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Any personal growth process or self-development technique invites you to engage with your deeper self. While the concept of ‘personal development’ seems modern, throughout history tools and practices have developed to help you do just that, develop personally. Rather than seek answers or define yourself externally, exploring your inner being through practices discovered and perfected throughout the past two millennia may offer insight and tools to help you know yourself.

What is personal development?

Personal development is a broad heading that encompasses many disciplines, all with the same underlying goal: to help you better understand yourself. Through different experiences, a fresh perspective, events or rituals, personal development practices encourage awareness and can help you clarify what  happiness means for you.

While the modern ‘self-help’ industry has grown out of what appears to be an innate human desire to seek self-knowledge, the practice of personal development, as reflected in esoteric methods like astrology, numerology, palmistry and feng shui, is ancient.

It seems counterintuitive that looking into the past can help you move forward, however, alternative wisdom that has stood the test of time has a solid chance of being able to guide you into a deeper, more conscious relationship with yourself. In fact, many ‘new’ developments in the self-help field are simplifications or modern takes on ancient esoteric wisdom. It was while studying Life Coaching that I first encountered the concept of ‘beginner’s mind’, which is in fact an underlying tenant of meditation and Buddhist practices.

In ‘Co-Active Coaching’ by Whitworth, Kimsey-House and Sandahl, personal growth is described as a ‘self-creative process’. It’s something you do for yourself, often by yourself. Even when in group experiences, the awareness you gain is always personally relevant. The authors continue by saying ‘It is possible to have both a sense of inner peace and outer struggle at the same time’, showing you the end goal of personal development is not a perfect life, but rather, discovering self-confidence to help you navigate life, which, according to Buddhist philosophy, is ever changing.

It’s also important to remember that your personal development journey is not going to be something you do just once in your life. Rather, personal development is more of an ebb and flow, with there being times in your life when it’s a main focus and other times when it’s not. What helps you grow, satisfies you and keeps you centred at one age/stage of life, may be something that no longer fits or supports you at another stage.

As you embark on a life supported by personal development, you’ll come to better understand how and when you need to focus on or reconnect with yourself, and when to allow yourself to simply move with what is.

Esoteric Methods
Almost every school of philosophy and major religion suggests rituals and practices to help you know who you are. While there are a number of ancient wisdom methods, here are some of the most popular. Each reflects beliefs and codes of behaviour unique to the culture and historical period in which they developed. A numerologist uses numbers, while an astrologer uses the planets, stars and sky. Both are working to help reveal aspects of your authentic self that are often hidden or suppressed. As you read through them, see which most resonates for you.

You can access the wisdom of these modalities in one of two ways. The easy, immediate option is contact an experienced practitioner in the field and have them share their analysis with you, or, you can dive in and study the modality yourself. Books, websites and courses abound in all four areas.

Astrology

Astrology is an art/science based on planetary and Zodiac symbolism. It holds that each planet depicts a different aspect of the self, like a sub-personality. The Zodiac signs, inspired by the Zodiac constellations, portray 12 different profiles or archetypes, each describing the motivation and style of any planets in that sign at your birth.

Astrologers create a birth or natal chart, based on your time, date and place of birth. This chart is constructed with road map like references called ‘houses’. Each house describes both a physical section of the sky, as well as symbolically reflects key areas of life. For instance, the 7th House describes the section of the sky due west, and immediately above the horizon. It reflects relationships.

Signs, Houses and Planets
Astrologers combine houses, signs and planets to create a symbolic profile of your personality. Your energy planet, Mars, may be in the slow and steady sign of Taurus, in the 9th House of Learning. (Note the planet/sign/house combination.) This describes a diligent, measured approach to learning, and indicates someone who takes their time getting started or making decisions, but has great follow through once they do. Each planet is described by sign and house, creating a celestial profile that describes who you are, what strengths or talents you have and identifies your weak spots or life challenges.

Astrological techniques still in use today were first described by the Babylonians in 4 BCE, though the practice of observing the sky and foretelling the future based on omens, like eclipses and comets, is older still. 

Planet Cycles
While astrologers do combine intuition with chart analysis, what sets astrology apart from other divinatory methods is its use of planetary cycles. Astrology offers both a perspective of your personality, as well as insight into future cycles and possibilities, all provided through the lens of the stars and planets.

Your changing focus and interests are described by current planetary influences. While your birth chart is created by taking a snapshot of the sky at birth, the planets do keep moving. It’s the comparison of current planetary placements with your personal birth chart that describes times of challenge, change or growth throughout your life.

For instance, the Saturn return (around 29) is a time of maturing and restructuring, while the Uranus opposition (around 42) can bring chaos and encounters with the unexpected. Some planetary cycles manifest at key ages and are common to everyone, (like those described above), while other planet cycles are unique to you. At this time, Uranus is moving through the early part of Aries, bringing radical change to early born Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorns.

The Zodiac as Wheel of Life
One of the secrets of astrology is that you are not just one sign, you are all signs, just in different ways. I’m a Pisces, because the Sun was in Pisces when I was born (which means I was born sometime between Feb 20 – Mar 20), but I have all the other signs represented somewhere in my birth chart. Through astrology I’ve discovered that when it comes to love, practical Virgo is my relationship sign, but when dealing with money, the fire sign of Aries most influences my behaviour.

Understanding your birth chart can help you understand how you approach different areas of life. Information supports insight, which all adds to self-awareness. After all, you can’t change something until you know about it or become conscious of it.

Extra Reading:

The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology by April Elliott Kent

Numerology

Numerology is the study of the meaning of numbers. Each number has its own vibration and quality, which, when combined in unique ways (based on your name or date of birth), paint a profile of who you are and what your life will be like. Milton Black, a leading numerologist and astrologer, describes numerology as “One of the world’s oldest forms of metaphysical communication and interpretation”. The ancient mathematician Pythagoras was thought to be one of the first who attributed meaning to numbers.

By adding up the numbers that are most important to you, a numerologist creates a chart, with different numbers allocated to different sectors. This arrangement of numbers is then analysed and interpreted to provide insight and information about your true self.

Which numbers?
Numerologist Max Coppa says, “Numerology works mainly with the numbers 1 to 9, including the master numbers 11, 22, 33, 44, which are not broken down to one digit.”  Single digit numbers, 1 – 9, describe different qualities and traits. Generally, all numbers are continually added together until a single digit is found.

Master numbers are the exception. Master numbers include double digits which repeat, i.e. 11, 22, 33 and so on. While 11, 22 and 33 are most commonly used, in her book ‘The Secret Science of Numerology’, Shirley Blackwell Lawrence Msc.D. mentions all the double digit numbers, from 11 through to 99.

Master numbers are thought to reveal ‘old souls’, and often indicate a high level of nervous energy. Learning to channel this heightened energy and awareness into something constructive, rather than letting it go to waste or lead you astray, is key.

