February finds us in the ethereal waves of Aquarius, dry and electric. The uplift began January 20, and it is more than an illusion. Aquarius carries us aloft all on its own, but this year it gets an extra boost due to its quality as a Fixed Sign. The Fixed Signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius) are essentially uninhabited by the slow “heavy” planets, so we get a break. (Your placements in these Signs are having a break too — a very long one.)
These days, we have to take a break when we can get it, and the time is now. But if we’re always focused on a time other than now, we’ll miss the break. This is true not only of this time, but universally. Living in the now, also called mindfulness, can allow us to take advantage of the lulls between events that come every day, as well as in the longer lull we have this month.
Practicing Mindfulness Takes, er, Practice.
So how do we engage in mindfulness? Let’s let Eric Barker, who also picked up on these currents, tell us more about it. The following is derived from his excellent and pragmatic summary of the practice and why it works. (And then I’ll tell you why we need more than mindfulness and what that is.)
1. Watch your mind for 5 minutes.
Anyone who does that immediately sees why the yogis called the mind a drunken monkey. It runs amok everywhere!
2. You are not your thoughts.
You are the watcher of your thoughts. Perhaps the way the French describe their feelings makes this clear. Where we in English may say, “I am afraid,” this identifies my entire being with fear. However, in French it is, “J’ai peur” — ‘I have fear’. This is a description of a feeling, not of myself. Language helps us define our reality, and we can modify it to free us from such traps. But even if we say, “I’m afraid,” we can know that fear is a feeling we are having, not something that we are. This is a vital step in achieving mindfulness.
3. Label your thoughts and feelings.
This is something I learned in energetic healing school. When we put a boundary on something — fear, pain, anger — it stops overwhelming us. It is finite. Say things like, “I’m feeling anger.” This is preferable to “I’m angry.” The former puts you in charge.
4. Don’t just react to thoughts. Decide.
I have referred to this for years as putting a filter on my emotions, but it is really putting a filter on my reactions. It takes focus and persistence to retrain ourselves to respond thoughtfully to an experience when we are awash in an emotional reaction. Often our responses are laced with PTSD (post-traumatic stress), and we may have learned to repress our emotions to cope with reactivity. Developing this ability to choose may require digging deep in our psyche, recalling old wounding experiences, and reframing them so that we are the winner (chooser) in the experience. Sometimes all we can do is count to ten before we act. Barker recommends asking before we act, “Is it useful?” This is the incremental approach that turns reactions into consciously decided actions.
5. Be compassionate.
This means stepping into the zone of someone else’s suffering, and this goes against our survival instinct. It ain’t easy. However, there are ways. This morning I was reading about a program that brings a preschool-full of kids aged 0–4 into a retirement home for their full schedule five days a week. The effects on the elders in the home are easily visible: increased joy in life, liveliness, longer life, better health. However, the author of the article was bemused about the effects on the children, where I could see it in the eyes of the child in the article’s image, as she took a frail hand in hers: Compassion.
If we at first step into the zone of suffering of someone who is less close to us than a loved one, or in an area where we do not experience personal suffering, we can build a well of compassion that we can extend into areas that hit closer to home. Ultimately, we can extend that compassion toward ourselves for our mistakes and be more understanding of those whom we perceive have injured us.
If we can gain this lesson from Aquarius at this time of rest — a lesson that takes more early focus but soon becomes automatic — we gain something we can carry with us into future times of challenge. That in itself reduces anxiety (which is about the future) and fear (which is about our experiences in the past).
So, When Is Mindfulness NOT Enough?
While it should always be a component of our operating procedure throughout life, mindfulness cannot be our only mental practice. A person in dementia has perfect mindfulness, because they are focused on the moment, with no memories of the past or anticipation of the future. Some of the steps listed above involve ways of incorporating elements of past and anticipations of the future into our expression in the now, but we need more than that.
Mindfulness focuses us in the ever-present now, but sometimes we need to broaden our vision. I Ching refers to the rhythmic need for a more dynamic mental state in terms of “having a direction”, or “going on”. It also refers to “the lessons of politics” and “the affairs of lords and kings”. In the former, it suggests having an outward focus — a goal or plan. If we live our life totally without goal or plan, it is possible, but we live as a wandering sage — without long-range planning or responsibility.
