Last night I had the chance to see a film called "Free Solo." It's a documentary film about a mountain climber named Alex Honnold, who is famous for climbing some of the most difficult mountain walls in the world without a rope.
Throughout the film, the filmmakers explored the kind of singular focus and almost otherworldly calmness it takes for someone like Alex to climb rock walls like the famous El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope.
One fellow world renowned climber compared Alex's feat to a gold medal Olympian athlete having the pressure of not only winning the gold medal in the Olympics but also doing it with the pressure of dying if you don't do it.
Throughout the film, Alex appears much like a monk, living in a van by himself, and doing what most people in the world would absolutely never attempt. However, as the film developed (don't worry, no spoilers), his story is complicated by falling in love.
As I walked away from the film, afterward, I was thinking about how rare and uncommon his story is and yet how it is somehow just the type of accomplishment that many of us unconsciously measure ourselves against all the time.
Spiritual life is often sold to us as a story of great vertical heights and singular focus, the gold medal on high. If you want to reach God, you have to essentially become the singularly focused gold-medalist, and the stakes are high, ignorance or enlightenment, death and illusion or ultimate reality, truth, and nirvana or birth after birth lived in illusion.
Most of us look at these ideas in the same way we look at an insurmountable mountain like El Capitan. Few of us attempt to climb that mountain, what to speak of doing it without a rope.
And, because this is so much the unconscious conception of enlightenment perpetuated in popular culture, "Climb the greatest mountain to the greatest summit," we tend to reject the idea of a devoted, daily spiritual practice. "What am I trying to prove?" we ask ourselves. Or, "What am I trying to accomplish here?"
It's understandable. Nobody wants the goal of spiritual life to be an impossible ambition. It just doesn't feel right on so many levels.
But what if that's not the paradigm at all?
What does "enlightenment" look like when we take it off the mountain top and bring it back down to earth?
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna that the traditional form of yoga that is done sitting in a cave, meditating one's way to the top of the mountain is possible but very difficult and arduous. We can also easily fall down along that path because the stakes are so high. However, Krishna goes on to say that the best path of yoga is that of love and devotion.
The thing about love and devotion is that while it is a practice, there is no goal other than making the beloved feel happy. While it is a goal, it is not a selfish goal but a goal rooted in the desire to serve our divine source.
When we are absorbed in this kind of practice, we couldn't care less if we are born into another body, if we stay or leave the material matrix, of what happens or where we go next, the only thing we care about, truly, is love.
From this kind of singular focus, the Universe is also seen as a mountain, or a great tree, whose roots are upward and whose branches descend downward. Living life in the valley, we can reach up and very easily touch the tallest summit because the choice and practice of love, is both the lowest and the highest, at once.
I'm still, of course, completely impressed by people like Alex Honnold. Watching him climb El Capitan without a rope was also a study in presence and calmness. I highly recommend the movie!
I also couldn't help but notice that while the Moon was in Capricorn, conjoining Saturn, that I was watching the equivalent of a human Mountain Goat, scaling an enormous mountain with ice water in his veins!
I hope you all have a beautiful day today!
I am in need of 10 more backers today to help me keep pace. We are almost at the 200 backer mark!
Remember, you can pick a variety of rewards when you donate!
The Moon is in Libra this morning, applying to make a square with Mercury.
Let's meditate for today on the images interacting in today's Moon/Mercury square:
* Mercury is in the sign of the stranger today, the mysterious goat horned one, the home of Saturn, and the place of what is cast out, lonely, marginalized, mysterious, and on the edges of wise old darkness. For Capricorn stands in opposition to the sign of the Moon, the planet whose silvery light reflects to us the ever-changing rivers of life, wild and alive as they wind through the valleys of the world. Capricorn by contrast tells of the lonely wanderer, moving through the rock covered hills, the banished hermit, and the cold winter monastery looking through the valley with quiet sobriety.
* Meanwhile, the Moon is in the sign of the balance, a sign of eloquent design, discerning beauty, and fair listening.
With these images in mind we might notice...
* The voice of one who has been marginalized
* The discerning voice of wisdom
* A sober voice of fairness
* An exiled item, voice, or idea, returned
* An outsider stepping in
* A plan to bring balance and order, oversight
* What we don't say speaks louder
* What we exclude and how we make it apparent
* A voice of reason suggests an unpopular approach
* Someone or something we don't like is owed or demands our attention
* A wise person ignored
* A technical problem finds resolution
* When design lacks heart or beauty lacks sympathy
* Justice for the patient
* A prudent course of action
* The vanity of sober thinking
* The sobriety of beautiful thinking
* When and where to place darkness, void, negative space, silence
* The messages we give or receive through how we respond rather than by what we do or say
* A foundation of beauty
* A promise or agreement to work together
* An ethical question and the shadow it casts
* Learning to accept what is given without fixation on what is earned or deserved
Prayer: Teach us to see the images in the events, so that we might see all there is to see.
