortunately, this year’s Vernal Equinox contains several difficult configurations. A Sun/Mars square stirs the need to lead and the need to win, but both the Sun and Mars also need to be number one, which means we can expect testy tempers and edgy competition. This tendency toward irritation is exacerbated by a Sun/Pluto square. Pluto not only needs to lead. It also needs to be in control—always. As Pluto clashes with the Sun and the Sun clashes with Mars, many of us could experience an irresistible need to challenge authority. Don’t be surprised if seemingly innocuous conversations devolve into heated inquisitions. The best way through is to avoid getting embroiled in battles you might later regret.

But there is also good news. A Mercury/Venus conjunction in Pisces provides the potential for creative innovative problem solving. Mercury represents intellectual processes. Venus signifies the principle of love, as it is expressed through art. And when Mercury and Venus share the same space, minds reach for original and inventive perspectives. Intuition flourishes under this influence, so pay attention to your hunches—just be careful to avoid foolhardy schemes that sound too good to be true because they are. Mars trines this Mercury/Venus conjunction through the weekend, a positive alliance insistent on action. Pisces rules the feet, so don’t be surprised if you feel like dancing.

Beneath these surface waves, two deeper currents continue to provide a sense of security—another reason the week feels contradictory. First, the Saturn/Pluto trine supplies endurance and perseverance. Second, the Jupiter/Uranus sextile provides an optimistic outlook that’s able to facilitate adjustments to change. Both of these positive interactions can be used to mediate the discombobulating patterns of the week, especially if you’re willing to seek creative solutions and try something new.

March 12, 2008
Here’s the good news: This week, the tension of recent weeks eases slightly. Here’s the not-so-bad news: Don’t confuse this lessening with a promise of quiet and calm. Yes, the planets are rearranging themselves to create a new picture of reality, but the new patterns continue to excite nervous systems. The big difference, and a mighty difference, is that while the air continues to buzz, the hum doesn’t feel ominous. I’m not saying hostility, personal or collective, suddenly ceases and daily life turns into a lovely array of sunbeams and rainbows. But the stars are offering the potential to move out of the portentous gloom that’s been infecting almost all of us with a bad attitude or a sense of being hopeless in the face of insurmountable obstacles. And that is a welcome relief. What’s more, this week, breakthroughs are possible if you’re willing to combine determination with inspiration.

Here’s the breakdown:

The Mars/Pluto opposition is receding, and as its influences diminishes so does the need for violent, defensive reactions. Be aware, a few lingering tendrils of resentment may linger, making it wise to continue to move through the days with the wisdom of kindness.

Fortunately, Saturn supplies a levelheaded approach to the intensity, as it sextiles Mars and trines Pluto. The Saturn/Pluto trine operates for the next several months, which means we have a nice, long period of time to experience positive support for reasonable, rational, and responsible attitudes. All contacts between Saturn and Pluto are super-serious, but this trine is also about accessing and applying the sort of positive discipline that fosters spiritual insight and personal growth. For example, it’s a terrific signature to coincide with Oprah’s and Eckhart Tolle’s online class for raising awareness. Even if you don’t agree with their mass media approach to consciousness, right now, every intention to grow goes a long way toward healing our planet. And the Saturn/Pluto trine amplifies the effect of positive intentions.

Also happening now and also continuing for the next several months, a Jupiter/Uranus sextile engenders enthusiasm for life and living it. Jupiter represents expansion, Uranus signifies creation, and when these two work together they support an optimistic outlook about the future, as they simultaneously supply the ability to adjust to sudden and surprising shifts of fate.

For the first time in a long time the stars are aligned in positive patterns. Use this energy wisely by applying it liberally to any and all areas in need of restoration and relief.

March 5, 2008
Certain planets continue to strike a dissonant chord this week, and that lack of celestial harmony turns daily interactions harsh, unpleasant, and hard to handle. For those of you who wish I would tell a different story about the stars, I wish I had a different story to tell, but unfortunately, this week is even more intense than last week. Tempers flare and grudges turn vocal, as emotional stress over issues of survival becomes overwhelming.  What’s more, a persistent urge for personal freedom drives the intensity as it simultaneously pushes against patience, and the combination makes the meekest of us mighty over matters big and small. The antidote to the edginess is an expansive, optimistic outlook. I’m not advising denial. I’m simply suggesting an attitude and approach that will help you to navigate through the maze of irritated emotional bodies, including your own.

