It reminds me of what happens when we let go of illusion, yet maintain the magic in life, while also taking responsibility for ourselves. It can be beautiful…in the midst of everything, a rising up, and a rooted stance is taken. And the glow from the resulting blossom inspires, simply by existing.
The blossom opens each day to the world, and closes each night to dream.
Looking out my home office window today, the sun is shining, despite a thin blanket of clouds. Little buds have started on the old lilac bush, and in the distance, above a neighbor’s roof, there are distinct blossoms forming on tall upward tree branches. I peer down at the ground, slightly astonished, despite knowing better, to see the ground again. We had a severe stretch of winter weather that bogged us down well into March. There were, not only mounds of snow, but inches-thick layers of the most unruly, bumpy ice underneath it. It had been impossible to have a decent walk for weeks because of the treacherous ice being everywhere, unmanageable to snow plows even. The melting process from that extended period has resulted in flooding in some areas, and loads of dangerous potholes — more than can be remembered from recent years.
With the slow progression of Spring beginning now, the most heartening days are the ones filled with sunshine, bird song, and enough warmth to facilitate a lengthy walk — either at the lunch-hour, in the evening, or both. Yet, not all is sunshine and warmth…oh well.
Astrologically, the influence of the Pisces season and the Neptunian Mercury retrograde are at a close. How was your mystic, mythic journey this March? Having gone through it now, I would say there have been opportunities for confusion, misunderstanding, illusion, and the possibility of becoming stuck down a proverbial rabbit hole. There were also plenty of possibilities for snags, delays, and untended wounds that want to heal — interrupting and disturbing the already emotionally flooded scene. The trick to the Neptunian-type journey may be to apply the medicine of other perspectives, creativity, and a spirituality that centers — along with the healing detachment of meditating — and critical thinking, as balance. Equally important: to seek and ask for support, help, and wise counsel .
Best case scenario, during the course of March, we took the rose-colored glasses off — or they were taken off for us — and a somewhat painful realization came to light…maybe about how we’ve been fooling and short-changing ourselves in some way. And, how others have been fooling us as well….but not anymore. This opportunity may be coated in emotional pain, and an ebb and flow of confusion. This is partly due to ignoring our own emotional and spiritual needs, perhaps in an attempt to preserve or “save” something that is no longer working. This cycle has been calling for us to move on, and adjust with new wisdom.
It is important that we face our own part in glossing over serious issues (related to loss, self-respect, health, boundaries, responsibility, and inappropriate choices) in a desperate attempt to abate natural, needed change. It is important that we face the painful realization(s), like we may have been betraying or kidding ourselves on some level, and/or allowing others to do so. Once we do, then we can begin to address things more honestly. That will make room for us to process some of the more difficult feelings that accompany new understanding, which we may have been hiding from.
When darker, painful, and less popular emotions emerge, it can be overwhelming. Hopefully we can find expression for them consciously, carefully, and responsibly. It may be good to treat it like an infection that must be cared for daily. Also, it will help to mindfully, gingerly channel the visceral, raw energy of adrenaline, which may be released when facing and feeling the harder emotions.
Constructive, cathartic, and practical activities work best. For me, this often means: cleaning, editing, organizing, writing, drawing, dancing, and/or a bit of exercise. Notice, those are all concrete actions — this is important. A physical aspect needs to be incorporated when channeling formerly exiled and recently emerged emotions.
A Piscean lesson within March’s Mercury retrograde is to remember our boundaries and our lessons learned. Whether this is when we are in service to others, via creative expression and exploration, or with ritual and spirituality — knowing what is us, and what is someone or something else — is super essential to operating day-to-day, and remaining healthy and honest. This awareness of boundaries for health, benefits others, and gives us important information about the nature of the various wounds we may experience and encounter each day, and how to respond to or refrain from responding.
Truly knowing our limits is part of what defines healthy boundaries and allows us to discern at an essential level of reality and experience. This helps us to answer more quickly and accurately: Who does this feeling, thought belong to? What do I need right now? Where is my voice in this? Is this my real need or my wound speaking? Is this fear mine or someone else’s? Is this thought distorted, or accurate? Is this expectation mine or someone else’s? Is this real or an assumption?
I release needless fear and replace it with trust and knowing — with my breath, words, and actions.
I release other people’s needs and judgements and replace it with my true self, honoring my needs, and trusting who I am.
~ CS Sherin, WildClover.org
Lastly, we overrule hasty impulses and stubborn delays by trusting our own inner timing and intuition. That is the compass of trust we need to implement now. Then, we can begin to re-harmonize, uplift, re-balance, spring clean, and re-direct our own path forward — more effectively and truer to self — now that the rose-colored glasses are off, and responsibility for our selves is in motion. Dreaming, creating, and diving into a mythical and/or mystic journey (like March potentially was) can result in concrete, realistic new conclusions that can propel positive actions aimed in a more accurate direction, for each of us.
Since yesterday and through April 4th, the Neptunian thought and emotion waves of lessons decrease. We will arrive, then, in a cycle of concrete action and wiser seeds to be planted. We will need to tend them accordingly, so that they can grow into honest, consistent, and inspired forms of self-expression, action, and being.
By April Fool’s Day, Mercury will be moving forward again. On April 5th, the New Moon is in Aries. This is where the concrete actions, wiser lessons-learned, and the inner wound’s ongoing healing are all seeds planted and to tend come into play.
The energy of Aries on a New Moon translates into the following key words: independence, self-expression, action, childlike enthusiasm, unique way of being, physical activity and exercise, creation, novelty, willpower, fire, and new beginnings.
Two people whom I like to think of, when envisioning Aries energy, are: Jonathan Van Ness and Conan O’Brien. They are both Sun in Aries, and express the Aries energy in dynamic, unique, and entrancing ways. Their individuality and Aries-type expression is far from the possible war-like, aggressive side of Aries and its ruler, Mars.
Of course, most people are not totally representative of their Sun sign, because many other signs collaborate to form a layered and complex personality. I can never recommend limiting anyone to their Sun sign. However, it is helpful to look for certain Sun sign characteristics, in self and others, in order to understand the influence and the dynamics within it for all of us. We all have Aries somewhere in our chart. For me, I have Mars in Aries, so that Aries energy is strong in my life and being, despite it not being via my Sun, Moon or Rising sign. This is something important to keep in mind.
So, with that all in context, both Jonathan and Conan could be considered aggressive in a certain way via enthusiasm and raw willpower, yet it is really a harmless, creative aggression, which is a part of their charm. Both can be blunt, but again, the pure joy of witnessing each of them being so transparently honest in who they are — it comes off as real, funny, and a part of the true-to-life, yet larger-than-life package of who they are as individuals.
Sure, if you don’t have your humor, or if you are feeling a need for rigid control, this type of energy will burn you up, with its free-wheeling wildness, irreverence, dominating interjections, and innocent child-like truth-telling.Both Jonathan and Conan seem to have deep self-awareness and self-knowing. They both appear to be fearless when it comes to being who they are, and acting on it. That can be pure magic, for sure!
This is because they have done the hard work, or it seems they have. This means, they know their weaknesses like: being impulsive, hasty, impatient, pushy, and blunt. And they know how those weaknesses can be wielded as their strengths as well. In order to do that, it has to be faced and made conscious. That is the inner work done. It is ongoing work.
