Person with headlamp in the night, its light shining towards the Milky Way

One of the things I am most excited to share with participants in the course The Prism Community: Self-Care to deepen belonging and community, starting May 22, 2021, is going beyond “studying about” astrology. The Prism Community will instead engage with a livingness of the world, with the intelligence within all things, including the planetary bodies. This requires all of our ways of knowing—imagination, intuition, body-based and mental—to listen and respond to what the planets are saying to each of us. And central to a deeper capacity to know and to be known by this Earth and her sentient sky, is the human heart as an organ of perception. In this way, we could make the Earth a planet within astrology, as a seamless piece of the community of cosmic life of which we are members.

It may sound very strange to some to identify conscious awareness and perception with the heart. But it turns out that identifying consciousness and thinking with the head and the brain is a fairly new idea on this planet. Whereas the heart as the seat of consciousness is an ancient idea, across many cultures.

 

 

 

 

Following the American herbalist and philosopher, Stephen Buhner, who has spent decades experientially developing his own heart-centered cognition and perception and fleshing out a philosophy to ground it, and methods of teaching it—I would like to propose that reconnecting to and reclaiming the feeling-knowing of the world is an essential piece to knowing our belonging in the world. So many of us are socialized to experience the world as an object that is dead, unfeeling, inert, not alive.

It is not a hard sell to those who love astrology, that the world and the cosmos might contain its own inherent meanings. After all, the entire art of astrology is based on observing the unfolding of meanings through space-time, as carried by archetypal forms or wave patterns. And because of the accumulated knowledge and observations of many people over vast spans of time, it is possible to make archetypal predictions with empirical data. Though of course, such predictions will be severely hampered by lack of context and the skill of symbolic sight. We do have to bring life into astrology, otherwise it tends to miss the mark. But what happens when we bring a heart-centered form of cognition and perception into astrological practice? And indeed, extend our hearts out to the entire world—to feel the touch of the soul of the world upon our own?

It is no longer a mere thought that one has—“the world is alive,” to know that in some rationalistic and disconnected way. Knowing by means of the heart is a very immediate experience of the livingness of this world, and all which it can disclose to us, if we approach it with respect and a genuine desire to know. Centering consciousness in the heart only requires remembering what we already know, for in we are all born with this way of knowing intact and fully functional. And depending on the families and the wider cultures we belong to, it may be educated out of us around the age of six or so, whenever we’re supposed to “grow up” and “stop imagining things.”

The archetype of the Moon happens to represent the child. The Moon is the child within us, the children around us, the child we were to our parents, the child we become to ourselves, the children we may bear or care for. And one of the quickest ways into heart-based cognition and perception is to access childhood memories through guided meditations, and even to access the infant of oneself, which was so wide open to all of the information and communication that courses through the world, much of it quite unseen by physical eyes. It is the child of us—which we each can access at any age—who is a great ally in recovering and energizing the capacity for communications with the other-than-human. It is extraordinarily helpful to have astrology’s guidance on what would help us make contact with and what would be most pleasing to the Child within us. It does take an attitude of play, openness, curiosity about the world to remember and learn how to see with the heart’s eyes.

But beyond the correlation to the child’s more full-bodied and intact ways of perceiving the world, heart-centered cognition is so much about trusting the body again—it is a rehabilitation of the Moon as it is expressed or engaged with.

Older western astrological significations refer to the Moon as memory, and contemporary research and therapies for traumatic experience show that experience lives on in the body long after the event is over. The Moon also represents the physical body, but here is the memory aspect. The body—the body remembers, it remembers everything. The Moon says to us “the past is past” and it lives on inside of us. Outright ownership of other human beings may be abolished in law, but its legacy (and reality) lives on. We have our grandfather’s smile, or carry ourselves with our grandmother’s posture, or show our frustration just like our great grandmother.

But the Moon is much more than the personal body—it’s all bodies, the body of the Earth, the wholeness within which we are all embedded, of which we are each constituent parts. That is one of the fun riddles of wholeness or wholes—there is no whole without its parts, and parts would perhaps be meaningless without something larger to relate to.

The correlation of Moon to memory also evokes for me the memorization techniques of cultures without the written word, or for whom it was laborious and expensive to produce written records. Massive amounts of information can be stored in our bodies, using the memory arts, and also within our larger body, the body of Earth. Entire cultures embed their cultural knowledge and heritages into landscapes. Individual people do not have to memorize these things alone; the land remembers for them. And it is not the same as, oh this book is going to remember the things so I don’t have to—accessing knowledge that is embedded in the land takes on a livingness, and a feeling-based relationship with each person who is a part of the stories and knowledges, and of making those stories, continuing to live them—the Moon says to us “the past is past” AND it lives on inside us. There is a continual remaking in a land-based approach to the memory arts.

The Moon in astrology also represents our feelings, and this is big in Stephen Buhner’s heart-based cognition and how we will be using it in The Prism Community course. By feeling I mean emotional response, but also what Buhner refers to as the secret kinesis of the world—its secret movements, its hidden touch. Though attention to the heart, it is possible to feel the world, to feel the touch of the world upon us. It happens all the time, mostly unnoticed, and yet it is also possible to intentionally inquire—with respect and open curiosity—and to connect with other lifeforms and bleeding hearts (plant)even so-called inanimate objects.