We think we know Capricorn, but do we really understand the most enigmatic sign of the zodiac?
* Capricorn was referred to by ancient Hellenistic astrologers as "the goat horned one," but Robert Schmidt has pointed out that the title included the notion of being enigmatic. The goat horned "??" might be another way of putting it. This should give us reason to pause. The constellation image of Capricorn is a strange looking goat with the tail of a fish. Let's just leave that puzzling image there, and imagine now that we're entering a zodiacal temple, somewhere in the stars, above whose doorway there is a shadowy question mark and the dim image of the mysterious goat-horned one...
* Along the walls of the ground floor of the temple are moving images of winter: old men and women, crumbling skyscrapers, frozen branches, the burning flames of a funeral pyre sent down a frosty river, and all faces of death. However, as the bleak images shift and change, they crack and flame at the edges with an iridescent glow, revealing glimpses of rainbow light.
* A young child approaches you with blue lips and frosty white skin. "To walk up or down?" he asks you. And suddenly before you are two staircases, one spiraling upward into dark clouds marked by bursts of color streaked lightning and the other downward into utter blackness.
* If you climb the stairs upward, you find cities rising out of the sea, and the wheels and fires of industry turning over the top of old bones and fresh saplings. You see men and women in suits, chained to one another on the deck of a ship, groping after a bouquet of beautiful bodies that rises and falls, naked and fertile, inviting them in from the waves. Not evil but the decadence of opportunity all around you. As you climb higher you also notice long libraries, the doors of temples, and the arched hallways of Universities. Along the stairs climbing higher, singers, painters, angels spiraling ever upward, and those lost in the timelessness of meditation. Finally you reach a round ceiling porthole with starry runes written in the dark clouds. The strange letters flash with fire and color, and you ask out loud, "What does it mean?" The child with blue lips and frosty white skin appears again and says, "All aspiration ends here." Then the runes disappear and the same question mark over the door to the temple appears.
* If you walk down the stairs, you find the deepest wells of suffering and all images of human horror and discord, loss and abandonment. Level after level of unspeakable brutality. The poet loses his quill. The speaker his voice. The watcher her eyes. The singer his instrument. The captain her compass. The contemplative his mind. And yet finally, because the feet do carry to completion, there is at the very bottom a round porthole, a bottom hole in a bottomless floor, and it too flashes with color and fire, covered in runes. You ask the same question, "What does it mean?" and the child guide with blue lips and frosty white skin appears again, saying the same, "All aspiration ends here." Then the fiery runes disappear and the same enigmatic question mark appears again, dark but flashing with alluring colors.
Suddenly you find yourself once more at the entryway to the temple, but now you are being shown out of the frosty maze. Your guide hands you a single, leaden coin engraved with the image of the question mark on one side, and the glyph of Saturn on the other. "Hold winter in your heart, and it will hold you in the highest heavens and the deepest hells," the child tells you.
Prayer: Teach us the wisdom of the goat horned one. The grave and glorious question mark.
Today the dark Moon is in Capricorn, void of course until the new moon tomorrow morning. Meanwhile it’s the last day of Capricorn season, Mars is exactly conjunct Neptune today, while Venus is exactly opposite Jupiter, and Mercury is slowing down to station. Tomorrow we’ll get into Mercury retrograde in depth, for today let’s look a little more deeply at our culmination of the Capricornian season alongside of the Mars/Neptune conjunction in Pisces.
With the Sun culminating in Capricorn, and Mars conjoined Neptune in Capricorn, there is a sense of divine motivation or divine discontent in the air. The irrationality and chaos of life is close at hand, as well as the overwhelm. We might be feeling alternatively inspired to rise up from the chaos on the wings of spirit, contributing something to the world, making something of our lives, following our genius beyond the horizon, and then exhausted by the struggle, fatigued by an unshakable feeling of irrelevance, and caught in the wheels of the same never ending patterns. When the Sun moves through Capricorn we’re often being asked, over and over again, to accept the circumstances of our lives exactly as they are. We don’t blame the past, and we don’t see ourselves as having “risen above the past,” either. We don’t begrudge or blame anyone for “making us this way,” and we don’t smooth talk our way around who we are with others. As the sign of the “initiate,” Liz Greene often says that Capricorn’s first task is “readiness.” The word “ready” has an etymological connection to both the words “in place” and “plain.” To be “in our place” and to be “plain” is the sign of readiness. To be who we are without qualifications or complaints about the past. There is something in this imagery that brings to mind the standing before a judge, father, or elder of some kind. “Ready” to carry the cross of our family, ancestral, karmic or cosmic burdens. The word “legacy” also has an etymological relationship to an “envoy or group sent on a mission,” as well as an appointment or inheritance given through a will.