So, JVN and Conan are two great muses for you to ponder and observe this New Moon, and for Aries season. For more Aries Sun-type energy inspiration, you may also want to look to: Emma Watson, Diana Ross, Jackie Chan, Eddie Murphy, and Maya Angelou.
Happy Spring Equinox to the northern hemisphere today! And, happy International Happiness Day!
This is a time to plant and nurture new seeds of hope, love, and goodness. I can help with that, and would love to work with you. Go to this page to learn more. 🙂
To celebrate today, I have two stories to share with you, that give me big feelings of love, hope, and goodness. I hope they cheer you as they do me.
First up, an extraordinary story from the UK (South Gloucester, to be exact) in a little garden shed. A retired man, Stephen Mckears, had a real mystery going on in that garden shed. He left tools out, and when he would come back to the shed, the tools would be put away in a nearby box. He started to think he had a poltergeist! Then, he set up a camera to film whatever was happening. It couldn’t be more surprising and delightful! Here is a link to the full story. Enjoy, and then come back for the next one. 🙂
Next, is the video showing students and bikers all over New Zealand performing Haka, a Maori ritual that expresses many different things (love, respect, grief) for many different occasions like, funerals, weddings and other major events. The video coverage of the Haka, shows the unity of bikers who are usually divided, and students all coming together to show respect for those massacred in the mosques. I have watched this footage over and over, and each time it gives me a true feeling of the power of love and respect — beyond words. This is the sort of strength and unity we need right now.
Right now the Sun and Neptune are as one in the sign of Pisces. It is Pisces season for sure. At the same time, Mercury is also in Pisces, and will be in retrograde mode until the 28th of March. This combination of big influences in the territory of Pisces and Neptune symbolism has an affect on all of us this month. So, let’s break this down into parts that are easier to digest. We’ll start with the sign of Pisces, then Neptune, and then how Mercury re-mixes it all. Then, I will give you some friendly advice.
It doesn’t matter if your Sun, Moon, or Rising signs are in Pisces or not. We all have all of the signs and planets somewhere in our birth charts. Collectively, we all deal with these energies and influences.
The sign of Pisces is symbolized by two groovy fish swimming in opposite directions, swimming along, letting go and moving on. Often, our greatest talents are the metaphorical “double-edged sword”. This means that what we are best at can also be the source of our greatest weakness and blind-spot(s).
Gentle, paradoxical Pisces is able to harmonize and swim with ease between worlds — even between those with conflicting purposes and ways of being. This is an ongoing gift and growing edge for Pisces. Pisces can become adept at utilizing the insight, creative skills, and knowing they bring back with them from deep journeying into the imagination and sacred dream realms. At the same time, they are mostly able to find ways to work in the mundane world in efficient, routine, and practical ways. They seek to be of real use and service to humanity, and to uplift their fellow beings (human and other living beings — they don’t discriminate). This is an immense talent. Pisces energy fills the following archetypal roles naturally: healer/shaman/psychic, teacher, priest/ess, musician, artist, magician, and rebel-champion for the underdogs.
The challenge and weaknesses, the other side of the Pisces gifts are clear: both porous and poor personal and psychic boundaries — which often lead to unhealthy relationships patterns — internally harsh self-punishment, and martyrdom. There is also the habitual reaction to escape painful and harsh realities via escapism: fantasy, drama, and any and every kind of addiction. Side effects may include a tendency towards self-pity, depression, and going to extremes when trying to find balance. In addition to this, when the Pisces energy has trouble balancing and navigating between non-ordinary and ordinary realities, they will also find that they become more easily confused, disorganized, and display confusing behavior towards others.
After looking at the main gifts, strengths, potential, and pitfalls of Pisces energy, it is important to also grasp the general qualities of this symbolic Zodiac sign: claircognizance, versatility, and emotional fluidity that changes often — carrying a huge range, from impossibly shallow to the deepest of depths — ebb and flow, finding and letting go. A Pisces is potentially courageous too, with an innate instinct and desire to help, heal, inspire, explore realities, affect realities, and create.
Pisces is mutable in approach — a yin energy, and water element. This means that Pisces, the psychedelic and practical fishes, are: flexible, adaptable, and compromise (to a fault). The qualities of yin and water make them: indirect, passive, receptive, secretive, intuitive, sensitive, empathic, creative, humorous, efficient, and seemingly irrational and subjective.
Pisces wants to deal with what is hidden and unseen by most everyone, and they don’t need to talk about it. They want to be of service to others without a need to be in the spotlight (even though they naturally do get the spotlight due to their talents). The big-hearted zaniness, humor, and passion of a Pisces is enchanting, despite their maddening self-sabotage that can creep in from time to time.
Neptune rules Pisces, and so, some of their main qualities are shared. Neptune is an outer planet, and so spends time in one Zodiac sign for the long-term, for years. Any interpretation of Neptune and other outer planets (like Pluto) in a birth chart needs to take into account that, no matter how big their influences are, the process is deep and over a long period of time. Neptune is in Pisces until around 2025, and has been there since 2012. The symbolic and archetypal themes and influences of Neptune have a wide spectrum and different octaves — from inspiring to nefarious. Since we have a wide range of diversity among humans, in regards to ethics, values, qualities, personality, and choice — so too is there a wide range of possibility in each planet and signs symbolic meaning, patterns, cycles, and dynamics.
Neptune’s symbolic strengths reflect a choice and ability for: endless, enduring holistic altruistic thought. This occurs most often as creativity, invention, expression, and actions — in the realm of: art, music, dreams, sound, vision, ethics, spirituality, other realities, and energy. Neptune archetypes may include: the mystic, ascended being, genius, priest/ess, transformation, transfiguration, visionary, shaman/healer, transcendent/empowering music, art, creativity, spiritual care and modalities of energy work. It also includes values and actions that are inclusive and based on equality/equity — transcending duality, reactivity, and polarization.
Neptune’s shadow or blind-spots and weaknesses include: fanaticism, dogma, negative/predatory/parasitic cult-type behaviors and leadership, addiction/drug abuse, deception/con, illusion, confusion/mental fog, manipulation, and becoming stuck — in illusion, deception, manipulation, wounds, and/or confusion. Neptune is one of the giant gas planets. Gases can be far-out groovy, toxic, life-giving, stinky, light, or heavy. It’s all there.
The potential is great over this stretch of time from now into 2025. Yet, the dangers we face are clear as well. Much is on the line. Much is in crises. And the deceptions and illusions have been revealing themselves at great length for some time. Yet something more and better is going on than it seems. The unseen matters. Pisces and Neptune energies do need containers, grounding, and light in order to be made tangible for us. We need to deal with these energies and influences in ways that use equal parts common sense, logic, and intuitive creativity. Otherwise what needs to be built upon will get lost and forgotten.
What is not to be missed here is the impact the Mercury retrograde of this month has on this Pisces/Neptune energy, given a spotlight by the Sun.
