A day of birds and beasts

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Wetlands and Spanish Moss on trees, Brazos Bend State Park

Following our truncated stay and hasty departure from our visit to family in Houston ( to get back before all planes stopped flying, no other reason!) I’ve finally got around to looking at the photos I took there. So distracting and disorientating is this period of lockdown (what day is it…?) I’d forgotten about our family day out at Brazos Bend State Park and what we’d seen there.

It’s one of our “must go to” places when in Houston, so before our departure we had a family day together and enjoyed a walk around these wetlands. They are alligator- inhabited, a bit of a birder’s paradise, and they always delight us. We’ve seen roseate spoonbills, ibis, blue herons, bitterns catching fish just feet away from us, red-winged blackbirds and alligators basking on the banks.

Trees are festooned with Spanish Moss, noisy American coots hoot and squawk, anhingas (cormorant-like) sit with wings spread in the sunshine and large dark blue butterflies make their presence felt as their wings brush by.

P1080543There’s always something new to see, and this time it was the large brown furry creature in the marshy area, which some of our party thought was a beaver, some thought was a coypu, and some some just didn’t know. It’s taken me a while to get round to the ID job, and I had to check it out and do a spot of research too. It’s a nutria, which I’d not heard of before, but they’re quite common, are similar to beavers and are related to coypu, which are found in Europe. It’s the size and tail which give the answer – large body, rat-like tail. Beaver tails are flattened.

One down, one to go. What was that unusual bird with an orange and black head I saw lurking in the undergrowth? I took a few shots very quickly and managed to get enough for an ID. But what was it? I’d seen something like it before but couldn’t remember where.

P1080546Lockdown days offer more time to browse photographs. This bird looked vaguely familiar, so I tried a long shot and looked at photos I’d taken in Costa Rica, and there it was – a Crested Caracara. I’d seen one there. They’re listed as being seen in Texas, and specifically at Brazos Bend. It was quite  thrill to see this large bird – and not only that, on the way to Brazos by I spotted a male Hen Harrier (called a Northern Harrier in the US) flying low over a field.

This was probably the most significant sighting of the day for me. Hen Harriers are persecuted and endangered in the UK, and although I’ve been fortunate enough to see both male and female of this species on the wing in the UK, they still give me goosebumps on my neck when I do.

Written in the stars?

Featured Image -- 4086With my astrological psychology hat on, I’m pondering on our current global situation. Most countries  are in lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of the coronvirus – Covid-19 – which is dominating our lives. The pandemic has halted everyday life. People are dying. We’re in uncharted waters while a vaccine is being sought; life is on pause and hold as far as the everyday activities we’ve grown so accustomed to are concerned.

Here in the UK we’re told to stay at home, work from home, don’t socialise or go out unless you’re getting shopping, and then only a few people at a time in the shop please, each keeping 2 metres apart. Children are being schooled at home by parents who are trying to work from home; the  schools closed a few weeks ago, and while it’s OK to go for a walk or take some kind of exercise, this must be done in the locality – there’s no driving off into the countryside allowed. Oh yes – frequent handwashing is essential to kill the virus. Lather up for at least 20 seconds.

If we’d been told we’d be living like this just a few weeks ago, most of us would have thought it was a joke. But it’s not and although I can’t pretend I saw it coming, I did know – from an astrological viewpoint –  that we were likely to face considerable challenges and changes all the way up to 2024 as the planet Pluto made its way through the sign of Capricorn. I wrote about this in November 2017, and you can read my thoughts here,  about this great unravelling which had already begun back in 2009.

For non-astrologers and sceptics (1) I’ll try to put my ideas and take on the current situation into a context you can understand, using non-astrological language. So I ask you to imagine a large and impressive building – maybe iconic like the United Nations HQ in New York City, or the offices of a powerful global institution. It’s a place where a lot of different but interconnected businesses, organisations, charities, churches, banks, non-governmental groups and long-founded, traditional establishments gather under one roof. The building is called Capricorn House, it’s architecturally solid and sound, rather plush, and it is imbued with Tradition with a capital T.

