Honest Year-in-Review

If I look back carefully, this year was actually really good to me. I was strong and I did a lot of things. I got a new lease on my work life. I read heaps of books and rested. I became an International Dark-Sky Delegate at the beginning of the year and by the end of the year had started London’s first dark-sky group. I wrote some great stuff. I reconnected with people, and more deeply connected with others. I got to visit a couple of places in the UK when it was safe. I learned how resilient I am. I learned to cook more things. I healed a relationship with an old lover. I learned to be happy and peaceful in the moment. I developed a gratitude practice to be a constant reminder of the simple things. 2020 was, in fact, a year of deep and positive growth.

But when you’re in the throes of depression, these things are tough to see. They can be impossible to see. I imagine there are people out there who did not experience depression at some point this year, but they must be rare birds indeed. Being fucking knackered, feeling like you can’t muster any strength for a new year, being overwhelmed by a gentle and unwavering sadness, or just plain numb…I don’t know about you, but this is the New Year I am experiencing.

Choosing to remember the me of a different day, she’s still me.

I write here as therapy. It’s purely for myself, and if anyone that reads it and finds something of themselves in it, well that’s a bonus. But this is a space I have created for myself to write whatever the fuck I want to write and not worry about commissioning editors or tone of voice or word count or angles. It’s just me, unfiltered.

When someone talks openly about their feelings of depression, sadness, overwhelm or despair, the first response seems to always be to try to help ‘manage’ them. Make them feel better. Fix it. Even those of us who have experienced profound and sometimes lasting depression can fall into this response when confronted with a loved one who expresses a struggle.

I have thought about this a lot. Partly because I know when I receive a pitied or fixer response to my own openness, how revolting that feels. And partly because when confronted with my closest people expressing their sad-end-of-the-spectrum emotions, my knee-jerk reaction can sometimes be to offer solutions too. It is a real skill learning to hold space for someone else…to witness their pain or their joy without trying to change it or feel sorry for it. I have failed at this many times for those closest to me, despite my best efforts and intentions to be a true space-holder.

Being depressed and sad and angry and feeling broken beyond repair is okay. I’ve learned it’s really rather normal and I daresay even a necessary part of the cycle of life and healing. How can we possibly make a difference if we do not experience the full range of human emotions?

Society would tell you that these emotions are “negative” and need to be fixed. Managed with medication even. Made ‘healthy’ or shut down and put away for an ‘appropriate time’ (aka not in front of others or out in public). Fuck alllllllll of that. All human emotions, from wild joy to cavernous, aching, gut-wrenching sorrow, need and deserve to be seen and felt.

Openly and fearlessly.

If you are worried about being beyond repair, believe me you aren’t. I am not, and I am about the most ravaged person I know. Whatever coping mechanisms you’ve engaged in to keep showing up to life, that’s cool and fine and good. Keep showing up is the point.

Mainly, express the emotions. The MOMENT they arrive if at all possible. Emotions left unfelt will be stored in the body and turn to physical malfunctions. Our bodies offer us all sorts of clues to what we might be experiencing emotionally but not expressing. Sit still for awhile and you will begin to hear those cues. With more intense emotions, we have to find ways to do this safely. Rage and anger most of all need to come out, but in ways that are not causing physical harm to self or others. I like to scream into pillows or sometimes just stand up and shake my whole body like a child having a temper tantrum. I rage cry a LOT. Like a lot, a lot.

If you are managing to celebrate your wins this year, great job, you deserve to. We all deserve a goddamn medal for just getting out of bed in 2020. If you’re celebrating wins today, you’re much stronger than I am.

And if, like me, you are ugly crying in your kitchen to Jonatha Brooke, that’s fine, too. Let ‘er rip.

Better out than in.

Benediction

It is quite possibly the biggest cliche to wax lyrical about gratitude on Thanksgiving, and that is precisely why I’m sitting down to write what I am writing.

Since 2018, gratitude is something I practice everyday. I use the word ‘practice’ deliberately, as it is a ritual and an act that takes learning and practicing, much like my other practices: writing, yoga and meditation. It seems astonishing to me now that gratitude was not a calculated part of my daily life before then. Sure, I was thankful for stuff and kinda generally “grateful”, but I did not have a gratitude practice.

My gratitude practice has become prayer. I should go back, though.

I stopped praying, like praying to god, when I was 20. Having been raised in evangelical churches and schools, I spent most of my young life under a shroud of Christian propaganda. Not the sombre, ritualistic prayer of Anglican or Catholic traditions. No, prayer in evangelical Christianity as I understood it was a constant acknowledgement of the importance of my own self-loathing, my lack before a god who thought very badly of me and an ongoing self-admission of all the things I’d done wrong: ways I might have led a boy astray by wearing something too tight-fitting or short-cut, or hugging him at the wrong angle — and the fact that I had a girl’s body at all was bad altogether; ways I hadn’t shown up to church and looked or acted Just Right (“Honey, your bra strap is showin'” said the lady behind me on Sunday morning); ways I hadn’t honoured god with every action both seen and unseen; ways I had touched myself in pleasure, and every shameful thing — wearing makeup, dancing, saying the wrong words — BAD words, listening to the wrong songs by the wrong artists — artists who supported abortion or liberal politics. All of these were shame, and my prayers were a constant, sad, desperate plea for god to forgive me for being me.