Mercury Retrograde With Pisces/Neptune Vibes
Mercury retrograde is usually a time to expect the unexpected, to prepare for obstacles, delays, roadblocks, and inconveniences. When we accept, and even expect and make time for, possible issues/problems/delays, we create an energy of adaptability that plays well with the Universe’s ebbs and flows. The Universe likes us to be specific about what we want, but it also wants us to be loose and flexible with how things may happen (not according to our plans). Welcoming a delay or perceived problem as an opportunity for new awareness and opportunities may seem radical or weird, but it is true wisdom that gains respect from the Universe at large.
Usually mercury retrogrades are not times to begin something completely and utterly new, or to sign contracts that are completely new and unexpected. It is not usually a time to get a new contractor, seek a new service, or find a new doctor. Yet, life isn’t neat and tidy, and we can’t live our lives dictated by the symbolic and archetypal information from astrology. So, what I have found is that when we must engage in and trust something completely new during a mercury retrograde, it is helpful to accept and prepare for anything and everything going wrong. When it doesn’t, we can be jubilant and thankful. When it does, we can be relaxed and open to inspiration, having prepared for the unknown and unforeseen best we could.
However, this mercury retrograde (March 5th — March 28 2019) isn’t quite a usual one. This Neptune/Pisces influence defines it, and it will last until the end of this month. A lot can happen in a month. Since the flavor of this month is deep, tender, magical, and paradoxical Pisces — as well as, the vast and confusing mystical potentials of Neptune — we are in for a lot of inner emotional, psychic, creative, and spiritual content that keeps changing and fluxing about. Don’t believe everything you think, hear, or see this month. And don’t forget it either.
No matter how much self-work you have done, if you are not dealing with and facing your inner pain, passions, longings, dreams, and activated wounds — Neptune working with Mercury in retrograde will get you — they will get the better of you. It has already started.
A virtual Neptune fog is in place right now, set to place us all on a mystical journey that will be ample in emotional ups and downs, illusions, delusions, inspirations, and the promise of healing and transformation — if we don’t get stuck. The kick to it is that, the fog makes everything confusing and confused. Things are not what they seem, and what you think and feel one minute may be contradicted by your own self in the next. Be sure to ask for help when you need it, and take breaks from whatever is really intense. Balance the ordinary with the non-ordinary as needed.
When we cannot handle all the pain and harsh reality of this broken world, we may seek to escape a bit, and maybe we even do it productively and constructively. That is impressive.
Maybe we know how to honor and respect our dreams, inner worlds, and sacred imagination. Perhaps we know how to balance the two worlds. Yet, what we are processing collectively is too much — for one generation or two to process, let alone an individual. So, the call is to face our own inner wounds that are activated right now, and apply all the reasonable and wise self-care we can to it. Even while we feel confused, dizzy, cloudy, and spun about — know that the mist of this fog will disperse and lessen. But for a time, this month, we will all get a bit lost.
Lost, wandering, and confused are all real locations, and even religious-type experiences. Watch out for the cult-like responses to it though — that trap of becoming addict to the spiritual highs, and master of the power that comes with it — without ethics or care.
Better to apply the medicine of nature, water, breath, creativity, friendship, and healthy boundaries to all and everything.
Remember to treat water, in particular, with great care, respect, and honor. Consider water as our true/symbolic self and true god at this time. How are we treating, interacting with, using, caring for it? Water is essential to Pisces. Water is life. Pisces needs baths, showers, drinks of water to regenerate. At the same time, water is at the center of many of our crises environmentally, and related to class and privilege. Something to sit with, and see what messages from other worlds and in between worlds that may arise this month.
Needless to say, this is a special time to tend to our dreams, keep a dream journal, create and respond to what our dreaming selves are doing.
Dreams speak to us in many ways. Sometimes dreams bring to our awareness meaning and messages via symbols and archetypes. Other times, the dreams we have can be an actual journey of consciousness and spirit. At times, dreams are layers and mixtures of many things. Paying attention to and responding to our dreams is beneficial and deeply nourishing, and quite evident over time. Dreams mostly seek to help us to process, heal, and grow. They are a key to greater fulfillment.
I have been deeply invested in paying attention to, recording, and responding to my own dreams for the last 30+ years. I have found that the other part of our lives, spent in dream states, is just as meaningful and important as the wakeful state. Not only that, the one constant within both states is that the journey of our consciousness is present in both — something that anchors us beyond death and our current bodies, and on into new and different life and/or lives. Deepening our present moment consciousness via dream work (and meditation) is a priceless practice that supports and enhances the mundane, yet also goes far beyond it.
I am going to provide you with a concrete example of a dream from the past that I have worked with, which was profound and pivotal for my evolving spiritual and emotional development, at that time, through and beyond wounds and personality weaknesses. The following dream is from work I did back in the Spring of 2011:
Title: She Is Monumental
I am in a house we have just purchased. We are happy with it. Until someone who used to live here comes to the door. She comes in with a key she kept, and wants something. I am exasperated, and a bit angry at the intrusion. She leaves quickly though. I am near the door. I see an impossibly tall woman who is led around the house by an angel-type-being. I feel fear when I see this impossibly tall woman. With great effort, I look up at her face — way, way up. She has no mouth. I feel fear, which fades into compassion instead. I reach out my hand to her in friendship as she passes.
CS Sherin, Dream Journal Entry, “She Is Monumental”, May 2011
After so many decades of keeping dream journals, I have learned what most of my personal dream symbols represent. This is one of many important reasons for committing to a dream journal. Dreams really are cheated and mistreated when we use dream dictionaries, accept the general definition, and leave it at that. Tracking dreams and our own personal messages via journals reveals context, meaning, and timing that no dream dictionary can ever reveal. Just like a dictionary definition for a cat or dog could never come close to defining and expressing the who, what, why, where, and how of your specific animal companion. Dreams have life of their own, and some of it is indefinable.
PLEASE NOTE: While you may have an interpretation in mind when you hear someone else’s dream, the only person who can reveal the true meaning of a dream is the person who had the dream. Any meaning or interpretation that comes to your mind while listening to someone else’s dream can most accurately and respectfully be expressed as: what the dream would mean if it were your dream. This delineation and practice is essential.
I will translate this dream. Translation is the best word for it, as my dream is in the language of my unconscious mind and my consciousness/soul. It is personal and specific. As I provide a translation for my dream, keep in mind that my translation and definitions for things in the dream are not in any way static. This is my official translation for this very specific dream. This specific dream is, indeed, a symbolic dream, yet, not all dreams are. For other dreams, these symbols may carry completely different meanings, or may not be symbols at all!
For me, in this particular dream, a new house is a new way of being. The new way of being is good. The previous owner intruding briefly represents some unwelcome old habits coming back into my new way of being. But, they only intrude briefly and are gone, let go. The woman who is being guided through the house by an angel-type-being is tall — taller than tall. She is graceful and silent. Her presence is like a walking monument. She is monumental. My fear turns to compassion as I see her missing mouth as a disability. This monumental “she” is the divine self linked to soul or authentic being. It took me “great effort” to become conscious of the alarming symbol of the missing mouth. The missing mouth is symbolic of my ego’s distorted belief of separation from divine love that took shape in the personality by age three. The missing mouth is ongoing silence, separation, even disability related to relationship and listening to/hearing the authentic self — who has never been separated from the sacred.
