Monday, July 13, 2009

The Depths of Change: A Cup of Courage in Times of Tough Transits

© By Joyce Mason, 1996-2009

(Author's Note: This article was written in 1988 during my transiting Pluto conjunct natal Chiron transit.)

Change is the story of my life—one of deep and ongoing transformation. As I'm sure is true for many people on the spiritual path, that constant death-and-rebirth process is the very turbulence that brought me to my knees and the heart of my inner journey. It takes most of us many years to learn that change is our friend, not our enemy. It takes some of us even longer to learn to enjoy the trip. When the outer planets are involved—Chiron, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto—and when they are ravishing us where we live (making stressful aspects to our personal or most pivotal planets), the trip can feel like a Blind Journey through Hell.

One day, when I was feeling particularly frustrated and depressed, my best friend remarked, "I worry about you sometimes. Change comes from such a deep part of your being, I'm afraid you don't see it for a long time."

That transformational nearsightedness is probably the most difficult aspect of our evolution, the heart of faith that requires us to believe in things unseen. Recently, I remarked to my mother, "Who ever said metamorphosis would be easy? Pushing and shoving through that cocoon of hardened ideas is exhausting to say the least, but flying like a butterfly—there's the fun!"

She reminded me, however, that while the butterfly flutters freely and his flight is exhilarating, his life is short-lived. She added, "That's what life is—constant birth, death, and rebirth."

In the depths of change, which is a sort of dying, we are least aware of our flight, our freedom, and our direction. When we're changing, we're letting go. Most of all, we're letting go of those hardened ideas that constitute the cocoon of "who we have become." You can't see yourself letting go of ideas, and neither can anyone else see it. Yet it's nonetheless happening, and it's the prerequisite for the subsequent joy of being unfettered, able to "fly free," becoming all we are.

As I write this, I am personally climbing out of the deepest, hardest cocoon I ever built. This metamorphosis began when I took six months off work to write my autobiography, about my own inner healing. Few people have the opportunity to look at themselves as candidly as I did in outlining my story. Every pattern in my relationships and my own self-undoing came jumping off the manuscript pages in flashing neon lights. I have looked my baseline devils square in the eye: I have had an exorcism from the bottom of my being. My very foundations have been shaken. I had to see what I believed and challenge it. Some of the things I saw were not pretty.

I saw the beliefs that have been woven into my cocoon, such as:

"I am not enough."
"If I really love someone, I must let them go."
"It's always my fault."
"Closeness always ends in abandonment."

It was hard enough to find some of these foundational beliefs, they were so deeply buried, much less to face them squarely and be willing to give them up. In fact, the process was so painful, even for an eternal optimist, that I fully understand why some people spend their entire lives running from themselves and this very healing. At times, it feels like a bitter pill.

No wonder, lately, I've felt a sense of depression and grieving. "Joy cometh in the morning," we are told. Not only that, but, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."

When we've spent our entire lives supporting beliefs, healthy or otherwise, they served us at some level, if for no other reason that to reinforce a false sense of safety. To give up the shelter of our cocoon is an act of faith, to say the least, with nothing left surrounding us for protection except the hope that joy will eventually come.

Perhaps I have felt most blocked, lately, because I am the closest to pushing out of the cocoon. I beat and beat on the walls, but until I weaken the structure enough to push through, I am still blocked and still frustrated. Perhaps that angry push of frustration is the very thing that's needed for breakthrough. From this side of the cocoon, I don't see the progress I'm making. I still see darkness and a wall with no exit.

Just like Jesus, we must die for our beliefs, in a figurative sense. The person who believed all those unloving things about herself must let go of life as that kind of person. We sometimes wonder if our whole life has been for naught, as we face what feels like a crucifixion—no matter how much we hear it will lead to resurrection and transformation to a higher form of life. We must not worship the dying, but learn to see it as a passage and a pathway to new life—an initiation.

I'm not sure who I am anymore. I know my best friend is right. I don't yet see the totality of my own transfiguration, but I cling to my trust in the process of life, no matter how shaky. Winter always turns into spring.

