In Canada, They Call it Therapy

Dear Friend and Reader:

AT OMEGA INSTITUTE last weekend, I did something that in retrospect was pretty daring — start a bunch of relatively new astrology students working with Chiron transits. Looking at the events and experiences surrounding several past Chiron transits is one of the most efficient ways to get an understanding of a person and of their chart.

Planet Waves
Therapy I: The Voyeur. Painting by Warren Criswell.

These transits include Chiron’s squares, oppositions and return to its own natal position (each of which happens for a brief phase once per 50-year cycle), as well as Chiron conjunct the ascendant, Sun and Moon.

A friend made up a nifty 100-year Chiron ephemeris that fits on six pages (for easy copying), I brought a new, very fast printer so we could have instant charts for the class and — with a little bit of mindfulness — we had everything we needed to get going.

After a brief introduction, I demonstrated the process on one student whose transits turned out to be quite dramatic and timed precisely to the 50-year orbit of Chiron. The themes of these events all related to his Moon/Chiron conjunction in Capricorn in the 4th house: the result being a long sequence of events involving his home, family and security base. This was astrology in real life, not in theory; and it was astrology connected to a living client we could all see and dialog with, rather than case study in a book.

Usually, astrology studies begin with the rote memorization of the planets through the signs and houses. Each placement is presumed to have a “meaning,” and that meaning is presumed to be static and definitive. For example, I have Venus in Taurus and once I read in a book that this means I will go to the same restaurant every day and order the same thing. Which is precisely what I do, but I think it’s purely a coincidence.

The themes of Chiron, as I mentioned last week, are apropos of Omega Institute because it’s a holistic studies center dedicated to the raising of awareness, the two most important themes of this archetype. The risk of using Chiron is that material “too deep” will come up, but the friendly part is that when we’re truly serving as a facilitator, we don’t need to fix anyone or do very much, but rather bear witness to the human condition and serve as an honest reflecting pool. I also thought it was excellent that Mercury in Gemini was stationing retrograde in an exact trine to Chiron as we began the class Friday night.

It can take an hour or two to do this process; I recommend that newer astrology students set aside a full session, and strive to accomplish nothing but hear the client’s account of their biographical material.

At this point in my work, I can usually spot check the transits in about half an hour and get a feel for how someone who has come to me processes their changes. Once the lifetime Chiron transits are out in the open, the choices the client faces in the present moment, and the factors influencing them, are much more obvious. The name of the tune is pattern recognition, and seeing where the current experience of life fits into a larger, often hidden pattern — then bringing that pattern to light.

With this done, an astrologer and client can then work with the awareness of what has happened, what it represents and what is happening — then use that information to look at options, consider possible courses of action and to understand recurring issues much more clearly.

I think this is more effective and far more ethical than an astrologer picking up the chart and telling the client who they are. Yes, there are times to read a chart; Saturn in Capricorn has a different sense of existence than Saturn in Aquarius, and you need to factor that. An astrologer needs to be able to feel the Moon in a chart and be aware of the way that it can dominate the personality. But in a process workspace, the sense of existence needs to come from the client’s experiences rather than from the astrologer’s projections.

When I teach this process in Canada, they tell me it would be defined as “therapy” and therefore questionably legal to practice without a therapist’s license. To which I reply, if there is an astrologer in the room with an ephemeris, a horoscope chart and a client who thinks you’re an astrologer, who happens to be chasing a comet around the solar system, that is clearly astrology. It may be “therapeutic,” but on the right day so is going to the movies, a prostitute or the gym. That an astrologer might listen to the client for an hour or two before making any pronouncements at all might be considered radical, but I think it’s common sense.

When I train established professional astrologers in this, one of their most burning questions is how to condition their clientele not to show up with questions like, “When should I dump my stock portfolio?” or “When is the fabulous guy gonna show up?”

This is easy. When you make the space for people to express their feelings, they usually open up. It happens rarely enough that anyone really cares or has time to listen, or the compassion to actually extend themselves emotionally.

