I’ve been thinking often about the past.
That is nothing new. But what is new are the things that are coming up for me.
So many long-forgotten memories are coming to the surface.
So many feelings and events and versions of me that I have mostly been avoiding. The past is so painful, I’ve just wanted to bury the entire thing and forget about it all.
But I’ve been surprised by my self the past few days; not all of these memories are bad ones.
There are actually many, many things which have made me smile. And some which have even made me feel very proud of my self and the person I was.
Mostly, it has been bittersweet.
I’ve been able to look back and see that there were so many good things about me that I have chosen to not recognize.
And I have found that even in the most painful, tragic circumstances of my past, there is the recognition that I was truly doing the best I knew how to do.
Now that I’m further removed from it, I can see the impossibility of the situation for what it was. I can forgive myself now. What I did then didn’t mean what I thought it did at the time. Even in my greatest darkness, I find that there is some redemption.
Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem
“Visit the innermost parts of the Earth; by setting things right, you will find the Hidden Stone.”
I came across this as I was reading a book on alchemy last night.
I wrote it down immediately. I felt it was perfect for the process I am undergoing now.
I’m visiting the deepest parts of myself, places I didn’t even know existed still. I am going to the core of my being, and with new vision, I find that I am capable of setting things right.
I am finding that what I pushed down as unworthy, the things that weighed heavy on my heart like lead, often contained a secret shimmer of gold.
To truly heal your past, you need to be able to fully feel and embody your emotions.
We often deny or repress our emotions for a wide variety of reasons. By far the most common is that painful feelings are uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s easier for us to pretend that everything is “fine” and nothing is bothering us.
Other, more complex factors can play into our unwillingness to honor our pain. As a child, we may have been punished for showing our anger or sadness. “Boys don’t cry,” we were told. “You’re just being dramatic.” “You’re too sensitive.” Phrases like these could have led us to deny our own feelings, even to ourselves.
In order to heal, we must learn to trust ourselves. This first requires that we feel and embody our emotions. It is only then that we can release the pain of our past and embark on a new future, free to be the selves we wish to create.
I have identify three core steps that have been useful for me when it comes to feeling and healing my feelings.
It is often difficult for many of us to know what we are feeling. Meditation is the most important tool we can use to develop our awareness not only of our thoughts but also our feelings.
Here are some resources that have been helpful for me in the process of developing my self-awareness:
The second crucial component in this healing process is developing our compassion, especially when it comes to self. We will be much more resistant to recognize our pain and our possible errors in judgement if we have a habit of being judgemental and unforgiving of ourselves.
When we are able to see our faults and our pain from a place of awareness, understanding and love, we are then more willing to change our behavior and move our lives forward.
Loving-kindness meditation is an excellent way of developing compassionate habits of mind that will help us. This will usually involve sitting in meditation and generating positive feelings towards others and yourself. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has an excellent Loving-Kindness Meditation for those who are interested in developing their own practice at home.
Self-care routines can also be helpful. When we begin to prioritize ourselves and our needs, we start to understand that we are worthy and deserving of care.
3. EMBODIMENT & EXPRESSION
The final step is the most important. This is that actual practice of noticing, feeling, and moving through our bodies all of the emotions we have been holding inside.
There are many ways to embody our emotions. We can simply allow ourselves to feel as thoughts and memories come up. We can hold space for ourselves in a safe place to laugh, cry, scream, etc. We can engage in somatic spiritual practices like yoga.
My favorite way to express long held emotions is to dance. In Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, I learned a practice called “Swamping”.
Swamping involves moving through three stages of embodying & releasing emotions.
We start with a song dedicated to our rage. We dance, we punch pillows, we growl, we scream, we let out all of the anger we have felt we needed to stuff inside of ourselves.
Next we dance through our grief. We hold ourselves as we sway to our song, we wail, we cry over all that we have lost.
