“What about this year? It has been a struggle so far. Any ideas?”
I recently received this question on Facebook. At first I laughed because it is such a broad and big question, and I am far from having any answers. But if together we take a look at your chart and your life, we may see how the current planets and aspects are reflecting your experience, and that can be so helpful for finding the answers within…
I can offer a brief sketch of some general astrological themes for this year: The revolutionary energies of radical change and wrenching transformation that began a few years ago during the epic Uranus/Pluto square are getting triggered off this year by Jupiter in Libra. Additionally there is an emphasis on FIRE, and air feeding fire this year (with Saturn in Sagittarius, Uranus in Aries, Jupiter in Libra, the Nodes of the Moon preparing to enter Leo and Aquarius, with our first Leo eclipse tomorrow on Feb 10, and Venus and Mars both in Aries right now as well). So it makes sense that collectively we are seeing and feeling instantaneous flare-ups of high-spirited passion and energy, manifesting in all kinds of different ways.
I have a lot of fire and air in my natal chart so I am used to intense energies within myself zooming to the surface for expression. For balance I look to and learn from my more earth and water friends. They are not instantaneous in their reactions. When I am able to slow down my responses, and try to really listen, and pause before speaking — it is miraculous. Taking it a step further is listening for the feelings and needs underneath whatever we are hearing or seeing, that might seem irritating, disturbing, frightening, or enraging… When we can bring mindfulness, inquiry, empathy, understanding, compassion, and presence to whatever is arising within or around us — it is a nourishing tonic for this fiery year, with the potential to offer deep and healing solace. I am needing to review my Non-Violent Communication books and I am loving listening to Tara Brach’s podcasts. She continually reminds people to ask, “What is it like to be you?” When we ask this we automatically become an ally, especially to marginalized and vulnerable others (“What is it like to be you?”), or especially to people with whom we vehemently disagree (“What is it like to be you?”), and often most importantly to ourselves (“What is it like to be me, in this moment?”).
Compassionate communication and Mars retrograde in Libra
Today I am beginning an 8 week course in Compassionate Communication (also known as Nonviolent Communication). This is something I’ve wanted to pursue a serious study of for awhile after reading books and trying to practice on my own (which proved difficult!). Everything lined up for me with this endeavor now while Mars is retrograde in Libra. How perfect! Why is the period when Mars is retrograde in Libra perfect for focusing on compassionate/non-violent communication? Firstly, because Libra rules the art of listening and speaking skillfully, diplomatically, and most importantly empathically — balancing awareness and sensitivity between self and other. This is challenging, to say the least, especially when strong emotions are triggered. Secondly, Mars rules self-assertion, leadership, and frankness, but also aggression and violence on the shadow side (every archetype has a shadow side). Mars retrograde on the other hand, supports holding aggression back, turning it within, contemplating it, and transmuting it. We all feel anger and aggression sometimes, which is often a surface layer over suppressed hurt or fear. To be able to express those deeper feelings and in a way that inspires giving and receiving from the heart, as opposed to creating more hurt feelings, anger, defensiveness, and chronic unmet needs in our relationships, is a great way to utilize the energy of Mars retrograde in Libra. I am happy for this opportunity.
Love, support, empathy, kindness, rapport, harmony, and compatibility — these are words in Venus’s bible. Recently a thought came tumbling into my mind and I realized it was inspired by Venus and represents an important expression of her Libra archetype. Being in the Sun’s month-long stay in the sign of Libra, I am not surprised that Libran values are dominating my mind and heart. The Libra archetype makes the art of relationship a sacred temple.
I was listening to a conversation between two people where one was more interested in making his own point than in hearing and receiving the other person’s thoughts and feelings. I felt sad for both… We have all done it and been there, on both sides... When one is observing, it is easier to see how helpful it would be to the relationship, and to the precious sense of relatedness in the relationship — if we realized that effective communication, not to mention a feeling of communion, only happens through a balanced give and take of expression and reception: not just seeking to be heard, seen, and understood, oneself, but making the effort to hear, see, and sincerely understand the other person as well. This give and take must happen on both sides, or there develops a one-sidedness in which the person who does not feel heard and seen eventually retreats inside — for, on a deep but subtle level, it feels as though his existence is not being acknowledged. Read more...
This is a painful feeling, even if it is not perceived consciously. Ordinarily the conversation continues at this point, but at least one of the participants will feel, to a degree, frustrated and invisible. This creates distance and resentment, and the sense of union or camaraderie is diminished. When both people are more interested in making their own points without listening and acknowledging the other, the quality of the interaction degenerates even more and becomes like two young children, before they have developed the capacity to actually relate, not speaking with each other, but speaking at each other.
The practice of truly listening to another is more than simply hearing words and responding with one’s own ideas. Often we do hear and understand but fail to explicitly articulate in some way that we hear and understand. This small omission weakens the sense of connection in that moment. In addition, the ideas of the one vehemently trying to make his point without first acknowledging the other person, usually lose power and are often lost altogether. I would go on to say that the power of the ideas is lost because the sense of deep communion has ruptured. It takes, for instance, not just a nod from the listener, and not just a pause on the listeners part before talking about his own experience, but genuine interest. Then, the texture of the listeners responses will reflect nods, pauses, and relevent questions which indicate the listeners caring about what the speaker is expressing, but more important yet, the listeners caring about the speaker, himself.
With the Sun in Libra, there is the opportunity to experience being more keenly attuned to the other person. It is an excellent time to consciously practice ones capacity to take in what the other person is seeking to share and express — to hold it, dwell with it, feel it inside, and actively respond about it — before switching the commentary over to ones own experience, thoughts, or feelings. That is the key. The one who has been heard, seen, and understood has received a gift, and the sense of communion prospers. To mutually gift one another in this way is one of the treasures of Venus and her sign, Libra.
This one seemingly small communication practice is so powerful that it can make or break a relationship, and has the power to rescue a failing relationship. These Venusian communication skills are not automatic and they often feel counter-intuitive, but If we applied them, our relationships — personal, professional, civic, and global — would be benefited with more mutual understanding, love, peace and unity.