The origin of difficulty is the ongoing Mars/Pluto opposition, which is exact and separating on March 7. We’ve been experiencing the build up of tension from this opposition for a couple of weeks, but it’s when these hard interactions separate that we really feel the impact. Mars symbolizes physical energy that needs to move. Pluto signifies power. And when these two stand off, our earthly issues of control, manipulation, and supremacy feel as if they are the only game. Authority figures of all sorts — bosses, supervisors, or managers — who regularly abuse their position become intolerable.  And underlings everywhere feel the urge to rise up and take a stand against injustice.

Stirring that urge this week and for the next several weeks, several planets are promoting revolution, personal and collective. This week, a Sun/Uranus conjunction feeds the need to break free from whatever enslaves, whether those bonds are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. The Sun is the primary creative force, Uranus runs a close second, and when they work together, they stimulate originality and challenge the status quo. Jupiter sextiles this Sun/Uranus conjunction, creating the possibility of great and surprising joy. But given the difficult undertow of the Mars/Pluto opposition, it may not be possible to readily access and experience that joy until the beginning of next week, when the stress of that opposition is receding.

This week, do your best to avoid getting embroiled in harmful activity of any kind. Harsh judgments and punishing diatribes will only fall on deaf ears, even and especially if the person you are berating is yourself.

February 27, 2008
A restive wind blows through hearts as well as souls this week, stirring a peculiar kind of impatience. It’s almost as if the mantra for the week should be “Just hurry up and get on with it.” Which is odd if you think about it, since leap year provides an entire extra day this week. But because most of us are in such a hurry to do whatever needs to be done next, many of us will likely be oblivious to the reality of surplus time. It’s a little like the Mad Hatter shouting he’s late when he’s early. But this pattern is no joke. It agitates already over stimulated nervous systems, a condition that translates in edgy attitudes, creating a climate of hypersensitivity where reactions, yours or others, could be disproportionate to the situation. And while overreacting isn’t always negative, this week, what gets set in motion could have lasting consequences. The best way through the intensity is the high road — kindness, understanding, and a desire to make a positive difference in your immediate environment.

The primary source of tension is a Mars/Pluto opposition that is in effect for the next several weeks. Mars symbolizes physical energy, Pluto signifies power, oppositions tend toward tension, and when these two planets face off, even the air has a brutal, confrontational edge. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself irritated by any and every little thing. And anticipate you or someone you love seething with indignation or outrage over what would normally be a minor incident, not even worthy of an arched eyebrow. Try not to swipe, snipe, or gripe just to let off steam. Remember, pointing a blaming finger may provide instant gratification, but it’s not likely to change the situation. It could actually make matters worse.

Fortunately, the on going Jupiter/Uranus sextile continues to provide at least a modicum of relief from the stress. This positive alliance offers the potential for creative solutions, not the run-of-the-mill, standard, or quick fixes meant to put a band-aid on a serious situation. Jupiter is philosophical and one of its best qualities is its propensity for a broad perspective. Uranus is always interested in change, and when Jupiter and Uranus work together, we experience the ability to embrace a new take on an old pattern.

The very best news is that a Sun/Jupiter sextile provides the potential for joy even in the midst of madness. This sextile is funny. Just be careful to avoid the sort of cruel sarcasm that could easily give vent to the brutality of the Mars/Pluto opposition. Laughter at the expense of another will only exacerbate the tension. But silly will heal, and good-natured humor almost always soothes a restless heart or weary soul.

February 20, 2008
You’ll need to keep your wits about you this week — we are in a retrograde free zone, where so much moves so quickly it will be all too easy to lose track of even the simplest task. Even if you’re task-free, without one whit of responsibility or obligation, staying present will still require concentration. Anticipate excitement, as forward celestial motion stirs earthly ambition and enterprise. But also expect confusion — the planets provide so many choices it will be hard to identify where your time and energy will be best spent. The good news is we are finally moving forward. The not so good news is it may take a couple of days to adjust to the new pace.

