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Breathing Room


  • Photo by Amanda Painter

Do you feel ready for a breath of fresh air—or any kind of air, for that matter? Between hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, and a US president who seems to be pushing for nuclear war, I wouldn't be surprised if your breathing has grown increasingly shallow over recent weeks. Collectively, we're under a lot of pressure; personally, you might be facing your own stressors on top of everything else and be looking for some release.

Astrologically, we're about to get that breath of air. On Friday, September 22, the Sun enters the cardinal air sign Libra just before 4:02pm EDT, signaling the autumnal equinox: one of two points in the year when everyone on the planet experiences equal amounts of day and night.

This begins a new season. Given all the mental-level activity involving Virgo lately, the equinox also begins to shift the emphasis of the sky toward a different form of doing. Taking physical action, even in small or subtle ways, can feel like a tremendous relief when the world feels overwhelming.

But what would you take action on? Well, waiting just inside the Libra doorway is the asteroid Vesta. Vesta relates to devotion, service, and dedication. So one way to pick a direction would be to notice where you already feel called to help out in some way. Not where you feel guilt-tripped into lending a hand and not where you feel like you'd have to sacrifice what's most meaningful to you. (Vesta can relate to sacrifice, but in Libra, the emphasis is on balance—happily giving something up can still be considered “in balance.”)

Speaking of balance and imbalance: on Sunday Venus in Virgo opposes Nessus in Pisces. We've been experiencing a series of inner planets moving through Virgo and opposing Nessus lately, so there would seem to be a continuing theme developing around this tricky little centaur planet—one that has to do with taking a rational approach in the face of unhealthy, abusive, or seemingly “karmic” emotional habits.

Anytime Nessus factors into an aspect pattern, there's a good chance it's indicating an opportunity to “stop the buck” with some damaging (and often inherited) pattern. Something about this Venus-Nessus opposition in these two signs makes me think of the difficulty we humans often have in extending compassion when we feel criticized. It can feel like the other person's seemingly “irrational” emotions are intended to make us feel guilty simply for being who we are—guilt here being a form of existential self-criticism.

So, the question is: how can you negotiate some form of balance in that type of scenario? What are the ways in which you can hear the other person's emotions simply as an expression of their own pain, rather than an attack on who you are or what you love? How do you rein in whatever harsh emotions you might express defensively in return, and instead allow yourself to offer some compassion—both toward them and toward your own impulse to criticize or withhold love?

That kind of dynamic can go back and forth ad nauseam, until someone notices how it's hurting everyone involved and commits to finding a path to healing—that is, decides to serve something other than pain. With the asteroid Ceres entering Leo on Sunday, we have a reminder to feed the heart—literally and metaphorically.

Finally, it's important to note that Mars in Virgo is approaching an opposition to Neptune in Pisces, also exact Sunday. This aspect is definitely in effect now— and it could relate directly to that need for a breath of air you might be feeling. Stress and hopelessness and fear and pain can lead people to seek an escape. But some forms of escape are healthier than others and some are downright dangerous even if they don't appear so. I'm going to quote Eric's description of this aspect in the Monday Astrology Diary on Planet Waves:

"Mars in particular can have a self-destructive quality in opposition to Neptune, and you may not be able to accurately calculate the risks of something you want to try. Therefore, you may need other forms of boundaries and reality check. I would repeat a caution—emphasized several other ways by this week’s astrology—to do nothing absurd like drive a car or operate machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

There are plenty of safe, constructive ways to release any stress from this past season and to gather yourself for the new season about to begin. Take a deep breath, and look to see how you can regain some balance by offering the best of what you have to give to what and whom you love.

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