Sometimes during Capricorn season we mourn the circumstances of our lives and we get an ego about them one way or another. But it’s important to remember that our readiness for the path of our destiny, our legacy, doesn’t require that we clear away the rotten past or that we redefine it or whatever else. Rather, it requires of us that we get a clear sense of who we are, without blame, qualification or inflation, and stand in the plainness of it. This is the place of the initiate…voluntarily imprisoned, accepting of the work, and over time, by constantly renewing this sense of “plain and in place,” our limitations become the spikes, curves, and colors of a primordial sea-shell. We become the new shape of an old story.
By contrast, Mars and Neptune in Pisces brings to mind an even farther out cosmic sense of the same themes. Mars/Neptune in Pisces is a bit like the image of a warrior rushing into a hopeless battle, knowing full well that she will die. Knowing that the battle is ultimately meaningless, knowing that one is about to become a victim of forces tremendously bigger than oneself, but summoning the courage to charge forward anyway. With Pisces there is always a sense of belonging to forces that are unspeakably bigger than ourselves. For some this becomes a normal sense that infuses within a person tremendous intuitive and creative gifts, as well as compassion and empathy for suffering. For others it becomes the weight of oblivion and chaos or irrationality, constantly foiling the individual’s efforts to rise above it and constantly drowning any sense of fixed autonomy or ego. Rather than feeling like a victim of the past (like Capricorn is prone to do), Pisces can feel like a victim of reality itself. Like something about reality is inherently victimizing and then victim blaming, like constantly adding salt to already open wounds. Many Pisceans will try to escape this difficult aspect of their sign by over intellectualizing. They will cling to various dogmas or doctrines about the nature of reality or the purpose of suffering, or even the nature of the sign of Pisces itself, that helps to ward off the terrifying face of oblivion that is an incredibly important part of the Piscean mythos. The path of the mystic, like the legacy and ‘initiate’ work of Capricorn, similarly requires a standing “plainly in place.” The difference is that the Piscean version of “plainly in place” is more like transcendental meditation or emptiness than it is about our history or personal circumstances. The readiness required of Pisces is nothing more than a straight spine recognition that we are being lived by forces tremendously bigger than we can possibly comprehend, while at the same time being a willing, non-complaining, participant in their movements, even when those movements dismember us. This is the path of the mystic or the saint.
When we combine the Capricornian calling with the Piscean calling in the sky right now, we are getting a vivid picture of who we are, no complaints or qualifications, as well as the forces that have greater control of our lives than we could ever imagine or dictate. We are getting clear as to what our work is, the sacrifices we are being asked to make in order to take it to the next level, as well as the background of both cosmic significance and complete insignificance. We know what this work will likely require of us, and we know what will likely be taken away from us along the way.
There is also excitement here, as well as bliss. If we can just remember to stop and recognize the starry cliff we’re standing on, for even just a moment, there is a memory rising. The reminder of an old promise made between ourselves and something so big we can’t help but smile, so long ago it doesn’t matter when. Could it be any other way?
Prayer: Here we are. Overwhelmed. Lived by forces who speak our names. Ready.
Image by courtesy of Gabriel C, at creative commons image licensing
The Moon is in Leo today, applying to conjoin with Jupiter later this evening.
One good question to ask ourselves in order to understand each sign a little better is, “how does the quality of light during this sign’s time of year inform the archetypal landscape of the sign?” Even though the zodiac is used all over the world, it comes from the northern hemisphere, and so its good to understand the seasonal qualities of the signs from that point of view (on a side note–I think it would be interesting to look at charts in the southern hemisphere from a reversed point of view..just to see how it reads..I’m that convinced of the importance of the seasonal light quality of the Sun!).
So on a day like today, while the Sun is in Capricorn, and the Moon is in Leo, what combination of seasonal energies are presenting themselves?
The beginning of winter (Capricorn), and the middle of summer (Leo).
Let’s look at both in depth.
The beginning of winter: the light is actually returning, gradually, day by day, very very slowly, though it is the coldest time of year. The celebration of the return of the light has passed over and now comes the long, slow, hard march toward spring, rebirth, and summer. Capricorn matches this slow march of time with its love of progress, hard work, determination, process orientation, time, maturity, old age, elderhood, no complaining, etc. Capricorn is a wintry sign with a saturnine or melancholic constitution. It’s the kind of light and the quality of day that we’re experiencing right now, here in the north, that originally matched up with Capricorn’s concern with longevity, legacy, and steely determinism. It’s a bleak and cold kind of ambition that starts the journey of the return of the light.
