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Week of April 23rd, 2020

Your Souls's Perspective

My Expanded Audio Horoscopes offer suggestions about how you might make best use of your energy as you navigate your way through our Shared Healing Crisis.

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Fred LaMotte writes: Almost all conspiracy theories can be dispelled by applying the principle known as Hanlon's Razor: "Do not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity."

However, I admit to having my own conspiracy theory, and you may feel free to use it.

For hundreds of billions of years, in fact, from the birth of time, every black hole at the center of each galaxy, the gravity of every gazing star, each hydrocarbon and chloroplast, each photon of sunlight, atom of breath, and even shy colors like brown and green in the meadow, have been conspiring to guide me to this very moment, when I have no choice but to fall in the dust on my knees, to spread toward wind and sky my arms, useless as they are as wings, and here confess: "I don't know what the fuck is going on!"

And only now am I capable of praying, "Forgive me. I love you. Thank you. I'm sorry."

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Here's a link to my free weekly email newsletter, featuring the Free Will Astrology horoscopes, plus a bunch of other stuff. It arrives every Tuesday morning.

Read past issues of the newsletter.

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I'm pretty much breaking into tears at least seven times every day. How about you?

The most recent crying session rose up in response to this story: Farmworkers risk coronavirus infection to keep the U.S. fed. "If we’re essential, we need help, because we’re the people feeding the country,” says Eugenia Gonzales.


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Jason Hine writes: "Some folks now are trying to design open source ventilators, some are providing food to older people, some are protecting fragile people, some are digging their gardens to grow food, some are connecting more deeply to the earth . . .

"Some are going deeper into ritual to work with viruses, some are reading multiple scientific papers, some are staring down a microscope, some are engaging in activism . . .

"Some are gathering herbs, some are designing new economic systems, some are struggling in difficult or painful circumstances, some are providing comfort for those who are struggling.

"All of these responses are valid. What is important is perhaps this: When the time came, the world turned and things began to fall apart, did you fight imaginary enemies, or did you stand up?

"Now your true character will be revealed. Did you arrive? Did you do those sacred tasks which you know you have to do? Did you do those things which were given to you by some invisible power or by your soul or by your conscience?

"Did you do that which you know you have to do: did you do what you must? Did you listen to the call? Did you turn up? Did you report to do what you are here to do?"

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In honor of the fact that you're evolving into a higher octave version of yourself, I hereby give you the nickname of "Miracle Player," or else—if you like one of these better—"Sleek Cat" or "Giant Step" or "Fate Whisperer."

You may hereafter also use any of the following titles to refer to yourself: "CEO of My Own Life" or "Self-Teacher of Jubilance and Serenity" or "Fertile Blur of Supple Strength."

Feel free, as well, to anoint your head with organic virgin olive oil, fashion a crown for yourself out of roses and shredded masks, and come up with a wordless sound that is a secret sign you'll give to yourself whenever you need to remember the marvelous creature you are on your way to becoming

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The "Kumulipo" is an old Hawaiian prayer that poetically describes the creation of the world. The word literally means "beginning-in-deep-darkness."

Here darkness doesn't connote gloom and evil. Rather, it's about the inscrutability of the embryonic state; the obscure chaos that reigns before germination.

A key word in the Kumulipo is Powehi, a Hawaiian word meaning “the adorned fathomless dark creation” or “profound dark source of unending creation.”

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I like to remind myself that the coronavirus is REAL. It's not just a fleck or speck in our imagination. It's not a tiny pretend gob in a movie or a simulation in the virtual realm. It is composed of actual bodies.

I've heard it said that the coronavirus is not alive in the same way as, say, a badger or a milkweed plant is alive. But I think that's misleading. Because the virus clearly has agency. It is imbued with a purpose, which is to propagate its kind and spread far and wide and be as abundant as possible.

The virus has sly mechanisms that it uses to get itself born over and over again, and it has figured out how to use people so as to travel all over the planet and increase its intense presence.

Perhaps the virus doesn't have intelligence or sentience in the same way that we usually understand creatures to possess. But how can we know whether it does or not? It certainly acts as if it does have intelligence and sentience. It is, after all, currently the most powerful force on planet Earth. Its ability to transform human civilization is unprecedented.

One of my wise mentors, Richard Grossinger, suggests the virus speaks a language we don't understand. But I wonder if some of us could come to understand it. For example, might there be indigenous shamans who have experience conversing with animals in their own language, and who might ultimately be able to extend that talent to conversing with the intelligence of the virus in its own language?