And finally, we dance into our turn-on. We can put on a sexy fun song that brings us back in touch with our excitement for life and the core of our power.
Whatever way you choose to embody and express your feelings, you will doubtless come through at the end with a weight off your shoulders and with a renewed sense of health and wholeness.
Retrograde periods are typically a time to review, reflect & reassess on your life and how a particular planet impacts this sector of your chart.
With Mars retrograde in Aries from September 9 to November 13, we are being called to assess the ways in which we embody our anger & how we take action in the world.
We are being asked to review the ways in which we have caused harm, or have been impacted by the aggressions of others.
With this in mind, I’m now offering a natal chart consultation that focuses on:
•how Mars shows up in your chart (sign & house placements, as well as aspects to other planets)
•how transiting Mars will activate planets in your chart as it moves through Aries
•guidelines for meditative or ritual practice to work with this energy
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We are often confused about what we must do to begin holding ourselves and others accountable.
We have this idea that in order to create change, we must prove how someone has been wrong and demand immediate punishment.
This is a roadblock to our change. This is what blocks us from being better people.
When we know that we will punish ourselves, or be punished, in a way that is unforgiving and without mercy, we become unwilling to look at ourselves and the ways in which we may have caused harm.
Instead, we cling to denial. We push away anything that would make us stop and pause to examine our behavior, for fear of the pain or destruction to self this would entail.
Compassion is NOT an avoidance of accountability. It is the the PRECURSOR to accountability.
When we are able to look at the ways in which we have harmed ourselves or others in a way that accepts the context of where we were at, that acknowledge our full humanity and the limitations of our perception, only then we have the capacity to do better.
You can create space for your full complexity to exist, even while acknowleging ways in which harm was done.
No one is ever entirely good or bad. No thing exists in a vacuum.
When we hold each other tenderly, it creates space for change. It nurtures accountability. It is a source of continual growth & evolution.
Today, you can practice seeing without rushing to judgement. You can practice understanding with care & concern. You can practice seeking justice without demanding destruction.
Justice without mercy is not justice. Accountability requires faith in our shared humanity. Let’s do this with care & concern, from today forward.
Most people are familiar with the story of Oedipus Rex, the ill-fated king who murdered his own father and married and bore children with his own mother.
Freud famously interpreted this as a tale which shows man’s secret, repressed desires to kill his father and take his place as lover to his mother. This fits into his narrative about our discontents as members of civilization. He would have us believe that men have a savage primal instinct, an id that lusts for power and sexual dominance so much that it is only society’s control by way of the superego that stops them all from committing fratricide and incest.
It’s an interesting take on this myth, if only for what it tells us about the state of the psyche of Freud and modern man.
When the Oedipus Rex begins, we find that a plague has fallen on Thebes. Sickness and death are everywhere, and after receiving word from the oracle that the plague is the result of a curse, or “religious pollution,” due to the murder of the previous King Laius, whose murderer was never found.
Oedipus rants and rages, demanding that the murderer be found. He vents his anger on anyone who will hear it. When he hears news that he does not like from Tiresias, then Creon, then his wife, Jocasta, he accuses each of deliberately undermining his authority, of plotting to destroy him, and wants them to be killed or banished for treason.
But soon, events start to unfold that reveal the truth of his past, and the nature of the curse upon the city.
Before Oedipus was born, his father, Laius, received a message from an oracle which said that his newborn son would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother.
Laius knew this, and upon the born of his son handed the infant back to his wife, Jocasta, ordering him to be killed. Unable to do so, she hands the boy over to a servant with the same orders that her husband had given her.
The servant takes Oedipus to the countryside, and leaves him exposed on a mountaintop. A shepherd, Polybus, takes him and adopts him as his own son. Once grown, Oedipus begins to suspect he has been adopted, and goes to the oracle to ask about his parentage.
The oracle repeats the same terrible prophecy: that Oedipus is fated to kill his father and marry his own mother.
