Monday, February 18, 2013

Sun Into Pisces: Into the Chironium

Let me tell you a story...

I had both my children at home- no drugs, no interventions of any kind.  But I almost didn't have my oldest at home because she was two weeks early and I had convinced myself she would be two weeks late.  All together I was in labor for about 22 hours, but I spent 19 of those hours in complete denial of what was actually happening.  I drove all over three counties, spent hours at the house of friends, spent all of dinner having serious contractions and being asked by everyone around me, "Are you sure you're not in labor?".  But I waved them all away. I had a plan and having a baby on this day was not in my plan.  It was not until my water broke all over our kitchen floor as I moved into the phase of labor known as transition that it began to occur to me that, perhaps, my plans weren't really going to rule the day anymore.

By the time the midwife got to my house I was 9 cm dilated.  Within half an hour I began to push, and as is normal for first labors, I pushed for an hour and a half.  That hour and a half were some of the most painful moments, physically, of my entire life.  They say that women forget labor, which is what allows them to chose to do it again, but I have never forgotten.  It was excruciating.  I am not ashamed to say I screamed and screamed, so loudly and long that the midwife had to tell me to bring my tone down or I wasn't going to be able to speak by the end.

That labor and the early years of my oldest daughter's life taught me much about surrender and humility, about loosening attachment to my plans for how my life would go and who I would become.  I still made plans, I still worked (hard) to understand who I was and who I was becoming, but I began to carry with me always a sense of mystery and an assurance that there was much more to this life than I would ever know or be able to anticipate.

Fast forward four years or so and I am in labor with my youngest daughter.  Again, we are at home and it is a long labor, full of fits and starts.  By the time it was time to push I had been in labor for 36 hours.  I was beyond exhausted, practically delirious with the pain.  And I was scared, wondering how I ever thought I could do this again.  The thought of another hour and a half of pushing began to spin me up into a panic and I began to leave my body...And then that blessed Witness that lives in my heart took me by the hand and said, "Stop.  Here are your choices, and not having this baby is not one of them.  You can choose to spin into panic and resistance, which will increase your pain and make it all worse.  Or you can surrender to what is happening and let the pain that is flow through you."

When the Witness speaks it is never wrong, so I listened.  I slowed my breathing, opened my Self wider than I thought was possible and in five strong pushes there she was.  And my gratitude was deeper and wider than the sea, vaster than even my love for her, an ocean of thank you.

Today the Sun moves into the sign of Pisces, the last sign of the zodiacal year.  As the last sign it is the culmination of all the signs and like the ocean, everything eventually ends up there.  It is a messy, miraculous, mysterious, powerful state of being, far beyond the ability for our minds to compass.  The Sun joins Neptune, Chiron, Mars and Mercury and will soon be joined by Venus on February 26th.  So many planets in a single sign is unusual and points to the potency of this moment.

Being so closely symbolically resonant with the ocean many writers focus on the aspects of Pisces that call us to merge, to return to Source.  Whether through sex, love, dreams or drugs, the pull towards the ego-dissolving bliss of merger is strong in this moment.  But the piece missing in that picture, the piece that allows merging to become more than just an escape from reality, is pain, suffering and surrender.

Because he was a centaur the mythical figure of Chiron is associated by many astrologers with the sign of Sagittarius, but for me the true wisdom of Chiron's story has much more Piscean undertones.  Like Jesus, another great teacher associated with the sign of Pisces, the story of Chiron is about transformation through surrender to suffering.  Chiron excelled in medicine, combat and astrology.  He taught most of the great heroes of Greek myth, among them Hercules.  Stories vary as to how it all transpired, but all agree that Chiron was accidentally mortally wounded by an arrow belonging to Hercules that was dipped in the blood of the Hydra.  The pain was exquisite and debilitating, but because Chiron was immortal he could not die.  And none of the great store of knowledge that he had acquired over his long life could heal him.

The accidental piece is important, because that is so often how it feels when the greatest pains of our lives occur.  We don't plan them, it is often not even possible to say that we caused them.  They just happen, like death.  And like death they are just part of being alive.

Eventually Chiron's pain became so overwhelming that he crawled into a cave alone and surrendered to the pain because he couldn't resist it any longer.  That cave is called a Chironium and it is a place that many of us spend our entire lives avoiding at all costs, robbing our urge to merge of its deepest transformational potential.  We avoid it because, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, it brings us to our knees and we cry out, "Why?!?"  And the answer is simply, because.  Because this is your job, because no one else can do it, because the world needs your surrender.  The world needs you to bear the weight of your suffering so you can help relieve the suffering of the world.