When I left Christianity, that was it for me. Fuck this. Fuck religion. Fuck god and definitely fuck the southern right-wing church.

I recently have been reading a book called Longing for Darkness by China Galland, much of which is concerned with her worldly travels in search of Tara and the Black Madonna, and in doing so, finding a route back to her own spirituality and reckoning with her Catholic upbringing.

My own path back to spirituality has been similar. Years of tentatively walking through Buddhist and Taoist temples on my trips through Asia. Going through a Catholic wedding. Listening to musician friends openly leaving Christianity themselves. And then, a period of my own dark night of the soul: a series of deep cuts that left me so emotionally broken down that I had no choice but to find my own inner spirituality again to make sense of it all. I absolutely had to reach for the universe or I would have been sucked under and never come back up.

Several practices helped slowly anchor me into these important, dark depths. I don’t like to believe I’ve left the water so much as found a submarine in which to ride the waves, let the dark waters of emotion and spirituality and self come to me. Be surrounded by my own dark, sinuous, lovely murkiness. Me as god is a very rich, dark, indulgent and playful essence.

Meditation has been one of those practices. Learning to be present and, through that, disavowing every inkling of self-judgement. Jesus, learning self-acceptance is hard. Perhaps that’s what he was thinking during his own dark night of the soul. Yoga — something I’ve “done” on and off for years, but never really understood until I’d had a full year of meditation practice in me and then I really could grasp how yoga is about being present in the body, about self-acceptance, meeting your limbs and muscles where they are, not pushing but nurturing (not exercise and not fitness, because fuck that that self-hating nonsense).

And so we come to gratitude. The third in this holy trio. Every evening, after another self-nurturing ritual of cleansing face and teeth, I sit on my bed in the dim twinkling of fairy lights. I take into my hand a piece of smooth clear quartz that I found on my stepdad’s land in rural New Mexico, and I hold it carefully, lovingly. While running my fingers over the cool stone, I say out loud this nightly benediction.

Usually, I say the best thing that happened today. Often that is something small or simple. Sometimes it is something huge. On some nights, I offer myself a whole list of thank-yous – thank-yous to the universe and me and sometimes loved ones for all things, big and small.

Awareness, presence – these are the two foundations of Buddhism, and if I were to slot myself into any one religion (which I decline to do), it would probably be Buddhism. Staying in the moment. Because at the end of the day, the things that cause us worry and strife, the things that become stress, and the stresses that eventually become lodged into the body, resulting in physical illness (dis-ease) – none of these things are real. They are the result of a mind, or ego, attempting to “save” us by planning for unforeseen circumstances. By focusing on those scary unreal timelines, you call them in. By focusing on gratitude, you call in a timeline of abundance. This is the core of what some New Ageists call manifesting. I believe in manifesting because I manifest through gratitude and it is real in my life.

My best friend and I started an adjacent practice. The two of us are both prone to whingeing and can easily fall into negative spirals, and so when we find ourselves there together, we shout (over Whatsapp): FIVE THINGS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR. There are always five. Sometimes they are really funny things. Like “I have a toilet seat,” and “We don’t have to listen to that one person eat their salad really loud at work anymore.”

Gratitude drops you into the present moment. No matter what kind of bad day I am having (and I have had some pretty fucking bad ones, just like you have), I can find one small thing to be grateful for. With this, I am not suggesting we gloss over the hard things, the shit, the pain or the suffering. But I rest in the knowing that, by finding a moment of gratitude, the hardest days become easier.

What’s on my gratitude list tonight? So many things. For now? You, reader! This medium to express myself. An absolutely ma-hoosive Thanksgiving dinner, which I cooked in honour of myself. A nicely scented candle. And the supreme knowledge that I am deeply loved and cared for. First and foremost, by me.

Gathering In

October, rain, a familiar chill and the comforting scent of fire smoke on the air. As if overnight, the morning starts later and evening closes quicker. Mars rises and Vega sets. Blankets and hoodies and fuzzy socks are lovingly pulled from the back of a drawer. Thoughts are thick and full.

This year, I don’t feel I ever fully unfurled for the summer. A life of lockdown alone in a tiny flat has kept much that would normally be drawn out into the length of a summer night firmly rolled into a corner. Padding from the bathroom to the table to the bed, and on days when the sun is out, to the strip of garden that has saved my life and mental health this year. Everything feels smaller. The world is smaller. It was supposed to be.

Autumn is a time for the great gathering in. A time for thinking over 9 months of life, assessing the things we stretched our limbs out to achieve when the sun was high, a season for clearing and making room for that which must be kept, stored lovingly through the darkness.

In the evening, it is dark again. The long summer nights since the June solstice have passed in a haze of trying to feel normal in a very not-normal world. Of stepping through the unknown and learning to trust. It is an irony that in the length of summer hours is when I’ve learned to walk in the dark, have faith in the unknown, to trust the path I cannot see.

I’m not sure how old I was when I first held divining rods. Perhaps 9 or 10. They all wondered if I had ‘the gift’ and handed me a pair of long, thin metal sticks in the shape of sideways Ls. We were standing on the dirt driveway outside our little adobe house, and someone put the rods into my hands – long end out – and shunted me off into the pasture. If the rods crossed then we knew where to drill.

