Beyond the Shadow Feminine

Dear Friend and Reader:

We’re now in the last days of the astrological year — the days approaching the Aries equinox. These are the last days of Pisces, the final sign of the zodiac. When the Sun’s position reaches the end of any mutable sign (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius or Pisces) we’ve arrived at the end of a season, and one energy is dissolving into the next. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the ground is stirring to life. Beneath the ground, cellular activity is exploding as seeds crack open, thrust down roots and then reach for the Sun. Animals are coming out of their dens and the trees are getting ready to burst into bloom.

Photo by Eric Francis for Book of Blue.

In the symbolic world of astrology, one perspective on these last days of the solar cycle can be found in the Sabian Symbols. These are symbols that tell the story of the zodiac degree by degree; there are 360 of them, so that’s almost one per day. The symbols were channeled randomly by a clairvoyant named Elsie Wheeler and an astrologer named the Rev. Dr. Marc Edmund Jones, a rather original guy.

They were reworked in the 1960s by another astrologer, one of the founders of what became known as Humanistic Astrology. This was client-centered rather than chart-centered. (Rudhyar liked to meet for lunch with his new clients before reading their charts, to get to know them better.) The last seven symbols in the series tell a story, which moves in visions like a dream; there are several images of moonlight, then an image of spectral light seen through a prism. We’ve covered them in Thursday’s daily edition.

The last degree of the zodiac (Pisces 30) is symbolized by a boy who looks up at a mountain, seeing the profile of a man, and over the years his face grows into that figure. The idea is one of character development and self-visioning, but with the help of an exemplar — and the feeling of giving the process of self-creation time to work.

In these last degrees there’s also the feeling of some concealed truth emerging from latency. The world takes on a transparent quality. There is plenty of astrology pushing us into deeper layers of self-awareness, which some people may be struggling with as they encounter potentially unpleasant psychological material. Mars retrograde in Virgo has passed through a configuration of asteroids that include Psyche, Eros and Arachne — a real drama.

The Eruption of Misogyny

One way we’re seeing this acted out in the world around us is with the recent eruption of attempts to control women’s bodies — by regulating birth control and reproductive health services, with state legislators getting between women and their medical professionals, imposing sexual codes of conduct, restricting the flow of information to young people, and a new wave of attempts to mandate monogamous heterosexuality, permitted in marriage only.

Nice cartoon but — does it really work that way? This is a fantasy of empowerment that suggests that the sensitive, caring guy will get the woman. We all know it’s not really so simple.

Last week, the Republican-controlled Senate in Utah successfully pushed through HB 363, effectively banning sex education courses from covering the subjects of contraception, premarital sex and homosexuality, forcing schools to teach only abstinence and heterosexuality or not have any sex education program. Note, this crap has been going on since 1981, costing American kids worlds of pain and costing the taxpayers billions of dollars.

I even read that some Republicans somewhere have made a rule that nobody who has had premarital sex can run for office. This is the kind of thing I would think of for an April Fool’s Day prank and be rather pleased with myself; but it seems like many politicians are hell bent on outdoing the cartoonists who ridicule them.

Given that spring is the season of Beltane, when passionate lovemaking and sex out in the fields is an offering to the Earth in the spirit of planting the seeds of abundance, it’s little wonder that we’re having economic problems. I recognize that Christianity is designed specifically as an attack on Paganism (which means an attack on the organic world, which it readily admits), but we might want to consider the metaphysics involved. Humans are part of the natural cycle of fecundity, which means fruitfulness. Sexuality is not only natural; it’s related to everything we do and in some way soaks into or sweats out of every relationship we have, particularly to life itself. Unless you’re Dolly the Sheep, you’ve been fucked into existence. OMG.

It would seem that by banning most forms of sex, information about sex, choices about sex and feelings about sex, the goal is to cut people off from their potential, their expression of their natural feelings and from abundance. And why? Gee, it seems there’s a social control program born every minute. Attacking sex, and people’s relationship to their own body, works like a charm in implementing those agendas.