Using the Chiron process, we admit that a person has feelings; and in doing so, we might even get underneath the resistance to being in a loving relationship, and we might understand something about values concerning money that would influence a financial decision. This seems more in the domain of spiritual work than therapy or traditional astrology, and I would remind everyone that the practice of both spirituality and astrology (and indeed of therapy) are protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Such a process also does something vital, which is teach astrologers how transits work, and thus how the natal chart works. It provides a window into human nature and not merely astrological nature as it attempts to explain human nature. Transits inherently remind us all that the cosmos is a thing in motion, and that planets act as waves much more than they act as particles.

Working this way runs precisely opposite to a dominant trend in mainstream astrology, which is harkening back to much older modes of work where things are perceived to be predetermined, predictable and more orderly than life usually turns out to be.

In a world that grows more complex and uncertain every day, the idea that there is a simple answer to the many questions of existence is appealing. Astrology is terrible for finding easy answers. It is excellent for taking a complex view of a situation, seeing the many factors and people involved, observing that everything is in relationship to everything else; and then for making observations that may be reflected both in life and in the chart.

Closer to the heart of the matter is the need for astrology to face the many unknowns that come with existence, rather than attempting to explain the mystery away. That is religion: you co-opt philosophy, sex, death and the meaning of life and sell it to people in a moral package.

An art form connected to an ever-expanding cosmos needs to look at mystery and show respect for mystery. We need to recognize that each client and each reader presents an entirely different, truly unique worldview, metaphysical view, sexual orientation and set of specific needs.

We need to recognize that astrologers come to the work with their own issues. I encouraged my students, in particular, to know their sexual issues and to understand the specific ways in which religion and their parents messed them up. We may not be able to resolve all of this material before we start working with people, but if we know our issues it will be that much easier to keep them out of the way of our clients. We will be able to assist people who are happier than us, more successful than we are, or who dare to be freer than we would ever dream. And we can also work with those who face situations far more grim than we would ever wish for anyone, but not be coming from a sense of pity or the need to fix anyone.

Along these lines, I recommend that anyone who is working with people as an astrologer be in a therapy process. I don’t think it’s necessary to have “completed” the process, but rather to be in deep enough to feel vulnerable, and to have opened the lid to the unknown within themselves. Part of therapy is claiming what you feel, what you know and what you don’t know, and if you get into those habits, you will be a lot less likely to inflict damage on the people who come to you for help. And if you have a therapist you trust and can go to, you will have a mentor who can guide you through difficult situations with clients, which may arise from time to time.

This is a tall order, I know. But the short way around the tree is to listen, and in order for an astrologer to listen, the first thing that needs to happen is that an astrologer needs to know himself or herself. Clients need to be willing to speak about their lives, their needs and what they want to create with the work — but this is much likelier to happen if the astrologer is open-minded and able to have a modicum of objectivity on their own situation. If your buttons get pushed really easily, or if you can’t at least make a space where this doesn’t happen, then it would be a lot better for you to not work with people till you get clear about your own inner condition.

There is also a need to have faith in creativity. In other words, instead of telling a client what is going to happen, it makes much more sense to ask them what they want to happen, what they don’t want to happen and to use the awesome power of astrology and awareness to help them make the necessary choices to get the results they need. And this, too, needs to stand apart from spiritual fascism and New Age megalomania: we are only co-creators of the world; it does quite a bit of co-creating with us, and to us.

I think the single most significant thing that an astrologer can do is tune into the creative force behind it all. This is easy: you can start by asking for help, and agreeing that the work be devoted to the greatest good for all concerned. Then you gently move through the plasma of consciousness and see what comes to the surface.

Chiron by its nature turns the discussion to receptive mode, puts the emphasis on healing, and has a useful way of dedicating everything to raising awareness.

And, hey — this is what I learned in my first experience teaching astrology at a world-class holistic study center last weekend.

Yours & truly,

Eric Francis

Improv in the 21st Century

By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

THERE’S A remarkable kind of contest going on at the moment, and we should take a moment to appreciate it. The old time-worn ways of being on this planet and our growing realignment with our higher instincts are like a couple of sumo wrestlers, staring each other down and shifting for position, grappling and sweating in contest for the future. We see it in our news, our neighborhoods, our homes — we see it in ourselves.

Planet Waves
Psych Silhouettes. Illustration by Danielle Voirin.