Horrified, Oedipus flees the town where he has grown up and heads towards Thebes. On the way, he encounters Laius on the road to the city, and when Laius refuses to let him pass first, Oedipus strikes and kills his own father.
Outside the city of Thebes he meets the feared Sphinx, guardian of the city, who demands he answer her famous riddle or suffer death. She asks him, “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”
Oedipus answers: “Man.”
He crawls as a child, walks as an adult, and uses a cane into old age.
When the Sphinx hears his answer, she devours herself, and Oedipus enters the city, victorious.
Most scholars have unquestioningly assumed that the Sphinx committed suicide because Oedipus was correct. He gave the “right” answer.
But many others have started to question this interpretation, myself included.
We can start by asking ourselves more about the Sphinx, and what she represented.
According to Apollodorus, the Sphinx was a creature having the face of a woman, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and a tail bearing a serpent’s head at the end.
The name Sphinx is said from the Greek word meaning “to squeeze”, “to tighten up.” This could refer to the fact that, in a pride of lions, the females are the hunters, and they kill their prey by strangulation, biting the throat of prey and holding them down until they die.
Another interpretation, from the historian Susan Wise Bauer, suggests that the word “sphinx” was instead a Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “shesepankh”, which meant “living image.”
It’s possible that this could mean “the living image of God.” The Sphinx may well be a representation of the divine. She is connected to the old mystery cults that existed before the incursion of the male-dominated Olympian gods.
The Sphinx is a manifestation of the divine in her forms, according the ancient feminine religions.
The lion represents the animal consciousness, or the libido or life force within the physical body.
The next step in this evolution is represented by the face of the woman. When we are able to able to consciously work with and harness our life force (which is intimately connected with our sexual energy), we are at the stage represented by woman. The capacity to use reason and our minds to direct our desires is truly what makes us human.
The final stage in this development involves the snake and the eagle. We can look to ancient Egypt for more insights regarding the meaning of the snake. Uraeus was a coiled or rising serpent representing the force of Kundalini in the body. This was the divine energy, which, when properly awakened and utilized, would allow one to transcend our human condition and soar (as if on the wings of an Eagle) and reach the heights of heaven.
We can see here that the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx could well be the Sphinx herself. She walks with four feet (of the Lion) in the morning, two feet (of a woman) in the afternoon, and three in the evening (the eagle & the snake).
It is interesting to note that this play, Oedipus the King, was written at a time when the ancient Earth Goddesses were losing prominence and being replaced by the male-dominated Olympian gods. These feminine, chthonic goddesses of Life-Death-Rebirth were overthrown, sometimes violently (through the destruction of temples and killings of priestesses & adherents), to be replaced by male-dominated gods led by Zeus and other violent & often predatory gods.
So we must ask the question: what happens when Man becomes the center of all things?
What happens when we do not honor or respect the interconnected roles which we must play in our families, our communities, our world? When the Ego takes over and crowns himself king, ignoring his Nature and his higher Self?
Laius sealed his own fate by sending his infant son to be killed. He bequeathed his cursed self-centeredness and violent disregard for innocent others to his son Oedipus. And we, us modern men and women, have inherited this curse.
Lest we be too quick to pity Oedipus, we must remember his role in fulfilling the prophecy: he kills his father not in self-defense, but in an incident of road rage, when his father does not let him pass first.
As king, he looks to everyone but himself for the evil which has been done. He rants and he rages at the plague, at his people, at the Gods for what has befallen him. But we must not forget that it is his own blindness to the evil done by his very hand that creates his destiny.
What happens when we crown our ego King, and stay committed to ruling and dominating others, ethics and consequences be damned?
We end up here: blindly imposing our violence on the world around us.
We end up here: denying our own shadow, projecting it out onto whatever we happen to encounter outside of us.
When we crown our Ego self King, limited our sense of self to the conscious rational mind only, we become blind to the evil that is done by our own hands. And here, the left hand knows not what the right is doing. In demanding that our Ego’s sovereignty is the only thing which matters, has value or exists, we violently repress all of us (and all of the others) which we do not identify with the False Self.