I felt the weight of this responsibility because I had seen wells drilled before, our first well and wells on other properties, and I knew there was a big truck and it took days and days of a giant drilling rig to get down far enough to find water in a desert. I walked for awhile. I wandered. One rod spun to the right, then the other. Everyone dowsed for their wells in rural New Mexico as a matter of course, but I was just holding two sticks and really all the adults were ticking it off a list of things that none of them probably believed in. Everyone just wanted to get the well drilled, but if dowsing might find water in a desert then it was worth a try.

I wandered to the ridge, just at the edge of the driveway where the top of our 80 acres of land sloped gently to the east and down a clay escarpment into the arroyo below. The rods crossed. I stopped.

They drilled a well there sometime later and we had water and I never really thought about it again. I put so much of myself, my intuition, my well witch…away. She was not acceptable or real. She was evil at my church school. No she wasn’t real.

I learned to call it my gut and my intuition, I pushed her stomach aches and bodily responses away and ignored the moments when I knew something would happen before it did. Sometimes someone would comment jokingly that I was gifted or sensitive. I would be call the Oracle on a press trip or asked why I gave such good advice or how I knew. I shoved down my foresight about a friend’s impending breakup and sometimes woke up from a dream about a friend texting me to find that friend had actually just texted me, and I told no one because being a witch, an intuitive, a psychic, these are not acceptable.

This autumn is a time for the great drawing in. After three years of meditation, soul searching, reparenting, tarot reading, connecting, listening and hearing, past life regressions and telepathic conversations, and over a summer that has given me the space to feel into all of these things.

We’ve been taught that the darkness is bad, it’s evil, it’s scary, dangerous even. But darkness is simply half of a cycle, a critical half. A cycle we could not exist without. Like our lungs, we draw breath in, rest, flow in yin, sleep, allow our feminine side to be and nourish our bodies with life-giving oxygen. Then the exhale, expansion into masculine energy, awakeness, the doing, and an active offering of carbon dioxide to our planet. With each breath in, a moment to receive, feel, intuit, await in darkness. With each breath out, an expansion into all that we already knew in the light.

Let us be present in the liminal space between the long light and the great gathering darkness. Let us not fear the dark, but be gathered into the warm faith of our own divine knowing.

And let us allow ourselves to unfurl into all that we were told we should not be.

Bulguksa

 

It’s a dream I revisit often, more these recent months. I am with strangers in a white minivan, winding its way through the rice-paddy green of a back road in South Korea. The road begins to ascend, and then we are in a low, undulating deciduous forest of birch and alder. We arrive somewhere and get out. A stone bridge blanketed in white paper lanterns leads over a small river, past an open-air wooden gate where giant, muscular guardian gods painted in red and green and turquoise suggest what lies within is special.

A campus of wooden buildings sits on manicured dirt courtyards. Tiled roofs, gently upturned; stone stairs leading to porticos where doors slide open, their latticework frames perfect and delicate. The group of strangers are paired off, and I am directed to a small room along with one other – a woman from Seoul.

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Outside the door, we take our shoes off and slide on plastic shower slippers. The room is plain and small: a fan, a bookshelf of Buddhist texts, two floor mats and pillows for sleeping. We are given matching, plain blue uniforms: simple cotton trousers and shirt.

****

We gather later in the dining room – a big echoing hall with a buffet and long, vinyl banquette tables reminiscent of a summer camp canteen. Across the corridor, shared shower rooms, each cubicle with windows opening out into the leafy beyond.

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I worry unnecessarily about my appetite. But we aren’t supposed to go hungry here. Eat as much as you like, a monk smiles, just make sure nothing is wasted. I take a plastic bowl and metal chopsticks from the pile at the end of the buffet, then scoop some rice, greens, wild mushrooms, courgette and tofu in, topped with kimchi. The bowl isn’t full. I eat everything, and wash it down with fresh water, then go again. Half a bowl, just enough, eat it all. Am I full? Maybe a little more. Every grain of rice gone? Yes. Okay, clean your bowl over there now.

After dinner, we pad sockfooted into a gathering hall where meditation pillows are arranged in a semi-circle, each fronted by a bamboo tray with green tea service and cakes. We sit, we wait. A monk enters swiftly; his head is shaved and the long, wide sleeves of his robes waft on some unfelt breeze.

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The monk sits, and speaks of cleansing the mind, of non-attachment, of letting go of desire. He asks if there are questions. The strangers are silent, and I am silent. A mosquito buzzes in my ear, the overhead lightbulbs are bare and seem harsh and bright for such soul-scratching conversation. Then, says the monk, we shall have cake.

****

Night falls. We feel our way past the soft curving walls of silent buildings, over settled dusty walkways, back to our rooms. The stream, somewhere out of sight, reminds us the world ticks on. The bulb in the bedroom is as bright as the one we sat under in the hall with the monk, and a few moths find their way past the screen door before it slides shut. I switch on the fan and lay on my bedroll, watching the moths circling wildly under the bulb. There is no internet, no connectivity, nothing but the dull ache of thoughts.

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9pm. A huge, antique bell is sounded somewhere outside. We rise, slip our shoes back on and crackle across the stone courtyard to the main temple hall. Shoes are left recklessly in pairs all over the steps.