Name and Birthday Numbers
The power of number is linked to your name through a straightforward substitution of one number per letter. This allows your most significant title, your name, to draw on the symbolism and meaning of numbers. The simplest way to work out the number of your name is to consecutively substitute numbers 1 – 9 for the letters of the alphabet. This means that letters A, J and S are linked to 1, while letters G, P and Y are linked to 7 and so on Your name at birth is typically the name your numerologist will use, as it’s the name which carries the most energetic resonance for you.

When calculating your numbers based on your name, your numerologist may also consider the final number derived from the vowels in your name, versus the final number derived from the consonants in your name. Shirley Blackwell Lawrence Msc.D. writes of how your vowel number reflects your “soul’s urge” and motivation, while your consonant number describes your “secret self” or personality. The number derived from vowels and consonants combined symbolises your “natural abilities and talents”. The three numbers that come from your name reflect the three planes of life – vowels = soul, consonants = body and spirit = the combination of the two.

Numerologists also work with a primary number, known as your Life or Birth Path Number. This is found by adding the day, month and year of your birth to a single digit. The only instances where you don’t continue to a single digit are if you end up with a master number (11, 22, 33 etc.).

For example, 4 November 1966 adds as follows: 4 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 9 + 6 + 6 = 28. Then add 2 + 8 = 10, followed by 1 + 0, finally ending with 1. Milton Black offers a free interpretation of Life Path Numbers on his website here http://www.miltonblack.com.au/num/lifepath.htm According to Shirley Blackwell Lawrence Msc.D., your Life/Birth Path Number describes “what you are here to do”.

While the above processes give your numerologist four key numbers with which to work, they also take into consideration things like the meaning of the first vowel and consonant to appear in your name and the amount of letters in your name. Different weighting is given to the numbers of your first name versus your surname, with your first name numbers revealing more about you personally, while your surname numbers describing more of your “inherited tendencies”.

Extra Reading:
The Secret Science of Numerology by Shirley Blackwell Lawrence Msc.D.

Palmistry

Both the ancient Chinese and Indian cultures included examination of the hand as part of their approach to healing. A palmistry practitioner, like a reflexologist, believes that a part of you reflects your whole. In palmistry, the features, shape and size of your hand describe your personality. Palmistry is also known as ‘chiromancy’. Throughout history, other parts of the body have also been considered reflective of your personality, like the face, the study of which is known as ‘phrenology’.

The most commonly used form of palmistry in the west is most often a simplified version of Indian palmistry. It’s from the Indian lineage that the links between planets and different parts of the hand are thought to have emerged.

In a palmistry session, your hand is first explored from a big picture perspective, where colour, temperature and texture is considered. A palmist then explores your fingers, considering them for length and thickness, focussing especially on your thumb. Next, they’ll explore the lines on the palm of your hand, and finally what are known as ‘mounts’, like the rises beneath your thumb or under your pinkie. While there is much debate as to what each of your hands indicates, most often your dominant hand, the one you write with, is the focus.

Fingers
Fingers are connected to different planets, and each part of each finger is explored in detail. (Jupiter rules the index finger, Saturn the middle, the Sun your ring finger and Mercury your pinkie.) A palmist considers the length of each finger to be important, making judgements based on the relationships between your tallest and shortest fingers. They’ll also explore the three different sections on each finger, with the bottom third reflecting the physical world, the middle third showing your rational side and the top third describing intuition.  Depending on the thickness of different thirds, palmistry reveals which parts of your personality are dominant.

The heart, head and life line are often what’s most commonly associated with palmistry, but rather than being the sole focus, they form part of a more detailed practice. Your palmist explores the dots, branches and forks along each main line to determine the nature of your path through life.

Mounts
There are a variety of mounts across your palm, including the soft pads at the base of each finger, which are the mounts linked to the planets that rule each finger. Additionally, the mount beneath your thumb is the Mount of Venus, while the extended fleshy pad beneath your pinkie, down where your hand meets your palm, is your Moon mount. Based on which mounts are prominent or have the most markings (like dots and lines), a palmist can determine which planetary influences and qualities you have easy access to, and which are harder to activate.

The art of palmistry is one the oldest forms of both healing and divination available today. If you decide to explore palmistry further, you’ll be able to access the secrets of ancient wisdom to help you understand your talents and areas of concern, through unique physical features like the ‘angle of generosity’ and the ‘girdle of Venus’.

Extra reading:
The Complete Guide to Palmistry by Robin Gile and Lisa Lenard

Feng Shui
Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice that recognises the influence your physical space has on your life. While most of what you might know about Feng Shui may have to do with crystals, chimes and water features, Feng Shui is still regularly used in many Asian countries by architects and designers to ensure the inhabitants of buildings are happy and successful.

In his book, ‘Feng Shui for Australians’, Gerry Heaton describes Feng Shui as belonging to larger art form, that of geomancy, which is “the art of understanding how to live in harmony with the earth”.

Your Environment
Feng Shui is based on the principle that you are a product and reflection of your environment. Getting to know the space in which you spend most of your time, and what areas of life your most cluttered rooms, wardrobes, garages or parts of the garden fall in, can provide insight into why particular experiences or areas of life are a challenge for you. Rather than reading you, a Feng Shui practitioner reads your space, using that to determine what’s working for or against you. The underlying principle of Feng Shui is that if you enhance your space, you’ll improve your life.

A Feng Shui practitioner also explores the influence of the outside natural environment on your home or living space, considering things like whether you live on a river or main road, or at the end of a cul-de-sac. They’ll want to know whether there are any mountains behind or in front of your space, or whether there are electrical boxes near your property. These factors all influence the flow of chi or energy into and out of your home.

The Bagua Map
Traditional Chinese Feng Shui is complex, and draws, like astrology, on your birth date. However one of the simplest ways you can access this ancient wisdom – and discover what your home or work space says about you – is through the Bagua Map. The Bagua Map is a nine cube square that allocates a different focus or area of life to different corners or sections of your home. It’s a template you can overlay over a drawing of your home or work space (or visualise it being overlayed).

A key principle of Feng Shui focuses on the importance of having clear, clutter-free space so energy or chi, and therefore the opportunities it brings, can easily reach all the corners of your home. If you find that you always struggle with finances, the Bagua Map suggests exploring the far left hand corner of your space. You can apply this ‘far left corner’ Bagua Map cube to your desk/work space, home or even in the individual rooms in your home. If this area is cluttered, hard to get to, dominated by something broken or no longer in use, the energy supporting money flowing through your life will follow suit. If romance and relationships are not what you’d hoped, apply the same considerations to the far right hand corner of your space.