As you may know if you read my last post, I am in the midst of an awful divorce.  The pain of it is so huge that I have wondered if it would simply kill me.  Not that I would do myself harm, but that the weight of it would simply crush me flat and I might never get up again.  And the loneliness?  Even in the midst of the incredible web of love and support that I have built around myself over the years, the loneliness feels like a gaping hole that I might just fall through and never stop falling.  Why?!?, I have asked myself over and over.  Why, after all the years and love and sacrifice would I end up here?  What could the Universe possibly want from me?  And there hasn't been an answer.  Just more loneliness.

And then, on Valentine's Day, I inadvertently ended up on a date.  One might ask how you can inadvertently end up on a date, but when you've been happily off the market for as long as I have it doesn't really occur that anyone might actually be interested.  Not because I'm not worthy or something, just because it's not how I'm used to interacting anymore.  I don't pay attention to the signs because until 3 months ago they were leading down a path I was never going to walk.  So, I ended up on this date and he was lovely, gracious, intelligent, articulate, admiring, really all you could ever want from a first date.  And even though I know I'm not ready, that I'm not interested in the kind of relationship that he very clearly stated that he is looking for, it was tempting.  It was tempting just to distract myself from the pain and loneliness that pervades my life at the moment.

So often we do this.  We jump from one relationship to another, from one job to another, one town to another, always looking for that ideal love/job/place that won't be so damn painful, uncomfortable, or lonely, where we will never suffer.  And because we seek to avoid the inevitable suffering, because we don't allow our grief its proper time and space, because we delude ourselves that, in the end, anyone else can help us bear the weight of our lives, we increase suffering for ourselves and others.  We also cut ourselves off from our capacity to truly merge, to truly return to Source, because we can't actually see Other through the haze of our own need.  Seeking to avoid our responsibility for the boundary of our selves, we trap ourselves in our own tiny box and then wonder why we can never seem to get out.

In the end, having surrendered to his suffering, Chiron offered to take the place of Prometheus, who had been chained to a rock to have his liver eaten out each day in punishment for stealing fire from the gods.  He offered up his immortality and embraced death, and the gods were so moved that they placed him among the stars.  He was welcomed into the boundlessness of endless space.

During this potent Pisces time we each have a unique opportunity to climb inside our own Chironium, our own place of seemingly unendurable pain, and just sit there without any anticipation of an end, without looking for a way out.  I will not lie or act like it is not horrific and terrifying.  It is all those things and more, but it also just is what it is.  You can't cheat it or avoid it, any more than you can cheat or avoid death.  All you can do is accept it, surrender to it and claim it as yours.  Then, and only then, can you offer it up and be transformed.  Then, and only then, can you experience true boundlessness and bliss.  Then, and only then, can you truly heal the world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Inside of Me Resides the Whole World

I don't know about you, but for me the last six weeks have been a roller coaster ride emotionally, the highs and lows being more extreme than I ever remember experiencing before.  At times I have felt awash in bliss, as happy as I can imagine being, and at other times, sometimes even in the same day, I have felt so terrified and adrift that I might just fall off the edge of the world.

The ups and downs have been fueled largely by my marriage, which has been in an extreme state of flux.  Quite unexpectedly it seemed that it was over and it was just a question of working out the logistics- where to move, how to tell the children and our families, the necessity of finding a job off the farm as quickly as possible.  A tsunami of grief rose up on the near horizon and hovered there, menacing in its potential destruction.  I stopped eating or sleeping.  My emotional body was in so much turmoil, every time I would try to offer my physical body some nurturance my emotional body would push it away, fearful of compounding the misery with nausea and nightmares.  Those images from science fiction movies of the astronaut's line being cut so that they just drift away into endless nothingness, that was the feeling.  I was completely unmoored...

Which brought me back around to the lessons of the 7th House, Libra's archetypal home.  If the 1st House is the home of "I Am", then the 7th House is the home of "I Am Not".  It is the penultimate home of projection, where we see everything that we think is not us, that belongs not to us but to others.  We give these parts of ourselves away, forgetting that everything we encounter in relationship arises in large part from what we bring to it, what work we have chosen to find there.  I have the sign of Cancer intercepted in the 7th House.  To review, an intercepted sign is one that is completely contained within the space of a House.  No house cusp touches into it, no direct path exists between the interior, felt sense of the material of that sign and the outside world.  Cancer is the sign of the Great Mother, of ancestry, lineage and tribe.  It is ruled by the Moon and represents the endless cycles of death and rebirth that provide the rich compost out of which we, as individuals, arise.  Like all water signs it thrives on connection- deep, primal, blood, sweat and tears connection.  This is the stuff that families are made of.