This week’s astro stimulation stems from two sources. First, a Jupiter/Uranus sextile stirs a sense of destiny — it’s the right place, at the right time, and no matter what the current crisis may be, this sextile underscores faith in positive solutions to difficult situations. Jupiter and Uranus stay in this optimistic formation for the next several months, making it possible to adjust attitudes toward hope. Yes, those adjustments may include radical, surprising shifts. After all, Uranus is the planet of spontaneity, as well as revolution, and Jupiter is the planet of over-the-top-I-have-a-barn-let’s-put-on-a-show-enthusiasm. As this sextile catalyzes change, remember, the first rule of magic is intention — creativity emerges out of what your imagination believes is possible.

We are fortunate to have such a powerful planetary presence holding the potential for positive change, because even as the Jupiter/Uranus sextile holds the ground of hope, an opposition between Mars and Pluto inclines both the trained and untrained heart toward a brutal, pugnacious, and aggressive posture. Mars needs to move, Pluto needs to be in control, and when their individual agendas clash, neither planet is kind or considerate.

Be prepared for very strong opinions, yours or others, and don’t expect anyone to back down easily, especially because several other interactions color that opposition complex: Mars trines the Sun, as Saturn sextiles Mars, but Saturn also opposes the Sun, as the Sun sextiles Pluto. It is as multifaceted as it sounds and there is no need to go into a detailed explanation other than to offer a warning about being too staunch or militant. Often a hard stand is necessary, particularly when you need to get a difficult point across in a chaotic situation. But just as often a consistent commitment to kindness will get the job done and in the process, engender residual goodwill.

As the air quickens with change, lots of adjustments, personal and collective, will be necessary. And while I always counsel a compassionate approach, during the coming weeks, kindness toward your fellow travelers as well as yourself will yield exponential positive results.

February 13, 2008
Pluto in Capricorn, Part Three
If you listen closely, you’ll hear the hum of the great engine of 2008 getting ready to finally move forward. Mars, the muscle of daily life, Direct since January 30, is gathering momentum and is poised to spring into action as soon as Mercury, Retrograde since January 28, goes Direct late in the day on February 18. Which means by February 20 we are entirely free of astro-inhibitors for the first time since the start of the New Year. Unfortunately, this week we’re still enslaved by retrograde details, detours, and delays, a position that translates into testy tempers, short-fused frustration, and all variety of backaches and headaches. Still, the week can be used for preparation for what lies ahead. So keep putting one foot in front of the other and expect that soon your baby steps will turn into giant leaps.

If you listen even more closely you’ll hear another, deeper rumbling beneath the surface of daily life — the sound of Pluto still making its initial entry into Capricorn, a move that’s rattling personal and collective nervous systems. Frankly, most of us, including me, are grappling with how to readjust our personal positioning systems. Whether it is the weather — tornadoes and heat waves in February, snow in Jerusalem and ice storms in China — or the psychic climate — fear of a recession, fear of a failing US economy (which is just another way of saying fear of recession) — lots of people are on tenterhooks, stymied and perplexed about how to face the future. It’s almost as if the future has become the enemy and we’re just waiting for it to deliver something dreadful.

I keep wondering if this dread is new — a post 9/11 syndrome that has us expecting the worst instead of the best. Or, if this dread has always been a part of human experience and now, because information is delivered at a faster rate than it can be processed, we’re simply more aware of just how uncertain our human situation really is. An awareness that’s overwhelming, and if you take the time to really feel the uncertainty, terrifying.

Capricorn is not the Sign of doom and gloom. Things come to fruition in Capricorn, the Sign of the zodiac where we discard what’s unnecessary in order to reveal what’s essential, where wemature and develop wisdom. Pluto’s journey through Capricorn is going to challenge our capacity for wisdom by insisting that we confront expert opinion and question authority. Pluto will exhume what’s buried beneath the rules, as it simultaneously probes motivations, conscious and unconscious, personal and collective.

It may well be that the discomfort many of us are feeling is not actually dread, but prescience: the way we are is not the way we will be and we are not in charge or in control of the process or the outcome. So even though it may be difficult, as the coming weeks and months unfold, rather than stewing in uncertainty, put aside what life should be and contemplate what it could be.