Cures
Along with clearing clutter and fixing or passing on broken objects, which are often key points of any Feng Shui consultation, Feng Shui practitioners advise you on where and how to place what are known as ‘cures’ to help boost positive energy flow or neutralise the impact of any negative energy. Gerry Heaton describes nine basic cures, which include anything that creates light (candles, lamp, window/skylight, crystals), a cd player or something that creates sound music (wind chimes also work), a healthy plant, gorgeous vase of flowers or heavy pieces like statues (if you’re trying to create stability).

Honouring the tenant that no one lives in isolation, and that as part of the human community and natural world, you are also affected by your environment, Feng Shui provides a tool for understanding how to work with your space to achieve your dreams. Feng Shui practitioners believe that having the elements and chi balanced in your space brings general positivity into your life.

Extra Reading:
Feng Shui For Australians by Gerry Heaton

References:
Co-Active Coaching by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House and Phil Sandahl

The Secret Science of Numerology by Shirley Blackwell Lawrence Msc.D.
Feng Shui For Australians by Gerry Heaton

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Words have the power to inspire and motivate, but did you know that writing can heal? Writing has always seemed a bit magical to me, like baking a cake without knowing what the ingredients are until afterwards. When I learned that writing could also help me deal with life, I wanted to know more.

The definition of therapy is loosely ‘something that makes you feel better’. The concept of writing as therapy has gained momentum since the late 1980’s, when studies first began to show the power of writing to support healing.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious about a recent or upcoming event, grab a pen, take 5 mins and write down your feelings, worries and concerns. According to James W Pennebaker, Professor and Chair of Psychology at University of Texas and author of the 1997 book ‘Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions’, doing so can help your mood and physical health. Writing, like may forms of talk based therapies, helps you explore emotions, is a tool for self reflection, offers clarity and perspective and has been shown to improve physical as well as mental health.

Similar to the way art therapists assess your state of mind based on the nature of images you select, therapeutic writing is a tool psychotherapists and counsellors use to help determine the truth of what’s really going on inside you. Research continues to show what authors throughout history have known – that writing is a technique to help you discover your inner self. As award winning author Joan Didion, says ‘I write to find out what I think’.

When you think, worry or ruminate, it is easy to get caught in a muddle of possibilities or potentials as your mind twists and turns from one thing to the next. This mental busyness is sometimes referred to as ‘monkey mind’ and is a prime contributor to anxiety and stress. When you take your thoughts, worries or mulling over to the page you create healthy distance between who you are and what’s on your mind. With your thoughts on the page you can clearly see that you are not your worries. This kind of distance – between you and a perceived problem – is known to be therapeutic. Distance inspires objectivity, helping you reframe your concerns.

In January 2011, researchers from the University of Chicago published a report in ‘Science’ showing that students who take 10mins to write about their thoughts and feelings perform better on standardised tests than those who don’t. Part of their premise involves the idea that “worrying competes for computing power in the brain’s ‘working’ or short term memory”. They go on to discuss how when working memory is focussed on worrying, information recall is impaired.

Simply put, rather than worry about a problem, write about it! Writer and artist Julia Cameron, of ‘The Artist’s Way’ fame, says, “Writing is medicine. It is an appropriate antidote to injury. It is an appropriate companion for any difficult change”.

Journal Writing

While particular forms of writing are known to be especially healing, the simple act of journal writing can create positive change. In ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen R Covey says, “Keeping a journal of our thoughts, experiences, insights and learnings promotes mental clarity, exactness and context”. Teacher Erin Gruwell tells the story of how she used journal writing to help turn around the lives of 150 challenging students and those around them in her 1997 book, ‘The Freedom Writer’s Diary’. On her website she writes, “Journals provided a safe place (for students) to become passionate writers communicating their own histories, their own insights. As they began to write down their thoughts and feelings, motivation blossomed. Suddenly, they had a forum for self-expression, and a place where they felt valued and validated”. If journal writing can have such a radical affect on the lives of children from difficult backgrounds, imagine how it could help you enhance your life. In her 2008 book, ‘Writing Through The Darkness: Easing Your Depression With Paper and Pen’ Elizabeth Schaefer Ph.D. suggests beginning your journey of writing to heal with journal writing.

Therapeutic Writing

Research highlights the particular healing power of what’s known as ‘expressive’ or ‘therapeutic’ writing. This defines the most healing type of writing as that which is directed or focussed, especially towards an event which triggers strong emotions. Writing is most healing when you intend to write about a problem, issue or concern, discussing both the detail of the event as well as your feelings towards it.

The concept of therapeutic writing is over 20 years old. In 1992, James W. Pennebaker presented a paper on ‘Writing About Emotional Experiences As A Therapeutic Process’ at the American Psychologists Association. In this paper, he describes how “The construction of a coherent story, together with the expression of negative emotions work together in therapeutic writing”. This highlights two unique forms of writing – a narrative style, that is, telling the story of sequential events, and an emotional style – describing feelings which emerged in response to said events. Using the two together – writing about both a challenging event and the emotions it triggered – creates writing that heals. Pennebaker continues with “The increasing use of insight, causal, and associated cognitive words over several days of writing is linked to health improvement”, showing that writing about the same event for consecutive days or weeks can help create progressive healing. The level of loss or stress a particular event caused you will likely inform how long you write about it.

Part of Professor Pennebaker’s work also involves analysing the words individuals use to describe their situations. If you’re interested to see what this research says about you – and you use twitter – you may find this analytical link insightful  HYPERLINK “http://www.analyzewords.com/” http://www.analyzewords.com/

A few months ago I was made redundant from a long term columnist position, a decision which caught me by surprise. I wrote about this event – and the variety of feelings it triggered – in the days and weeks that followed. Each time I did, different emotions emerged, helping me gain new context on how this event – and my emotional response to it – fit into the larger context of my life. In the days immediately following the shock of being made redundant, this quote, from Margaret Atwood’s ‘Negotiating With The Dead: A Writer on Writing’, resonated strongly, “Possibly then, writing has to with darkness, and a desire or perhaps a compulsion to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and to bring something back out to the light”.

Benefits of Writing For Healing

One feature of writing for healing is the unique and sacred way in which writing offers an entirely private form of disclosure. Naming and defining one’s concerns, fears, worries or past trauma has long been known to have a therapeutic benefit. However, due to perceived judgement, lack of a safe relationship or low confidence in expressing emotions, you may rarely reveal what’s really going on inside. The fast pace of and focus on action in modern life provides little opportunity for stillness, reflection or honouring of feelings.

Taking to the page, with pen in hand, helps your mind and body slow down. Through the process of what’s called a ‘mind dump’ – writing down what’s in your head, you create an opportunity to commune with your inner being. This allows you to look beneath surface worries, like concerns about having no personal time, or a lack of energy or affection, and explore the root of a situation, like how having no personal time really prevents you from x, y or z.