But to carry that felt sense of connection in the 7th means that it is easy for me to assign it to someone else, to feel that without that other person then all sense of connection, of home, will be lost.  The fierce grasping and need that arises in the face of that severing, of losing any ground on which to stand, is akin to the force of a drowning person.  They will pull you down right along with them in their desperate attempt to save themselves.

How do I  release that fierce grip?  How do I surrender and submit so that I can re-claim that part of myself, save myself from myself?  These were the questions I was forced to ask.

The answer came, as it so often does for me, from an unexpected place.  With my husband and a small group of like-minded folks I have begun to study tarot more intentionally, having used the Alchemical Tarot deck for years to fuel my own inner work with much intuitive luck but not much conscious understanding.  In the midst of Matthew and I trying to find some middle path, an appropriate goal of the meeting of two souls that is the work of the 7th House, the group met to discuss the significance of The High Priestess.  Traditional Kabbalists may associate the Chariot with the sign of Cancer but for me the High Priestess exemplifies this cardinal sign.  She is the river that carries us to the sea.  She is the path of the initiate who must retreat inside themselves, surrender to the deep, inner stillness in order to gain access to the Great Mystery that lives at the heart of all creation.

Meditating upon her a vivid dream unfolded:

Across a clearing I approach her.  She is fierce and beautiful, the light of the Moon seeming to stream into her and set her aglow.  Silently I kneel and place my forehead on the ground between her feet, my hands upon the earth, and offer myself.  My mind settles, all nervous energy pours out of me into the ground.  When my breath has steadied and deepened she steps aside and reveals a cleft in the earth behind her.  I rise and walk into the dark womb of the earth.  The absence of light is so extreme it is like there is no sensation at all- no sight, no touch, no sound, no smell, no taste.  I am simply drifting in emptiness with no sense of time.

But slowly (or perhaps fast.  Who knows in this timeless nothingness?) out of the darkness a pulse emerges.  It is the beating of my heart, steady and rhythmic.  It anchors me.  I fix on it and am no longer drifting but listening with my whole being, every cell ebbing and flowing with that pulse.  And then behind that pulse I hear a deeper pulse, the beating of every heart that ever was, every heart that ever leaned towards another with love and yearning.  A vast, mother river of belonging sourced from the beginning of time, tumbling and growing in a steady flow of creation, heading towards my one beating heart.

For a handful of breaths I am overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it.  How will I ever contain it all?  My heart fills until its surface is as thin as a butterfly's wing and still the river flows into it. And then I realize that my heart is in the river.  It doesn't flow into me, but through me.  Mine is just one heart in an infinite history of hearts, beating the stroke together as we head towards the sea.  I do not have to steer, just keep dipping my oar in the water, keep moving forward and trust the river to carry me.

Do I walk out of the cleft?  I do not know.  Suddenly I am simply there again in the clearing, my forehead pressed to the earth between her feet, thanking the earth and the moon and all of creation for my life, for the chance to carry this one heart forward.

Is this the end of the story?  No.  It is more a beginning in an endless cycle of beginnings and endings.  Matthew and I have found a middle path together that honors us in both our similarities and differences, which I suspect is the most that anyone can ask of a marriage.  There is unfathomable love between us and a commitment to continuing to build a family together, but the feeling of home, of connection, doesn't come from him.  It comes from the work that we do to meet each other and it comes from deep inside of me.  And that home cannot be left or taken away or torn apart.  It is the heart of the world.  It beats inside of me and will keep beating long after I am gone.  So mote it be.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Information In The Symbol Of An Autumn Leaf

Last week I fell into a hole.  It was a dark hole that I had been standing at the edge of, trying to keep from falling in, for weeks.  As I commented recently to friends, I cannot remember a time when depression has not dogged my heels, so that I run as fast as I can just to keep a step ahead.  I contort myself, trying to hold the darkness at bay, which eventually gets me stuck in all sorts of painful ways emotionally and physically.  The emotional stuckness is so habitual at this point that I don't always notice it.  I just hobble along.  But when things get to the point of manifesting as debilitating physical pain then I am stopped in my tracks.  Though I know that all of my experience arises from within me, at that point of arrest it feels like this great, dark wave crashes over me and drags me down and I fear that I will never get back up again.