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Inside, cushions are set in perfect rows on huge carpets; the walls lined with scrolls and silks worn by the energy of seekers and dripping with prayer. It is warm and smells of incense and socked feet and late evening dew. Outside a brain-rattling symphony of crickets. We sit cross-legged. A small, well-used paper booklet offers the chants in Korean script, with approximated pronunciations below in Roman letters. We start chanting and it feels awkward and stilted, until it doesn’t and then it begins to feel dizzying and I wonder if I am hypnotised. Some regulars at the temple are sitting in front of me and they know the ropes. They anticipate the monk’s words and they know when to bow. I follow. It’s physically exhausting.

Stand. Hands together at the heart. Lower into a kneel, lower forehead to the floor, palms to the floor, then palms lift, hands return to heart, head up, stand. Repeat. Again. Again. 108 agains.

****

Hours before dawn, the gong sounds once more and we get up, gathering half awake in hushed tones, shivering under our cotton uniforms in the main courtyard. The pale violet hint of a new day casts imperceptible shadows. A nun tells us not to speak, and leads us single-file into the forest. Clear your mind, she says, follow me.

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We walk. I do not know for how long. I can’t see, swimming in darkness but flooded by sound. The river gets closer, we get closer to it. It is close now, it is very loud. The splash of water over rocks like fireworks in my ears. My breath a soundtrack, each exhale puffing in a small, deafening white cloud. A gentle crunch underfoot loud as a thunderclap. Squirrels awakened early, rustling branches in such bright noise it could signal the end of the world. And it is also emphatically quiet. It is silent. Everything is still and moving. I am alive. I am. I am.

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Dawn breaks as we sit down on dewy grass, our bums instantly wet and cold and stained. Now, it is social time! the nun smiles. Please, talk warmly together! It is strange, so suddenly, to return into my body. To engage with another being. What should we say. We are alive. We are together. How can we even capture this feeling in words? Do you have children? What brings you here? Look how the sun creeps up over that peak.

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The grey mist of proper morning is cast over everything when we return to the temple. A monk shows us to an open-air porch enclosed by screens, below which runs another small creek trickling over stones. He indicates to sit, legs outstretched, on huge pillows. The pillows are warm and the air is so cool and wet and the stream sings its pebble song.

I close my eyes. This is not a dream.

I am alive. I am.

****

This story takes place at Bulguksa, an 8th century Buddhist temple on the slopes of Mt Toham in Gyeongsang-do, South Korea. Bulguksa is the head of the Jogye Buddhist order. It is a temple of exceptional significance in Korea and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. My stay was arranged through the incredible Templestay program, something I would encourage all seekers of themselves to do, if they are able.

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I write for free. If you enjoy my writing and have the means, you may toss some coins into my tip jar or buy me a coffee on Ko-fi.

A little astrological history on current events

I don’t consider myself to be an astrologer and I’ve done no formal astrology training, but it is a topic that interests me. Long before the hard science of astronomy came into existence, humans were viewing and understanding the world in terms of how they saw planets, constellations and stars moving above them and interacting with one another. They drew conclusions from these things, and we still do.

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Nowadays, there is a big divide between the astrology communities (who too often don’t really understand much about the hard science of space) and astronomy science communities (who don’t want to be associated with anything spiritual or woo-woo). I myself am non-dual on the issue and am fascinated by science of astrophysics and cosmology, as well as all the ways that astrology might be putting spiritual language to things we don’t yet understand.

Compare & contrast: astrology of events then & now

Yesterday I saw this meme posted on an Instagram account I follow and, being a diligent user of social media, I decided it needed to be fact-checked before I shared it. Additionally, almost anything that might provide some relief or explanation or hope in these times could be a balm, even if you don’t really ascribe any truth to astrology.

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It’s fascinating to consider how the planets supposedly affected world events a long time ago versus now. (The above check out, read on for more detail!)

I spent a large portion of the day going through astrological timelines that match the ones we are currently in and comparing them to major world events in history. Western astrology is based on the apparent path of the planets through our sky and the ways that they appear to interact with the constellations of the zodiac (these are just the constellations that pass across the ecliptic line, that is, the apparent line of the sun’s path through our sky from our vantage). So, astrology is cyclical, with cycles repeating through the twelve constellations that go through the ecliptic. You’ll know these best from your star sign – I’m a Leo, for example.

I can explain more if my readers want a primer on astrology! And I also can do your astrological chart for you (more info on that here), if you’d like one. But for now, here’s some astrological history based on the timelines we are in currently.