In 2009, a newcomer arrives, takes a long hard look at what goes on there, assesses that things are looking out of kilter because there seems to be a whole load of inequality about in the world. Not only that, the environment is taking the hits and the way things are being run, by businesses of all kinds, is destroying our world – not just for us but for furture generations. The newcomer, not unlike the Stranger in Clint Eastwood’s film High Plains Drifter, sets about levelling the playing field. He has considerable power and it’s not long before the cracks appear and the walls of safety surrounding more dubious organisations and businesses start to crumble and fall. The stranger is called Pluto and yes, he has powers alright, but he can use them to right wrongs and injustices and inequalities. The old, outworn, outdated, irrelevant-to-current-times practices take the hits. Pluto likes nothing better than a good clear out and a fresh start, and that’s what the world starts to get.

Some of the effects of this are painful for us on a personal, everyday life level, so of course, humanity tries to resist. But Pluto is an energy/entity on a mission and he’s got plenty of time; he will stay on this job until 2024, and in 2020 we’re at last starting to wake up to the fact that things have to change. Coronavirus has woken us all up to that, and strangely has brought us closer together as we realise what is important in life. And it’s not “stuff” and possessions, it’s people and our environment and the way we’re living.

But that’s not the end of it. In January 2018, another visitor arrived in Capricorn House. It was Saturn, a rather rigid, go-by-the-book kind of entity whose forte in life is systems, organisation, structure, and interestingly, the physical body. You’d expect Saturn to be in his element in Capricorn House, with all those traditional, long-founded organisations there (Saturn really doesn’t like change) but it wasn’t long before he bumped into Pluto, who proceeded to bend his ear about all the changes that were needed to the current systems and way of running things, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything much to run at all.

This was aided and abetted by Uranus, who had been messaging Pluto repeatedly since 2011, putting in his two penn’rth from his temporary offices in both Aries and Taurus Towers on the same campus, and adding a bit of global revolutionary spice to what Pluto was doing with the more general clear out.

In December 2019, Jupiter arrived in Carpricorn House, found Pluto and Saturn were already there at work, and as I write, is locked even now in close cahoots with Pluto to offer the opportunity of bringing some vision and long term planning to what our world and our society could be like. Jupiter sees the big picture, of how the future might be, and comes to share wisdom and experience before moving on in December 2020. That gives us a year – maybe to find a vaccine for Covid-19 – and to find new ways as our perceptions and priorities change.

Saturn, meanwhile, has scarpered and left Capricorn House to take up temporary residence in Aquarius Hall, where the techies live and work and the egg heads and boffins hang out. Saturn will return to Capricorn House for a while during 2020, but will then settle in at Aquarius Hall for the long haul, possibly while new systems, which include ways of communicating and working on line, maybe at home, are perfected, and yes, by then, a vaccine might have been found by the scientists and techies.

The astrological bit

This is my take on what effects on humanity the outer, transpersonal planets Uranus and Pluto are currently having.  Jupiter and Saturn are not outer planets, and are more personal, Saturn being appropriately on the boundary (a Saturnian word – Saturn likes boundaries) between the inner and outer planets in the solar system.

Here are links to short videos on my YouTube channel explaining the meaning and qualities associated with Pluto and Uranus, and the revolutionary spirit of Uranus.

(1) Please don’t poo-pooh any of this unless you have something useful to say and have studied astrology yourself; I’ve studied it for 36 years. Just saying.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December dawn: and a new decade

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Drawing back the curtains this morning, this is what I saw. The pink of the rising sun set against the the pale blue promise of clear skies to come, with the silhouettes of nearby trees standing dark and proud in contrast. A touch of soft grey mist hovered gently in the middle distance.

Another day was dawning, and soon it will be another decade.

That we are moving from the 20-teens to the 20-twenties in a few day’s time has only recently registered with me; I’d only got as far as musing on the past year, let alone the past decade.

With my professional astrology hat on, I could expand on the current on-going rubbing of the shoulders of the planets Saturn and Pluto. I’m not going to do that, apart from saying that Saturn, as I see it, symbolises dyed-in-the-wool traditions and Pluto is the force that seeks to break down and throw out what is no longer of use and move on. Read into and interpret that as you will, there’s enough evidence of this taking effect on a global scale.

Going back to the photo, what I’m struck by is how strong, upright and present that tree is in this scene. It’s a tree I see daily, and perhaps don’t take that much notice of, although I do enjoy getting out my binoculars to ID whichever bird happens to be perching at the top. Sometimes it’s a magpie, sometimes a blackbird singing its heart out, and sometimes it’s a woodpecker. All have to be viewed against the light, hence the need for the binoculars to get more detail.