CS Sherin, May 2011, dream entry translation for “She Is Monumental”
As a child and young adult I was so busy tracking everyone else’s feelings, needs, and expectations that I had no idea what my own were most of the time. The pain of the separation-illusion from my own being surfaced in other dreams in my youth — via dreams of being blind, which had morphed in recent years into being mute. These dreams were telling me that my distorted ego beliefs and fears had created some serious fall-out for my inner being.
A myth re-told in a new way for healing effects, is what came to mind as possible medicine for me, relating to this dream. Our culture enforces the belief of valuing the external over the internal (and the visible over the unseen) with glaring manic force, in advertising, news, via experts, and in storytelling. When the movie Shrek came out, I deeply appreciated the radical re-telling of old fairy tale stories that had before accentuated external and unrealistic importance. Shrek transformed that distortion in our culture, thankfully. The ugly, disgusting ogres possess inner beauty, truth, and authenticity, and are hero and heroine. The old external-value archetypes of the past are seen with human flaws and distortions laid bare. The deeper inner being is valued.
C. J. Jung believed that seeing archetypes revealed in a story (like Shrek), even if we are not consciously aware of the deeper meaning, helps bring healing to the personal and collective unconscious. Knowing that, Shrek was a deeply needed re-telling for the personal and the collective. Part of my dream work response to this dream, back in 2011, was to re-watch Shrek.
In this dream, I know that as I overcame fear and reached out in compassion to connect with the monumental self — I initiated a vital change of pattern, which released personality/ego-based distortion about relationship to my inner core/being. This was an important dream, a turning point for healing and consciousness.
My dream also reminded me that a lot of the younger ages of my life were spent neglecting my own needs and voice. The dream told me that there is much yet to learn and connect to that is real and monumental, really. This is what I wrote about back in 2011, in conclusion:
That bright, silent, tall being of my dream may seek to be a voice for the voiceless, my poetry, and my compass. I know she has much to say and show. I know she has a mouth and a voice. My awareness and compassion for myself is the doorway to deepening that relationship, and it has already begun. It has already come to the point that even this personality and ego of mine have learned enough to yearn, and yearn again, for her voice, leadership, and presence. This is a reward for walking through all the pain so far and doing the work. The ego wishes to serve the soul…and joy, abundance, and love begin to overflow.
CS Sherin, May 2011, reflection on dream entry, “She Is Monumental” (above)
I wrote the narrative below, Give Up, at the end of September in 2014. It is about a dark night I went through that I will never forget. It wasn’t the first hard time I have faced, but it was a pivotal one, different from other times.
It was August 11th, 2014. I experienced a deep depression that washed over me quite suddenly. I was to find out the next day, that it was the same day that Robin Williams died. He was someone who had been a bright light for me in a rough childhood — him and The Muppets. Finding out the next day about his death, I realized I had probably felt a “disturbance in the force,” so to speak, that had affected me. Robin was such a great presence on Earth, dear to many, and missed. I am sure his death was a real energetic part of what I felt that night. But there were personal dynamics at work too.
Before that night, I had already gone through some devastating loss. My oldest sister had died four months earlier, after a long battle with a cancer that had turned quite brutal. A few months before that, our elderly dog had also gotten a brutal cancer, and had to be euthanized suddenly. Simultaneously, I had come to a point in my self-employment where I knew I had to make a change. I had been doing holistic spiritual care for over a decade, and didn’t quite know where I was headed, if I were to stop and change.
The story you are about to read is about facing inevitable change, loss, past traumas revisited, and grief. It is also about the life-giving transformations we are able to experience while in relationship with other beings, for instance, a cat. Reciprocal positive relationship with animals, and other beings, can be profound and important in so many ways, if we are open to it. I recommend being open to it.
Perhaps one of the reasons that humanity finds itself facing so many crises and ongoing-history-repeating-itself serious problems is because, we are not in active, consistent, real relationships with the countless other living beings we share this planet with — not in a way that is ongoing, respectful and more selfless than self-serving.
The trees, plants, aquatic life of all kinds, rocks/crystals, land animals, creatures of the air, and below ground all have knowing of various kinds in their being. An openness to cultivating conscious, caring relationships with any of those — choosing to be present for it — could be the transformative change we need at this time. It is important to note that any committed relationship within or between other species needs to contain: consistent presence, kindness, honesty, consideration, and mutual respect.
The following story is evidence of the deep, long-resonating, lasting rewards that come from: a balance of giving and receiving, helping and receiving help, listening and sharing, asking and telling – true friendship. I have Boris, the valiant cat, to thank for the real presence and wisdom won during that dark, hard night on August 11, 2014:
There is an escalating pressure mounting around and within me tonight. It presses upon me like an ominous darkness of massive storm clouds, which contain a sharp cold front set against the air — stagnant, oppressive heat, humidity and no wind. A violent storm is looming.
Am I wearing rose-colored glasses, not facing reality? Not usually. I do love being practical and realistic, as much as positive and dreamy. Am I the eternal optimist made of ideals? Yes, that is true. There is a tireless, sleepless affinity in me for honesty and ethics…awake in my heart and mind like an atomic clock.
On my bed this day and evening, a powerful depression intrudes, and disrupts my true nature. I cannot continue. I want to give up, for real.
It is painful, blind, anguish.
It feels like that sucker punch in my solar plexus, from the mean boy in 4th grade. I was taken by surprise, robbed of breath and air, with that sudden punch of pain, that dropped me to my knees — sucking tears out of me without permission. He had walked away without a word.
This swell of sadness tonight is too dark, and overwhelms me beyond reason.
Boris, the cat, is by me now. He is the one who always comes running to see how he can help when it sounds, from somewhere in our house, like someone could be hurt, in trouble, or sick. If he were human, he would be a First Responder, a nurse, counselor, and/or healer. I tell him quietly and despondently that I am giving up. At first I am not sure if I mean my life. The darkness was so overwhelming. I ask myself, and feel deeply: No, not my life. My purpose and work — like a spiritual death, it seems. Boris tells me a surprising thing — with his wise eyes and being, Boris says, “Good. Give up.”
Startled into a sudden alert surprised awareness, that breaks the dark spell, I ask, “What?! Why? Don’t you care? You always care. Why don’t you care, Boris?” He answered with nonchalance, “Give up. I gave up once. After I gave up, good people found me, helped me, and then you found me. And now look at me.” He is beaming strength and love, smiling, eyes happy.
Astonished and awakened, I remembered what he meant. I thought of Boris’s story. Boris had been abandoned by a previous family, along a freeway, that had a tall fence separating it from the countryside. When he was found, the shelter workers told us, he was dirty. The kind of dirty, they said, that only happens when a cat gives up. A cat giving up is a starkly tragic thing. Cats take pride in their self-care and stealthy ability to survive. He had been brought low by the trauma of being abandoned and then trapped near a highway, with bad weather/storms, and no food. He suffered PTSD for a while after we adopted him. He needed antidepressants for a few months, to remember what normal feels like, the vet said. And he did, he got better after those 3-4 months of medication. (Actually, his example back then with needing medication for a while, helped me to address my own needs during a health crisis, not long after his.) It took us a few years after adopting Boris, to fully earn his trust and full affection. In his elder years now, after 11 years with us so far, he is well and happy, fully loved and loving. We know he is no younger than 17 and could be as old as 19.