Current transits (3 June 2020)

Sun: Gemini (a month in each sign)
Moon: Scorpio (2.5 days in each sign)
Mercury: Cancer (15-60 days in each sign)
Venus: Gemini (30 days in each sign appx)
Mars: Pisces (2 months in each sign)
Jupiter: Capricorn (once a year)
Saturn: Aquarius (2.5 years in each sign)
Uranus: Taurus (7 years in each sign)
Neptune: Pisces (14 years in each sign)
Pluto: Capricorn (12-31 years in each sign)

2020 Retrogrades

Mercury: Feb 17-Mar 10; Jun 18-Jul 12; Oct 14-Nov 3
length (3 weeks)

Venus: May 13-Jun 25
length: 40 days (every 18 months)
Effects: slow down and be directed inwards, love & social life become less clear

Mars: Sep 9-Nov 14
length: 2-2.5 months (every 2 years)
Effects: turmoil due to lack of forward motion, plans go nowhere, schemes fizzle, relationships seem to peter out, motivation loss, projects stifled, releasing rogue anger & pent up emotion, reexamination of where we’re going

Jupiter: May 14-Sep 13
length: 4 months (every 9 months)
Effects: intense spiritual and philosophical growth for individuals, expanding consciousness, finding inner truth, questioning of laws & influences of planet it’s transiting in

Saturn: May 11-Sep 29
length: 4.5 months (every 12 months)
Effects: sluggish, unproductive, time to reflect especially on work & relationships, contemplate & strategise, restrictive & depressive, social isolation, bad karma being paid out in lessons, limitation, restriction, anxiety, fear

Uranus: Jan 11-Aug 15
length: 5 months (every year)
Effects: objectivity towards our urge to change/uproot, even-keeled approach 

Neptune: Jun 23-Nov 29
length: 5-6 months (every year)
Effects: no more hiding anxieties or covering over unwanted fears, illusion stripped, facing up to harsh realities

Pluto: Apr 25-Oct 4
length: 5-6 months (every year)
Effects: deep dive to our subconscious, growth & transformation, breakdown & purification, facing up to our subconscious material

2020 Jupiter-Pluto conjunctions

These happen every 13 years (last one was in Dec 2007), when Pluto and Jupiter appear to be near one another in the sky from our vantage point.
April 4: Capricorn
June 30: Capricorn
November 12: Capricorn

History of Jupiter-Pluto conjunctions
1347 peak of Black Plague (Jupiter & Pluto conjunct in Aries)
Feb 1771 Russian Plague (Jupiter & Pluto in Capricorn, same as now)
Jan-Feb 1918 Spanish Flu (Jupiter & Pluto conjunct in Cancer)
Oct-Nov 1981 HIV Outbreak (Jupiter & Pluto conjunct in Libra)
early 2009 Swine Flu (Jupiter & Pluto conjunct in Capricorn, not a close conjunction)

Generational Planets: What Are They?

Some planets are considered to have more influence over whole generations rather than individuals. This is because they are the planets that are farthest away from Earth, and therefore have the longest orbits around the Sun. This means that they appear to move VERY slowly across our sky and only seem to change zodiac sign over a decade or more. These planets are Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (not a planet anymore according to astronomers, but still a planet that influences us according to astrologers).

Generational Planets: Pluto (12-31 years in each sign)

Pluto: Planet of Power

Pluto influences
Collective, transformation, regeneration, rebirth, not pretty but big results, out with the old, transcend, phoenix, destruction, death, obsession, kidnapping, coercion, viruses, waste, crime, dictatorships

Capricorn influences
systems, structures, laws, punishments, corruption, banking, money

Pluto in Capricorn historical dates
532-551 – Sack of Rome as Byzantine armies begin to reconquer Italy, Anno Domini dating system created by Dionysius Exiguus, war between Byzantine and Persian Empires, stained glass windows invented, outbreak of a plague in Byzantine Empire, St David spreads Christianity in Wales

778-796 – First Viking raid, Charlemagne’s time of influence, annexes Bavaria, Constantine VI becomes Byzantine emperor, later imprisons his domineering mother, Offa of Mercia dies in England, ending main hegemony of Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, Islam arrives in Africa, Japan moves its imperial capital to Kyoto

1024-1041 – First paper printed money in China, Conrad II (The Elder) Emperor of Holy Roman Empire & big reorganisation of Italy to bring it under imperial control (Siege of Pavia), then his death

1269-1287 – Marco Polo’s travels to China, after a three-year gap without a pope, Gregory X ascends the Papal See, Edward I becomes king and conquers Wales, Thomas Aquinas dies, first Mongol invasion under Kublai Khan

1516-1533 – Martin Luther starts Protestant Reformation, Cortes conquers Mexico, Magellan sets out to circumnavigate the globe

1762-1778 – Catherine the Great becomes czarina of Russia, steam engine invited by James Watt, Boston Massacre/Tea Party, start of American Revolution, Declaration of Indepence signed, Cook expedition to NZ/Aus, Bengal Famine, Partition of Poland

2008-2024 – current timeline

Generational Planets: Neptune (14 years in each sign)

Neptune: Planet of Illusion

Neptune influences
Refinement of dreams, illusion, spiritual enlightenment, creativity, compassion, escapism, subversion, delusion, dishonesty, movies, TV and theatre, fashion and glamour, mystique, harnessing energy for personal betterment, spiritual growth, inducing meditative state, poetry, music, dance, can also oversee wars, lies and epidemics

Pisces influences
Impressions, inspiration, transcendence, bring compassion, understanding, sensitivity and tolerance to relationships

Neptune in Pisces historical dates

374–389 – beginnings of the collapse of the Roman Empire

538-552 – Buddhism arrives in Japan

701-716 – Moorish invasion of Spain

865-880 – Viking invasion of Britain, conquering Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia, earliest surviving dated piece of printing created in Diamond Sutra at Mogao in China, Arabs conquer Malta, Alfred the Great becomes King of Wessex, first Viking settlements in Iceland, Charles the Bald becomes Holy Roman Emperor then dies with anarchy following, gorgonzola cheese invented