Christianity is the most anti-sex religion of the lot because none of its main figures, according to the story, ever had sex. It was a family of all virgins, a concept used to turn people against human love and their own bodies.

Christianity — the most anti-sex religion in history, because all of its principal figures (Jesus, Joseph and Mary) are allegedly virgins — has spent most of the past 20 centuries fertilizing the fields not with love but with the blood of soldiers, and of children, and of men and women uninvolved in combat. Some people may not like the logic, but where you ban love and pleasure you get warfare and bloodshed.

Note that this week, while the anti-sex fever reached a new peak, a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan murdered 16 civilians asleep in their beds and wounded many others. But no, for $1 million a year per soldier, we’ll just leave them all there for a while, making sure things stay nice and calm. And as if we have not had enough warfare for one lifetime (wars propagated by the United States have gone on nonstop since I was born 48 years ago, which was after WWI, WWII and Korea) there is widespread talk that the thing we really need the very most right now for the benefit of the world is to bomb Iran.

If we count from when WWI began tearing Europe apart starting in 1914, we are approaching a century of nearly nonstop war. And what are we as a responsible, advanced civilization, going to do about it?

But of course! The obvious solution — for some — is to ban sex. Or at least to ban sex outside of marriage, and sex where women have any control over their bodies.

And you might think: men! Leave it to men! This is misogyny! Women are being oppressed!

Except for one thing. In the politics of love, the “male party” has been cast as the one that is pro-promiscuity and against marriage and the “female party” is the one that’s supposedly pro-marriage and against dallying around. These of course are the official party lines. I will say that I know very few men who pressure their peers into marriage, and many, many women who succeed in pressuring their female peers into marriage — no matter how miserable they think it’s made so many people around them. Forever and anon, it seems the thing to do.

Now, a contingency of men are trying to enforce codes of morality and bodily control over everyone, but it seems that the female body is the specific target of the attack. We might say that’s because that’s the one where pregnancy happens, but deeper down I think we all have the feeling that the men in question are intimidated by female sexual power.

Men Embodying Female Shadow

I have another theory: the men involved are providing a voice and a projection screen for women’s denial of their own sexual power. The attempt by men to ban the discussion may be a reflection of women’s refusal to take up the discussion, to educate themselves and one another, to educate their children, and to insist on honest sex education in schools.

It is girls and women, after all, who actually get pregnant — they have the most at stake. I am aware that there are some enlightened women who really give their children the tools they need. But I know too many young women whose mothers refused to give them any tools at all, who turned them against sex and their bodies, and who indoctrinated them into compulsory heterosexual monogamy. Then there are those who allow their daughters to be injected with Gardasil, which is a neurotoxin and runs the risk of sterility.

Illustration of how ridiculous it is that abstinence indoctrination leaves young people with no concept of how their bodies work.

I’ve worked with many female clients in their 40s and 50s who get out of marriages and don’t have a clue what to do with themselves, how to handle sex, or men, or their own feelings and desires. They often need the most basic sex education, for which I refer them to books like The Joy of Sex and The Hite Report.

I heard a story this week of a mother who was freaked out that her 14-year-old daughter is into boys. Not sex with boys — hanging out with them. The mom said, “She’s not allowed to like boys until she’s 16!”

My theory is that these Republican dudes who want to probe female bodies with ultrasound devices and ban contraception and sex education and force women to carry the child of their rapist, well, they’re just expressing a much deeper level of misgiving and of ignorance. They’re acting out the drama for us; they’re our elected oppressors because that’s what you need if you’re going to be oppressed. Basically, I’m saying we let these ugly people do the dirty work for us.

If many, indeed most, of the secrets of fertility and childbirth are contained in the female body, and we now have this voice trying to enforce ignorance, and a ban on pleasure, choice and self-determination (including the ongoing war against midwives), maybe these men are acting out the shadow feminine — the attributes of femaleness that many women themselves tend to deny. It’s easy to say “men are afraid of female power and mystery” but that begs the question — how do women feel about these things?

