Hello everyone. Steven is getting ready to head to Switzerland, to start the first European AP Program next week! So I have an article to share with you this month below.
Both Mercury and Mars turn direct this month, giving us access to some much needed forward momentum! Take advantage of the last week of April and the beginning of May to take care of important business. Venus goes retrograde later in May! More on that next month...
The Southern California AP Program in May will give you Mercury types something to chew on! For the first half of the program, Steven will present two one-day topics - Astro*Mapping and Progressed Composite Charts. The last two days will give several folks the opportunity to ask one question about any topic in their chart. This will prove to be an interesting and engaging event, rich with diverse material. Hope to see you there.
Best wishes to all of you, Tony Howard
Meditation on Mars
I’ve been consciously interacting with the current retrograde transit of Mars through Virgo with profound attention, not in small part because I have a large stellium of Virgo planets. Thanks to Steven’s insightful teachings on working intentionally with planetary transits, I now have an experiential understanding of this transit which has unveiled the deeper promise of working consciously with this empowering system of astrological thought.
Mars is symbolic of the magnetic power of our will, our capacity to initiate, to instigate, to ignite – and also of simple desire, expressed as “I want.” On the darker end of the spectrum, it is symbolic of our capacity to boil over with anger – often at not getting what we want, or in frustration at being blocked or thwarted in our striving, or at “losing” the very thing we were dead-set on “winning.” Mars refers to the energy in us that easily gets caught up in the kinds of human dramas that are propelled by the unanalyzed need to blindly fulfill our base desires. These dramas easily create passionate attachments which engulf our emotional body. When these experiences don’t go the way we want, we might turn into hot-heads, taking out our flame-throwers and scorching anything in our immediate vicinity.
When our ego is strongly influenced by Mars (by natal configuration or by transit) we can find ourselves consumed with the impulse to fight tooth-and-nail, our sights dead-set on victory, pursuing our desires at full throttle and using all the brute force and sheer determination we can muster to get there. As one of the major celestial bodies in our solar system, we will all have to work with or encounter Mars energies on some level at some time in our lives. How we respond is contingent on the myriad skills, insights and tools we’ve developed at this stage of our journey, mapped out by the complex arrangement of symbols in our birth charts. Our chart, this profound tool of discovery, is one key to the successful navigation of such an experience. But the chart only points to the way. It shows us our resources as well as potential shortcomings. The true work of the process is up to us.
One of the blessings of having Steven Forrest as a teacher is that his philosophy is grounded in spiritual thought and awareness. So the astrological symbols are not just descriptive tools based only in intellect, merely something that we can use to identify ourselves, and maybe to wow our friends at parties. They are capable of so much more, and can be tools we use for deeper self-knowledge and a conscious process of inquiry that can lead us to liberation, transcendence, and even freedom from the wheel of habitual suffering that many of us experience on this human journey. In yogic philosophy, this habitual patterning is described as samsara.
Our samsaras, our patterns of habitual striving that lead to suffering, are famously difficult to navigate. Many of them arise directly out of our unconscious minds, leaving us without a compass which we might use to steer the ships of our lives in a fruitful direction. It is precisely because these patterns are unconscious – outside of our everyday awareness – that they lead to repetitive, or we might say, karmic, situations. Evolutionary Astrology is a profound tool that we can use to provide context for some of this unconscious material, which in turn opens the door to healing by shedding light on it. Ultimately this awareness can lead to us reclaiming personal power and bring us into a deeper state of awareness of the current moment – where the true magic of our life always unfolds. This kind of intentional inquiry is one of the great potentials of Evolutionary Astrology, and is at home among other universal and time-tested spiritual traditions including yoga, Buddhism, and mystical Christianity.
We might find ourselves initially drawn to astrology due to its magic and its ability to illuminate some of the inner workings of the universe and our connection to it. We come looking for answers. How can I use astrology to understand my destiny? How can I use astrology to break free from old patterns of pain and trauma? Even how can I use astrology to win the lottery? The latter question might seem to be a “surface” one, but it speaks to something at the root of the entire process of inquiry with astrology, which is our desire to be free from suffering. No question we have is too “shallow.” All rivers here lead to the same source.
So what does all of this have to do with Mars? Through my own confrontation with Martian energy over the past few months, I’ve become aware, not only of the in-your-face events at hand, but miraculously also with the deeper gifts inherent in this process of inquiry itself. Mars has served as the doorway. I just had to be willing to keep looking beyond the surface. Those of you with planets in Virgo, Pisces, Gemini and Sagittarius may have faced similar encounters.