You might catch yourself making a statement, even as you hear it ring false; no worries, that’s a sign of your mind changing. You’re being taught. Don’t be afraid to let the new idea in — it would be ridiculous for us to stand in an old understanding when a new one has superimposed itself onto our current situation. Information is being downloaded each moment for us to grab and own; personal bits and pieces that connect the dots to help us in our greatest challenges or take us toward our dearest dreams.

In extreme periods such as these, when we are challenged greatly and our daily world is shaken, we have a tendency to knee-jerk into our default safety position, locking up our energy and stopping the momentum from pushing us forward. That is an error; a common one. For instance, in tough economic times we keep what we have rather than put it into play; that impedes the flow of giving and receiving, a loop that requires both actions in order to move freely. This is not the time to ponder apparent lack — this is a time to celebrate source and keep a generous spirit. Our good depends on it.

Our challenges are obvious; the prayer list my spiritual family and I keep grows bigger every day, filled with grievous health and mental health issues, job loss and survival needs, relationship problems and family dysfunctions. Many people are leaving the planet now in various and creative ways; ageless souls in young and old bodies; unwilling, some say, to make the required changes. Add the political and human calamities of this period and even the sleepiest human must notice that something’s up on planet Terra; that life ain’t what it used to be.


Planet Waves

Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 30, 2008, #716 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)

Energy is one thing; being balanced enough to express it is another. You are now in a moment of potential equilibrium in terms of what you feel and how you can express it in a constructive way. I would add a word of caution here: don’t expect everyone, or anyone, to understand what you’re getting at. It’s truly enough that you understand your ideas, or at least that you’re passionate and curious enough to keep developing them. Think of yourself as an environment where you mix your mental and erotic energies in a balance that gives them meaning, a structure to work within, and a space to contain the new things that are developed. The thing to remember is that this environment is actually you: your inner world, your process of growth and self-creation. More than anything, the planets paint a picture of striving for the inner freedom to feel and be yourself.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)

You may now see the glimpse of a solution where before you saw none. Perhaps you’re questioning whether you have the fire power to do what you need to do, to create the solution you want to create. You may be factoring out several elements from the equation. For example, you are not the only object in motion; the whole universe is moving around you. Some things are moving toward you and some are moving away, but your environment is in a state of change, and I suggest you observe that change, and make good use of it. True, there is always the mystery of not knowing what is going to come next. But that is always the case, regardless of how we buttress ourselves with activity, commitments and ideas. There is an answer to your current dilemma, and I assure you it begins with one thing: knowing what you want.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)

Is who you think of as yourself really yourself? I only ask because it seems like you’re in the process of discovering someone new inside your own awareness. It is another presence, more stable and more rooted in the sphere of feeling rather than the sphere of ideas. Slow down and you’ll notice that this presence has a distinct identity, and that it’s communicating with you. If it appears in the form of another person, I suggest you check in and notice the particular way you have opened up to a new dimension of feeling which is making their physical presence possible and that much more meaningful. I don’t believe that we “create the world with our minds,” but I do know that what we are open to, what we recognize, and what we embrace has a much better chance of expressing itself in our lives.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

Albert Einstein said that imagination is more powerful than knowledge. I wholeheartedly agree with my Pisces brother. The process you are experiencing in these days and weeks is about understanding how your imagination works, and choosing what you want its contents to be. You are typically someone who gets results by taking action in the world based on how you feel; but you seem to have little control over the “how you feel” factor. Now you have a moment to go into the dream synthesizer and explore the bounds where your inner world manifests the outer one. To do this, deep intimacy with yourself helps greatly, and you are very likely to need some time away from others to facilitate this. Given how many others depend on you, that may be difficult, but it will be well worth it.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)

Certain friends may be acting a little strangely at the moment. At the same time, there are likely to be one or two significant new people on the scene, and a few from the days of yore who have returned for a reprise. Though you usually take an easygoing approach to your social life, I suggest you keep track of the comings and goings. Notice what people are saying to you and to one another, and witness how this aligns with what people actually do. Pay attention where friendship overlaps anything involving your professional life, particularly to financial commitments or communication commitments. Everything is cool as long as everyone feels how they say they feel, and does what they say they are going to do. If the ends don’t meet, I suggest you be the one to politely call the question.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)