Buried longings exist deep beneath the surface of awareness; it’s through writing your stuff down that you can see what’s really there. Doing so helps you clarify and identify both the factors affecting a situation, as well as your private concerns about the heart of a matter. Writing, exploring and revealing these on the page creates healing and invites a sense of inner calm. For many, an immediate reduction in anxiety occurs; for some, multiple sessions bring the most benefits. While many support the belief that writing helps healing, it’s quite normal to experience a temporary low in the hour immediately following a writing session about a personally intense topic.

According to Julia Cameron, one of the physical benefits of writing is weight loss. Her 2007 book, ‘The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right Size’ describes her observations of watching heavy or overweight students drop kilos as they rediscovered their creativity over the course of her 12 Step Artist’s Way program. She observes “A steady diet of self reflection soon regulates over eating” and that ‘Writing makes us conscious. Once we are conscious, it is difficult to act out in unconscious ways” (like overeating or indulging in food as comfort).

Whether you’re on a particular diet regime or simply looking to improve your diet to improve overall health, Julia says “Using the tools of the Writing Diet will greatly increase your chances of success with whatever diet you choose”. Julia’s first tool is what she refers to as Morning Pages. It’s also the first tool described in Week 1 of her Artist’s Way program. It involves writing three pages of free form writing first thing in the morning. Julia recommends doing this long hand – with pen and paper. The idea is to make these “strictly stream of consciousness” words. Don’t judge or set expectations on quality or quantity: let yourself put down whatever comes to mind. Elizabeth Schaefer concurs, stating, “Writing with paper and pen puts you in more direct physical contact with your words; I feel this leads me to access a more creative part of myself”. Familiar with 12 step programs, Julia calls morning pages part of “getting current”, which helps you “catch up on yourself, to pinpoint precisely what you are feeling and thinking”.

Elizabeth Schaefer notes “When you keep writing, no matter what, you tend to access the more creative, more emotionally insightful parts of your brain, rather than your picky “editor brain”. Putting pain into words can:
– help you identify feelings and separate yourself from them

– allow you to create stories about your life and find new perspectives

– help you sift out aspects of your mood, allowing you to examine them to understand consciously the stories you tell yourself

– help you clarify which parts of yourself call for what action and why

Writing Exercises

Dr Allan G Hunter, a Doctor of English Literature who uses therapeutic writing exclusively in his coaching practice, offers “writing exercises designed to help you reflect on your life so that you can understand yourself better”. He talks of how writing provides a physical record of insight, growth and progress that can’t immediately be forgotten. Dr Hunter describes how the act of writing experiences and feelings down somehow preserves them, thus proving your own breakthroughs, insight or emerging awareness to yourself. He suggests reviewing your writing as it shows both what you said and how you said it plus helps you reflect on your process. In his book ‘The Sanity Manual’, Dr Hunter comments, “Mental health is something we do for ourselves”. As such, he recommends getting into the swing of things by starting with simple self description writing prompts.

Beginning with “I am…..” complete this sentence around 10 times.

Then, beginning with “I am not…” complete this sentence around 10 times.

Afterwards, take a few minutes to reflect on what you’ve written. Do you see anything you’d like to add? If so, go ahead and do so. Then, consider how you might prioritise what you’ve written. Take care not to judge how things emerged from within you – but be curious as to what titles or self definitions came at the start, towards the middle and then as you finished up.

Dr Hunter also suggests reconnecting with memories or formative experiences (like birth, early or middle childhood/family life, entering adulthood and so on) through writing. Pick an age which stands out for you in your formative years. Give yourself 5 – 10 mins to write about why that age was important. Write about events that happened and your response to them.

In her final book, “On Grief and Grieving”, Elisabeth Kubler Ross writes of the impact letter writing can have on your grief process. Her beliefs around the healing power of externalising grief are reflected in this passage, “Writing is a wonderful companion to our loneliness in a world where we stand alone. Writing externalises what is in us. Those circulatory thoughts can find an exit with the pen and paper or with the keyboard an mouse. For many, writing feels better than speaking as the unspoken healing can come through journaling. You can find your voice in writing in  way that you can’t find in other forms of communication. You can also finish your unfinished business in letter writing”.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross goes on to suggest the following writing exercise for grief – “Write a letter to your loved one with your dominant hand. Now, get a fresh piece of paper and allow yourself to write a letter back from your loved one with your non-dominant hand”. If you’re right handed, you’d write the first letter with your right hand and its response with your left. While this sounds entirely magical, it’s not an uncommon tool in therapy – in those instances it’s designed to access your higher self. Kubler Ross’ work showed this letter writing technique to be useful in bringing comfort, insight and perspective to those dealing with grief.

You can write anywhere with basic tools like pen and paper. If you really want to get heal pain – get to know you – there’s no better way.

References:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kubler Ross

The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right Size by Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Writing Through The Darkness: Easing Your Depression With Paper and Pen by Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer Ph.D.

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While 2019 will have its tough moments, Venus in Sagittarius – twice! – is one planet/sign pairing that offers hope and optimism.

Since we don’t have a Venus retrograde cycle in 2019, Venus is moving at her fastest speed, and will do more than one lap of the Zodiac. This means Venus will tour Sagittarius – and Capricorn – twice in 12 months.

At two different periods this year we have both the benefic, helpful planets, Venus and Jupiter, in the same sign at the same time.

Venus is in Sagittarius from January 7 to February February 3 and again from November 2 – 26. Jupiter is also in Sagittarius during both those periods.

Each of these periods will shine a ray of hope, and may help you discover new happiness or joy.

I’m not saying these Venus in Sagittarius cycles will be perfect, but at least according to astrological theory, they are likely to be periods in which success, abundance and opportunity grace your life.

You might be in the right place at the right time to be considered for a lucrative opportunity.

You might magically meet someone who will have a positive, major impact in your life.

You might discover inner reserves – like confidence, self belief or the willingness to take a leap of faith – that help you say yes to a dream or offer.

You may finally do something about an adventure you’ve carried in your heart for years, or realise that your past hard work has helped you make a dream come true.

Like the joy that comes from starting to see the manifestation of a dream or wish you’ve held in your heart, these periods may bring hope that it is possible to create some of what you most deeply want.

Sagittarius is a sign of vision, of potential. It dares you to look upwards and outwards. To consider new goals, and challenges. To see more for yourself and then to go after it with your whole heart.

Sagittarius is a sign of integrity, and planets here challenge you to pursue a meaningful type of life while staying true to the ethics and moral codes that the very essence of your being is rooted in.

Like a crackling fire, Sagittarius warms the body and stirs the heart. It encourages you to reach upwards, towards the heavens, to make your life into something that resembles your vision of the divine. To reach higher toward the essence of all that is good, bright and uplifting.

