2012 — learning to live authentically

‘I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’

The Awakening Slave (1525–30), Michelangelo Buonarroti.

I thought I was done with Pluto when it crossed my Ascendant and completed its cycle through Sagittarius, but it turns out Pluto wasn’t done with me. Hitting a whole series of personal planets as it dug deep into my first house, and still only two-thirds of the way through, 2012 ends nowhere near where it began.

I could never have seen it coming, this end of the Mayan cycle, this end of my year, this return to self, to a sense of home. As a saying attributed to a Zen master goes:

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.

A year ago, I was looking to possibly move jobs, towns, relationships. I felt the need for a shift, a change in energy and dynamic, but the shift was not to be found in events, or places, or other people. It was found, ironically, by being where I am — any movement has been internal, psychological, spiritual, emotional. I took a tip and ‘let go of my year’, and can only offer heartfelt thanks for the treasures that remain, return, and resurge anew.

Mars rx in Virgo: Re-organize your life


Mars retrograding over my midheaven squaring my 6th house planets is sending me in to radical life-edit mode! This post about how a busy Japanese working mother organizes her kitchen sent me into raptures. I see a spring-clean project on the horizon. :D

If, like me, you are getting the urge to clean up and clean out — both your physical and psychic spaces — here’s a series from zenhabits called ‘Edit Your Life’ that you might find useful:

Part 1: Commitments
Part 2: Your Rooms
Part 3: Closets and Drawers
Part 4: Your Work Space
Part 5: Your Wardrobe
Part 6: A Media Fast

Do what you’re doing when you’re doing it

Large scale natural (and man-made) disasters, like the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, often drive people to come up with ‘explanations’ for why these events happen. Like the response to the tsunami disaster that struck the countries in the Indian Ocean in 2004, I’ve come across a few claims that the ’cause’ of the suffering in Japan today is the ‘result’ of a collective national karma for its past. Depending on which you read, accounts range from their misdeeds during WWII, to their failure to take care of the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki! All of which I personally find pretty outrageous, and the reason why I’m not linking to them — in the age of the Internet, they’re easy enough to find if you’re inclined to look.

I don’t claim to know whether or not it is a collective karma at work. It may well be so, I can’t say. What I’m more intrigued by is the audacity of any one person to claim to know such a thing. I don’t feel particularly well versed in any of the theologies that support the concept of karma, but from my own fledgling and intermittent Buddhist studies, I’ve picked up a sense that the notion of karma, at least in the Buddhist tradition, is far more complex, layered and ineffable to be so crudely applied.

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Death and Facebook

I experienced my first Facebook bereavement today. A friend of mine whom I didn’t realise had cancer had passed on, and I only found out when his brother (whom I didn’t know) sent me a Facebook message and broke the news.

I try and cultivate the responsible use of Facebook, carefully managing my privacy settings and posting only news of genuine amusement or interest (as opposed to flooding others’ newsfeed with Farmville updates). I know Facebook has its critics but it appeals to my Gemini Sun and my Aquarian 3rd house, and I use it to support existing relationships.

Still, nothing prepared me for the news of a relationship prematurely terminated in this manner. And yet, I am grateful for it, for I might never have found out otherwise.

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On the verge of … verging

The title of this post came from a comment by my astro-blogging friend, Neeti Ray. I was trying to describe the weird sense of limbo I’m feeling that I can’t shake, like being on the verge of something that hasn’t yet manifested, and she wrote: ‘On, the verge of, verging’. Perfect! My original title was going to be ‘How to be in two places at once’.

As Venus opposes Pluto this weekend, continuing to put pressure on my own natal Venus-Pluto square, my thoughts turn to how one might process, or, indeed, metabolise, pain. With her customary bluntness, Lucy describes Venus’ recent ingress into Cancer as being akin to putting a ‘Band Aid on a gunshot wound’. It made me think again about the nature of Plutonian pain. And then there is what Elizabeth Spring describes as the ‘core pain’ of Neptune (no doubt accentuated by its conjunction to Chiron). If Plutonian pain is like a gunshot wound, I’d say Neptunian pain is like a bruising — you don’t notice it at first, until you accidentally press on it, or bump into the furniture again!

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Day before the solar eclipse: Home retreat

964098_lighthouse Sitting on the bus on the way home from work this evening, it occurred to me that I would do a day retreat at home tomorrow, the day before the much anticipated Solar Eclipse in Cancer. For once, I’m going to put aside my guilt of never doing enough work (Sun-Merc-Saturn in the 6th house), and plan a day of meditation and yoga, a day of replenishment and reminders of what nourishes.

Call it a renewal ritual, if you like, given all that has been said of this eclipse as one of coming to terms with the past, of releasing old emotional baggage, and transmuting old hurts into future promise.

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Grateful for zazen

862412_hand_of_buddha The past few months have been rather trying, and while I can easily point to Pluto (see past few posts), ‘blaming’ the transits is missing the point. Life happens. Learning about Pluto is a means of understanding what’s happening. A means of coping with it is practice.

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Doing enlightenment

warnercover I just finished reading Brad Warner‘s Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. He has an easy, conversational style and I managed to finish it in about a day and a half.

Basically Warner presents a no-nonsense view of life as a Zen teacher and cuts through the hypocrisy of the construction of Zen practice as airy-fairy and lost in the clouds. Using his own experience of death, divorce, punk rock and Japanese monster movies, he takes the reader through a hard-nosed account of how even Zen teachers can have a hard life like everyone else, and struggle with suffering like everyone else. Zen teachers are not above suffering, if anything, they face it even more squarely in the face. The humour and self-deprecation in his account makes it totally believable, and sympathetic, and in many ways a positive reminder that Zen is about doing, as much as it is about being.

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Pluto transits: Bearing witness

617094_melting_hearts_3 One of the hardest things to do during one’s own Pluto transits, as well as others’, is to learn to bear witness to the transformation without judgement.

Here are two enormously insightful articles: Elizabeth Spring’s ‘Healing Pluto’s Wounds’, and Radiant Woman’s ‘Five Ways to Use Pluto Square Pluto Positively’.

The only thing I can think to do, apart from psychotherapy, is to keep practising, to keep being aware, and to learn to bear witness to that which is changing in me alchemically, and to stay aware of that change without trying to control it, and without judgement over what results may follow. Easier said, than done, of course, but there aren’t too many other options.

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Oh, wait… what happened to no-self?

Okay… So if there’s no-self, then there’s no-self to be broken and put back together, none to be lost or found.

All is perfect.

But there is room for improvement. (to misquote Suzuki Roshi slightly)

Clearly.

More to ponder, and practise.

Having lost sight of our goals, we re-double our efforts!

591521_mandala21
I was listening this morning to a talk by Mark Lesser on ‘Doing Less’ (dated 1 March 2009), hosted on the San Francisco Zen Center website. He mentioned one of those pithy Zen sayings:

Having lost sight of our goals, we re-double our efforts.

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Trial by fire

I am reading, with much admiration, the blog recounting the efforts of the members of the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Soto Zen monastery in California, to cope with the wildfires currently ravaging the countryside. The blog is aptly called ‘Sitting with Fire’, and I am much struck by how calm and circumspect the reporting is by the team on the front line. We can all hope to be so serene in the face of our own, often far less life-threatening, crises.

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