If, as seems to be the case, men are trying to say that women must exist within a universe of no sexual choices whatsoever except whom to marry, what is the other side of the discussion? Obviously sexual autonomy goes a lot further than the right to birth control and abortion — but the discussion rarely goes any further. It’s as if all women can do is defend their right to these two basic choices — however meekly that’s happening — but outwardly claiming the right to pleasure and sexual choices is still taboo.

In this situation, taboo means cloaked in guilt and shame. I don’t blame anyone for this; we have all been subjected to the guilt and shame campaign (and we still are). Yet just like the feminists I knew as a teenager explaining to me that the opposite of anti-abortion is not pro-abortion, it’s pro-choice, the opposite of guilt is not being anti-guilt — it’s affirming freedom and pleasure.

Why Masturbation is Still Taboo — and Why It’s the Key

Before I embark on the taboo side of this subject, I want to acknowledge the progress that has been made on masturbation, and in particular, female masturbation, the past 40 years. The world has had a lot of help from one person — Betty Dodson — who was the first person to come out publicly as a masturbator and advocate of self-given orgasm. She did not do this to teach “sexual technique.” She has been clear that this is about your holistic relationship to your body and to existence. Betty teaches masturbation as the core component in a holistic vision of life.

Female masturbation has become something of a widescale fascination of both men and women. Anyone concerned that pornography is violent or demeaning should be gratified by the honoring and indeed reverence for female masturbation in contemporary pornography. Websites like Beautiful Agony and Solotouch honor both men and women, though on many ‘traditional’ porno sites you could watch women masturbate nonstop for months until your computer eventually needs to be restarted.

Who, me? Masturbate? Christine O’Donnell, former senatorial candidate from Delaware and member of Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT). Photo from MTV “Sex in the 90s” video. Note the body language of her fellow purity crusader to the right.

There has been a proliferation of woman-centered sex toy stores, including Babeland and Good Vibrations, with many independently-owned ‘sexuality boutiques’ as well.

Yet despite the emergence of a masturbation subculture, I believe the taboo is still going strong — embodied in abstinence-only indoctrination of teenagers, and all of the religious philosophies at its core. The obsession with marriage that we all see is an attempt to teach young people that masturbation is wrong and that it’s not ‘real sex’ — the kind you supposedly have when you’re married. This also includes the indoctrination that every other form of sexual exploration (especially same-sex play) is wrong. Anti-sex crusaders understand that masturbation is same-sex play, and therefore (in their minds) it must be just one little shade away from being queer.

Now, the truth is that you can’t prevent people from masturbating, but you can do your best to make them feel guilty about it. You can shame them and teach them that it’s wrong, as we see former Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell doing (in her meek, mild and adorably subversive way) in this famous video from 1996. Note that she states openly, “It is important that we discuss this from a moral point of view.” But why, exactly, is that? What about a biological point of view, or a psychological one? This is merely an example of a widespread teaching, which has made its way into public schools in 49 states in the form of abstinence indoctrination.

When anti-sex forces want to go for the jugular, they go for masturbation. It’s not just the Mormons, but they are famous for their vicious abuses of children and teens on this topic. In fact, with rare exceptions, nearly all branches of Christianity wage war on masturbation, as do many other religious sects. Masturbation is the conservative nightmare of sex. You don’t need anyone else to do it. It exists far outside the health care system; it’s inherently disease and pregnancy-proof; there is no way to tax, prosecute or regulate it. It’s nice to have a vibrator, but God-given fingers work just as well.

There are three reasons I believe that masturbation presents a persistent controversy. And these are the same three reasons that I believe masturbation must be at the heart of any sex education program, or any attempt at sexual enlightenment by anyone at any age.

Reason One. Masturbation leads to self-knowledge. It starts with knowledge of what makes you feel good, and how your body works, as well as what you want. If you know what makes you feel good, you’re less likely to do what hurts. If you can take care of yourself, you’re less likely to need someone else to take care of you. Yet if approached consciously, masturbation also leads to a depth of self-awareness that is essential for navigating life. If we remember that life is created by sexual feelings (which lead to experiences), then we can experiment with the idea that those sexual feelings contain information about existence. As Lou Reed said, “Self knowledge is a dangerous thing — the freedom of who you are.” He meant dangerous to people with an agenda for you. Part of the self-knowledge offered by masturbation is what happens in the unspeakable cosmic self communion of orgasm.