And as Marianne Williamson so eloquently puts it in this classic quote:

‘We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’

When you pursue the highest version of the dream in your heart, you act as a beacon of light and hope to inspire those around you to lift their gaze a little higher, to strive a little further, to dare with a little more intensity.

Hope is a powerful motivator. When you believe something might be possible, you instantly start considering how to make it happen. Getting over that first hurdle, that of believing you just might be able to …….. (insert your personal big dream here) is the biggest step.

When Venus and Jupiter work together, little bits of potential, hope and positivity emanate from the cosmos, helping make connections sweeter and dreams more reach-able.

Venus and Jupiter will join together twice, making two conjunctions in Sagittarius in 2019, on January 22 and November 24. These dates represent peaks around the positive potential of the longer Jupiter in Sagittarius trend.

There’ll be a few other positive Jupiter in Sagittarius peak dates in 2019, especially when the Sun in Aries and the Sun in Leo aspect Jupiter, on April 14 and August 7 respectively.

If you can, plan a special adventure, exciting experience or special treat near these dates. With Jupiter in the spotlight then, you’ll have luck and abundance on your side.

What are your hopes for Jupiter in Sagittarius? What house or area of your chart and life will be doubly blessed by Venus and Jupiter in 2019?

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To all my fabulous clients and students in Sydney, I’ll be in town Jan 28 – Feb 15 and would love to connect.

I’m presenting as part of a panel discussion with my Water Trio sisters on the astrology of 2019 at a special event in Crows Nest on Wednesday January 30, 7.30pm. You can grab your ticket here.

And, I will have limited spots open for in person client consults too. To get the link for that, please reach out here.

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Communication planet Mercury has finally left Sagittarius, and will spend the next few weeks getting serious, grounded and organized in Capricorn.

Mercury is in Capricorn from January 4 – 24.

I love this Mary Oliver quote. It’s inspirational but it also provides a clue that to get where you want to go, you need one essential – a plan.

 “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

With Mercury in Capricorn you’ll need to carefully consider choices and plans, so that you only commit to what you know is sustainable and manageable.

This is quite a change from the ‘More, more, more’ vibe that has been Mercury in Sagittarius since November 1. I even saw on social media someone describe Sagittarius as Exagittarius! For Mercury, and for all us of mentally, the past two months have been hectic, with more ideas and information flying around that we can reasonably manage at once.

Now that Mercury is calming down and getting focused on manageable plans, you might get a reality check about your ideas and schedules. If so, pay attention.

Capricorn is a sign ruled by Saturn, and any planets in Capricorn operate according to Saturn’s need for order and careful time management. This helps support Saturn’s ultimate goal, which is lasting security and stability.

I’m already noticing I want to spend less and save more. I want to cook my own meals and avoid wasting money on eating out. Capricorn has a frugal side and if you over spent through the holiday season, you might welcome the chance to set healthy and safe limits now.

While Mercury is in Capricorn, you might like to:

* Let long term goals dictate daily choices and actions.
* Put your best efforts towards plans or goals that really matter
* Scale back superficial or inauthentic stuff time drains

Mercury in Capricorn helps you communicate practically and with a view to making things more structured. There’s a natural reserve and caution to thinking and communication in the coming weeks, which  might help you avoid over committing. I know I can do better at this for sure.

Another thing I love about Mercury in Capricorn is that it brings a chance for clarity with all kinds of communication.

As Brene Brown writes, ‘Unclear is unkind. Clear is kind.’

That’s my motto in the coming weeks: to be clear, even when it means saying a quick or firm no, as that’s MUCH kinder that umming and ahhing and delaying, holding others up because I feel bad about saying now. Or, worse still, saying yes and then either pulling out at the last minute, or being resentful.

One thing I’ve noticed from the people I admire who do this well, is that they just lay out the facts, without getting into explanations or justifications. It’s clear, and concise.

I’m going to embrace Mercury in Capricorn’s offer to be clear in my communication, and to be cautious with what I give time too. After all, it is the most precious – and limited – resource.

Are you getting clear with Mercury in Capricorn?

This January, I’m on the road and will be presenting in Seattle and Sydney. Hope to catch you then!

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Astrologers see the birth chart as a map of your soul. When your personal soul map is placed next to the soul map of someone else, it’s possible to see energy links, known as aspects, between the planets in your chart and the planets in the other person’s chart.

Regardless of the relationship you share – family, professional or intimate – these planetary aspects can help you understand the flow of energy between you and others. Putting the birth charts for any two people – or more if working with family groups or workplace dynamics – side by side invites the planets and the Zodiac to inform you as to what’s really going on when you interact.

Astrology comes alive when used in a dynamic setting like relationships. Family themes, sibling connections and of course intimate intricacies can all be explored, named and re-viewed using the symbols in astrology. Relationship astrology is a direct, effective and simple way to use astrology. It can provide a fresh perspective on old relationship patterns, helping you better understand the true nature of close connections.

One of the primary ways astrologers gain information about you from the sky, via your birth chart, is to consider the links or aspects between various planets at the time you were born. This concept of planetary links is also applied when considering how two people relate.

Planets

Astrologers use ten planets. The Sun and Moon stand alone as ‘luminaries’ or lights. The next three bodies – Mercury, Venus and Mars, are known as personal planets, and their chart influences create personality. Saturn and Jupiter are known as social planets, and show how you interact with the society in which you live. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are known as generational or modern planets. Their inclusion in astrology only dates through the last 300 hundred years. These planets are slow movers and spend anywhere from 7 years (Uranus) to 24 years (Pluto) in one sign.

Individually, each planet represents an internal archetype or sub personality. The Moon symbolises the childlike, emotional and caring, nurturing part of you. Each planet is best met by certain planets – and feels somewhat misunderstood when in aspect with others. Each planet also symbolises certain qualities and life experiences.

Here’s a quick overview:
* Sun – self + ego. The Sun shows your identity and way of lighting up life.
* Moon – emotions and feelings. The Moon shows your needs for safety and reflects your preferred home and family life.

Mercury – communication and processing. Mercury shows what you think about, how you best communicate and the kinds of things you like to talk about.

Venus – love, beauty and affection. Venus shows your personal relationship style and how you prefer to give and receive affection.

Mars – action, passion and anger. Mars shows how you assert yourself, the kinds of things that arouse your passion and how to channel anger.

Jupiter – faith and philosophy. Jupiter shows what you believe in and your perspectives on life.

Saturn – structure and commitment. Saturn shows the personal ways in which you seek to build foundations and solidity in your world.

Uranus – chaos and change. Uranus shows how and where you seek to stand out from the crowd.

Neptune – surrender and dissolving. Neptune shows how and where you like the escape and what inspiration means for you.