I paused, and took this moment in.
Maybe the thought to give up wasn’t as bad as it felt at first. It is simply hard to let go of work that I have given all my heart and effort to, along with sitting with the layers of grief. I am loyal. I am a hard worker. Yet, I need to let go of some big things, and adjust to a changing reality and changing needs. Boris is right. I looked over at him in awe. The four-legged, hairy, mahogany-red with white, tall, thin, elder fellow is right. I didn’t expect that from you just now, Boris. Thank you!
King Boris, or Chewy Bill, as we sometimes call him, gave me a jolt of understanding that allowed me to release the fear and illusion of failure. Boris helped me to boldly take up courage, and be okay with letting go — even if it feels like dropping off a ledge on a tall building with no net or cushion below. Boris has an intimate, expert knowledge of major endings that are like deaths, and how rebirth is on the other side of it, waiting for us — something much better, and really right. A really wise cat, that Boris. What a gorgeous guide! I scratched his cheeks and massaged his head and chest in thanks. He smiled his open-mouthed smile with twinkling eyes, that reminds my husband of Don Knotts. That makes me chuckle. What I see is a cat who blazes and shimmers, a noble being, who commands his new life with joy — a new life, that found him. He knows — he gained all of it after he had given up.
Back to 2019. What I didn’t know yet, when I wrote that story, was that we would yet have to face the death of our elder cats, first Abigail, and then Boris in the following year. Living with, and processing all that grief, led me to shift and channel it, and the love, into practical, tangible work for healthy sustainable living (toxin-free) via Recipe For A Green Life, which took up nearly three years of my life, from start to finish. It was a big leap, and a big risk. It certainly didn’t pay well. Yet, it is and has been important, honors what and how I love, and speaks of our collective, interrelated, priceless connection to all life in totality.
Boris was such a strong presence in our lives — a magnanimous, extraordinary spirit, even for a cat. He always knew that humans are too often so slow to catch on to what animals know, and try to communicate. He was always persistent, and maddeningly so. I actually gained so much respect for his persistence — it can be an endearing, admirable quality. He never gave up on trying to communicate with us; helping us to understand what he needed or wanted, in quite obvious, when his subtle gestures were missed by us.
Pawing At My Heart
For a time before he died, he kept pawing at my upper chest, like he wanted to climb inside my heart. He did it so often. In my distracted, clueless, human way, I thought it was cute, yet strange that he kept doing it. Then, I found out that he was terminally ill. After a while of processing the two things, I finally understood what he was saying to me. He was saying,
“Keep me in your heart.
Don’t forget me.
I love you.
I will always be there.”
When I finally realized what he was saying, it loosed my tears, along with the enormous love grown through a positive, loving relationship with another being over so many years. It still loosens my tears of love, years later.
I picked him up, hugged and assured him that I finally understood. I told him that I would, always. He never did it again, so I know that he knew the message was received. I am so thankful that I was able to drop my human distractions for long enough to truly hear him before he had to leave us.
We are convinced Boris was a mighty spirit that took on cat form for a time, someone we were lucky to know and love. I could tell many stories about Boris’s ways. Like the Easter morning that he jauntily brought in a baby rabbit for me to cook for the holiday. Or, the nap we took beside each other, and the dream that we had — where he taught me to make healing balls of light (it was hard — he was really good at it). Or, how he always came to everyone’s rescue, never once afraid. And, how he wanted a dog so badly, and how he fell in love with her, when we did finally adopt a dog. And, how he had a soul mate, little Abigail (ginger cat) — and how they had an actual impromptu wedding ceremony in our back yard one Spring.
Yet, for today, what I will say is this: The time, love, and presence of Boris, that strong bright being, lives on and is in my heart always. That alone, gives me courage and the warm action of love for this life — no matter what.C
Yet, we are present and in relationship with all that is. This is amazing, and good to orient ourselves in this way — beyond the mundane, while also remaining rooted in facts of reality — as we know them so far!
This is what we call perspective on the grand scale…thanks to astronomy.
Perspective is personal and subjective. And, it can change suddenly, with a new experience, new thought, and by getting distance from things we have become too mired in.
As an artist, I find that when I work on a piece, sometimes I become too close to it, and lose perspective — much like a teenager focusing too much on one feature — losing all perspective on actual proportion and objectivity. Often, I need to walk away from a piece of art I am working on, stand at a distance, look at it upside down, and even put it away for a while in order to see it with fresh eyes, and as it really is. When I do that, then I can appreciate it, and know what it needs…or that it is done.
Differing perspectives can grant us new glimpses of reality that we hadn’t considered. This can actually shift our mindset and cycle of thoughts and habits for good. Perspective can give us space to breathe, imagine, and create anew.
If you did the breathing and smiling exercise at the beginning, and then read the astronomy “you are here” facts, did that change your mood and perspective in any way?
Our minds can too often fixate and replay old thoughts and stories without taking in enough of what is happening — what is real now — along with the scale of our experience in relation to time and space. Breaking out of these kinds of mental ruts and confines can mean opening ourselves to new thoughts and points of view, literally, figuratively, and through movement, like travel. All of which, have the potential to renew, refresh, strengthen, and make us wiser.
Perspective can release undue pressures, and refocus our attention on facts of core, maybe overlooked, importance. Astrology has the potential to provide all of those benefits that come with new perspective.
Mysticism and Symbolism
While astronomy is able to give us that amazing perspective on the grand scale, as demonstrated at the beginning of this article, astrology accomplishes this as well — just in quite different ways.
In-depth astrology is able to touch on the deeper dimensions of life and being, without losing touch with concrete reality. That is pretty impressive.
The deeper meaning found in astrology asserts that we matter, and have a right — a place (birthright) in the scheme of things in this galaxy — whether we have power, wealth, recognition, privilege, or anything else or not. This is fertile ground for symbolic and archetypal self-exploration (the microcosm reflecting a macrocosm) and mysticism.
CS Sherin, WildClover.org
Symbolism and mythology are (and have always been) a basic foundation in all schools, cultures, eras, and approaches to astrology, worldwide. It has also always been a way to frame existence with archetypal energies and patterns.
The 12 Astrological Zodiac Signs
The twelve zodiac signs, used in western astrology charts, are largely rooted in names and stories that come from Greek, Roman, and even Babylonian and Egyptian mythology and symbols.
The western zodiac signs are symbols based on the zodiac constellations, yet they aren’t the same thing. The zodiac was documented by ancient astronomers, many of whom were also astrologers at the time. Astronomy has since moved well beyond the twelve signs used in astrology.
Please note: astrological signs aren’t astronomy’s constellations. Astronomy charted constellations are numerous, vast, and literal. The astrological zodiac signs are symbolic, limited to twelve (sometimes a hidden 13th), and are related to our point of view from Earth. Astrology’s signs aren’t real in the astronomical sense — they are symbols. The 12 zodiac we work with are found along the Sun’s passageway across the Earth throughout a year’s time, which is called the ecliptic. Astrology is personal, in that it relates directly to our little neighborhood in this solar system, from our point of view (with the exception of Heliocentric calculations, which is from a solar point of view). The narrower focus of astrology, in this case, doesn’t at all limit the depth, potential helpfulness, and relevance of this esoteric tool.