This inevitably leads to violence, against self and others. It is a violence that starts from within, with the disconnection from our shadow and our true selves, and this violence and destruction seeps outward to contaminate all it touches.
This points to the part of work that we must do. We need to recognize that evil is not just a thing “out there” to be violently controlled, eliminated, or crushed in others.
Evil is a poisonous weed whose seed first sprouts from within. Left to grow unchecked, its tendrils snake outwards, wrapping themselves around whatever and whomever it comes into contact with.
But I have hope that we can do this work of transformation. There was a second riddle of the Sphinx which was left behind for us.
According to Theodectes, the riddle goes like this: “There are two sisters. One gives birth to the other, then that one gives birth to the first. The answer is Night and Day.”
According to some scholars, this points to an even more ancient riddle from the Basque region of Europe. It states: “The brother is white, the sister is black. Every morning, the brother kills the sister. Every evening, the sister kills the brother. Nevertheless, the brother and the sister never die.”
I see the sunset coming. The time has come for this long day to journey into night.
The moon is rising, and she will shine on this long-delayed night, and we will rest.
Harmony can return to the earth. Day and night, night and day, they will live and die endlessly, again in balance with the law of nature & the will of life.
In the Garden of Eden, there stood two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.
The Tree of Life is that of direct experience, life as we perceive it through the five senses. It is felt through the body, and the center of its intelligence is the heart.
The second tree perceived solely through the mind, and through the tool of language & logic.
Language is a tool which divides. Each word cuts through the real, splitting it into binaries. Hot & cold, men & women, light & dark, and of course, good & evil.
Another name for this tree could well be the Tree of Death. We need look no further than the fruits it often bears.
When we begin to label one element of binary as “good” and it’s opposite as “evil”, we know we are dealing with the fruit of this tree. In reality, nothing is wholly good or wholly evil. Humanity, and the universe of which we are a part, is a complex, multi-dimensional reality impossible to encapsulate in one word or phrase.
Too often, when we crown ourselves or our egos the arbiter of all that is Good, we dissociate from the messy reality of being a human being in interconnected web of relationships and roles. This often leads to the violence we see in the world around us. Convinced of our essential goodness, we turn a blind eye to the evil we can do.
It is for eating from this Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil that we were cast from the garden.
To return is not as difficult as we may have been told. We can always return to the Tree of Life. It has never stopped bearing fruit; all we need to do is look towards the sky and reach for it.
Centered in our hearts, with our eyes toward heaven and our feet on the ground, we can begin to live again. We can live with love, with connection, beyond the mind and into the beautiful, messy complexity of what it means to be a human in this vast, infinite universe.
The Tree of Knowledge is not our enemy. When we are in right relationship to it, it can often lead us in the direction of truth. But the final step is often to reach and jumó into the void, that space between thoughts and beyond words.
It is in this space that we can feel the divinity of spirit and the force of life. It is a choice we can make, every second of every day.
When in doubt, you can ask choose to step outside of yourself and ask your mind what it believe to be true.
You can then repeat this process, and ask yourself, “What does my heart know is true? What are the sensations in my body telling me? How do my five senses contribute to this?”
There’s no need to commit to any outcome ahead of time. Just practice switching between centers of awareness. Experiment with it, and see what happens. Move towards life, and watch as your experience begins to shift. You might be amazed at what you see.
Recently, I woke up in the morning with an image of this tarot card in my mind. Along with this image came the words, “Tie yourself to the Wheel of Life.”
As the day went on, I thought more deeply about what this meant.
There are many meanings surrounding card 10 of the Major Arcana. The central theme of this key revolves around change and the passing of time. It is the turning of the wheel of life, which churns ceaselessly on, paying no mind to our individual desires.