February 6, 2008
Pluto in Capricorn, Part Two
This week, quakes, major and minor, continue to tilt daily life toward the extreme. You could say, “There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.” But you could just as easily say, “Welcome to Pluto in Capricorn” where a shift in astro gravity is making the world’s wobble highly visible. For some, Pluto’s new view is breathtaking and its vista reveals infinite possibilities. For others — maybe even most of us — the change from one planetary perspective to another is downright disconcerting, and the struggle to maintain a good attitude through the midst of this powerful transition is taking its toll. Whether it’s training a puppy, managing a mortgage, soothing a restless teenage spirit, or simply feeling confident about your choices, getting through the day feels like hard work. And it is. But keep in mind, while the intensity of this new pattern is edgy, Pluto in Capricorn isn’t negative. What’s difficult about this transition is the uncertainty about what lies ahead.

Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, and both symbolize structure — they both get down to the bones of things, and their appreciation of essence often translates into an ability to remove the superfluous in order to reveal the necessary. When that precision is wielded without skill, it can manifest as harsh critique — it’s the voice of the judge who only speaks in the dualistic language of right and wrong, a tone that turns Capricorn’s ability to see the “flaw” into an air of superiority. When the discernment of Capricorn is tempered by experience, that very same ability to cut to the chase with exacting precision becomes the capacity for compassion, as well as an opportunity for the critic to become the student and/or the teacher.

The capacity for discernment is just one of the areas Pluto will focus on during its sixteen-year transit through Capricorn, and because all of us have Capricorn somewhere in our birth charts, all of us are likely to face this challenge somewhere in our lives. From a collective perspective, Pluto in Capricorn is likely to reveal false foundations and corrupt cores. And because Capricorn governs corporations and organizations, Pluto will probe the skeletal structure of institutions, particularly institutions that no longer serve. But as always, the efficacy of Plutonian transformation is dependent upon our capacity to be agents of change. Fortunately, Capricorn is a Cardinal Earth Sign and has no problem moving into action as necessary.

This week, as high anxiety continues to tax nervous systems, make every effort to find healthy solutions to the stress. Meditate, exercise, be creative — do whatever it is you do to maintain your center. Focus on what’s positive, and when possible, help others to do the same. Remember, we create the future one moment at a time through our thoughts, words, and deeds.

January 30, 2008
Pluto in Capricorn, Part One
Beginner’s mind would be the wisest way to approach daily life this week, and the next several weeks. Pluto just entered Capricorn on January 25, which means we’re at the very tiniest, most minuscule start of an entirely new huge astrological cycle. And while much has been said by some and will be said others about the danger that lies ahead, if you take the time to really feel the air, it is possible to separate anxiety from excitement, and to sense the vital potential of what lies ahead. A potential that is best met with openness, enthusiasm, and as few preconceptions as possible — as Suzuki Roshi once wrote: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” So despite the stock market rumblings and the continuing ever-present threat of war, and the Mayan calendar, which has everyone’s apocalyptic g-spot quivering with anticipation, this column is going to try to focus on what’s positive about Pluto in Capricorn. Don’t worry — I haven’t succumbed to denial; I know I’m talking about Pluto, symbol of the shadow and guide of the underworld. Yes, there will be trials and tribulations over the course of the next fifteen years, but there is also every indication that progress can be made. And one of the ways to facilitate that progress is to keep an open mind and open heart about the future.

“Revolution” is the best word to describe the potential inherent in Pluto’s cycle through Capricorn. Capricorn is a Cardinal Sign — it thrives on doing. And its bent for action is going to move many of us out of the theoretical and into the actual. On a personal level, that transition could play out as a desire to put your money/body where your mouth/mind is. If you’ve always wanted to be a mentor, you won’t procrastinate any longer. If you’ve been afraid of leaving a bad relationship because you don’t have another choice, you may find the strength to be alone.

From the collective perspective, Pluto in Capricorn reorganizes political systems that no longer work. America is a country born from just such a reorganization; its “birth chart” has Pluto in Capricorn, and in 2022, it will experience a Pluto Return — something no human being will ever experience since a complete Pluto cycle is approximately 248 years. Returns always contain a review, and as part of that process, the United States will probably see increased political unrest. The good news is that there is plenty of time to figure out how to create a more perfect union. After all, it’s hard to pursue happiness when you’re hungry and homeless. And while Capricorn is a sober Sign, it is not heartless, and as Pluto strips away the conceit of capitalist democracy to reveal its cruelty, we will have plenty of opportunities to better fulfill the promise of our potential.