Recently, I had an opportunity to explain to someone very different from me what it's like to be a deep person: If there are potentially a dozen layers of psychological being, many people live on Layer 1 and 2. They're not very aware of themselves, and many repressed feelings are pushed down into the deeper layers. If they're not willing to know those deeper layers, they will remain unconscious of them. That's what the subconscious is. You are not aware of what's in it and the many ideas, hurts, and experiences that rule your life from this unknown power center.

Some of us old souls seem to have been born with a willingness to live life from the deepest levels of our being, and to know the depths of Self. If most people live their lives on Layers 1 and 2 and there are 12 possible layers, I feel like I live on Layer 14. It is unique and unusual to live like this, and, obviously, most people drawn to astrology or spirituality are "deep ones."

I sometimes envy Layer 1's and 2's. To me, their lives look simple, viewing them from out here on Layer 14 where it's difficult to find someone to talk to. Few of them can relate to the deep inner healing I am talking about.

Yet, bottom line, you can only heal from the inside out. Until you're ready to plunge the depths of your psyche and spirit, it's like putting band-aids on cancer. As Louise Hay said of her own cancer in her book,
You Can Heal Your Life: they could keep cutting off pieces of Louise or she could change the thoughts that made her sick. In a figurative sense, this is true of our dis-eases, whatever they are, and and regardless of form.

It's worth it. Even funerals are a celebration of life, and it's in dying that we are reborn. Dare to plunge the depths, and honor yourself and your feelings when you don't feel like dancing on your own grave until the healing is done.

I fear, sometimes, that in our commitment to "positive thinking" we sometimes do not allow ourselves the tears that cleanse. Sometimes the path from here to the spiritual ideal requires many detours and considerable travel on rough roads. One must keep the ideal/target clearly in mind to hope for a bull's eye. Like the sign in my office says, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it."

However, in aiming at joy, we must sometimes walk knee deep in sorrow to get there. It doesn't seem like we're making progress at all. Yet when change comes from the deepest part of ourselves, and in partnership with Spirit it is only a matter of time before we burst forth from pupa to perfection. Even (especially!) when we're dealing with Pluto...

Marianne Williamson, my favorite teacher of A Course in Miracles says, "Are you going to believe in what the ego says, in its need to see something, now, or are you going to believe in the same force that turns seedlings into flowers and acorns into mighty oaks?"

From the deepest depths within me, my decision was made a long time ago: the exotic flower of a human being in full bloom has got to be worth watering with tears.


Photo Credit: CHRYSALIDES ©


Anne1Texas said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing. A beautiful essay.

Joyce Mason said...

Anne, thanks so much for commenting. I've gotten considerable feedback on Facebook and by e-mail about how people have resonated to this piece. That it hits the mark reinforces a couple of things for me, and I'm so grateful: (1) Older articles can be appreciated by new audiences, and (2) A key characteristic of Chiron (my mentor!) is sharing your pain to help others. I'm most grateful of all for the blog medium that allows us to "talk amongst ourselves" and that so many people use the Internet for love, learning, laughter and sharing tips from the trenches about how to survive the pitfalls. Thanks for being a part of that circle of life.

Anne1Texas said...

My Chiron is at 26 Cancer, my Asc is Virgo, and my Sun and 5 other signs are in Taurus. I feel as if someone has said, "May you live in interesting times." These certainly are! I think that that is why your essay resonated so deeply with me. Thanks again.

Anne Whitaker said...

Hi Joyce

I think we have a lot in common! I'm in the process of re-publishing some earlier articles which I think people might find helpful and inspiring on my blog - and having just emerged from a 2001-8 dark night of the soul period, the gifts of that desperate, frightening but rich time feel as though they are slowly emerging into the light of day for me to offer them out to inspire others in their healing. I think this is a wonderful article. Thank you. Anne W (Scotland!)

Joyce Mason said...

Hi, Anne W! It's nice to know I'm in good company on my articles recycling project. Donna Cunningham is doing the same on her Sky Writer blog.

Nothing makes me happier as a writer than striking a chord on issues that are timeless. Especially since I don't have children, my insights are my legacy--and being a Virgo who lives to serve, nothing gives me more joy. Thanks for letting me know.

Anne1Texas said...