1029-1043 – Battle of Stiklestad & Viking leader Olaf II killed, Henry I ascends French throne, Duncan becomes King of Scots, Hardicanute becomes King of Denmark and then dies of alcohol poisoning, Edward the Confessor becomes King of England and flees to Normandy (lots of new leaders in this era)

1192-1207 – end of Crusades & sack of Constantinople, Chinngis Khan rises

1356-1371 – Timur builds his empire

1520-1534 – Martin Luther excommunicated, Protestant Reformation begun, first circumnavigation of the world

1684-1698 – Salem Witch Trials, Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti born, Newton published “Principia”

1847-1862 – Romantic period for music, art and literature, middle of the Age of Enlightenment, Communist Manifesto by Marx, Thoreau publishes Walden, Darwin publishes Origin of Species

2011-2026 – Arab Spring and Osama Bin Laden killed, death of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Il. US financial crisis after stock exchange drop, followed by social and financial upheaval and Occupy Wall Street protests, Me Too and Black Lives Matter movement, election of Trump, Brexit, COVID-19, US Black Lives Matter protests following death of George Floyd

Generational Planets: Uranus (7 years in each sign)

Uranus: Planet of Rebellion

Uranus influences
Inventions, technologies, futures, expanded ideas, break in status quo, new mould, new world order, rebellions, revolutions, new states, dictatorships. Surprises, innovation and liberation, all that’s unique, wild, unpredictable, and unusual. Finances, abundance, beauty, and earthliness, using a feminine lens

Taurus influences
Values, money, resources, material goods, excess, agriculture, natural structures, stubborn, fixed

Taurus in Uranus historical dates

August 22, 1515 – March 13, 1524 – Turks conquer Egypt, control Arabia. Martin Luther theses & excommunication, start of the Reformation in Germany, Ferdinand Magellan sets out to circumnavigate the globe, Spanish Conquest

May 21, 1683 – April 28, 1691 – Turkish siege of Vienna, James II takes throne of England & starts pro-Catholic policies, Edict of Nantes granting freedom to Huguenots revoked, Peter the Great becomes czar of Russia, William of Orange wins at Battle of the Boyne marking ascendancy of Protestantism in Ireland, John Locke’s ‘Human Understanding’ published

May 3, 1767 – April 8, 1775 – Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, beginning of American Revolution, Spanish missionaries establish first missions in California, Cook expedition to Aus/NZ, Bengal famine, Czech famine, Gustav III coup in Sweden, East India Company starts smuggling opium into China, numerous wars in Europe

1934-41 – Great Depression, brink of WWII, Social Security Act implemented, New Deal, WPA & care for disenfranchised

March 2019-Apr 2026 – current timeline

Summary

Mercury about to go retrograde
Venus retrograde until June 25
Uranus retrograde since Jan until Aug
Jupiter & Saturn retrograde until Sep
Neptune about to go retrograde until Nov
Pluto retrograde until Oct
Pluto & Jupiter conjunct Apr 4 & June 30 – peak of COVID-19

Possible outcomes & my thoughts

Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) – disruption to systems, laws, political structures, possible wars, changes in political structures, banking and upheavals to religious systems, possible big travels or discoveries such as more space exploration and further travels beyond current horizons, possibility for violent uprisings

Neptune in Pisces (2011-2026) – lots of overturn of leaders, new empire-building, potential for influential new music, arts and literature, potential for protests and social change

Uranus in Taurus (2019-2026) – potential for religious changes whether positive or negative, famines, new laws establishing changes in social approaches, sieges, rebellions and defeats, potential for new leaders or big changes to technologies and financial institutions, possibility for more feminine energy to influence these changes

What are my takeaways from all of this? It doesn’t take an astrologer to tell you that we are living through an amazing piece of history. The above eras were full of chaos, strife, strangeness and change, but also had moments of some incredible beauty – stained glass windows were invented and so was gorgonzola cheese – and some of the most beautiful literature ever written was composed.

So my takeaway is that now is hard, and it will continue to be hard, but that through difficulty humans are capable of the greatest poetry. Let us not despair but go forth and make the world the place we want it to be.

I write for free. If you enjoy my writing and have the means, you may toss some coins into my tip jar (via Paypal), or buy me a coffee on Ko-fi.

small moments

it’s 10am and which day of the week it is i can’t be sure. it might be saturday. it’s definitely still the pandemic.

my typical morning goes like this:

*wake up without an alarm. it could be 5am or 8am, but rarely past 8. my body likes to be up early.

*stand, brush teeth, pull hair back into wild knot unbrushed.

*put the kettle on, cut a bagel in half and toss it in the toaster oven, then make a cup of yorkshire gold. stand in the kitchen and take some deep breaths.

*eat breakfast. sometimes i put on something to watch. lately i like youtube tarot readers. i am infinitely interested in everything esoteric lately.

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*take half-finished cup of tea out to my little sliver of my landlord’s back garden, which he’s said i can use. he put some pot plants and a small shed up to box my area in. when the pandemic hit, i asked to borrow one of their patio chairs. it’s my favourite thing.