January 23, 2008
Okay … it’s finally here … the big week of astro events most of us have been anticipating since the start of 2008: Pluto enters Capricorn on Friday, Mercury goes retrograde on Monday, and Mars goes Direct on Wednesday, January 30. Frankly, I don’t know whether to call the coming week “Seven Days That Shook the World” or “Fasten Your Seat Belts.” Jack Reed or Bette Davis? It’s a hard call. Either way, we’re in for seven bumpy days and nights of major shifts. And as always, handling the intensity is going to require skill and flexibility. Be prepared to make adjustments, big and small, expected or unexpected. Also anticipate having to deal with meltdowns, yours or others, as nervous systems strain to keep up with what David Bowie might call the ch-ch-ch-changes.

Mercury goes retrograde on January 28 and stays retrograde until so late in the day on February 18 it might as well be the 19. Mercury Retrograde is a great time to review plans and projects already in motion. It is not a great time to initiate anything new. Mercury symbolizes all things related to language, and during its seemingly backward motion most things even vaguely related to communication go awry. Back up your hard drive today. Book your airline tickets now. Don’t procrastinate — you’ll only regret it later.

Mars has been retrograde since November 15, 2007. During December most of us were too busy with the holidays to notice the full effect of Mars’ backward motion. But now, with nothing to distract us, the sluggish pace of Mars Retrograde is noticeable, and for some of us, unbearable. But don’t expect Mars to press the fast-forward button on January 31. Mercury Retrograde is going to put the kibosh on a full-out, fast-forward Mars Direct. Also be aware, Mercury and Mars drive the mechanics of daily life, which means as they move in opposite directions, the timing of daily routines might suffer. The good news is that both Mercury and Mars turn around in a trine to each other, a positive interaction that could mitigate some of the negative side effects.

What we are sure to be feeling with gusto is Pluto’s entry into Capricorn, a journey that begins at the end of the day on January 25 and will last for the next sixteen years. Expect the first few moments, which in cosmic terms could mean the next five months, of Pluto’s new cycle to feel oddly familiar, almost as if the missing piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. But also expect to feel increasingly uncertain about how this cycle will unfold. Lots of us are curious (even me) and the next several columns will take a look at the potential of Pluto in Capricorn.

This week, as you work your way through the bumps, make an effort to be as kind as possible to yourself and your fellow travelers. We’re all in this together and we could all use a kind word or reassuring gesture.

January 16, 2008
The story lines of daily life play out on several screens simultaneously this week, and because most of us are too busy to sit still and allow the plot to unfold and because these stories intersect in ways only a physicist would understand, some of us could feel trapped in a multiplex of potential realities without any way of determining which story will have the happy ending. The source of this future-stress is the continuing kaleidoscope of planetary motion, and there’s still no telling what the landscape will look like when the rotation finally ends. For some of us, the uncertainty is thrilling; it’s the equivalent of boundless creative potential. For others, the vastness equals instability, and nervous systems are challenged to cope with the yet-to-be-determined outcome. For most of us, the shifting planetary patterns are puzzling and a bit confusing because we can feel the change in the air, but not only do we have no idea what it means, we also don’t have the time to sit around and think about it — there’s simply too much to do, now.

Pluto is one source of planetary pressure — it moves from Sagittarius into Capricorn on January 25, and as many readers are already aware, Pluto, despite its demotion to a planetoid is the most powerful transformative force within the astrological system. Some of us feel its presence immediately in the form of dramatic events, and others experience Pluto over time in small, even unconscious incremental attitude shifts. For the next ten days, Pluto is finishing up the details of its cycle through Sagittarius, a phase that began in January of 1995. Even if you have already paid plenty of attention to what’s transpired in your life during this Pluto cycle, pay attention to who or what emerges in your life from now until January 25, and notice what, if anything, feels as if it needs one last bit of care before we move into an entirely new episode. 

Fortunately, a Jupiter/Saturn trine provides a practical, grounded approach to just about every situation, even the turmoil and tumult of major change. This positive alliance promotes a straightforward approach that can be used to problem solve, persevere under pressure, or sustain diplomacy in a stressful environment.

In physics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that you can’t precisely determine position and momentum at the same time — so true in life when we are in the midst of transformation. Time becomes elastic and often elongated when we are revisiting old patterns in the hope of breaking free, and the breakthrough feels instantaneous when it occurs, despite how long it’s taken to arrive at that moment. As the next week unfolds, try not to worry about what the future holds or whether the ending will be happy — the future is always uncertain because we are always creating it through our thoughts, words, and deeds.