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My Expanded Audio Horoscopes from last week offer suggestions about how you might make best use of fear and worry as you navigate your way through our Shared Healing Crisis. They're still very useful. When you log in to buy the horoscopes, click on "Last Week (Apr 14, 2020)"

Excerpt: Now is one of those times when at least some fear is valuable—because it motivates us to do what's necessary to stay safe; to protect ourselves and others.

But I also want to let you know that the coming weeks will be a favorable time to diminish and dissipate your everyday fears about other matters in your life: not the concerns activated by the virus, which are warranted, but rather the chronic anxieties that you routinely carry around with you, which are often overblown or imaginary.

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One night recently night I dreamed that I had caught the virus. It hadn't made me sick—rather was like a psychedelic drug that had profoundly altered my consciousness.

I was under its spell. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling, but neither was it pleasant; not light or sweet or "fun," but very demanding and consuming. I was grateful for the chance to raise my courage in response to its relentless teachings.

To succeed at this initiation—and it did feel like an initiation administered by tribal elders—I had to work very hard to keep monitoring and registering the new ways of understanding reality that were surging into my awareness.

I periodically told myself, "Stay awake and alert as you live through this ceremony of transformation."

A certain feminine elder I respect appeared now and then to offer comments and support. At one point she said, "The center of the world is changing location."

PS: This is an abbreviated version of my dream. If you'd like to read the full version, go here.

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My daughter Zoe and her boyfriend Mario and their roommate Joel live in Brooklyn, at the virus epicenter. As part of my therapy to quell my worries, I've been arranging for various online stores to send them supplies of comfort food.

My zealotry has inspired their creativity—as we can see in the photo, showing the performance art installation piece Joel created on their living room floor, using the 22 boxes of Triscuit crackers I sent.

I approve of this artful response! And the humor of it helps take the edge off my sheepishness about being so extravagant in my fatherly concern.

View the photo here.

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I like it best when the creek that runs near my home is wide and abundant. It gets that way at high tide, when the moon shepherds in a surge of water from the bay. As I gaze out at the swollen cascade, I feel full and fertile; everything's right with the world.

Inevitably, though, the tide goes out and the flow turns meek and narrow. Then my mood is less likely to soar. A slight melancholy may creep in.

But I've learned to love that state, too -- to derive a poignant joy from surveying the muddy banks where the water once ran.

From a distance the mud looks like a wet black desert, but if you get up close you'll see it's covered with tiny furrows, pits, and bulges. This is evidence that many small creatures live there. The hungry ducks and egrets know exactly where to look to find them.

PS: I know it's only a matter of time before the tide shifts and the cascade returns.

See the photo.

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I had the good fortune of being asked to do an interview with the brilliant Amanda Yates Garcia, author of the book
Initiated: Memoir of a Witch

Listen to our conversation here.

Here's what I wrote about Amanda Yates Garcia as I prepared for our interview:

It's rare I find colleagues with whom I am aligned in so many different perspectives: sacred political activism; psychospiritual commitment to dealing with the darkness as well as reveling in the light; moral integrity based on an unselfish celebratory love of and care for all creatures; valuing the mandates of the soul over the demands of the ego; regarding beauty and joy as essential ingredients in a well-lived life.

Amanda Yates Garcia is one of those colleagues! Speaking in behalf of all of creation, I say thanks for your service to the greater good, Amanda!


Here's what Amanda Yates Garcia wrote in response to my testimony about her:

"Rob, you inspire me in your decades' long pursuit of love; service to the Goddess; stewardship of nature; cultivation of curiosity; allegiance to truth, justice and kindness; devotion to joy . . .

"your humble acknowledgment of struggle and the deep wounds in our culture; amplification of the voices of those who are most impacted by the injustice of our culture; and your effortless commitment to your Bodhisattva vow.

"You give me hope and you always have, and you do so for so many. I am grateful you're in this world."

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In the country of Bhutan, astrologers have played an important official role. Before each year begins, the king's favorite stargarzers determine the least and most cosmically propitious dates coming up in the next twelve months. The calendar may then be altered accordingly.

If April looks not-so-good from the astrologers' point of view, for instance, it might be eliminated altogether, whereupon May will be observed twice.

Borrowing from their tradition, we are skipping both April and May in this cycle, and instead instituting the new leap-month of Maprilay.

For those who have lost track, today is Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay.

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Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.

Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.

Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.

Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

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Adrie Kusserow was inspired by Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese" to write a coronavirus version of that poem:

You do not have to become totally zen,
You do not have to use this isolation to make your marriage better,
your body slimmer, your children more creative.