Betty Dodson (second from left) teaches a women’s Bodysex Workshop in her apartment in New York City. Betty is an adult sex educator who has helped tens of thousands of women over the years. This is a scene from her new DVD, which is available on her website.

Reason Two. Masturbation is impossible to regulate. This is true of the physical experience; at least in Western society, it’s possible to find some time alone every now and then. But it’s especially true for the mental and emotional aspect of the experience, which as you know are total, unmitigated anarchy. Within your own mind, you can do anything you want to, with or for anyone you want. This includes people of any sex, gender or species, such as trisexual space alien fantasies or the little hottie who works next to you. Obviously this universe of imagination is not constrained by availability, appropriateness, whether anyone might reciprocate or whether other intelligent life exists in the universe. Guilt is an attempt to corrupt people’s imagination, and thus attempt to steal their freedom from them, which explains the nonstop campaign. Yet everyone knows it doesn’t work, except to create doubts and misgivings, which nearly everyone overrides and then comes back for more anarchistic, unregulated fun. Still the guilt IS a problem, and it’s what we need to unravel.

Reason Three. Masturbation subverts marriage and encourages independence. It doesn’t prevent marriage — it opens up your relationship to yourself, and then points to the existence of every form of sexual expression other than what is allowed under the terms of the marital sex license. By giving anyone control over their orgasm, it subverts all forms of codependent relationships. Christine O’Donnell was onto this one in that famous MTV video when she said, “The reason you don’t tell them that masturbation is the answer to AIDS and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because, again, it is not addressing the issue. You’re going to be pleasing each other. And if he already knows what pleases him, and if he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” Exactly! She gets it! If people are more sexually autonomous, that, in turn, translates to other forms of independence.

You would think that if the problem is premarital sex, overuse of birth control pills, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and too many abortions, the solution would be teaching young people about masturbation — and proposing that it’s a viable option. But the fact that masturbation is considered as damnable as any other form of sex reveals the true agenda.

The Personal is Political — Really

Did I ever tell you the story of my dialog with Carol Hanisch, the radical feminist lesbian (and co-founder of Redstockings) who in 1969 came up with the phrase “the personal is political” that you see quoted in this space so often?

Photo by Eric Francis for Book of Blue.

If not, then now is a good time. A few years ago I looked her up and we had an email correspondence. In the course of that exchange, I proposed that if the personal is political, then masturbation, one of the most deeply personal expressions in life, must be one of the most direct acts of political liberation you could ever want.

She didn’t get it. “Sometimes masturbation is just masturbation,” she said (perhaps unconsciously referencing Sigmund Freud’s infamous remark that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”).

She was really, really pissed off when I suggested she didn’t understand her own theory, and accused me of being a patriarchal so-and-so. But truly — if the whole political system is engineered as a sexual repression machine, and draws its power from there*, and we are now seeing this standing before us in stark naked form, then when you find your own inner freedom, you’re also declaring your freedom from the political BS. We just need to find a way out of how that same political BS (instigated along with religion) is designed to make us feel wrong for feeling anything at all.

Unless, of course, political freedom doesn’t include feeling good, or the freedom to alter the social order to your suiting. Feminism is often on the same warpath as conservatism — the crusade against “pornography” is an example. While it’s true there is a new generation of pro-sex, pro-sexwork and pro-porn feminists, we’re not allowed to hear from them very often, and their mothers and grandmothers in the anti-sex, anti-porn feminist movement are typically fighting them every time they try to show a movie or have a conference on their campus. This is the definition of female liberation that includes telling them what they cannot do with their bodies (be photographed, make sexy films, charge money for sex, tell people about sex toys, and so on).

Part of the problem we face is that both ends are playing against the middle: the conservatives who would regulate women, and the women who would regulate women. They can knock themselves out. I propose that if you want to be free — politically free or personally free, since they are the same thing — then take control of your own orgasm.

