Living with the new normal

TX long roadListening to a recent radio interview with Dr. David Nabbaro of the WHO, I was impressed and reassured by his honesty and no-nonsense plain speaking when questioned about Covid-19 and where we are right now with this pandemic. I quote some of his words as they convey the reality of what we, collectively, have to do to help bring the spread of this virus under control and eliminate it:

“This virus is not going away and is really dangerous. This virus doesn’t get bored. This virus only has one purpose and that is to multiply. We have absolutely no choice but to take it seriously. We’ve got to have everybody working together, and we need a comprehensive approach, we’ve got to do everything….”

here he mentioned wearing masks, keeping socially distant, using  testing/tracing, and remaining vigilant at all times

“….over time, this will become the norm. We don’t have an alternative. This virus isn’t going away for the foreseeable future – we’ve all got to learn to live with it.”

His clarity, laying on the line what we collectively have to do, no matter which country we live in, had my thoughts turning to the astrological psychology I’m trained in and have used to counsel numerous clients over the years. Please come with me as I leap from our global pandemic to the qualities, energies and expressions of the planet Saturn, and what it means in terms of observable human behaviour and where we are right now.

I’m sharing an edited extract from a talk I gave at a UK national astrological conference some years ago. It offers a practical exploration of the meaning and manifestations of the planet Saturn in everyday life. You do not need to have any prior knowledge of astrology, or of what the planet Saturn represents; I hope I can enlighten you a little on this and give you some food for thought which might help a little as we steer our way through this virus-laden mess.

Millstone or Mentor? (that was the title of my talk)

Do you check the weather forecast before you leave home to see if you’ll need an umbrella, check the train timetable on your phone when going to the station, and maybe make sure you have a map in the car when setting off on a journey to a new destination, even though you’ve programmed the satnav? If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you were probably drawing on your own resources of Saturnian energy.

Structure and organisation

In astrology, the drive associated with Saturn is for Security. Saturn is concerned with structure and form, always seeking to organise, preserve and maintain things within manageable limits. In our solar system, Saturn is the furthest planet that can be seen by the naked eye.  Before the outer planets were discovered, following the invention of the telescope, Saturn’s position marked the outermost limit of our knowledge of the solar system, so it is not altogether surprising that astrologically it symbolises limitation, boundaries and our own security drives. It is the planet that swings into action when we need to know just exactly where we stand, so having social structures, guidelines and rules to abide by are all part of Saturn’s realm. Saturn gives the physical sense of self which we gain through the body. The structure, organisation and limitation associated with Saturn are present in the various systems in the body – the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the digestive system, to mention just a few. The skeletal system provides a firm, solid physical structure around which the other systems are organised. As all these systems are interdependent, their clear-cut organisation is vital. The skin – our own boundary which marks our physical outermost limits – contains them all.

Saturn helps us to become responsible and reliable as individuals; if we live within the rules and guidelines of society then we reap the benefits of feeling safe and secure. Saturn is the perfect foil to  unfettered over-expansiveness and behaviour which can get out of hand. If not contained, our excesses can take us beyond the limits of acceptability. Saturn helps in curbing what might become outrageous and antisocial behaviour by giving us a sense of caution and responsibility. Taken to extremes, this sense of caution can become fear,  holding us back and restricting us in everyday life, so it’s important with Saturn that we get the balance right, and that we don’t allow our fears to hold us back from doing what is important for us. Because it symbolises such qualities as  responsibility and caution Saturn may not sound like much fun, so it’s important that we understand its positive attributes. It’s value should not be underestimated as it plays an essential role in our psychological make up. Like all the planetary qualities and energies, it can operate at different levels of consciousness, sometimes dormant and inert and responding in a habitual manner, but at its highest level Saturn will endow us with the ability to act with dignity and maturity. Then we can live with a clear conscience, accessing the deep learning of life we have developed, and become a mentor and benefactor  to those who seek our help, support or advice.

 What we know about Saturn astronomically – that it has rings which form a boundary around it – reflects the astrological meaning of the planet. Its protective rings are akin to the qualities of limitation and boundaries which are astrologically associated  with Saturn. Psychologically, Saturn can be like a millstone. It can represent those things in life which are really heavy & which drag us down, so has the effect of being the “killjoy of the cosmos”,  but it can also be like a wise mentor, guiding, teaching and advising with our best interests and safety at heart.

At the moment there are a lot of people getting fed up with the restraints we’re living under to help curb the growth and spread of Covid-19, so it’s easy to understand how these limits might feel like a heavy millstone, a drag on what we’re used to being free to do. This might make us rebel against the Saturnian harshness of where we are now, yet our lives would almost certainly be a chaotic mess without Saturnian qualities around to provide the structure and practical grounding of living in the material world, especially now our current world and lifestyles and jobs  are under threat.