*read and watch the sun crawl across the grass toward me. the shadow creeps ever backward and the sunlight creeps ever toward my feet, the sun gently scaling the rooftops of southeast london, popping its head up over tottering chimneys and brick walls.

for my morning read, i like to ingest something a little bit philosophical or spiritual. it makes my soul feel nourished. for a couple of weeks, that was falling upward: a spirituality for the two halves of life by richard rohr. once i finished that, i went back to screenplay: the foundations of screenwriting by syd field. yes it happens to be a spiritual book that nourishes my soul. read it, you’ll see why.

during this time i also get distracted and end up watching the gaggle of garden spiders that live in the wooden planks of the terraced part of the garden. they scurry around or sometimes stand near each other waving their pincers and legs around. i’m not sure if this is spider arguing, conversing or getting ready for sex. but then there isn’t that much difference between those three things anyway is there.

*at some point, the sun crests my house and starts to fall on my face. this feels warm. i usually close the book and bask in this for a few minutes.

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*at this point, every other day, i shower, towel dry my hair and spend an extra luxurious few minutes slathering lotion all over my shins and calves and toes and heels.

*then, i stand in front of the mirror topless and spread sunscreen all over my face, shoulders, neck and chest. i’ve been wearing almost the same thing every day – a spaghetti tank top – and my desert-girl skin does very well if i use a low SPF sunscreen and let it get a little bit brown each day. my skin really hates the long, dark, wet british winters and seems to even out to a glowing health with just a touch of sunshine on it regularly.

*meditate. i mix my meditations up, often going to the calm app’s daily meditation, or a simple timed meditation there. sometimes i pick an energy clearing meditation from youtube. some days i just sit in the garden and stare at nature as meditation. this is perhaps the most important part of my day, and has been since i started a meditation practice two januarys ago. this is the time of day where i regulate my nervous system. check in with what might be happening in my body, and therefore my emotions, and this is also a time when i often get nuggets of creative inspiration, particularly writing in my head which comes out kind of like channelling from another realm.

*by this stage in the day, it’s past 10 or sometimes past 11. i’ve managed to eek out 2-3 hours of time just by lingering over small moments. usually from here on out i’ll incorporate a mix of editing my aunt’s book, writing or researching for my own writing projects – such as this essay series i’m writing, ‘china as i have known it’ – and reading other books in the sun. sometimes i crack open a can of locally brewed beer from my fridge and really let the sun hit me.

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i’m working my way through no less than seven books right now and love the freedom to dip in and out of different stories and ideas throughout the day. these books include:

  • theodora, empress of byzantium, paolo cesaretti
  • flux, stephen baxter
  • our universe, jo dunkley
  • a field guide to getting lost, rebecca solnit
  • homer’s iliad
  • the universe, john gribbin
  • screenplay: the foundations of screenwriting, syd field

*in the evenings, i make a simple meal. i am not a creative or advanced cook, but i can make a few simple and tasty things that i enjoy eating. this is generally accompanied by one or more glasses of red wine and an episode of the x-files, which i am re-watching in its entirety.

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*then, i tidy, put the kettle on again, make a cup of herbal tea (or sometimes take another glass of wine) and go outside to sit and look at the stars, or watch the moon rise, or catch the streaming lights of elon musk’s horrendous but eye-candyish new starlink satellites as they pass over the uk like a string of tiny pearls.

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as i was sunscreening up this morning, looking at myself in the mirror, i felt that familiar tug of the ego mind chiding me that i should be doing moredoing something. making the most of this time. i call my ego mind “brian”, a misspelling of brain (maybe i’ve mentioned that here before). naming my fragile ego has helped me get a handle on it, and talking to it really keeps my soul in the driver’s seat and my mind relegated to an in-case-of-emergency suggestion. brian never fully shuts up, but through practice i am able to ignore his panicked pleas most of the time.

it’s a voice maybe we are all battling. the need to be productive. in actual fact, i have gotten more writing, more reading and more important soul work done these past two months than i have in years prior. it’s not earning me any money (yet) but i feel purposeful and whole and deeply satisfied and happy. fuck productive, i say.

so, how can we sort our world out in a way that gives equal income for everyone and lets people put the beauty and purpose and usefulness in where they are most passionate?

going forward, i’ll be writing books. and helping to protect the natural night, and offering people a doorway to the universe and stars. i have no interest in a ‘real job’. and i’m not sure how these passions will come together to keep me fed and sheltered. but i am trusting future me and the universe to make it happen.

let me know if you know any literary agents who might resonate with my writing.

I write for free. If you enjoy my writing and have the means, you may toss some coins into my tip jar (via Paypal), or buy me a coffee on Ko-fi.