"Hi AnneTexas - Agitation? Uranus is dancing in semisquare and septile to your Mercury and Sun, while exactly septile your Venus and Saturn! Plus the stellium in Aquarius on your Mars is helping you be more aware of collective consciousness, and heal how your express your Mars, which is opposed your Moon, meaning many things. Saturn trine the whole schmear should have stabilized your life the past couple of years. The opposition in September should be excellent for eliminating what is no longer a valid part of your existence." Courtesy Robert Wilkinson. I know that Robert considers septiles to often have a negative effect. What is your take on this?

Joyce Mason said...

Hi, Anne! Some general thoughts on septiles: Admittedly, I’m no expert on “minor” aspects, but the septile, at 51-degrees, is roughly the same distance in degrees of arc as Chiron’s orbit in years. Very interesting, huh? I think there might be a parallel here. Obsessive/compulsive behavior likely comes from those wounds that are hard to heal and lurking in our subconscious, causing behavioral ruts--or least that is my personal experience as “The Depths of Change” points out in Panavision and Technicolor. Until we are willing to mine the depths of what causes the behavior, we tend to keep salivating like Pavlov’s dog—that’s what knee-jerk reactions are. (One theory is that Chiron was wounded in the knee.) The “bad” habit is triggered without much sense of control on our part, unless or until we are willing to open ourselves up to “psycho-spiritual surgery” to clean and cauterize the wound. Only then does it have a chance to heal in the open air and the reaction pattern that goes with it.

Among Chiron’s multiple talents—he was both an astrologer and surgeon. The surgical metaphor really works here, I think. Perhaps the piercing insights of astrology are a kind of star scalpel (laser treatment?) for helping us open up to that kind of deep healing.

Perhaps septiles give us even more specifics about those patterns that need the star scalpel.

Anne1Texas said...

Thanks, Joyce. Thoughtful response. I wrote a poem on the Archetype of the Wounded Healer called "Karmic Lament." I think the 'arrow" is out. Perhaps this eclipse will help me finish the job. ;-)

Joyce Mason said...

Whoever figured out how important laughter is to healing should win a global humanitarian award. I wish you lots of moments of lightening up through this kind of transit. Back to that healing and surgery metaphor, maybe that's why they call it "side splitting" laughter.

LB said...

Hi Joyce – Having just found your site (thanks to Donna Cunningham), I’m only now beginning to explore some of your older posts on Chiron, and I must tell you how very much I appreciate you sharing your insights. I’m still learning about Chiron’s role in my own chart, and your writing seems to touch on some important missing piece of the astrological puzzle. It’s very helpful (and healing) to read about your personal experiences and the lessons you’ve learned, especially as I try to assimilate what I’ve just gone through and look towards the future.

My recent Chiron return (Aquarius/6th house opposing natal Uranus in Leo/12th house) coincided with Saturn’s transit conjoining my natal Pluto (Virgo/12th house) and squaring my natal Mars (Gemini/9th). Also, transiting Pluto was also just finishing up its conjunction to my natal Saturn (Sag/4th house). Chiron’s retrograde transit hit my natal Chiron several times; during the last conjunction, Pluto also joined my Virgo Ascendant. I felt ripped apart, emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically, although I’d like to think that I eventually emerged a wiser, more compassionate and mindful human being. I was stripped away, my faith tested and ultimately made stronger; in a strange way, I’m even grateful for the experience. I’ve always known things about the world (Mercury/Jupiter/Neptune conjunct in Scorpio, and Mercury sextile and in mutual reception with Pluto in Virgo), but after my experiences, I know even more and mostly, it’s disillusioning. Once you know, you can never go back to that blissful state of unawareness, but now I’m left wondering how best to put those insights as well as my talents to their best use.

It’s not all doom and gloom and I am enjoying life, even as I try to figure it all out. You are so right about laughter being the best medicine – laughing at myself is particularly helpful, as is sharing (remember, I’m the commentor with Jupiter on the 3rd so I share a lot). I’m glad I discovered your site, and I’ll look forward to reading many more great articles. So again, many thanks for sharing!

Joyce Mason said...

LB, my mom's most sterling quality was her ability to laugh at herself. What an asset that early lesson turned out to be! Glad you're finding the Chiron material helpful. Chiron has continued to dazzle me as something small in size that explains so much. Always glad to hear your thoughts.