Not Just a Canary

We recently had a reader suggest in a blog comment that sex is the canary in the coal mine — and that recent events show us that the canary is dying from lack of oxygen. I replied and said that just because it’s a bellwether does not mean it’s merely that. There is a nearly total misunderstanding, or lack of information, about the role of sex, and sexual feelings, in consciousness, personhood and creativity. Sex is not simply an indicator of autonomy; it is the very thing at the core of autonomy.

You may think I’m overstating the case, but then you’ll have to explain why every social control program begins with a sexual repression campaign. Yet to free ourselves from this, we have to take sex out of the political realm and claim it back as personal material.

Photo by Beth Bagner for Book of Blue.

One of the reasons that the attack on sex, which is currently being done as an attack on women, works so well is because the response is almost always defensive. Shame prevents it from being anything else. If the attack is on sex for pleasure, or the freedom of choice, then an effective response would need to be the positive assertion: I am free to choose whatever is right for me, and the other essential piece, I can share with others whatever we mutually consent to share.

We think that the correct response to repression is, “You cannot repress me like that.” I propose it would be, “I am free to feel what I want.” But if that freedom, or even venturing toward it a little, is met with a guilt backlash or even more overwhelming shame, there will be silence on the other end of the line. Note, the guilt is not organic. It was put into us like a toxin. Because it seems like it was “always there,” we think it belongs there. But it was not always there, and it does not belong there (inside you).

There is only one reason to avoid the sexual conversation, and with that accomplished, existence itself becomes something that we must feel guilty about. Given the proliferation of drugs that serve basically to relieve guilt — we call them “antidepressants” — there is a lot of that going around.

Sex is not a canary in the coal mine. It’s the oxygen itself; it’s the carotid artery that brings the blood to the brain. If the canary looking a little wobbly is an indicator to take action, that action simply must involve claiming sex as one’s personal domain. That also means claiming all of the shame that’s been attached to it, and proceeding consciously from there, and claiming the task of healing that shame. Nobody else can do it for you. You can have help, for sure, but ultimately, you have to accomplish this one as your own quest.

We seem to have no problem asserting that men are terrified of women being sexually free. But I would ask women: How do you feel about being sexually free? How do you feel about the men in your life being sexually free? How do you feel about your fellow women being sexually free? Unless you’re willing to stand up for the people you love, your choices on your own behalf will have little positive energy behind them. You cannot assert your freedom meaningfully and also deny the freedom of others.

The men who are purporting to do this to women are not going to get freedom out of it; they are trying to create for themselves the primary option to be a rapist. The men who understand that women have options get to be something other than an attacker. Yet the opposite of being raped is not not being raped. The opposite of being raped is choosing the sex you want, the life you want and the relationships you want. And in that choice is everything.

There’s an even simpler way to look at it. When you hear misogynist insanity being spewed, ask yourself: How do I feel about my body, my sexual feelings, my sexual choices and my orgasm? That’s the bottom line.

Eric Francis

Friday, March 16, 2012. Weekly Horoscope #895. | Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions 