The Astrological Birth Chart
The birth (natal) chart is the foundation for most every kind of personal report in astrology — from current transits, geographical relocation, relationships, events, and birthdays. The astrological birth chart is an imprint of us, our total life here, from the vantage point of our geographical placement (latitude and longitude) and time of birth entry on this planet, and again, in relationship to some of the main heavenly bodies in our little solar system neighborhood.
The birth chart contains personal potentials in the many areas of our lives — from the deep to shallow, personal to public, daily and routine, to the mystical and esoteric. It covers self, relationships, home, work, and so much more. The planets, stars, and other heavenly bodies used in astrology are utilized as symbols in ways that have the ability to enrich and awaken our point of view. In this way, this tool has the great potential to help us to gain new perspective about ourselves in detail, and our greatest potentials related to possible life trajectories.
In addition to the 12 zodiac signs, mythology and archetypes, western astrology uses:
Symbols: elements (earth, air, fire, water), modes of dealing with change and collaboration (fixed, mutable, cardinal), and yin or yang energy
Aspects, orbs, and degrees: which are dynamics of energy and calculations, based on degrees of relationship between heavenly bodies and our time and place of birth
Ancient to modern methods/calculations based on the heavenly body’s relation to when and where an individual (or other event) is born on Earth, down to minutes, latitude and longitude
The Birth Chart Itself Is A Symbol Of Wholeness:
The chart is a mandala (circle) that is divided into 12 sections, called houses, which represent different areas of life, from the personal and private to the public and transpersonal
The calculation of the astrological birth chart is the basis for all other calculations and reports made in astrology
The birth chart is relevant for the individual’s lifetime, and covers nearly every important area of life with some surprising detail
The birth chart encompasses a lifetime, therefore time is represented (past, present, potential future), yet it is also timeless — filled with spectrums of layered potentials, strengths, and challenges
A Timeless, Timely Enigmatic Tool
Astrology is an incredible timely, yet timeless tool, which can illuminate many things, including: influences, patterns, cycles, inheritances, and dynamics in our now, in our past, and even our potential future. The main heavenly bodies (planets, asteroids, mystical points) in our solar system — in western astrology — represent qualities of: personality, lessons, patterns, cycles of energy, phases, and time, as well as dynamics and tendencies related to mythology and universal archetypes. Truly and mysteriously, the planets and other heavenly bodies lessons and qualities amazingly mirror our particular and specific inner and outer realities in perplexing, yet accurate ways. The tool is complex and layered, and compelling.
In looking at only one or two aspects of a birth chart, like the Sun sign, Rising (ascendant) sign or Moon you may gain some important understanding (with enough and the right information), yet the big picture is missed, and key facts may be misinterpreted. This can be due to other areas of the chart that are more dominant or strong. This can significantly change an interpretation and understanding.
For example, I had a client that was an earth Sun sign, but never felt it was accurate or applied to her. It wasn’t obvious in the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant, but she was actually predominantly a water person, with all of her other planets in water signs. When I explained her natal chart to her in a consultation, she found relief and happiness in hearing, finally, aspects of her own experience mirrored accurately for her in the astrological interpretation.
Experiencing the in-depth interpretation of a birth chart is a fascinating, mystifying perspective, and so interesting to experience and share. Every client I have had for consultations has been so surprised at how fast time flies when exploring one’s own chart.
Key Things To Remember About Astrology
No belief required. It is just like how we have no need to: believe in a paint brush, a wrench, or in clay in order to use and benefit from any of it. It is just like how we don’t need to believe in meditation in order to practice it, and benefit from it.
Astrology is a spiritual tool that can provide pivotal and helpful insights, which come from interpretations of symbols in relationship to each other, which are based on astronomy, mythology, and earth-based symbols, patterns, and cycles. Astrology has an ancient history and is diverse, and has had, and still has, universal use and value.
As I said, there is no need to believe in astrology in order for it to be useful. Likewise, a responsible astrologer will discourage you from allowing transits, retrogrades, and other astrological knowing to: control or dictate your life, create unnecessary fear or drama, or interfere with your freedom to choose and act in your own timing.
At the same time, knowing gained by transits, cycles and patterns in the present, and from birth charts, can help us to make more informed and autonomous decisions for our lives and spiritual development, and can affirm things that we feel and know deeply, but rarely get to discuss or acknowledge.
Astronomy VS Astrology?
How About A Holistic Vision Of Both/And:
Instead of lumping astronomy and astrology together, and instead of comparing them as loosely related practices, I find that it is much more reasonable, true, and fulfilling to abandon the either/or approach in favor of a more holistic both/and approach.
They are different disciplines, yes, and each has a different way of seeing and interpreting life and being. As they ought to. A shaman or priest/ess is not the same as a scientist. Yet, a person can be both a spiritual leader/practitioner and scientific. BOTH of these aren’t mutually exclusive within an individual or in life, AND they are necessarily different and separate practices and states of mind.
Astronomy is a scientific discipline that gathers and develops information, research, evidence, discoveries, theories, and facts about our physical existence on Earth, in this solar system, galaxy, and universe. All of the information and exploration, as well as the images, and growing knowledge about the true nature of our universe is the result of a legacy from ancient astronomers. Ancient astronomers evolved into what modern astronomers and scientists now provide. It is captivating and inspiring to learn about and explore. Astronomy certainly has the power to lift us up into breathtaking and mind-boggling new perspectives. We need that!
Despite the adversarial and dismissive tone taken by some (not all) scientists and astronomers about astrology — astrology does remain, and stands strong as being useful and relevant. Some may call astrology a pseudoscience or placebo, in order to distance themselves, while asserting a specialized authority (that is overstepping its bounds, actually). However, none of the belittling going on changes the fact that: astronomy does enrich the ancient and vast traditions of astrology, yes, AND can never replace it!
As someone who has overcome great odds with the help of creative and spiritual tools and techniques, I understand the importance of spiritual practices — meaning, ritual, and the rich sacred value of symbolism, intuition, and imagination. There is also great value found in ethical science, logic, and critical thinking.
I refuse to abandon either one. We don’t have to.
A holistic approach and vision means that science and spirituality don’t have to agree, speak the same, or see the same…AND neither one can, or needs to, replace the other. They are individual and part of a whole, which is much bigger than either one.
Finding meaning in life matters. Most of us need some sort of deeper meaning and context in order to enrich our lives, and experience fulfillment — we often don’t limit that deeper meaning and context to one discipline, genre, or perspective. At certain times and ongoing in life, I, and many others have found astrology to be useful and helpful in that way.
Our intelligence (emotional and intellectual), and our spirit (energy and consciousness) thrive when we are able to place meaning, and a deeper sense of purpose into the fabric of our lives — while also addressing, in real ways, what is broken, what needs to be faced, and what needs to be encouraged — in order to begin or continue healing. Astrology has the potential to do this, and this is how I use and share astrology.
Our ability to work with symbols, mystical aspects of life, and apply deeper meaning within scientific claims and discoveries is a part of our unique perspective and being as humans.