Another name for this card is the Rota Fortuna. “Rota” means wheel in Latin, while Fortuna refers to the Roman goddess of chance & luck.
In more ancient imagery, the goddess is depicted turning the wheel of fate. On this wheel sit men in various positions of favor. At the top of the wheel is the king. As Fortuna spins her wheel, each man changes position. The king moves to the right, and will eventually lose his crown. The man on the far left looks toward the king, hoping he will one day assume his position.
The favors of Fortuna are impersonal, and have little to do with the character or will of the men involved. In some older portrayals, she is even depicted with a blindfold, as her sister Lady Justice.
I’ve recently been contending the events that are unfolding in the United States, and all of the uncertainty and anxiety that they are provoking. I’ve wondered where I can even look to anymore for a sense of certainty. Nothing seems safe in a country ravaged by disease and seemingly on the brink of authoritarianism.
I desperately looked for something to cling to outside of myself to make me feel at ease. And that was when I thought of this card, the Wheel of Fortune.
Then I remembered the phrase “tie your self to the wheel of life” from my tarot training.
To start to understand what this means, it’s helpful to imagine yourself as if you were in one of the images of the Rota Fortuna. Think of yourself as the King or Queen at the top of the wheel. As it begins to turn, what do you do?
For many of us, our first instinct is to look outside of ourselves for something to cling to. We grab money, power, possessions, anything that we think can keep us on top.
But what happens when, from our position on the wheel, we cling to things in our external environment? As the wheel turns, we are torn apart. Our arms reach out to grasp for stability, but as time marches forward and the wheel turns, we move with the wheel downward towards our fate. The harder we cling to what is outside, the more we suffer.
I saw that the only solution was to center myself in my true and only source of power, that which is inside of myself.
This doesn’t mean ignoring what is going on around you. What this does mean is remembering that you are the only thing you can truly count on. In times of crisis, we will do well to look inside of ourselves for the resources that will ensure our endurance in trying times.
For me, this means meditating daily, reading & reflecting, and being in right relationship to my work and my surroundings.
What does this mean for you?
Earlier this week I was reading more about alchemy in my new book, “The Emerald Tablet.” I learned about the concept of the rejected stone, or what manifests from the parts of ourselves we have not accepted and integrated. It comes from the persistance of what we keep in the shadows, unwilling to recognize and transmute.
So I said, in my mind, “I want to see my shadow. I want to know what I’m hiding from myself, so that I can work with it, and stop the cycle of manifestation into my life.” I didn’t really expect much of an answer; it was more of like, “I’ll put that on my to-do list for later.”
But I did get an answer. I entered the field of Hermes, I know that for sure. I was shown a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. That I didn’t want to accept. That even still, I tried to deny, or justify, or rationalize.
I knew that I was in the presence of Hermes, because of the play of language that was fighting it’s self in my mind.
One of my attempted justifications was, “Well, you didn’t know better. It’s understandable that you would act that way based on your past experiences & what you’ve been taught.”
Then I heard myself answer, “Okay well you are an adult now, and every day you have the choice to do differently. You don’t have to live as an extension of your past; you have a responsibility to do better now.”
I attempted to deny those words, too, but I couldn’t: they were the same things I had just said the day before about my parents. I could acknowledge that, yes, it would make sense for them to act as they did & do, but that’s never an excuse.
“Music is the space between the notes.”Claude Debussy
So I kept going. I kept seeing. I kept accepting. I kept staying in that space between understanding and questioning. Of accepting and knowing I could do better. This space in between in where the magic is.
I’m working on staying grounded in this liminal space. At the border between two truths, between the inner and the outer, at the crossroads of above and below, the masculine and the feminine, of my light and my own darkness. To look both ways as I leap into this infinite void, the place of all possibility and of true presence.
It’s an ever-changing dance, a beautiful and delicate stepping into the future, a jump divinely inspired and grounded in truth.
Step by step, I’m here, and I’m ready for whatever may come.