You do not have to “maximize its benefits”
By using this time to work even more,
write the bestselling Corona Diaries,
Or preach the gospel of ZOOM.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body unlearn
everything capitalism has taught you,
(That you are nothing if not productive,
That consumption equals happiness,
That the most important unit is the single self.
That you are at your best when you resemble an efficient machine).

Tell me about your fictions, the ones you’ve been sold,
the ones you sheepishly sell others,
and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world as we know it is crumbling.
Meanwhile the virus is moving over the hills,
suburbs, cities, farms and trailer parks.

Meanwhile The News barks at you, harsh and addicting,
Until the push of the remote leaves a dead quiet behind,
a loneliness that hums as the heart anchors.

Meanwhile a new paradigm is composing itself in our minds,
Could birth at any moment if we clear some space
From the same tired hegemonies.

Remember, you are allowed to be still as the white birch,
Stunned by what you see,
Uselessly shedding your coils of paper skins
Because it gives you something to do.

Meanwhile, on top of everything else you are facing,
Do not let capitalism co-opt this moment,
laying its whistles and train tracks across your weary heart.

Even if your life looks nothing like the Sabbath,
Your stress boa-constricting your chest.
Know that your antsy kids, your terror, your shifting moods,
Your need for a drink have every right to be here,
And are no less sacred than a yoga class.

Whoever you are, no matter how broken,
the world still has a place for you, calls to you over and over
announcing your place as legit, as forgiven,
even if you fail and fail and fail again.
remind yourself over and over,
all the swells and storms that run through your long tired body
all have their place here, now in this world.

It is your birthright to be held
deeply, warmly in the family of things,
not one cell left in the cold.

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Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew.

This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

—Arundhati Roy

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Testing Our Love

Anne Lamott writes: When a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born—and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.

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There was once a poor farmer who could afford to own just one horse. He cared well for the animal, but one summer night, the horse escaped through a weak fence and ran away.

When his neighbors discovered what had happened, they visited to offer their condolences. "What bad luck!" they exclaimed. The farmer replied, "Maybe. Maybe not."

A week later, the fugitive horse sauntered back to the homestead, accompanied by six wild horses. The farmer and his son managed to corral all of them. Again the neighbors descended. "What great luck!" they exclaimed. "Maybe," the farmer replied. "Maybe not."

Soon the farmer's son began the work of taming the new arrivals. While attempting to ride the roan stallion, he was thrown to the ground and half-trampled. His leg was badly broken. The neighbors came to investigate. "What terrible luck!" they exclaimed. The farmer replied, "Maybe. Maybe not."

The next day, soldiers visited the farmer's village. Strife had recently broken out between two warlords, and one of them had come to conscript all the local young men. Though every other son was commandeered, the farmer's boy was exempted because of his injury. The neighbors gathered again. "What fantastic luck!" they exclaimed.

"Maybe," the farmer said. "Maybe not."

—Source: an old Taoist folktale


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Guidelines for Loving the Catalytic Abyss at the Heart of the Luminous Nothingness

• Empty yourself out gladly and completely

• With blithe daring, lower your expectations all the way down to the Zero Point of Unexpected Healing

• Cheerfully surrender every remnant of delusional hope that might blunt your brazen courage

• With jaunty nonchalance, assume that since you have nothing to lose, you might as well channel your pure soul wisdom from the dark, fertile depths

• Open a howling welcome in your heart for the messy, unpredictable mystery of life exactly as it is

• Say "Fuck yes!" to the confounding and regenerative beauty of ambiguity and paradox

• Free yourself to recognize the strange truth of every person and every situation on their own terms

• Regularly unleash this triumphant and celebratory proclamation: "I don't know—and that's one of my superpowers!"

• Redefine and reclaim what it means to be wild

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"Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end.

"Our divided, schizophrenic worldview, with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious — that is what is coming to an end.

"The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth — that is the world as we know it that must pass away.

"What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us."

- Joseph Campbell, "Thou Art That"

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Normal human responses to a global pandemic that do not need to be pathologized or treated as abnormal,
according to Sarah Mariann Martland

• Food and eating challenges & difficulties

• Resurgence of compulsive or addictive behaviors

• Obsessive or intrusive thoughts, memories or fears

• GeneraliZed fear, anxiety, panic & overwhelm

• Depression, dissociation, shutdown, freeze, hopelessness

• Feelings of abandonment or loneliness or isolation

• Sense of loss of control or powerlessness. Feeling confused

• Anxiety around money, shelter, food, and other survival needs

• Past traumas being triggered, activated or re-experienced

• Health anxiety heightened (about COVID-19 and otherwise)

• Feeling unheard or unseen amidst the flood of stories

• Feeling like existing chronic needs are being ignored

• Thoughts and feelings about death and dying

• New and old grief surfacing

• Feelings of anger, irritation and frustration

• Caring for everyone to own detriment. Compassion fatigue

• Feeling exhausted, fatigued, unmotivated, lethargic

• Hyper-focus, surges of energy, keeping 'doing' to distract

• Immune system depleted, other illnesses starting, chronic flares

(list not exhaustive)

AND if you do need support with any of it, that's okay too.