Ellen Longo said...

Thanks, Joyce. Your mom seems like a great person!

I've always taken heart at something an astrology teacher taught me early in my studies: that Pluto transits are so deep and transformative it can take 5-10 years before you have enough perspective to see how much you changed at the time. It was certainly true for me. I had an annihilating transit in the late eighties, and I still am recognizing how pivotal that time was in the whole of my life.

Thanks for your deep and heartfelt sharing.

Joyce Mason said...

Ellen, thanks for your comments, especially the reminder that realization of Pluto's deep changes can act like a time release capsule. Until my current T-Pluto square Sun cycle (working toward conjunction to Moon), I had not thought about the last one and how it rocked my world. When Pluto was conjunct my Sun in the early seventies, I experienced a horrific and highly public double betrayal. (Roommate took up with and married my boyfriend, and we worked together.) I also was drawn like a magnet to make a drastic move from the Midwest to California. I am normally so rootsy, I often joke that my Mars in Cancer on my IC hugs the Nadir like the main weight-bearing beam in my home and will not let go for dear life. The move to CA changed everything--sparked my writing career, my intro to astrology, my reunion with my birth mom who happened to move San Francisco just after I moved to Sacramento (yes, she was cool, thanks), and my coming into who I really am. Wow! Pluto, the planet that just keeps on giving! :)

cindi1111 said...

Thank you for sharing that deeply personal and painful journey of your transformation process with Chiron. I am experiencing almost the exact same thing with Pluto at the end of the 12th house conjunct Mars. Right now I am in the process of still "beating on the walls" to escape into the first house where transformation can take place, but your article has given me hope that it WILL happen.I just have to keep the faith and have been doing a lot of soul searching as you did. The twelfth house is not a pretty place, especially when Pluto is in there raking up all the muck. Thanks to you for the article and to Donna Cunningham for the link.

Joyce Mason said...

Cindy, thanks for taking the time to comment, especially in the middle of your stressful 12th house transit! Often it's difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel until we're very near the end of the dark journey. Finally, it emerges off in the distance. If I helped light the candle of hope till that welcome sight, I feel honored to help. Maybe the promise of that light also stirs up faith, since faith involves belief in the unseen. Light is always there, only it’s sometimes hidden temporarily. The cycle of morning and evening teaches us that every day of our lives.

You’ve also helped me! I believe when one is given the gift of writing, she gets a life bigger than her own. Her experiences are illustrative and meant to be shared. Writing is a vocation (calling) and a responsibility—one I take willingly, even at risk, sometimes, of feeling uncomfortably exposed.

When I first cut my teeth writing as a poet in the ‘70s, I learned that the most personal poems I read in pubic were also the most universal by the enthusiastic audience reaction that followed them. People resonate to the core sameness in all stories told from the heart, even though the details differ. Ironically, I’m on the verge of several publishing projects, which involve more of that deep sharing. In fact, on Spring Equinox, I “got” in my meditation that the #1 most important project for me to get in print is my poetry book, nearly 40 years in the making. You guessed it! Many of those same poems will go out to the world, and your comment comes just in time to remind me why I should brave it.

May you fall in love with the New You that emerges in the 1st House for you--and all--to see!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your transformation process--very helpful! Hitting up against the cacoon of limiting beliefs, esp. "It's my fault" is a big one for me, too.

I can relate to being jealous of folks living on the outer layers. With Pluto in my 8th and other stuff, I relate to your depth comments.

Was interested to read that you're dealing with this too! Transiting Pluto has been opposing my natal moon and squaring my natal Sun or a while.

Got any tips on Pluto transiting natal moon?? It scares me a bit! Do ALL secrets come out during Pluto opposing natal moon?

And Pluto's been over my Chiron (15 degrees Cap in my 1rst, conjunct 2nd hs cusp) lately, too.

I'm hoping that maybe Chiron will help me heal my natal cross to bear (Chiron is part of a natal T-square where it's opposing Uranus and square a 10th hs. stellium of Midheaven/Nept/Merc/Saturn.)
Does that make sense??
I know you're a Chiron expert!