Revitalizing the antennae of the body and the heart as a means of gathering information seems to imply a revival of the Moon, the lunar sphere, and it is a totally subversive idea—that the world and everything in it has intrinsic meaning beyond what humans assign to it. That all the world is filled with its own meanings completely shatters a lot of the industrial human’s ideas—but so does astrology! So this is just taking it one step further and saying that the Earth is a planet, too.

The Earth is also a planet, and I would say in astrology as well. But the meanings and the communications come through Life itself, within the incredible diversity of life, the cornucopia of divinity which the planet Earth reflects. Making the Earth a planet within astrology in this way is different from how we might consider the Moon or Saturn or Jupiter. We are inside of this planet, the Earth gave birth to us and to all lifeforms, but we can perceive, and learn from, and interact with the multitude of meanings within its many creatures and phenomena.

And is it not surprising that making the effort to merely center our consciousness in the heart, and allow our bodily systems to entrain to the biological oscillator of the heart strengthens our physical and mental health and well-being, as proved in the work of the HeartMath Institute.

 

For these reasons and many others, I look forward to exploring and developing our various ways of knowing as well as our intuition, as part of The Prism Community, which starts on May 22, 2021.

Please follow this link to find more information and to register

Tree stump in the smoke-filled East SF Bay Hills during the Camp Fire; Fall 2018

Saturn-Pluto: The Birth Contraction of 2018—2021

Saturn-Pluto periods of time, such as the present alignment from 2018 through 2021, can represent a transformation of the status quo or the existing state of affairs. However, it’s crucial to remember that archetypes display many different and even contradictory meanings all at once. History shows that Saturn and Pluto coming together can also represent the empowerment (Pluto) of that which would either regress or hold back changes (Saturn). Reactionary and regressive cultural and social developments form a strong correlation throughout history because of the intense fear that can accompany these two planets in combination.

glyph for Saturn
Saturn

 

Glyph for Pluto
Pluto

Pluto expresses that everything wants to live. Pluto at its best is totally alive! There is a vibrancy and courage and vitality that a well-integrated Pluto can express like nothing else. When Pluto meets Saturn, it meets its limits. The question will come up: how can this striving to “survive” or to “persist” orient to Saturn’s demands? Saturn’s rules, its problem-making, its demand that we go at the “right” pace and not too fast…but not too slow. Saturn wants to channelize or diffract Pluto’s raw intensity that would just gush out everywhere, and blindly grab whatever is needed to sustain or expand its current energy level or throughput. And so it becomes a birthing process, where Saturn pushes Pluto to evolve in a particular way—Pluto may be evolution, but Saturn can be a guide. Saturn will consistently ask us what’s really possible here, given the current circumstances shaped by history, by our ancestors’ decisions and lives?

Highlighting Differences

Given all of these possibilities, how could we constructively engage with Saturn-Pluto as a world transit? World transits have collective impact and yet it takes individuals to form collectives. Each of us in our individual lives will face parts of this massive birth contraction of 2018 to 2021—which is one of the more generative ways I can think of this time period’s potentials—and it will be different for each of us. We’re all situated differently within larger social structures, within our personal and various collective-level karmas. Awareness of these very differences are heightened during Saturn-Pluto periods of time.

So you might try to engage the depth and power of the Saturn-Pluto alignment by deliberately working with its tendency to exaggerate differences. You might seek out the perspectives and points of view of those who are from a culture or community that has fewer opportunities, material resources and more difficult circumstances than your own, including those who suffer stigma. It could actually be quite the revelation just to seek out who lives on the margins in relation to your own position, whatever your relative freedoms and advantages. Prevailing social norms make those “below” us on the hierarchy less visible than those “above” us, and in this way we could use Saturn-Pluto to constructively bring to the surface (Saturn) that which is hidden or repressed from awareness (Pluto).

all color images by Joshua Halpern ::: ecocourageous.com

Sacred Curiosity and the Wisdom of the Heart

Saturn-Pluto may give us greater access to appreciating the radical differences between ourselves and others—but appreciation is not automatic. One tip to prevent us from dismissing different experiences or collapsing them into our story about the world is to summon up a genuine and respectful curiosity. And a willingness to admit that we know less than we think we do!

A practice that could help this along is to bring your awareness to your heart, and to keep re-focusing awareness on your heart as you explore the perspectives and experiences of those who seem to be so different from you. Both feelings of disgust and compassion could become stronger and it is helpful to consider that your emotional response says more about you than it does about others. Trying to just allow your feelings, however taboo they may be, and trying to connect with the part of you that can allow emotion to flow through will help them move. Is it possible to be curious about what you are feeling? Curious and gentle?

You may notice a whole raft of judgments arising, too—which is why it’s helpful to connect with the heart. The heart carries a more accepting mode of consciousness. The point of this exploration isn’t to figure out “who is right” and “who is wrong.” It’s more to notice: there is more than one way of experiencing the exact same events. There is more than one culture, more than one society, more than one system of beliefs, more than a single lineage or ancestry giving birth to our present moment. It seems that no rigid ideology can guard us from harming others—only a commitment to ever-increasing awareness of Self in relation to Other (and vice versa) can reduce that possibility—and indeed, lead us to transform what needs healing within the status quo, within the existing state of our affairs.