Every experience that arises in every moment is fodder for cultivating a deeper experience of the present moment – a way to break free from our habitual patterning and our ingrained karmic cycles through concerted effort and profound awareness. As the cycle of Mars retrograde comes to a close over the next three weeks, I encourage you to start moving towards an integration of all of the information you’ve been receiving. All of your anger, irritation; each moment of conflict; every fight or disagreement; every frustration at being stalled, or even bested – these are all potent experiences that can be composted into rich fertilizer for growth, leading you into a fuller state of presence.
Mars, traditionally considered to be a malefic, is at least one of the more obvious planetary energies to work with – making it a perfect vehicle for the kind of self-inquiry I am recommending here. Mars’ association with “bad fortune” is not without reason. When our Mars is riled up, we don’t like losing, and we are attached to getting what we want. This kind of feisty approach often gets us into trouble. On the flip side of the coin, when we don’t know what we want, we get stuck. A Mars transit may indicate any of these experiences and more. Martian energy is at once frustrating and easy to work with. When our cheeks flush with anger, there is no doubt what we’re feeling. When Mars energy is at hand, we are poked, prodded, and forced to confront deep reserves of strength, courage and the will to keep going even in the face of defeat. The gift with Mars is that this experience is not exactly mysterious. This gives us an edge. Because we know what we’re working with (a particular conflict with someone, a state of anger, a feeling of fear) and we can delve into our inquiry a little more easily than if, for instance, foggy Neptune is involved.
Under a tense Mars transit, we might get angry more often or more easily than usual. In fact, we might go from peaceful to angry in seconds, with almost no warning. But then we have something clear to work with! Because waking up to the present moment includes everything – every feeling, emotion, thought or action, whether uncomfortable or joyous. If anger is what arises, that is what we work with.
As we willingly engage in a process of self inquiry, each of us finds something unique. One of the personal insights I had recently was that my will to have what I want is fused with deep fixity and unconscious drive. Throughout the current Mars retrograde transit, I’ve had numerous, almost daily experiences of wanting something specific (it could be something as simple as wanting a bowl of soup), then taking action to get it, and not being able to (getting to the restaurant and finding them “just out” of soup). This kind of experience happened to me a statistically improbable number of times over the last 2 months! So how did I work with it? First through facing my anger, which in every instance, was readily available (insert smile here).
One might suggest that I approach this particular kind of frustration by adjusting my desires, or by practicing more flexibility in the wake of not getting “what I want.” This would be good advice. But this time around, I got more interested in the very nature of my desire. Where does my desire come from in the first place? What makes me more attached to some things I want, and less to others? What inside me is unresolved or unconscious, so that my attachment to a particular thing as simple as a bowl of soup might bring to the surface a feeling of unwarranted frustration? What does that frustration really point to?
The answers to such questions are of course personal and the details of my own journey are not the point here. The point is that we allow such questions to arise. It’s the process of inquiry that is important. The questioning, the awareness, and the ability to step outside of our experience, will ultimately help liberate us from our samsaras – our unconscious habitual patterns.
In addition to the deeper spiritual doorway of exploration we’ve been talking about, there are also practical tools inherent in a conscious exploration of a Mars transit that are worth mentioning as the current retrograde cycle comes to a close (Mars stations direct on April 14th at 3:54am UT). As I suggested in my prequel to this Mars retrograde cycle, you may have become aware by now that Mars has helped point out ways in which you needed to shore up personal boundaries. You likely figured this out by finding yourself in a conflict, or reaching some peak of frustration at the way an experience continued to play itself out. Have you resolved to make some adjustments? If not now, at least commit to doing so once Mars goes direct. Feel free to use the rest of this month to mull over what’s happened if it’s still a little murky.
Our anger and our frustrations point us easily to what is really important. But when we look deeply, we might find an outdated desire – something we no longer even want that is running the show, and is now ready to be let go of or to change. Just as easily, we might find an old pattern of not standing up for what we want or of not communicating that desire clearly. Remember that Mars is still in Virgo, so we need to continue to explore the minutiae, to get into the specifics. If the problem is happening at work for instance – let’s say, around a certain procedure or policy that’s vexing you – really think about, outline and spell out what needs to change going forward.
I think we can work on both of these levels simultaneously – the practical everyday, and the deeper transcendent level of awareness – going back and forth between both states. Because the yoga of this kind of practice doesn’t just occur when we’re meditating, or praying, or engaged in conscious ritual or visualization. Our goal can be to bring this same level of awareness to every moment of our lives, whether infused with Mars energy or some other dynamic. As Buddhist philosopher and yogi Michael Stone writes, “When we are open, and our habitual psychological and physical ways of being are suspended, we arrive in the present moments of life free to respond with an open and creative heart.”
So I’ll close this month by saying (with teeth still gritting a little)
thank you to Mars. I may have a lot of work to do (a Virgo’s work is never done, right?!) but I’ve made great strides this cycle. And I’m a little more present, a little more available for whatever presents itself in the ever-unfolding present moment. And that’s a gift without measure.
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