The lessons of politics and the affairs of lords and kings require a longer view of the trajectory of history or the record of science. The lessons of politics and human nature give us the broad view that allows us to anticipate human behavior and so gauge the effects of our influence on others. These are things that people in positions of responsibility are required to do. Although we hope that they bring mindfulness — a toehold in that point of perfect inner stillness — we also hope that they look further afield into past and future to inform their decisions on our behalf, and that they “have a direction to go”. They live partially outside the ever-present now, and there are times when we need to as well.
This is an example, perhaps, of “yin mind” (mindfulness) and “yang mind” (focused, directed, broadened thought). Going into yang mind should not unmoor us from a mindful space. We keep that toehold. This helps us stay out of anxiety and fear or worry as we consider time frames other than “now”.
Because of astrology’s power to show us the future, we can get caught up in this valuable perspective. However, its potency as a tool of retrospective is its most transformative and helpful viewpoint in my opinion. In February, it helps us to start with a retrospective of January.
January was a seed-planting time, and those seeds will sprout in the coming months — and years. February is as much about how we nurture those seeds as it is about how we keep the ball in the air with ongoing situations and circumstances.
A New-ish Mercury Cycle Allows Plans to Sprout.
February finds us in a new Mercury cycle of plans and projects. By now we know what’s on the landscape for us with this 3½-month round. Finding the sweet spot in this involved taking on some of our greatest challenges ever in January, as Mercury encountered Pluto and Uranus three times. We were brought to commune with the powers of Pluto’s long-term transformation and Uranus’s sudden plot twists — without running away as Mercury’s square to Mars could incline us to do.
The challenge was to find hope and direction in the midst of intractable circumstances. Sometimes this involved accepting things as they are and moving on. In some situations there have been remedies, and these are still in process.
There is a longer view required here, since Pluto’s new year-long cycle started as Mercury went retrograde. It comes naturally if we allow it, and it points to a source of relief, whether or not we can see it yet. Uranus redirected us toward the past nine months of growth through the ways it has shaken our world. It has been teaching us to loosen our grip on vestiges of the past so that we can move on — even if the process is messy.
What Else Is Going On?
Meanwhile, the other balls we are juggling have to do with love and relationship through Venus, initiative and aggression through Mars, expansion through Jupiter, and constructive rebuilding through Saturn. Lying in wait are the inward-turning energies of Neptune and Chiron, gone into deep dormancy until they are activated later in February. Plus, it’s the Year of the Monkey! Enjoy this time of pushing our boundaries on curiosity, fun, and mischief!
Watch for More Opportunities in February.
It is an illusion that Jupiter went quiet in January; its expansive qualities were simply muted during Mercury’s retrograde, and we could feel and respond to the opportunities they bring. It entered its four-month retrograde on January 7, postponing the clarity of this moment until now. We will see the full glory of how we’re using its energy in March, but February will illuminate our understanding of its workings so we can take our next steps toward what we want in life. Watch for new opportunities in February, and keep on creating your own.
We’re Entering the Flowering Stage with Love and Relationship.
Venus is still a morning star, and she brought a serious moment of reorientation in mid-January with her conjunction to Saturn in Sagittarius. We’re still working on our redevelopment since the challenges she pointed out to us last summer. In February she still trails the inner-planet pack, picking up the pieces of shattered situations through love and compassion.
Build the Framework of Your Future.
Saturn is picking up prominence as it edges toward its retrograde (March 25), but it’s in a sweet spot in February. It’s a good time to engage in the processes that will make things easier in the coming months — the ounce of prevention that’s worth a pound of cure. No need to worry — Saturn’s here to help!
The (Future) Wrench in the Works Has Its Roots in Last Summer’s Events.
I left Mars until last because there’s more to talk about here. Mars is about to head into its next retrograde. This happens every two years, and the new one bridges the Scorpio-Sagittarius cusp. You know those leftover issues from last August? Mars will help us resolve them as it tracks over Zodiacal turf covered by Saturn last year.
