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.
Leo Full Moon: Shine On - Who in the hell d’you think you are? A super star? Well, right you are. – John Lennon This weekend, I took a walk down the block to visit a new friend. She...
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