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Your chart gives an image of you remembering something brilliant that you forgot. Something, such as an idea. You may have solved a problem, then misplaced the solution. You may have come up with a creative concept — an article, a book, a song, a film, an invention — then it got pushed to the back of your notebook, or you never bothered to write it down. Yet there is an underlying story here — there is something you may remember about yourself. It may be a discovery you made, such as direct contact with the energy that would guide you to a solid sense of direction. One quality that it might have is that the inner revelation is so striking you have no idea what you might do with it, and that might lead you to set it aside yet again. In truth, we’re talking about the recognition of who you are, which can arrive in the form of direct contact with your inner being — yet it will feel like remembering something you’ve felt before, maybe a long time ago, no matter how vague or dream-like the memory is.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Are you feeling overwhelmed? I see a few possibilities. You may be in a cycle that you don’t know how to get out of. Or, you may be noticing some qualities of yourself that you wish you could change, but you’re not sure how to do it. These qualities might exist inside your idea of yourself as a ‘good person’ or ‘helpful person’ and may even lead you to wonder whether that’s really true. Be aware that you’re in the midst of a magnifying effect — certain elements of your psyche are under a lens right now, where you can see them and where you can, in fact, address your concerns. But that’s not all that’s happening; you’re making discoveries about the love that you have to offer, and you may be figuring out that the only thing you really can do with love is to give it away. Whatever else you may be working out — and there do seem to be a few deep issues — there’s a miracle waiting for you in the recognition that love is what you give.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You cannot control how people perceive you, so you might not want to put too much energy into pretending that you can. You can have a lot more fun being yourself with no particular attempt at spin or image control, and noticing how other people respond. Push the bounds of what’s considered appropriate. Say what you don’t usually dare to say, and go one layer deeper. You may find yourself in unusual company, as in among people you don’t usually hang out with, and also entirely different kinds of people than you’re accustomed to. The truth is you’re a lot more like them than you may think. You are one of the slightly odd, eccentric, creative critters that people look up to because they have that extra edge of freedom. What your charts are suggesting is that now is the time to embody that in a bold way. There is indeed freedom in not caring what people think, but at the same time learning something from how they respond.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Success is an ongoing experiment — not a destination. Remember that this week, as the experiment proceeds in some interesting directions. To facilitate this, I suggest you stay vocal and visible. Announce your existence to anyone you want to make contact with, particularly people you look up to or admire. I suggest that the transition be a respectful approach to a colleague or potential collaborator rather than ‘fan mail’. Investigate organizations that you might want to be involved with — merely on the basis of the affinity that you share with them. If you look, you will see people, or networks of people, with whom you want to share your energy. None of this may get immediate results (but then it could very well). The one key is approaching from a place of openness and curiosity rather than attachment to an outcome; you’re in an environment of ‘expect the unexpected’, which actually means that the likeliest outcomes are not on your list. This one fact is good for at least half the fun.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — I have a couple of experiments to propose for you, around the theme of money and value. Experiment one is take some cash out of the bank, if you can. Take out more than you would normally carry — as much as you can afford, or as much as makes you a little nervous to have. Carry it in your pocket and don’t spend it. Feel it as potential that you can use at any time for any purpose you want — but leave the possibilities open. Experiment two is to consider your value in any way besides monetary. Keep this as close as possible to the surface of your thoughts. Consider the influence of your ideas, the value of your time toward a goal, the value of your help to others and the appreciation that they may feel for you. Then, exert some of that influence. Make an idea known, that you might ordinarily keep to yourself. Help someone when you have the option not to. Contribute to a group project by adding your energy. As you do all of this, note the differences between money and value.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — There’s a delightful little drama that’s been developing in your sign, involving Mars retrograde. For the details, you will need to read the articles on the Planet Waves blog, but I can sum up here. Mars retrograde is taking you on a journey into yourself, and its most recent stop was a visit in the land of how convoluted the psychology of sexual desire can be. This plays itself out in your relationships as a constant crisis of faith, self-criticism and a kind of perfectionism that you’re seeing doesn’t get you anywhere. Yet this is not the destination of Mars retrograde — this transit goes deeper, to the point where Mars opposes Chiron in Pisces. This puts you in contact with a core layer of yourself: with the source of your power and also of your pain, which are closely related. The key to growth, as you may know, is learning from everything and taking any experience as a means to self-knowledge. Keep going past what you think you don’t know; past what confuses you; past what makes you doubt yourself, and follow the story deeper, day by day.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — If you’ve ever been in therapy, maybe you got to this point once or twice: you realize that the complicated psychology of other people is too much to deal with, and it’s not your problem anyway. As an antithesis to the games people play, both with themselves and with others, you merely have to notice how people treat you, including whether they mean what they say. You can cut all the games short by using these basic criteria. It helps a lot if you stop trying to understand the seemingly complex and sometimes self-defeating motives of others, and focus exclusively on what drives you. As you grow to understand yourself better, others will become increasingly transparent. Some people are motivated by the desire for communication and community. Others spend their lives avoiding this. While it’s never really possible to sort humanity into two distinct camps, people tend to lean one way or the other. Now, think of this as the one question you have for yourself: Which is your preference, and how do you express it?