Arrested, knocked down and pulled under, I spent much of Wednesday in bed, trying to find ways to lie without pain and crying.  The one thought that just kept repeating over and over in my head was simply, 'I just...can't.'  Not 'this makes me sad', or 'I don't know what to do', or 'I wish this were different'.  I'm always correcting my children when they ask if they 'can' do something, 'I would imagine you can..but you still may not.'  The wave didn't ask for permission, the hole was deep, and laying at the bottom I reached the place where I was just not capable of anything else.

In the past when I have gone through debilitating depression I have always muscled through.  After my first daughter's birth I suffered through almost two years of terrible post-partum depression, but babies still have to get nursed and changed and entertained.  They don't really care if you feel like death.  In the end, my sense of obligation dragged me along, which probably saved my life, but the inability to just stop and let all the dark feelings wash over me also filled me with a terrible rage and resentment that made it all so much worse.  It is the part that still fills me with an awful sense of regret.  Not that I was so depressed when Hazel was small, but that I was so angry and my anger often projected itself onto her.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when I was pregnant with Hazel and through the first six months of her life I had Chiron conjunct my Sun by transit.  It was also squaring my natal Chiron and quincunx my natal Moon.  Our Sun represents the highest Self, the bit of God that we carry through the world.  Some refer to it as the hero we are meant to become.  Chiron, for lack of a better word, is our brokenness, our unhealable wound.  It is the source of both our deepest suffering and compassion, because once we are forced to submit to the pain, to accept that pain is simply part of being alive, then we can recognize that pain is, by extension, part of everyone's life.  Everyone suffers.  We're all in this together.

In the midst of it I wasn't so philosophical, though.  There was just this child who wasn't really interested in my diligently protected separate sense of self.  She didn't care what I felt or wanted or how tired I was or that I didn't want to be touched right now.  God bless her, she was just the center of the universe.  My Self (Sun) felt broken (conjunct Chiron), like 'I' couldn't exist in the same space as the necessities of being a mother (quincunx Moon), and my own wounds from incest and family addiction felt activated and raw (square Chiron).

But time moves on, the world keeps spinning, and that transit ended.  Whether or not I internalized its lessons will be up for debate again more strongly when I reach my Chiron return, when transiting Chiron conjuncts my natal Chiron, in a few years.  As a preview of coming attractions, however, the current Pluto/Uranus square is kicking Chironic themes up again as Uranus conjuncts my natal Chiron.  Uranus brings a different flavor to the mix.  He is requiring me to revolutionize (Uranus) how I communicate my pain, my compassion, my fears of impotence and nihilism to the world around me (Chiron in Aries in the 3rd House).  And Pluto in Capricorn, squaring all of that, is demanding that that revolution doesn't just happen internally.  It has to transform (Pluto) the whole structure of my life (Capricorn).

At the same time (because what fun would it be if everybody couldn't get in on the action?) my progressed Moon is in its balsamic (dying) phase.  That means that a process that began when I was 13, an idea that has been growing and evolving since I began to start to define who I am as my own person, an idea about mystery and secrecy, emergence and magic, is ending.  The careful structures that I have built up to hold the darkness at bay, to keep the most painful parts of myself safely hidden, are falling away.  I am beginning to make space for them in my daily life and in my relationships.  And when I allow myself to accept the inevitability of the cycling of my own darkness and pain then I feel a deep, poignant love for the world and a loosening of the noose of fear.  I can crawl outside of my own navel and see myself as part of something much larger, something truly awe-inspiring.

Fall has always been my favorite season.  Autumn leaves move me; the vibrant flash of beauty that flares up as the leaves change, heralding the approach of darkness.  The emergence of the bare branches, like bones, echoing our own need to slough off that which is no longer serving us to get down to what is at the core, that which will stand through the long winter ahead.  It is a time for assessment and repentance, as embodied by the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. And it is a time for welcoming darkness and our relationship with the dead, the original intention of Samhain, the precursor of modern Halloween.  It is a necessary time, a magic time, a time when we are invited to look deeply inside ourselves to find and embrace our own darkness and understand our own cycles.  If we did, it might just change our lives.