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The Four-Fold Way

Some tim4foldwaye back in the 1990s I came across the Four-Fold Way, which was referred to at a personal growth workshop I attended. The Four-Fold Way was attributed to anthropologist Angeles Arrien, and I was impressed by it’s four simple points of wisdom:

· Show up and choose to be present

· Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

· Tell the truth without blame of judgement

· Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

This led me to read her book, entitled The Four-Fold Way – Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. The book, its content and ethos have come back to mind right now. The times we are currently living in are blighted with fake news, lies, trolling, disrespect of people who are different in some way, divisions within society and climate breakdown. It’s time for us all to start taking responsibility and stop moaning.

Angeles Arrien suggests four paths we might take, and her opening sentence, way back in 1992 when the book was published, is pressingly relevant today. She says,

“Today it is imperative that we pay attention to ecological issues. Our planet, the house we live in, is in danger of becoming unliveable, due primarily to the neglect of our own industrialised society. It is clear we need to take action before it is too late.”

She goes on to say that the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means house, in other words, our planet.

The four ways she describes can be shown diagrammatically using the medicine wheel layout and includes the four points of the compass, and the four elements of fire, earth, air and water. Each Way has a single line description which more or less lays out what it’s about.

The Way of the Warrior – Show up and choose to be present– the message here is to stip dillydallying about and do something, take action. The associated human resource is power, the way of living is right action.

The Way of the Healer – Pay attention to what has heart and meaning – this suggests don’t allow yourself to get distracted (by smart phones, social media etc?) but remain in touch with what is really important and connected to your heart. The associated human resource is, unsurprisingly, love; the way of living is right speech.

The Way of the Visionary – Tell the truth without blame or judgement – here we have to remember to speak our own truth, be true to ourselves, and not take on board what others have tried to foist upon us. This can be a tough one as it’s much easier to go along with things we don’t really agree with in order to fit in, or keep the peace. And we have to remember not to blame or judge ourselves and others. The associated human resource here is vision, and the way of living, right placement.

The Way of the Teacher – Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – the message is to stay open to the new and not have an end goal in mind. A good teacher will always be open to new ideas and viewpoints because so much fruitful material can come from staying open and learning more. Good teachers are always learning! The associated human resource is wisdom and the way of living is right timing.

Angeles Arrien’s work as an anthropologist, educator and facilitator of workshops aims to build a bridge between cultural anthropology, psychology and comparative religions, revealing how indigenous wisdoms are relevant to our families, professional lives and our relationship with the Earth itself. There is something in The Four-Fold Way for all who wish to develop themselves, their potential and their ability to live life creatively, and we need this approach more than ever in our current times.

“Do all the good you can, with all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can” – Angeles Arrien.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse

BoymolefoxhorseThis book was a Christmas gift (thank you daughter) and its simple message, full of wisdom and magic, bears hope and significance for the times we are living in as 2020 and the new decade begins. It’s about love, friendship and kindness.

I’ve read it through cover to cover, I’ve dipped into it, and I’ve used the attached glossy ribbon it comes with to mark pages which hit the spot for me when I open it at random. I’ve even had a go at playing the music printed inside the front and back covers; there’s no title, just the instructions “Lively and in strict time”, the musical staves themselves adorned with drawings of the four characters in the title, and horse, like Pegasus, with wings, galloping and flying through the notes. I recognise the tune but can’t name it; it’s a cheerful trotting tune.

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse is a book which will entrance children and have equal appeal for the oft-neglected inner child in adults. With my astrological psychology hat on, I’ve read passages which I can relate directly to the psychological meanings of the planets in a natal chart and the sub-personalities of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis. The mole is like the Moon – needy for love, wise about love, but not averse to substituting it with cake.

The mole tells the Boy “I’ve discovered something better than cake.” “No you haven’t,” said the boy. “I have,” replied the mole. “What is it?” “A hug. It lasts longer.”

The Boy is lonely and full of questions. He seems to be searching for himself and perhaps could symbolise the Sun/sense of self. He wants to get back home and is joined on his journey by the mole, the fox and the horse. The fox is quiet and buttoned up, having been hurt by life. He doesn’t say much but the other characters include him and love him just as he is. The fox has a Saturnian quality; he is restrained and caught in a trap when the boy and mole discover him and set him free. His presence is welcomed even though he is silent. The fox rescues the mole when he falls into the water, and contrary to his nature, doesn’t attempt to eat him.