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You must be thinking: there has got to be some kind of conspiracy. You keep meeting the same kind of person, who has the same basic problems. The world of demented relationships, denial, pills and attempted glamour stretches from the trailer parks to the suburbs of every city to Hollywood, in an unbroken line of connection — unbroken, that is, except for your need to break free. There is a force deeper and more powerful than the prevailing sickness of our culture that is drawing you deeper into your core. You might think of this as a quest for your inner healer, the aspect of your psyche that knows you so well, and that knows how to turn struggle into strength. I’m not sure you’ve heard it in those words, but I think that this is the essence of healing. There’s a reason so many spiritual texts say that all things work together for good; I would propose that they must be worked, together, for good — and that what serves your healing will ultimately serve the healing of the people around you. We see every day how humans can be an adverse influence on one another; it’s time to consider how we can build a community of mutual witness and positive example.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Take advantage of this moment; that advantage is that you have some perfect opportunities to ground your ideas, to put them into solid form, and to integrate them into your career plan. If you don’t have a career plan, this is the time to make one — based not on what you wish you could do but rather on what you actually do, what you love to do, what you express the desire for by taking action. Clean up old plans, with no attachment to things that don’t work, are not fulfilling or don’t meet your needs. You’re not going for perfection here, but a general sense of correctness. Good enough means worth investing your precious time and energy into. Yours is a fire sign, which means you’re a brilliant initiator with excellent ideas — but your disadvantage is your tendency to be so in the moment that you don’t consciously build a foundation for the future. What you’re doing now is part uncovering and dusting off the old foundations, part repairing them, and part building new structures.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You seem to be in the midst of an emotional tizzy of some kind, though it may be subtle. Mainly it’s messing with your confidence, but I have a suggestion. You’re better off, for now anyway, being a little off-kilter, as if you just stepped off of a boat and can still feel the motion of the waves even as you step on dry land. I suggest you feel each step you take, putting your feet on the ground carefully and one at a time. You have an opportunity to take nothing for granted. This may involve a specific emotional matter very close to home. The astrology for the next few days might make you inclined to jump to conclusions and be emotionally reactive — that won’t help. Bide your time and listen to what others are saying, and listen to what that deep voice in your belly is saying to you. You really do know how you feel, but it just may take you a little while to figure it out, and to feel confident that how you feel matters. There is no rush. Remember that, especially when you’re inclined to speed things along.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Recent events seem to have stirred up something of a psychological disturbance for you, and I suggest you take some time and let the waters settle down. Ask yourself the question: What is this really about? You seem to be aware that there are deep and perhaps troubling issues. I suggest you take your time with this and not decide it’s something that you can or must work out all at once. There are many excellent developments brewing in some of the most visible areas of your life, and you don’t want to divert energy away from them. I suggest you maintain a devotion to healing in the most positive way you can — as a loving commitment to your personal truth — and gently go deeper to figure out what you’re really working through. Meanwhile, you have some opportunities to be more visible than you normally are — and to feel more appreciated for what you do. You can help your healing process by carefully noticing how you feel when people express their authentic gratitude and admiration for you.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — The Sun is now moving through the very last degrees of the zodiac in Pisces, approaching the vernal equinox in the sign Aries. This transition has at least two layers of meaning for you. The last degrees of Pisces have a visionary quality; each day brings a new sensation of transparency, of change, and some taste of what is possible. Make sure you look carefully enough to notice, both in your inner world and the one that seems to surround you. Remember to hold the vision not just for what you want, but for who you want to be. You contain all potentials, and if you focus your vision and apply some creative energy, it’s only a matter of time before you grow into your vision. As the Sun moves into Aries next week, you get a reminder of what distinguishes you from others. It’s not merely going on in your imagination — it is your imagination, that is, your ability to think in images. Yet there is something else: a radical quality that ensures you play your own original tune, and that you’re never influenced by someone else unless you want to be.

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