Pluto – power and control. Pluto shows how you experience and express power and the ways in which you seek control in life.

Aspects

In every birth chart, planets form links with each other. Based on geometry and known as ‘aspects’, there are five major links commonly used by all astrologers. Of these five, two are considered easy or supportive – the sextile and trine, two are considered challenging – the square and opposition, and the final one – the conjunction, can be either positive or difficult depending on the nature of the planets involved.

The five major aspects are created by dividing the zodiac/sky circle into segments based on either 60 or 90 degrees. The Zodiac, like all circles, is 360 degrees. Each aspect is allowed a little leeway from these exact distances to be considered influential. This distance is known as an ‘orb’ and can vary from 0 to 10 degrees. I use an orb of at most about 5 degrees – the closer these planetary links, the tighter and more influential planetary and subsequent relationship dynamics are.

In the realm of relationship astrology it’s more important to understand the nature of the energetic link created by two planets than to focus on the exact nature of the aspect. Every couple that has a Uranus/Mars aspect experiences some type of awakening around sexuality and assertiveness, and challenges the status quo in the process. Whether this happens easily or with some difficulty depends on the nature of the aspect. A Mars/Uranus sextile or trine express more smoothly than a Mars/Uranus square or opposition. A Mars/Uranus conjunction, like all conjunctions, can express differently depending on the sign the two planets occupy. The aspect or type of link simply shows how easily or not the underlying dynamic expresses.

Karmic Aspects

As with everything in life, not all aspects are created equal. To get a true sense of the power between two people, it’s the aspects from one person’s lights and personal planets (that’s Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars) to another’s outer or generational planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) that show the deeper nature of your relationships. Saturn is one extra planet to include as his connections to the lights/personal planets highlight how (or not!) possible a real, lasting relationship is between two people. These aspects are known as “Karmic Inter Aspects” or KIA’s as I more affectionately term them.

Typically KIA contacts occur between Person A’s Saturn or outer planet to Person B’s lights or personal planets:

Person A

Person B

Sun

Saturn

Moon

Uranus

Mercury

Neptune

Venus

Pluto

Mars

The links can go from any planet in the left hand column to any planet in the right hand column. You might find your Pluto links to your partner’s Mercury. Or your partner’s Uranus links to your Mars.

Here’s a highlight of the major Karmic Inter Aspects and what they can reveal about your connection.

Saturn

If you share Saturn contacts with your partner you can expect there to be a grounded, mature and realistic quality to your connection. Saturn is the planet astrologers associate with longevity and commitment. It’s also the planet that gives two people the practical skills to work through relationship ups and downs over time, bestowing the relationship with quiet strength. Saturn creates a ‘we’ll stick this out together’ quality. When there are Saturn contacts things can be slow to get started, as if each of you feels the weight of possibility from the beginning. Saturn contacts work best when you take your time to get to know each other and build a strong foundation of shared interests and common values. Saturn is also about limits and restrictions, so be aware of how one of you might hold back or limit the other. Saturn is a symbol for ‘father’ and authority figures in general. It also symbolises age and in these relationships there can be a strong subconscious father theme playing out, or there can be a signification age or maturity difference between the two partners. When Saturn is involved, relationship traditions matter.

Saturn in aspect to:
Sun – the Saturn person acts as foundation to the Sun person. There can be parental themes in this partnership. The Saturn person’s wisdom and experience help the Sun person find their most authentic way to shine in the world. The Saturn person needs to be conscious of not limiting or inhibiting the confidence/expression of the Sun person.
Moon – the Saturn individual provides safety and security, especially around home and family life. The Moon person finds someone on whom they can rely. The Saturn person can seem less emotional than the Moon person which can cause tension.
Mercury – the Saturn person helps the Mercury individual find their voice. This can be through study, rational thinking and anything to do with writing/teaching. Communication is a focus and working together to both  respect each other’s opinions and different ways of processing is necessary. Details are important and sticking to commitments made together/to each other is key.
Venus – the Saturn individual brings the possibility of lasting love. The Venus person has the chance to experience true commitment and loyalty. Affection may be limited or expressed in private, but the potential for deep genuine love exists.
Mars – the Mars individual can resist Saturn’s attempts to create structure and foundation. The Saturn person seeks commitment and wants security which to Mars may mean giving up some individual freedoms. The trade off is shared adventure over time.

Uranus

Uranus is an electric planet of instant connections. When there are Uranus contacts expect to feel ‘awakened’ by what happens in your relationship.  Uranus connections are typically chaotic and unpredictable, where partners often spend time apart. They also come with some kind of shock or wow factor. Unconsciously, separations can occur through a pattern of breaking up and making up. Consciously the experience of being together then apart then together again can arise out of each person respecting the others individuality and independence. Uranus contacts are common in long distance relationships or where one partner works shifts. Significant cultural differences may also be a symbol of a Uranus connection – Uranus is the planet of differences and the unusual. Sometimes Uranus connections are the short but fast paced kind. Uranus is the planet of chaos and rebellion so if you can find a way to work constant change into the fabric of your partnership you’ll enjoy the Uranus connection to it’s full potential. When Uranus is involved, anything is possible.

Uranus in aspect to:
Sun
– discovering a sense of one’s true self is possible if your Sun is aspected by your partner’s Uranus. You may discover the confidence to reveal previously unexpressed parts of your psyche. Life be chaotic, but the experiences of being different are stimulating.

Moon – if your Moon is aspected by a partner’s Uranus the tug between freedom and closeness can be key. Working out how and when to ‘need’ your partner, versus how and when to set them/yourself free takes effort. Doing so creates a bond where you honour the unique ways in which you nourish each other, but still allow each other freedom to grow outside the partnership. Home and family life can be unconventional.

Mercury – if your Mercury is aspected by a partner’s Uranus it’s time to start thinking outside the square. New forms of communication emerge from this connection as you realise it’s time to break old habits. Technology can feature in how you stay in touch as can different languages. Be open to conversing in alternative ways (including energetic!).

Venus – if your Venus is aspected by a partner’s Uranus how you give and receive affection becomes atypical. Your tastes and desires about love and romance alter radically through this partnership as you give voice to your authentic desires for love, no matter how different or unique. Be open to exploring exotic love rituals and alternative relationship structures – this partnership is classically about non traditional styles of marriage. Expect to give relationship habits a modern, authentic revamp.

Mars – If your Mars is aspected by a partner’s Uranus expect your sexual experiences to delve into quirky territory. Mars is about passion, anger and assertiveness so this combination can be volatile as well as incredibly hot. You’ll learn about the many forms passion can take, but be prepared to suspend all judgement about sexual intimacy. You’ll only ever try things you choose, but with this partner almost anything is possible. It’s a high energy, high fire combination.