Your professional environment is changing rapidly. Certain things are showing up that seem to be setbacks; other developments appear to be helpful. For the moment, I suggest you not make up your mind about which is which and what is what. At this point, anything can have any influence. I suggest you take a deliberative approach and allow every influence to reveal its true nature in the long term, rather than assigning it a role straight away. You need to observe more than just your thoughts. Observe the things that people say and what they do; look at how things that seem inconvenient one day turn out to be surprisingly helpful a little while later. While you’re at it, take it easy on yourself: you have become a more impressive taskmaster than usual. I dare say that cracking the whip is not quite in line with your greater vision.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)

One of the things that fuels your Libra sense of weighing the opposites is that you tend to have two opposing sets of beliefs. You may feel like an atheist one day and a devout catholic the next day. I suggest that you use the next few weeks to see how frail beliefs are, and how influential they are at the same time. It appears to be time to take a big step beyond believing in anything and experiencing things, and people, for who and what they really are. It’s rarely easy to penetrate to that depth, particularly where perceptions are concerned, but the place we go when we do is faith. What is the difference between faith and belief? Faith comes with no rationalizations. It has this peculiar sense of standing on its own, and showing up with its own unique form of strength.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)

You may feel like the cooperation of another person is essential to meeting a certain objective or goal, but it may not be the person you think. You have many allies; many people around you have access to the kinds of resources you need. I suggest you get over the feeling that without one of them in particular, you don’t have the magic ingredient. And if there is a magic ingredient, it’s you. Anyway, someone who is acting up right now is not going to keep it up forever. They just need a little time to sort out their own stuff, and to be sure that they are in the right place. Try not to take it personally. Though it may affect you, in truth it has nothing to do with you. Part of being an influential person means that you have the ability to face any situation, and to turn temporary reversals of fortune into opportunities.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)

If astrology is based on superstition, then people have a lot of explaining to do as to why their minds and feelings are whipped around by the planets like peas in a bottle. But they are, and sometimes we are too. Therefore, I suggest you enjoy your exceptionally stable position on the planet and in society, and allow others to go through their mental gyrations and make up their minds about small things in as long as it takes you to make your most important life decisions. Be grand, be wise and be chilled. Use your psychological skills, judiciously. Just don’t be indifferent; keep sending little messages that you care every now and then, which I know that you do. You have some amazing things cooking in that kitchen of yours, and though others may show up late for dinner, you can be pretty sure they’re going to show up (with their mind as well as their body) sooner or later.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)

Work (as we think of it) is not all it’s cracked up to be, but it means different things to different people. Most of us would tell you how central our job is to our life, but then most people do anything to forget their job the moment they have a chance to do so. You’re in the midst of getting an interesting lesson in just how different people feel about the experience of work and service. This may be testing your commitment or patience with your own goals, and giving you the sense that you have more on your hands than you bargained for. Yet if you look you’ll see that most of the chaos and confusion is on the surface of the water rather than deep inside. You have, meanwhile, an excellent opportunity to tune up your routines, find the weak links in the chain (human and technological) and to allow people who are not really in for the long haul to go their own way.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)

Last week, in a tribute to Mercury retrograde, I offered a commentary on the nature of art. This week I would like to give one on originality. Personally, I don’t think being original is something you strive to do. I think it’s something that you probably look back and notice you’re doing. The greater and more dependable factor is sincerity, and you can indeed push yourself to be evermore real, to draw from a deeper well, or to make your personal impression on the world that much more firmly. True art, if you ask me (which you didn’t, really) is based on curiosity. I am not a big fan of the concept “pure” but I think that curiosity is as close as we get on the earthly plane. It can be applied to the subject matter or to texture; it can be applied to a thought process; it can relate to how we move through the plasma of emotion, or how we relate to ourselves. Right now all these doors are wide open for you.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)

What were your father’s messages to you? Don’t just consider the things he told you or the things you overheard; consider the implications of his actions. Consider how he treated people and most of all, consider how you, as a deeply sensitive and emotional person, responded to his existence. Take this back as far into your childhood as you can go. You are in a particularly excellent zone for decoding the mixed signals that he gave you. When decoding a mixed signal, you have to take one side of the equation, then the other, then figure out what they mean together. Most mortals stop the process right before the third step. Make sure you get there; it’s the hardest part of the process, but that’s where the payoff is.

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