January 9, 2008
For the next several weeks, we’re caught in a complex process of creating closure, as we simultaneously focus on hope for the future. It’s kinda like straddling parallel universes (something some of us have grown used to over the years), but the problem with managing this particular reality gap is that these two universes are moving in opposite directions — with equal velocity. The safest place to manage any sense of dislocation between the past and the future is to stay in the now, where past, present and future meet. So rather than spending emotional or psychic energy trying to construct a bridge, take the middle path of present time. Give your mind and heart a rest from regret and anxiety, and concentrate on taking life one day at a time. It sounds simple, but staying focused in current reality requires the hard work of patient and diligent mindfulness.

The momentum behind the need for closure is generated by Pluto’s final moments through Sagittarius. On January 25, Pluto moves into Capricorn, but until Pluto makes that move, its energy is still firmly focused in the Fire of Sagittarian idealism. This week, that Fire is specifically focused on shared destiny. On the personal plane, that translates into increased local community activity motivated by common needs. From a collective perspective, the emphasis is on global goals that are driven by joint necessity. Notice who and what you support, and most importantly, what inspires your allegiance.

The power behind hope for the future is an intensified sense of expectation. For many of us, that anticipation is coupled with a sense of dread or a belief that our prospects as a planet are bleak, a view that also exacerbates personal despair about individual situations. Yet while the dire state of collective ecological, political, and economic conditions is obvious, the outcome isn’t decided. And Pluto’s journey through Capricorn will rouse even the most complacent to become vigorously involved in creating the future. Not the vision of things to come — the reality. Capricorn is a practical Sign and it initiates action, which means lots of us are going to feel the urge to take a stand for revolution, as well as evolution.

But I’m not really following my own advice and staying in present time, yet given the current highly intuitive climate, there are two other planetary shifts contributing to the intensity of daily life that still need a word or two. (1) Immediately following Pluto’s move into Capricorn on January 25, Mercury goes Retrograde on January 28. And (2) on January 30, Mars goes Direct. Be prepared to handle a bundle of disparate rhythms.

Again, the best way through the complexity is one day at a time. So, as always, try to make each day as joyous, creative, and compassionate as possible.

January 2, 2008
“Recalibrate” is the key word for 2008, and all year long, as certain planets constellate in new patterns, personal and collective reality here on Earth rearranges itself to accommodate the new view. Most major transitions — even the ones we welcome — tend to be uncomfortable. Attitudes and approaches to daily life will require subtle and not so subtle shifts in perspective. Many of us are likely to feel discombobulated by the changes, even if we also experience a remarkable clarity of purpose. This week and the next several weeks offer a preview of what’s to come, but be aware, the old pattern isn’t quite over. Unlike a typical movie trailer, daily life plays out on a split screen — one side tells the story of what’s coming to an end, and the other, shows highlights of things to come. Also keep in mind, recalibrating individual and collective perspectives takes time. So be gentle with yourself and others as you figure out what needs to be aligned and attuned.

The source of disruption is Pluto’s move into Capricorn. On January 25, Pluto leaves Sagittarius and enters Capricorn, where it will stay (except for a brief retrograde this year from June 14  to November 26) until 2023. When Pluto moves, so do we — on every level, spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. Because Pluto represents the process of death and rebirth, as it shifts Signs, it asks many, if not all of us, to let go of what no longer has personal or collective meaning. Unfortunately, we don’t often agree with Pluto about what no longer serves, and that translates into a tendency to cling to what most needs to be released. Notice what you’re holding on to — an idea, a profession, a person, or a persona.

This new Plutonian cycle is certain to make even the coolest among us antsy and apprehensive about what lies ahead. And you will hear many dire predictions about what Pluto in Capricorn is all about. As you listen, try to keep in mind the future is not yet written. We create it moment by moment through our thoughts words, and deeds. What’s more, we don’t need astrology to tell us just how precariously balanced our personal and planetary futures are. Unless you’ve been asleep in a cave for the last eight years, the issues of personal and global survival are top priorities for all the citizens of Planet Earth. And, except for the current American regime, who still believe the people can be fooled all of the time, most of us know something’s got to give — and soon.

Expanded awareness is crucial to the recalibration process of 2008, so as you move through the coming days, make an effort to widen your perspective. And when possible, help others to do the same.

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