In all cases the Uranus individual must remember their need for change, innovation or constant movement will not always match their partner’s needs. If it’s your Uranus, maintaining a strong sense of identity outside the partnership – and keeping up with your own interests – is a must.

Neptune

Neptune is the planet of romance and fairytales. In relationships, Neptune creates the desire for idealistic perfection – which can sound lovely, but is hard to maintain. Neptune rules the realms of creativity and spirituality and the best kinds of Neptune contacts inspire the individuals to explore spiritually or get artistic together. The desire to escape is strong with Neptune and unconsciously expressed this can lead to a couple who shirks real life responsibilities and drinks or parties to much. The desire to merge completely with a partner is strong when there are Neptune contacts and finding ways to be enmeshed without being co-dependent are part of the process. When Neptune is involved, meeting each other feels like finding ‘the one’. At least at first, until you try to add in money, daily life and work/family responsibilities.

Neptune in aspect to:
Sun – If it’s your Sun aspected by a partner’s Neptune it’s very easy to over identify with them/their dreams. Getting swept up in their lifestyle can leave out of touch with your own needs. Sharing fantasies for the future is important, but make sure you have equal input.

Moon – If it’s your Moon touched by a partner’s Neptune you have one of the most romantic connections around. The desire to create an idyllic home and family life means you could overlook reality, especially when you first get together. This connection works best when you both honour the larger than usual place for emotion and sensitivity in your partnership.

Mercury – If it’s your Mercury touched by a partner’s Neptune expect to have the creative muses aroused through your relationship. Sharing poetry, music and art is a lovely couple experience, though dealing with details and planning may be vague and confusing.

Venus – If it’s your Venus touched by your partner’s Neptune you’ll seek in them the perfect partner. This is the connection of princesses and knights in shining armour. A deep desire for love and affection can mean ignoring practical limits so try to be grounded when planning together.

Mars – If it’s your Mars touched by a partner’s Neptune you’ll crave the perfect blend of passion and intuition. Tantra is an expression of this as you seek to lose yourself with your partner through physical or sexual outlets.

In all cases, if it’s your Neptune find ways to share your soulfulness and sensitivity with your partner in a way that encourages you both to become more energetically aware. Sinking into co-dependency is seductive, but consciously supporting each other’s creative and spiritual growth is healthier all around. Be aware of how your desire for complete closeness drives you. Explore how you can share spiritual or creative pursuits (like meditation or any experiences with music) to create a unique otherworldly connection. You are the receptacle of all things inspired for the two of you – making time for pure romance keeps you both happy, but remember to get to work on time too.

Pluto 

Pluto is the planet of power and control. When you share a Pluto contact with someone, the connection can feel intense and instant, as if you have known each other forever. And perhaps, at a soul level, you have. Pluto creates attraction that’s compelling and forces both of you to change throughout your relationship. Pluto does symbolise the darker side of the psyche and it’s important to bring into consciousness control or manipulation themes under his energy. Pluto can offer you a relationship that teaches you empowerment and mutual support, but only if you can step away from patterns that may be about controlling others. Pluto represents jealousy and dealing with the truth about each other’s past can require delicate handling. With Pluto, it’s all or nothing.

Pluto in aspect to:
Sun – If it’s your Sun aspected by your partner’s Pluto this relationship offer you the space to become a whole new person. Being together helps you banish bad habits and become a healthier, happier you. You’ll need to address any baggage or unconscious behaviour though – it’s all about truth.

Moon – If it’s your Moon aspected by a partners Pluto this relationship will take you into the depths of the full spectrum of human emotion. It’ll be intense and profound as you have the chance to purge yourself of unhealthy behaviours. The experiences you share around home and family may mean a total break from your past.

Mercury – If it’s your Mercury aspected by a partners Pluto you’ll want to explore all the mysteries of intimacy together. This is an intensely honest partnership where speaking the truth is the only way forward. Sometimes the truth hurts, but being with each other in the presence of truth can offer you better skills around communication. Words have real power in this connection.

Venus – If it’s your Venus aspected by a partner’s Pluto affection and pleasure deepen profoundly. Power may go to the most tactile partner – or to the partner who withholds affection. Notice how touching each other becomes a symbol for other factors in your partnership. The concept of femininity can become part of your relationship as together you seek to honour the strength of the feminine.

Mars – If it’s your Mars aspected by a partner’s Pluto passion is transformative. Together you can move mountains and make the impossible possible. This dynamic pairing means together you are more influential than you realise. Keeping the energy flowing around your passionate connection, and not letting control or money matters affect intimacy, ensures you stay connected in a positive way.

In all cases, if it’s your Pluto be careful about how your efforts to be supportive may be misinterpreted as being controlling. Being open about true motivations and genuine desires helps to make sure everything is as above board as possible. Any issues around sex and money should be dealt with decisively. You have the power to inspire your partner to make major changes, but working with them rather than issuing ultimatums creates a smoother experience. Your desire for depth and intimacy will ensure the relationship grows.

I’d love to hear from YOU. Do you see aspects showing up in your relationships?

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Many, many moons ago I was given a Saturn mantra to say, to help ‘transmute the inauspicious into something auspicious’.

Today, I’d like to share this mantra with you.

Work with Saturn When…..
It’s come up in client consults in the past six months and I realised that others might benefit from the power of this mantra to ‘take the negative edge off Saturn’.

You might work with this mantra if:

  • you have a difficult Saturn in your birth chart
  • you have a heavy natal aspect you want to better manage
  • you’re having a major Saturn transit, like the Saturn return or transit Saturn in aspect to an important planet in your natal chart
  • one of your progressed planets or points has moved to aspect natal Saturn
  • you are in a year that highlights Saturn by profection (either Saturn is your annual time lord, or the house that holds Saturn in your chart is highlighted)

Discipline and Daily Practice
When attempting to make friends with Saturn, discipline is key. When you submit to becoming a disciple of something, you must devote yourself to it.

When you want to engage Saturn more favourably, it’s important to embrace discipline.

Saturn loves a regular routine, and appreciates diligence in terms of welcoming – and working within – necessary limits.

In terms of timing with this mantra, you might commit to say this mantra every day for a week, month or year.

The key is to make an agreement and stick to it. That’s discipline, which is the way of Saturn.

Timing Your Mantra
Ideally, you’ll say this mantra daily, first thing in the morning.

When you first start your mantra practice, begin on the first hour after sunrise on a Saturday, preferably under a waxing moon.

The next Saturday that fulfills that criteria is Saturday January 12, 2019. Each month there will be one or two Saturdays where it’s appropriate to start the mantra practice. Once you have started it, you can say it everyday for the time frame you intend.

Work with a Mala
When you say this mantra, use a mala, which is a collection of 108 beads or objects. You move them one by one, perhaps from one cup or bowl to another, each time you say the mantra. If you have a string of mala beads, you move your fingers along the beads one by one, saying the mantra on each bead.