(BTW, Pluto's been extra busy in my chart the last few years. It went through the 12th, then back and forth over my Sag asc.)


Joyce Mason said...

Cynthia, thanks for sharing. I wrote this article in 1988 when T-Pluto was conjunct my natal Chiron. However, Pluto is inching toward conjunction with my Moon, so I'm currently with you on that one. I think I'm almost too close to it to have good tips on Pluto/Moon transits! I can share that it's forcing me to deal with all my lunar issues. Example: I just became a vegan this very day. Emotional eating and all sorts of emotional sensitivity issues have tripped me up most of my life. Pluto now demands I find the way to fix it. (Not helped by the Saturn/Uranus opposition being right on my Sun. :)

As you allude, for me it always comes down to Chiron. The other transits just light up the wounds I have to heal and the vocational contribution I have to make in the process. My "therapy" is writing about them so others can benefit. Keep coming back. You never know what I'll learn next. The best part? As you work with Pluto over the years, you go from some of its worst qualities to its best--personal empowerment. A lot of that happening for me now ... and I wish it for you, too.

Deb said...

Hi Joyce. This article sounds like me. I have Chiron in the 12 opposite Pluto and Uranus In the 6th (Pisces and Virgo respectively) and Chiron square mercury in sag. They are all at 13-15 degrees. I can't seem to get out of the poor me/nobody loves me everyone is better than me mindset. I am afraid that I am going to miss my chance to become truely whole and then be in true service to others (like I agreed to so many years ago). With my aspects do you have any suggestions of how to break trough with a little but of dignity intact? It seems like it is right there for me to allow but I can't seem to let go enough to grab it. Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you.
I have a Scorpio sun.

Joyce Mason said...

Dear Deb,

I'm glad you resonated to "The Depths of Change." It was a tough article to write, because it came from such personal, gut-wrenching struggles with Pluto and Chiron. What comes through in your comment is your strong desire to serve. As I've worked with Chiron, I've discovered that it's when we are helping others that our own pain dissipates. We take the focus off ourselves and and begin to get "2nd-hand healing" by helping. It's a double win. I had this important insight recently: We don’t heal by ourselves, and we don’t heal only ourselves when we do.

So here are some suggestions. Find some way you love to help others. It doesn't have to be big. It could be giving your smile to people at the grocery store. Start small, and as you explore avenues to help others, find out which ones light you up. This will begin to lead you to "the" thing where you'll give your true service. It's also a great exercise for understanding that your true service might not be something that fancy. It could be working as a barista at Starbucks and helping start off a customer's day well with your pleasantness or occasional shared insight over their custom-made coffee. (I consider Bartenders, Beauticians and Baristas in a class unto their own as natural "therapists." See linked article.) Nowadays, personalized service is so rare. What they do is often taken for granted, but it is, in fact, so caring and life affirming.

This is what worked for me in tackling "I'm not enough." Again, since you care about serving, this may be a method that speaks to you, too. I started pretending I was my dearest friend and started treating me like I'd treat her. I realized that until I could love myself as I love others, I would never break through. (Here's another article you might like, The Converse Golden Rule.) I have also worked with the amazing tapes of Belleruth Naparstek at Health Journeys. I especially like the guided meditation on Self-Confidence, but there are a catalog full of possibilities.

Lastly, in writing my most recent books on Chiron, I became more aware than ever that healing happens in a moment but it often takes a million cumulative small things for us finally to notice the shift. It's a process. It's never too late, and though it feels so out of reach, one day the pieces will just fall together, as long as we devote ourselves to the journey. With Scorpio Sun, you have the stick-to-it-iveness to come out the other side of transformation. Your Sun sign was made to be the phoenix rising from the ashes of who you used to be. Surround yourself with other seekers, gentle souls, and often review the timeless advice of The Desiderata.(My favorite stanza is the one that begins, "You are a child of the universe ...")

There is not an astrological square, opposition or any other aspect that can't be used as a tool to round ourselves into more whole human beings. We're so fortunate that we get more than one lifetime--as many as we need, actually--to complete the process. Thank you for sharing deeply, too.

I wish you love,

Joyce Mason said...

Oops! Looks like the link to The Converse Golden Rule may have glitched in my last Comment. Try cutting and pasting this: