A Time for Feeling Serious... or Getting Serious About Feeling?


I don't know about you, but I've sure been feeling something intense.

Last Friday night's solar eclipse certainly did stir up that cauldron full of the ingredients that comprise a major transition. I was already in rethinking mode, considering all that confusion generated by the recent Mercury retrograde and the ongoing Jupiter-Neptune opposition. But now, in the last couple weeks, I find myself in situations where I've had to not only rethink long-held assumptions about my life—but rethink my entire framework for deciding which issues require rethinking. Oh, geez…

I rarely shy away from "doing the work" in terms of processing through my psychological issues. But there's only so much conscious work we can do until we are made aware, through living life and experiencing its surprises, of which previously invisible issues or other "layers of the onion" require coping and changing and feeling. And then, at that point, we may be surprised but can no longer run away. We're forced to stay tethered to our shortcomings, look them straight in the eye, feel the pain they cause us, and hang around long enough to work through the pain. Pain follows us around, even if it's under the surface, until we stop running.

In astrology, the guy who sees to it that we face our difficult lessons is wise old Saturn, and he can be a real pain in the ass. Of course, we all need authority in our lives so that we grow into mature and responsible adults, learning we can't indulge every fancy if we want to get anything done. Saturn teaches these limits. Yes, every individual has freedom to do whatever she or he wants. And yet, on another level, we must accept that our energies are better spent on certain ideas and projects and people, while somewhat squandered on others.

Any one of us is free to pursue a career in performing, for instance, and we may take voice lessons and dance lessons and acting lessons to improve our skills. But some people just have it, that elusive charismatic magic, and others don't. A sign of maturity is acknowledging our limitations, letting go of reaching for outdated hopes, and thus leaving ourselves with greater focus so that we can concentrate our efforts on things most appropriate for us.

So Saturn's always had a bit of a salty reputation amongst casual astrology followers because its energy makes us deal with these difficult lessons. In ancient, fortune-telling-oriented uses of astrology, Saturn was an indicator of bad luck. Many modern astrologers, myself included, reject this notion. After all, Saturn falls somewhere in each of our charts, not necessarily an area of life doomed to be riddled with unfortunate occurrences. It is clear, though, that whatever part of our lives is linked to Saturn's authoritarian hold will likely cause us some degree of challenge.

Such difficulties become unavoidably clear to us at key points in Saturn's transiting cycle, such as during Saturn return (at around age 29, again at 58, etc.) when it returns to the same position where it was at our birth. At that time, we must say goodbye to those parts of ourselves that stray outside of what we can healthily contain. We have an innate sense of what these things are, but whether we accept the challenge is our choice. Saturn demands hard work of each of us, and welcoming the work is preferable. Over time, embracing Saturn's challenges will gift us with wisdom and fortitude. Shying away from the work, however, ensures that these same challenges will dog us, with increasing intensity, into old age.

This week, Saturn leaves Gemini after 2+ years and enters Cancer, where it will stay until July 2005. This movement—along with Uranus now in Pisces and Jupiter moving into Virgo later this summer—is part of a greater astrological shift away from the hyperactive fire-and-air-sign atmosphere of the recent past into a quieter, more introspective and emotional earth-and-water-sign climate.

While Saturn was in Gemini, we faced challenges related to the necessary acceptance of at least two sides to every story and the difficulties inherent in communication between purveyors of these conflicting stories. During this period, Saturn faced a painful opposition to Pluto, an energy of destruction and transformation that showed the dark side of fanatical single-minded thinking (think 9/11, Bush's reactionary unilateralism, etc.). Now, as Saturn pulls into a new sign, we can expect new types of lesson begging to be learned.

Saturn is not particularly comfortable during its travels through Cancer, the sign of its detriment (opposite the sign ruled by it—in Saturn's case, Capricorn). Saturn likes to build fences, set boundaries and construct sturdy systems according to a series of carefully strategized and executed steps. Cancer is a soft energy of free-flowing, rising-and-falling, hard-to-contain watery emotionalism. Easy to imagine how these two astrological concepts would have a hard time meshing.

While Saturn is traveling through Cancer, we can expect to come face to face with the discomfort of uncontrollable feeling and may try, without much success, to curb this flow of emotion. We might be apt to take a harsher approach toward nurturing ourselves and others, and must watch out that we not withhold much-needed affection in an attempt to "whip" ourselves or others into shape. Of course, a positive side of Saturn's transit through Cancer could be attained through finding focused and disciplined methods for displaying our caring—writing or creating art that contains deep feeling, setting structured time aside for caretaking activities, expending measured effort on healthy cooking, giving and receiving massage and other bodywork to keep the body warm and emotionally activated. People with strong Cancer and Capricorn energies in their charts must be particularly aware of Saturn's tendency to bring sobering (i.e., depressing) feelings. It's utterly important to treat these emotions with kindness, rather than expecting ourselves (as a harsh authority figure might) to simply snap out of it.

One interesting note worth pointing out is the potential effect of Saturn-in-Cancer on the state of U.S. culture, as both our country (born July 4, 1776) and our president (born July 6, 1946) are Cancerians. Many astrologers have picked up on this fact, and there has been much speculation as to the effect of this transit on the U.S. Most likely, we as a people—and President Bush as our leader—will finally feel, in a deeper way, the emotional effects of our recent period in history and, as a result, be forced to let go of certain myths about who we are.

Certainly the events of 9/11 caused a great shift in national consciousness, but it might not be until these upcoming couple years that we truly undergo the mourning and subsequent maturation. Similarly, President Bush is likely to face increased criticism and more serious consequences to his past leadership choices as a result of the Saturn transit. He has difficult lessons to learn, if he so chooses to accept the challenge, to become a wiser person and leader in the process.

In my recent astrological writings and in the personal consultations I've given in the past few months, I have repeatedly pointed out that, lately, we've had no choice but to be utterly confused by the events unfolding around us. As the Jupiter-Neptune opposition reaches its final peak this week and begins to taper off, the confusion too will start to subside. The gauzy veil will be lifted, and we will discover how far we've moved over the last year—towards our intended purpose, and perhaps away from the safety of ego-feeding situations.

Now, with Saturn entering Cancer and continuing the shift into water-and-earth astrological weather, we can take the time to figure out our feelings about this move. These feelings could be quite uncomfortable, and we might try to squelch their fullest expression, but after dealing head-on with the discomfort, we will be emotionally wiser. Over the next few weeks, as we get acclimated to this somewhat quieter introspective period, we should expect to learn—just as I am in the middle of doing right now—which are the actual issues that require rethinking, and how coming to terms with them might cause unexpected emotional reactions.