Could the shape and silhouette of that tree be a metaphor for the year/decade ahead? It’s suggesting to me the need to stand strong and proud, to be unashamed, to be present, to have a straight back like its trunk, to reach high like its crown where the birds perch, and to have open, welcoming arms which reach upwards, like its branches.

The Magic of Psychosynthesis

We are living in troubled, unsettling times, not just here in the UK where I sit and write, but in many countries around the world. Brexit, now exposed for what it really is, has morphed into an unpleasant can of worms and the effects reverberate not only in the UK, but in other countries in the European Union which are involved in this mess. France is having prolonged demonstrations with the gilet jaunes, and in Catalonia, the people are demonstrating against the lengthy prison sentences given to the leaders of their bid for independence. We are connected in our European angst, but unrest is global. Hong Kong and Chile have political protests, Libya too; the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Friday school strikes for action on the environment have spread around the world. Change is prevalent.

As an astrologer and practitioner in astrological psychology, I can turn to my ephemeris to see what might be going on through an astrological lens, knowing full well that Saturn and Pluto have been in Capricorn for sometime now. Working alongside, they’re gradually grinding down and clearing out the outworn structures of the so-called “establishments” which are taking the hits. Like industrious workmen, they get on with their own jobs, coming together from time to time to combine both energy and effect. From April to June 2019 they rubbed along together for a while in conjunction; they touch base with each other again in December, staying in tandem in the near future until February 2020.

Will book cover

What, you’re probably wondering, does this have to do with Will Parfitt’s new book – The Magic of Psychosynthesis: initiation and self development? The answer is just about everything. The book is a treasure trove for anyone on the path of personal growth and self discovery – what the author calls The Work. Moving from the stage of Aspirant (as we all are) to Adept (what we aspire to) Will offers clear and detailed signposts for how to navigate, travel and develop our inner world, yet remain fully grounded and connected to the changing world and environment we live in.

The book acts like a spiritual satnav, gently guiding the reader through the principles of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis with a wealth of practical exercises to support the journey. Students of Astrological Psychology will already be familiar with the Egg Diagram, and with the analogy of the orchestra, the sub-personalities being different players within the orchestral whole, or Self.

Using reflective meditations based on Assagioli’s four steps in experiencing the will, readers are encouraged to explore their awareness and use of their own will, with techniques to build up muscle and strength here. In astrological psychology, developing the way the Sun – the sense of self – functions in your own chart could be worked on alongside this. I liked Will’s questions here: Who is running your life? Are you directing your life? Are you in control of your life? To what extent is the direction of your life determined by outer events?….

Other compatible approaches are introduced for use alongside the The Work, such as Kabbalah and Tarot. The practical exercises throughout the book can be taken at leisure; there is no pressure to work on them in a linear fashion and I for one will be going back to the section on training the imagination to do the suggested work on automatic drawing. The exercise on selling your soul I found particularly potent, with challenging and thought-provoking questions which hold up a mirror we may prefer to avoid looking in.

Developing the transpersonal qualities of Love and Will underpin much of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis; both are required, and while it is important to engage with the will, without love there is no cohesion, connection or wholeness. The Work, Will asserts, is about travelling the path of self discovery…and the journey has to include love too. Focussing on and developing the heart is therefore equally important, especially in these times of change and uncertainty. Will suggests that the simplest and most profound way to deal with obstacles, difficulties, challenges, opposing viewpoints (very pertinent right now in our Brexit-splintered society) is to remain heart centred. That, using an astrological psychology prism, requires stepping beyond the personal emotional needs of the Moon – our emotional needs and feelings –  in the chart and taking the leap to connect with the pure and highest manifestation of Neptunian energy – of acceptance, inclusivity and non-judgemental love.

The text of Will’s book is richly supported by references to other psychological and esoteric traditions such as Crowley, Gurdjieff, Regardie and Fortune. These do not intrude on the flow of the text with footnotes but are listed in appendices at the end of the book, along with an index of Practices and Spells.

Drawing on forty years of is own personal and spiritual development and his experience as a therapist, Will writes clearly and with warmth, as though he is speaking personally. For every exercise he emphasises the importance of grounding in real life what the reader discovers on their own explorations of the inner world. He emphasises the importance of coming back to earth, of being here now, in everyday reality and to opening the heart to love in all interpersonal relationships. This, he suggests, is especially needed in these challenging times of global change and upheaval and relates to what we as individuals can do, which is to live with a deeper consciousness of our self, and to live every day with love in action.