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days like these will be the death of me

Yesterday when I was blind I could anticipate the early warning signs. The shiver when you talk to me, the rigour in our smile.
Is there a better place to start? To pioneer a new technique in martial arts? For kissing without touching? Without waking up?
This house is like a fire when the sun sets, it knocks me to my knees. And days like these will be the death of me.
–Butcher Boy

if there is one thing i’ve learned over the past three years, it’s how to make it through a day when i think i won’t make it through.

i woke up, that was the first thing that happened. it could be 5am (which it was today) or 10am and i really don’t care, because the feeling is, like, what’s the point in all this? that’s how a day like this starts. there is the inevitable rumble of angst in my solar plexus, the lump of stuck emotion just behind my sternum, and the all-encompassing exhaustion that makes every muscle feel like it won’t move, despite any effort my brain may wish to put forth (it doesn’t wish to put for any effort today either).

i lie under the duvet propped on a pillow and scan through social media. tweet something about being kind to yourself when you feel overwhelmed and immediately disregard my own advice by more scrolling. i really do know how to handle this now, and even still i’m scrolling for awhile. it’s okay to scroll sometimes. but i know i’ll need to do the work today. it’s a death day, and that – i’ve come to understand – is a growth day.

spiritual awakening is the single hardest thing a human soul can undertake. on days like this, i often start out wishing i had not undertaken this path of awakening. my 3D mind sneers at my soul wishing it had never incarnated here and now and my soul gently reminds her that she is here for a purpose. she is a wayshower, a lightbearer, a compassion-giver, a kind voice to others.

in order to help others, we have to help ourself first, my soul tells my mind later. but first, there is the basic act of being embodied, and on days like these, that is all of the work.

we as 21st century humans, generally speaking, are not very well embodied. or i am not. i am a very sentient being. i feel my emotions and i think my thoughts. all day long i live in my head, full of words and possibilities and ideas and regrets and fears and wonderings.

i’m not sure when i became disembodied. i think it was a combination of being born an empath – someone who can quite literally feel and experience what others feel, psychosomatically – and this was exacerbated by some aspects of my young life which conditioned me to constantly anticipate the needs of others, my mother in particular, and disregard myself. then there were the 12 years of evangelical christian schooling and churchgoing, which strongly reinforced a toxic patriarchal notion that my body was inherently evil and something that if left to its own devices would easily harm others (men) and something to hide, hate and ignore. so i did. i ignored her for a very long time. i learned to hate many parts of her. i learned to live with her stomach aches and her tense shoulders and learned to ignore her tender parts and her sexual power and her curves.

on days like these, i start by being embodied. this brings me out of my head and into the present moment. sometimes taking and really focusing on one or a few deep breaths is enough. sometimes movement is required. i focus my mind onto achieving the smallest of tasks.

a deep breath.

sit upright.

put two feet on the floor.

push feet into fuzzy slippers. feel the fuzziness. it’s cosy. it’s nice.

on days like these, maybe already this is plenty to achieve. eventually i can move onto another thing my body needs. to use the bathroom. stand in front of the sink. hold the toothbrush. open the toothpaste. take great care and awareness in drawing a line of white paste along the pink bristles. focus on the structure of the line of paste. focus on not spilling paste into the sink. steady the brush. spin the nob to release a flush of water from the tap, and gingerly lower the paste-and-brush under the stream, then lift the whole apparatus to my mouth.

three years ago two things happened: my stepdad (a truly important person in my life) died, and my marriage ended. things actually started to unravel quite a long time before that, when i met someone who turned me inside out and cracked my heart open and started me on this whole path. but the dark night of the soul really started when my sister sent me a facebook message saying dan was sick and i was sitting in the pub with my then-husband drinking a pint of craft beer and just went home, ordered a lot of food, ate all of it and then vomited it all back up.

i was numb and denying my pain for a long time. but eventually this deep trauma exhausted me to such an extent that i was forced to stay still. forced into my body and – once out of my mind – i was finally able to hear my soul, and she was asking me for some huge changes. it was time for my marriage to end – not because it had been bad, it had been a wonderful decade of travel and friendship with a very kind man who i loved deeply and dearly.

but we had reached the end of our time together and my body knew it. she knew it long before and was trying to tell me. she hadn’t been having normal periods for a few years and she was bloated and tired and trying everything to just keep me going. she was drinking a lot of wine to cope with feeling so unseen and unexpressed. a month after i moved out, my periods came back with a vengeance.

the dark night of the soul lasted several years and included many more traumas besides. the man who cracked my heart open stopped talking to me (for his heart was cracked open too and his mind wasn’t ready to deal with that either), then my dream job was taken away. every piece of identity i’d ever constructed myself onto burnt up and flew away.

even now, as my soul pours herself onto this page, my mind (who i refer to as Brian, a misspelling of brain) panics. ugh, why am i writing this? you shouldn’t tell people all of this. what you are writing doesn’t even make sense. it’s not in a good order. it needs more structure and you ought to save these ramblings for something more coherent, you shouldn’t use this up now, please stop this and go look at Instagram.

why am i writing this? because my soul needs to, and my body enables her. because i am a wayshower, a lightbearer, a compassion-giver. and out of my darkness, i have learned the only way to change anything or make any difference is to be the change i want to see in the world, and to create. make the beauty. refill my own cup first so i can tend to others.

days like these could be the death of us, but they will not be. once i breathe deep, put two feet on the ground, lift the brush to my mouth and, yes, even step into the shower, suddenly things are brighter. not great. but a little brighter. they will darken again later, and brighten again, too. the old adage that says the only constant is change is a hard truth. but through change we awaken to ourselves, and that is our purpose here.

if, like me, you are struggling to get out of bed today, know that i am here walking with you, ahead of you, behind you. we are all walking within each other. breathe deep. come back to the present. and make beauty in the way that you are able.