The horse is the last character to appear. He is white and wise and very special. He has Jupiterian qualities of wisdom and Neptunian qualities of unconditional love and acceptance. “When have you been at your strongest?” the boy asks the horse. “When I have dared to show my weakness. Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse. “It’s refusing the give up.”

The horse also reveals to his travelling companions that he can fly, but I won’t spoil the rest of the story or the magic for you because this illustrated book is beautiful to read, to look at and to provoke thought and introspection. The author, Charlie Mackesy, has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press.

In these changing, troubled times, it’s essential to have reminders of how we can be when we draw upon our latent goodness and decency and give it out into the world. “Nothing beats kindness,” said the horse. “It sits quietly beyond all things.”

 

At the Hustings

I’m reblogging this account of the hustings from “I Can’t Believe it!”

Last night I was  at the Tatton hustings in Cheshire, which became lively and noisy when ex-Cabinet minister Esther McVey was booed and heckled. She was depressingly monochrome and only really came into her own (drawing on her experience as a TV presenter) at the end when she did her summing up. It was like she was back “on script”, giving a performance. Hadn’t the Tories issued candidates with a crib sheet of what to say? It sounded like she’d learned it off by heart; she didn’t convince me that she was speaking from the heart.

The other candidates, however, felt and were a lot more genuine, with Labour’s James Weinberg standing out as a beacon of hope for the future, where change is desperately needed in our riven country.

Environmental issues and climate change are infinitely more important than Brexit, yet I suspect that the silent block of Tory old schoolers will vote for McVey and Boris the Blamer. Significantly, it was only McVey who blamed other parties in this debate and sought to bring them into disrepute. The other candidates occasionally referred to other parties, but did not to blame or dwell discussing or disrepecting them.

My hope (and vote) is for our once “safe seat” for “shoo in” candidates (previously George Osborne & now McVey) becomes a lot less safe and gives way to new wave of refreshing change.

I can't believe it!

We’re into the last week of the UK General Election, so we went to the local hustings, in Alderley Edge. As background, Tatton is a Conservative safe seat currently held with a huge majority (58% of voters, Labour second) by ex-minister Esther McVey.

The hustings were held in a church and chaired by the vicar. Candidates answered questions put by selected members of the audience.

Esther McVey largely stuck to the party line – get Brexit done, with little detail on anything else. She was bemused as to why there were more food banks today than 10 years ago, and why politics is now so divisive. It seems it was all caused by Labour’s creating the financial crash of 2008 and leaving the country in a mess. Nothing to do with the banks and Tory policy in the intervening years, then. Derisive laughter met her attempts to explain why police…

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Yellow fields

I don’t have an image which truly expresses the parched yellowness of the French countryside I travelled through recently.

France, in September when I was there, was dry, dusty and gasping for rain. I travelled through part of eastern France to Burgundy, the Dordogne and then northwards, on the western side on my way back to the UK.

In the eastern, near-empty areas, the fields were yellow, some admittedly because crops had been harvested, their stubble like a blonde buzz cut. This mainly agricultural area is one of lakes and big open fields, the yellowness unbroken apart from a few small woods and very few hedgerows.

France doImage result for north by northwestesn’t do hedgerows nowadays;  parts of it look like large prairies. The roads running through areas like this remind me of the scene from the classic thriller North by North West, where Cary Grant, standing at a bus stop in the US prairies  is attacked by a crop-spraying plane.

It’s a depressing fact that in France, shooters will take pops at birds and wildlife…but then what chance do birds and wildlife have to breed and prosper in an environment almost devoid of naural features like hedgerows?

The journey was made in warm sunshine. A clear blue sky with a few perfect cotton-wool clouds provided a stunning contrast to the yellow countryside. It wasn’t just harvested fields which were yellow; grass had turned to straw in meadows, and where the soil had been ploughed or tilled, the earth was varying shades of burnt umber, sienna and ochre.

France had had a summer of intense heat, which is why these yellow fields were in evidence pretty much everywhere I travelled. It was still very hot in the Dordogne, with July/August temperatures, making it the hottest I’ve experienced in this area in September. Not quite like usual. Not normal.

This is the new “normal” we have to get used to as climate breakdown sets in and time begins to run out to restrain or halt it. We’ll be having extremes of heat and wet, bringing flooding, disruption and danger to life (just as intense heat does).

This is just one of the concerns of Extinction Rebellion, who are bringing the breakdown of the web of life to public attention with peaceful demos and non-violent activities. Like it or not, environmental concerns are real and breakdown is happening now. Just keep an eye on the global weather and you’ll get the picture.

Image courtesy of no6cinema.co.uk