I used black beans for my mantra and took them all over the world so I could keep up with my practice regardless of where I was.

Make it a Ritual
To further honour and evoke Saturn, light a dark blue or black candle before saying your mantra.

You can also honour Saturn by wearing these colours, especially when saying the mantra.

Right after saying the mantra, I read a small section of The Greatness of Saturn: a Therapeutic Myth by Robert Svoboda (More on this below)

What to Expect From Your Saturn Mantra Practice
After about two weeks of saying the mantra you should notice some small differences, or perhaps receive an omen to confirm your practice. This can be about topics related to your natal Saturn, or topics associated with the timing cycles that are activating Saturn.

You might feel more grounded, or calm, or find your thinking processes improve.

If you don’t notice anything after about two weeks it might be that Saturn isn’t causing you the trouble you thought, and you may need to look into other mantra practices.

Or, it might be that you haven’t quite got the sound vibration of the chant right, or that for some other reason it isn’t the right time or the right mantra for you.

If, even though you’re not noticing any shifts, even subtle ones, but you are enjoying the mantra practice, you might continue and offer the energy to the collective.

I love the chant itself, and found it a calming experience to sit with it for a few minutes each morning, regardless of whether I was getting something dramatic.

Saturn Mantra
The mantra is:

Om Hreem Shreem Shaneyesh-chara yaNamaha

The pronunciation is like this:

Om reem shreem shanish-chara yaNamaha

Listen here:

The word Shaneyesh is Saturn and this mantra is about offering respect to Saturn.

Saturn in Capricorn in 2019
There are some super heavy Saturn themes coming to us in 2019, with Saturn, the South Node and Pluto all moving through Capricorn this year.

2019 kicks off with the Sun also in Capricorn – the Sun will conjunct Saturn in Capricorn on January 2, 2019- and with a heavy square from Mars to Saturn (January 21, 2019) so this daily practice may help you more smoothly manage the influences of these cycles.

In addition, you might find reading this magical tome on Saturn helpful.

The Greatness of Saturn: a Therapeutic Myth by Robert Svoboda

In a recent Saturn practice, during the middle of 2019, when the extended cycle of Mars retrograde in Aquarius was causing me a lot of anguish, I said the mantra daily and combined it with a devotional reading of a small section of The Greatness of Saturn.

I’ve chatted to two trusted associates about the general and helpful nature of this mantra so I hope that it brings you some calm and grounding. I’m curious though as I know it will be different for everyone.

If you do try this mantra, please share your experiences with it below.

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This week I’ve been re-reading ‘Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone’ by Brene Brown.

I loved it the first time and find myself sinking deeper into her ideas and message on my second read.

The night before last, just as I was falling asleep, I read a chapter called ‘Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart’. I was also mulling over the upcoming Full Moon in Cancer and was struck by the links between the symbolism in the title and the qualities of Cancer.

Full Moon in Cancer
SYDNEY: December 23, 4.48am
NEW YORK: December 22, 12.48pm
LONDON: December 22, 5.48pm

When teaching beginner astrology students, one way I describe Cancer is that it’s like the crab, one of its images. It’s a sign that can have a tough or hard outer shell, but flip it over and there’s a soft, tender belly there. That’s where the nurturing and care Cancer offers comes from.

The hard shell? That’s the protective, don’t-hurt-my-loved-ones, tough-as-nails side to Cancer. The hard shell and the soft belly go together, each one protecting and balancing the other.

So ‘Strong Back, Soft Front’ might be our inspiration for the next two weeks (the time period flavoured by the Full Moon in Cancer).

The chapter itself talks about belonging, which is a concept I have been meditating on this month, as part of my reflections on Cancer, family and connection.

Cancer is linked to family, but we don’t always get the feelings of safety and belonging we need from our family of origin.

Going deeper, Cancer describes close emotional ties you share with people you trust; with people who belong to you, and who you feel you belong too. This ‘family group’, or soul tribe, might be made up of your family of origin, but it might not. Really, it can include any one you have a close, intimate and, most importantly, safe emotional bond with.

All water signs share this craving for closeness and connection. In the next two weeks, you might prioritise quality time and showing up to really be there for the people in your soul tribe.

Fitting In vs Belonging

The ‘Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart’ chapter explores a distinction Brene identifies about the difference between fitting in and belonging. She does have a Virgo MC or midheaven and I find her attention to detail can unlock some of the most profound insights.

Her research lead to insights around how the strong desire to fit in can mean we compromise our true self to be accepted by others. Brene talks about how we then think this means we belong but really, we’re just changing ourselves to fit in.

This often makes us feel worse, as unconsciously it’s like we know we’re missing something, but we can’t put our finger on what.

I think this leaves us with an ache in side, like an emptiness. It’s the space which would be full if we had that feeling of true belonging.

I also keep thinking of Cancer, and cravings and how this sign is about being fed, or nurtured. This does have a link to food*, but it’s also about the feeding of the heart.

Brene’s interviews with students in grade 8 lead to some telling insights about the differences between fitting in and belonging.

  • “Belonging is being somewhere you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere where you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.’
  • “Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.”
  • “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”

Oh gosh these points made my heart hurt a little. Children know this, yet as adults we can find this so hard to manage.

These points remind me of the very human craving to belong, to matter, to be seen and to be welcomed as you are. This desire to belong is a very Cancer thing: this sign describes the safety and security that comes from knowing you are accepted and welcomed just as you are.

Full Moon in Cancer

The Full Moon in Cancer this weekend might trigger a wide range of emotions, many of which are likely connected to feelings of belonging, or not belonging.

Since Cancer is connected to families, and at this time of year, many of us are spending more time with family, often in high pressure types of situations, you might reflect on this dance between belonging and fitting in with those closest to you.

You might celebrate the people and partnerships where you genuinely have these feelings of safety and trust, knowing you can be your whole messy self, no judgement and all the love.

Or, you might get clear on a situation where you thought you belonged but you realised you only fit in. That can be a sharp realization.

Insights that emerge under a Full Moon in Cancer opposite Saturn in Capricorn can be sobering. This Full Moon might help crystalise and clarify the truth of certain family, friendship or group dynamics, revealing both genuine, lasting loyalties and superficial, keeping up appearances type links.

So be kind to yourself and to those around you this weekend. Everyone is likely to be a little sensitive.

Until we hit the back-to-reality New Moon in Capricorn – which is also a solar eclipse – on January 5/6, may you enjoy the comfort that comes from creating closeness and true belonging.

PS Each year, I re-read this gorgeous post about the spirit of Mother Christmas.
PPS This striking image, via instagram, reminded me that breastfeeding and boobs and babies are often in the news during the Cancer Full Moon too.

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