CS Sherin, WildClover.org
Free Will, Fate, And Improvisation
As human beings, we have free will, choice, action, instinct, common sense, intuition and presence. This is despite qualities and energies that seem to be or are, in some sense, fated or fixed. We are not bound by fate entirely, in life or in astrology — even though there are some fixed dynamics in life and personalities.
For the most part, l i f e is an improvisational dance…unpredictable and changeable.
Maybe what is really needed, is to discipline our thoughts and emotions; practice awareness, and exercise our sacred imagination for collective and personal benefit and enrichment. If this is true, it is good news, as long as we are willing to face and take responsibility for our shortcomings, continue learning, growing, and respond and act on the information we are given in the best ways possible — unique to each of us. That means looking at our blind-spots, wounds, and shadow qualities as much as our gifts, talents, and amazing potential. This is how I use and approach astrology, and it serves my clients and me well.
This also means doing the work we are meant to do seriously and earnestly. Still, it is important to not take ourselves or each other too seriously! Good humor is essential. Good humor helps us to endure challenges and hardships, maintaining sanity and balance. The best comedians illuminate what is wrong in a way that awakens and frees us, via real heart, mind, and belly laughter. The best comedians touch on truths that jolt us into really and joyfully seeing how weird we and life are, and the dysfunctions that we deal with in our culture. Good humor relieves some of the pressure points of pain, and gives us space to breathe and clarity to see, process, and address it anew. Any discipline, from the scientific to the mystical, can benefit from maintaining humor and letting go of a seriousness that not only judges, but dismisses what it doesn’t focus on as false, or empty.
An Ancient, Diverse Legacy
The history and use of astrology in conjunction with astronomy has been going on since ancient times. Astronomy and Astrology were one in ancient times — identical twins, in a way — who later parted ways (circa 1400–1700). Astrological tradition has continued in different ways throughout history and around the world: Egyptian, Hellenistic, Indian, Chinese, Greek, Roman, Indigenous, Renaissance Europe, and probably more. Each had, and has, their approach and system/rules for calculations, perspective, and symbolism. None are the one-dimensional, shallow, commercialized versions that grew from consumerism and commercialism. Some were based on superstitions and religious beliefs. And some are rooted in deep wisdom and ancient insights.
There are esoteric, evolutionary, humanist, classic, modern, ancient, and many Indigenous/First Nation/Native systems and schools of thought for astrology. There is the Heliocentric (Sun-centered, using Sidereal zodiac) or Geocentric (Earth-centered, using Tropical zodiac); differing ways to calculate houses, varying degrees for orbs, and much more that shapes and defines reports and interpretations . There are countless origins, approaches, technical details, and facets to astrology.
For example, one school of astrology is Jyotisha, also known as Hindu (Indian) astrology. In more recent history, the Western world calls it Vedic astrology. Hindu beliefs about karma influence Hindu astrology. Also, Hindu astrology uses the Sidereal zodiac. In contrast, Western astrology usually uses the Tropical zodiac and is influenced by western culture.
In ancient times, astronomy and astrology were most often united, rather than separate. Religion and mythology were integrated with the mathematical calculations and observations related to the night sky. The ancient figures were often holistic — the healer, herbalist, shaman was also the scientist, astronomer, botanist.
Hellenistic (525 BC) Egypt: conquered by Persians, Mesopotamian influence
(332 BC) Greek/Roman: Alexander the Great, Greek influence mixed with Babylonian (“Chaldean wisdom”), Horoscopic, and Egyptian
Ptolemy (140 AD)
Aztec (1300 AD)
*Western history has no firm dates for Indigenous star knowledge and teachings, yet there is an established legacy among Nations and tribes around the world, that belong in ancient BC, before or like — the estimated Sumerian, African, and Irish astronomy origin dates.
The countless approaches in astrology differ greatly, even within one school of thought or system of calculating.
Astrology has ancient roots globally, and it endures.
The global longevity, with room for different viewpoints, methods, new discoveries, adaptations, and approaches — is evidence of its ongoing usefulness as a tool for personal development. It is a tool with which we can seek to be more aware of being present and informed, and directly connected to and aware of some universal qualities, cycles, patterns, and potentials — to all that is.
In whatever way that each of us gains new and expansive perspective, it is a gift that aids in our enrichment, well-being, and development — and that ripples out to others.
The sky is the most expansive physical reality we experience in this life. Becoming curious and interested in the many ways we can nourish our lives in relationship to it, the better!
Please Note: The article below was originally written and posted on a former version of this site. This article from 2012 has been edited and re-published in honor of Dr. Mary Oliver, who died earlier today.
Before you read the following article that I wrote after meeting Mary Oliver back in 2012, I would like to say a couple of things about her now, for today. Some of her childhood consisted of neglect, sexual abuse, and loneliness. Her life as a poet was the truest self she could be in this life, and the best. When young and throughout life, she found comfort, life, and what is sacred out in nature and with animals. She was a contemplative poet, with a naturalist’s passion for nature and simplicity. Every part of that encapsulation of her has given me hope and saved, affirmed, and encouraged me—as a survivor, poet, human, and naturalist soul. I send her well wishes on her soul journeys that begin today, and so much love and gratitude for all she shared with us. Shine on, dear Mary Oliver, holy voice for this earth—and what is so precious in this life.
Nov. 13th, 2012
Did you happen to feel a big bliss vibe yesterday? It could have been from me. I got to meet my favorite poet of our time, an inspirational goddess of poetry–Mary Oliver–yesterday. Because of this, I have residual Mary Oliver bliss that I know must be radiating out into the rest of this place. *big smile* Read on to learn what it was like to: see her, listen to her read her own poetry, get writing advice from her via the Q & A, how it was to meet her, and what it all meant to me.
I went to Marquette University with some of the best poetry loving friends, in order to witness Mary Oliver receive an honorary doctorate there. Mary Oliver’s smile, in reaction to the donning of the Doctorate robe, was such a revelation to me! In general she has a serious and drawn face. And quite suddenly, it burst open like a shimmering flower of tropical sunshine. It was a jolt–an amazing joy to behold. We then listened to Dr. Oliver read her poetry to us. It was an hour, which passed like a few minutes. After, there was a Q & A, and then a line formed for book signing. My best poetry buddy, Marci, and I got to speak with her briefly together, when our turn approached for signing—more on that later.
The main and briefly summarized impression I had from the poetry reading itself was of: Mary Oliver’s affinity and compassion for nature, her dog, and for the real connections of this life that she expresses in ways that soothe, affirm, and stir my soul. This is why she is beloved–her poetry is transpersonal and deep, yet accessible. The whole experience was holy.
In person, Mary Oliver is small, and she is older now, so she has a cane and white hair. She was very much like a fairy-godmother presence, especially while delighting in choosing which poems to read to us. She seemed to me to be mostly: witty, cute, wild, rebellious, tender, open-hearted, bold, wise and magical. Also, Mary Oliver’s heart and mind seem to have beams of focused energy, clear and strong, that are able to shine out upon the world–wherever she may be sitting, standing, or speaking in the moment. There is an air of serious concentration about her. And, it is clear, she adores the natural world, and has a passion for it beyond simple observation—she is in deep relationship. It is also clear, she deeply cares about people, no matter how humble, shy, and introverted she is. She made a tremendous effort to transmit her love and appreciation to us with grace, humor and oomph.