On February 17, Mars enters that turf over which it will later retrograde. Then, like a car repositioning itself in a new direction, it will back up over that turf April 17 – June 29. This brings to us new perspectives relative to the area it tracks over in our chart. Generally, it changes our focus on our energy use: Are we too meek or aggressive? Are we working our physical body in the most beneficial ways? Do we have mechanical problems (body mechanics, car, computer, any equipment) that need repairing? How are we doing with that exercise routine? How’s our anger reflex working for us? How can we uproot potentially explosive and difficult situations?
Often, Mars shows us where we have been misapplying our assertiveness, whether too much or too little. Sometimes it’s the timing that is off; we may be accustomed to jumping in too soon or waiting too long. Mars retrograde may propel us into the discomfort of not being able to wait for things to smooth themselves out due to an externally imposed deadline — or to have to wait longer than is comfortable.
What is significant about this Mars retrograde is its lack of contacts. It makes connections with no planets beyond its own orbit — none of the heavies. Its connections with the present will be somewhat benign, but as I said above, it connects us with the past quite acutely — Saturn’s cycle during 2015 in general, and what happened in early August is an anchor event by which we can identify the area for growth.
If we think back to what was occurring then, we can understand what situations may arise and conflicts may be resolved. Ultimately, it results in the clearing of deeply rooted obstacles and old baggage that weighs us down. Much of this has to do with perspective. A problem exists because we call it one. Often a shift in viewpoint removes the obstacle in an instant. For instance, if we have learned to take responsibility beyond our own domain (such as being blamed for our parents’ mistakes — an all-too-common experience), we may transfer that into adulthood as a feeling of guilt and shame about situations we cannot control. Mars, as it tracks back over Saturn’s recent path, may relieve us of that notion, leaving us forever free from inappropriate guilt and shame.
Once Mars enters its shadow on the 17th, we can start observing what occurs. These are seed events that may be revisited in the coming retrograde and the following shadow period (Mars’s third pass through the same portion of the Zodiac). Also keep in mind what happened in last summer. This could allow a deep healing to occur.
Jupiter and Chiron: Healing the Beast Within
On February 23, Jupiter the Expander makes its second opposition (of 3) to Chiron, the Wounded Healer. This brings into focus events that occurred around November 3, often related to an area of weakness that we hope we will be able to protect from vulnerability. The opposition pretty much exposes our vulnerability, but it does it so we can heal it. However, because it comes to us in a pattern of three events (timed to the rhythm of these three oppositions), we experience it as a slowly evolving process. It is likely that the first event was the most painful — the one where we first realized this was being exposed. The second contact in February shows us how well we’re doing at resolving the situation, while the third opposition on August 12 sees the wound substantially healed, so we can move on.
It is quite likely that we remember something difficult happening in the first week of November, but even if not, we will have the opportunity to get an overview of our progress in mid-February. This will be especially powerful for people with placements in Pisces and Virgo, and those born in the mid-Sixties.
Saturn and Neptune: Nay-Say and Hearsay
Some are distressed, while others entertained, by the political theater that has recently dominated the media. This is where the confusion of our culture is seen in its most primitive form. It seems to be a place where we can observe the current Saturn-Neptune square in its full flowering. At its worst, we could call Saturn “Nay-Say” and Neptune “Hearsay”. Every time you hear anyone talk, especially a politician, see if you can observe these two perspectives in their words. While they aren’t always negative, a fear-mongering negative viewpoint can be heard from many sources.
Visions of Days to Come Seed Our Thoughts through Neptune.
Once the Sun enters Pisces on the 18th, we begin to feel the inward focus of visionary Neptune cooking on the front burner of our mind. This is strongest on the 28th, when the new yearly Neptune cycle of inner growth starts. It’s often difficult to see what’s going on with this cycle, even in the middle of it, but nonetheless it doesn’t hurt to observe our experiences around this date.
Still beyond our horizon is Chiron’s new cycle, which starts in March, just in time for the Solar Eclipse, but that’s another story. For now, let’s stay in that sweet spot of independence from worry and use it as a time to develop a mindful approach to all we encounter.
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