Now let’s look at the middle of summer, for our Moon in Leo: during Leo’s time, the summer is at its most stable and solid moment, and yet the light is dying quicker every day and the knowledge of the death of our solar year is becoming unavoidable. Leo’s sign qualtiies match this solid-light-yet-light-dying complexity with its concerns for immortality, destiny, bravery, courage, and the hero’s journey. Leo is that part of us that longs to live forever and “rages against the dying of the light.” A rage to live, a rage to assert our unique destiny against our impending deaths, and a rage to live for the heart’s callings. The lions roar asks us to find courage, heart, and honor even while the flower of life is wilting.
Putting it all together, whenever we want to understand the unique energy of the day, we can simply combine the seasonal sign qualities of the Sun and the Moon to get a sense of what’s up.
Let’s try it: the slow and saturnine climb upward is helped by a lion’s roar…a warm burst of courage helps the slow process of Capricorn find its footing and moves us forward with a bit more radiance and excitement!
* During the first stretch of a marathon the icy cold runner realizes she’s running at a better pace than she’s ever run before…suddenly her stoic spirit is lifted
* During a cold mountain climb, near the base, the sun bursts through the clouds, the climbing suddenly feels a little easier, though there is still a long ways to go
* At the outset of a project or relationship, too much pride or anticipation gets in the way…there is too much at stake too quickly
* A heavy, weighty, proud fixation, ambition, and determination…”I will win, I will get there, I will last forever, I will do this MY WAY, it’s already happening…”
You can combine the energies anyway you like to find how they might be showing up for you today. Just think…for a few days, the middle of summer, here with me at this wintry start of the new year!
Prayer: Help us to hear the winter lion’s roar.
Image by courtesy of Tambako at creative commons image licensing.
The Moon is in Gemini today, aspecting Uranus, Chiron, and the nodal axis this afternoon. Meanwhile the Sun is almost conjoined with Pluto in Capricorn just as its entered the second, Venus ruled decanate of Capricorn.
Success, hard work, determination, public reputation…but not without style, class, pleasure, and beauty. This is the second decanate of Capricorn…where the influence of Venus is working its way into the Capricorn season. Meanwhile Mercury is about to conjoin with Venus (both also in Capricorn right now), emphasizing the phrase “beautiful communication.”
* A man looks in the mirror, likes the way he looks, says so
* A woman driving in her car, lets someone in her lane, feels good about herself
* After success, a second glass
* Someone in the street is lifting a heavy box; they look good doing it
* Hanging paintings and wall art without extra help; great placement without a tape measure
* A man with a pipe in his study, surrounded by decades of books and totems, puts his feet up
* A grandmother organizes her brand new calendar, sips her favorite tea
* A slowly written thank you letter
As the Sun conjoins Pluto in the next few days we will walk through a very powerful time of transformation or transition. The transition may not be felt ultra consciously since it is still very early in the solar year, but the events of the next week, through the Full Moon, will indeed be tone setting for the year ahead. Right now many people are getting new ideas, new actions, and new visions that will need acting upon swiftly in order to “catch the wave” of the planetary forces. So whatever you do, don’t dally if you know it’s the right time for something new. Don’t be lazy. don’t wait for later. Don’t go to your usual list of excuses. Now is truly the time. The Pluto/Sun conjunction allows for us to see our nonsense very clearly and to actually do something about it. The hero (Sun) sees the darkness (Pluto) and grows stronger/wiser and more focused as a result. The ego is capable of maturing a great deal in the next week, but it all depends on taking the actions that we know we need to take and not avoiding them out of fear or complacency.
This challenge is full on right now given the simultaneous “Venus” vibe that’s hanging around in the air. It could be very easy to slide into a kind of wishy-washy “half assed” zone. Right now, if we do the work we know we have to do, and we make sure to take our time and enjoy ourselves while we’re doing it, the results will be a much easier/smoother journey toward the Spring Equinox (when many of these works will turn a major corner and we will find even more support for the work we’re now starting).
Prayer: My yoke is easy and my burden is light. –jesus
Image by courtesy of Reed, at creative commons image licensing.
ENJOY READING THESE DAILY FORECASTS?
Adam Elenbaas is a professional astrologer and the founder of the Nightlight Astrology School. Adam holds an MA and MFA in English and Creative Writing and is one of the founding writers at RealitySandwich. To learn more about Adam, click here.