During the Q & A, a fiery passion came forth as she responded to a question, giving advice about how to be a successful poet. I can’t quote her word for word, but it was something I can paraphrase as this:
Forget about being successful! Spend every day caring about your writing. In this economy, forget about the nice car and nice apartment. Focus on doing the best you can, writing every day!
She did answer my question, which was something like, “Does poetry flow from you in the same way it did 10-20 years ago?” She revealed, in not these exact words, that inspiration doesn’t hit as hard as it did once; that things have slowed. And yet, there was a new book in front of her and she mentioned another was on the way. She told us that she never had trouble with writer’s block. That if there was a little of it, she knew the answer was always connecting with the earth and being grateful, and it would come back, and flow. She also mentioned that, if anything, she wrote too much. I could tell that having inspiration leave her would be like an athlete suddenly becoming immobile with no hope of future mobility. It would be devastating. But I don’t really think that will happen. Her very being has become poetry, just as Whitman had described.
Her eyes are full beams of mystical presence…they struck me as powerful, yet gentle–a concentrated energy that I really haven’t ever seen in someone before. Her eyes are full, with presence–that is it—fiery, grounded, watery, elemental. Her life has been a discipline of not only presence, but deep relationship with all presence.
Speaking of those poetic goddess-like eyes, I had a chance to look right into them, across a table, at the book signing. I was feeling extremely shy and in awe, but I managed to say awkwardly, but honestly, “Thank you Dr. Oliver. I love you.” There was a significantly silent pause as she looked down at the book I had given her, before she wrote in my copy of Swan, then she said quite slowly and deliberately, “Well…I don’t know you, but…I love you too.” Then, she looked up and gave me the gift of presence, looking intently into my eyes–really looking. All I could do was smile at her with love and gratitude. It. was. awesome.
What I have always known, since I was 12 years old—was presented to me in the flesh yesterday, as pure and utter gift: A great poet speaks for and to the soul, as much as to the person. She is voice for the soul, for presence. She is also the medicine.
”For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ~ Mary Oliver
Those words of Mary Oliver’s came to me as we all listened raptly to her, reading her poetry to us.
I felt, indeed, that I was hungry and cold, and maybe even a bit lost, and that she was feeding me (us) and my deeper self–like a mother bird feeds her babies. Yes, I felt that yesterday with Dr. Mary Oliver, and it was bliss.
NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) designates this week as “Mental Illness Awareness Week,” with a goal to promote “CureStigma”, which illuminates the needless stigma people with mental health issues face in our culture.
Mental health and mental illness are important, huge issues in our world. There are so many aspects we need to address, I cannot begin to elaborate on it all here and now. All in all, we need to create systems that are healing and healthy for people, communities, and nature — and dismantle the corrupt, abusive systems, which contribute to trauma and mental health disruptions.
From a personal perspective, mental illness shaped my early life, as my father was mentally ill. In fact, he was a sociopath and/or narcissist. You can be sure there is a stigma to those words. And this is the first time I have said it in public. The repercussions of his mental illness, and the actions he took while mentally ill, are still felt in my life to this day. It has always been hard to deal with, whether he was present and alive, absent and alive, or now absent and deceased. In short, he was a product of an institutionalized infancy (state orphanage till the age of three) and institutionalized systems, like the military. Many institutionalized systems that care for children can create narcissists and sociopaths.
Beyond that, I faced my own mental health issues as an adult. I had a traumatic childhood, and faced unfriendly peers and teachers in elementary and middle school. As a young mother , I experienced a trauma that caused me to have PTSD, which I saw a therapist to treat. That was the trauma that was the tipping point of traumas, a culmination that started in childhood. A couple years after that, I became severely ill from Lyme’s disease. It was not diagnosed right away, and I ended up not being able to work for three months.
This caused what the doctors diagnosed as mild depression that was joined with IBS, anxiety, and panic attacks. After slowing recovering, and having taken the medications and therapy that I could from western medicine, I sought deeper and more empowering methods to heal my inner wounds and traumas.
That started me on the path of spiritual work like reiki, and holistic wellness in general, which I applied to myself before sharing it to help others. Looking back at all that I went through related to the spectrum of mental health to mental illness, I can tell you some of the key things that really helped and made a difference for me. We are each unique, and we each find our way to health and wellness in our own ways, but perhaps some of the following things we have in common. Here are four things that helped me the most as I climbed out of the dark abyss, known as a mental health crisis, back in the early 2000s:
I asked for help. I knew my brain chemistry had literally changed from the trauma and illness, and that I couldn’t help myself this time, no matter how independent and private I love to be. I asked for help, and I needed it. I went to my doctor. I went to a therapist. I took an antidepressant for a period of time, and it helped. I was dedicated with a strong desire to find myself and climb out of the dark abyss I had fallen into of panic attacks. The most important and helpful thing that the therapist told me is that: my reactions and mental health crisis had to do with things happening to and around me that weren’t normal or healthy. Therefore, my reaction was healthy and normal, and my mental health crisis was a part of that health. That was a big relief, and goes a long way to removing the stigma.
I read a book that helped me to see that the terrifying panic attacks that made me feel like I was dying a horrific death were actually an opportunity to connect with a deeper and truer part of myself. The panic attacks were an opportunity, it said, to face fear in order to rise up stronger. That book is called, Riding The Dragon by Robert J. Wicks. Books, dancing, and music have always been lifelines for me. That was one of them.
I found life-giving support from people who know, love, and support me — people I trust and feel safe with. For me, that was my husband, sister, mother, and a close friend. The faces of the people in our lives may change at different stages in life, yet the important thing is to find at least one or two people, who are safe, healthy, loving, supportive, kind, and honest. When there is no one that comes to mind, that is when finding help and community through support groups and counseling can be the best alternative.
I used the free tools that I had been taught as a teen and young adult. I had an unusual childhood, and not all of it was bad. I had some unusual, stellar, rebellious-in-a-good-way mentors, friends and family who taught me skills and tools that serve anyone well: breath work exercises, exercise/walking daily, singing, dancing, meditation, yoga, art/creativity, retreat, positive visualizations, prayer, healthy diet, avoiding toxins and chemicals, and spending quality time with loved ones, animal companions, and in nature.
The truth is, mental health issues affect everyone.
We are all on a spectrum of mental health to mental illness, and it fluctuates according to our experiences, environment, and many other factors.
There are few if any people I know who don’t experience some kind of mental health issue in some way, at some points in life. Grief, genetics, disasters, violence, war, abuse, corrupt and broken systems, institutions all play a part in how our brain chemistry balance fluctuates, and our in our ability to manage in insane conditions.
What helps me to speak up now is knowing that I was lucky to have the help and the tools. I was lucky to find a way through it. I was lucky to know I needed to ask for help.
Now, like too many other Americans, I don’t have and can’t afford health care on a regular basis. I may not need it now, but that doesn’t mean I can count on that always being true. I am proactive, and use the holistic tools that have served me well. But that isn’t always enough.
We cannot remain silent. Not only do we need to dispel the stigma of mental illness, we need healthcare and insurance to serves a higher purpose of wellness with ethics, inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency.
If you struggle with mental health issues, the stigma of it, and in needing help but not being able to afford it, you are not alone.