—by Sarah Mariann Martland

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A friend named Pat Bradley has compiled a list of things she’s grateful for:

I give thanks for STORY. The stories we create, the dreams we make real. Shared stories, vulnerable stories, human stories. Stories that define us, change us. Even our body tells us a story through the language of symptoms. Life is an ever-evolving story.

We are all authors of our own unique story. Here is to our creations!! Be proud of your story!!! Listen carefully to the stories of others. Story is a gift of self. THaNk yOU stOrY!!!


I am grateful for ATTENTION. There is so much out there vying for our attention, that often it feels like we are surrounded by advertisements, billboards of the actual or virtual kind. Facebook is the perfect example of the “look at me, pick me, pick me.”

So it is a rare gift to attend to what is right there before us at any given moment. And a precious bit of humanity to sit with another soul and be there, undistracted and fully engaged in what is being conveyed. May you have such moments. Today I am thankful for ATTENTION.


I am thankful for SONG. I am reminded of the Maidu’s idea that everything has a song, a vibratory signature. Our song is the sum of all the vibratory patterns of our organs and our emotions – our

When we find another song that resonates with us, it not only is uplifting but truly healing! Go out and give your own special song to the world. I give thanks for SONG!


I give thanks to PORTALS. The gatekeepers. Those moments of discernment of what to keep in, what to let go. Those doors we unlock within ourselves to reveal the shadow we do not want to face. I give thanks for the courage to turn and knock on the doors of our greatest fears.

I give thanks to those who have given me the gift of welcoming me into their vulnerable places with trust and with love. I thank the portal between the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown. Today I am thankful for PORTALS.


I am thankful for MYSTERY. That thing that enshrouds us and binds us – the viscera of all life. I know I am lost when I do not recognize the wonder around me and use that compass to return to mystery. Quiet and abiding vision to bring it all back into my field of awareness. Thank you MYSTERY.


I am grateful for my being alive. No matter what comes my way, I am constantly learning and graced with many gifts. Breathe in, inspiration, gather all that is offered. Breathe out to clear and cleanse in readiness for whatever is next. Today I am grateful for the gift of a life. I shall try my best to live it well.

—By Pat Bradley

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I went shopping for key necessities with my new tiger-enhanced protective head-gear

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At 101 years of age, Naomi Replansky, a poet and labor activist, has survived the Spanish Flu, the Depression, World War II, and the Holocaust. Her 95-year-old wife, Eva Kollisch, missed the flu, but experienced the rest.

Read news stories about how our Shared Healing Crisis is bringing out the best in some people.

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To those of you
who can't hear the sea
to those of you
who are cooped up,
locked away—

I pray your muses will arrive,
addressing your shrouded hearts,
transmitting the starry echoes of the wave,
the soft crackle of foam and sand,
the rustling sparkle of salt,
the grey songs of the sea-birds

and the sea well be reborn in you,
throbbing, dying,
throbbing, dying

—my adaptation of a Neruda poem

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In 1963, the authoritarian government of the Soviet Union decided that feisty, rebellious young poet Joseph Brodsky was not making sufficient contributions to society.

He was sentenced to exile in an unheated farmhouse without plumbing north of the Arctic Circle, where his job was to break rocks and shovel manure.

Those 18 months turned out to be wonderful for him. Every night he spent hours reading great poetry, learning English, and honing his craft.

It was a key phase of a career that eventually won him a Nobel Prize for Literature.

Do you have a comparable opportunity in the works?

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The taverns are full of gadabouts making merry this eve. And though I may press my face against the window like an urchin at a confectioner's, I am tempted not by the sweetmeats within. A dram in exchange for the pox is an ill bargain indeed.

— from the diary of London-based Samuel Pepys during the Great Plague of 1665

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Epidemiologist Jonathan Smith writes: We are in the infancy of this epidemic’s trajectory. That means even with these measures we will see cases and deaths continue to rise in the coming weeks.

This may lead some people to think that the social distancing measures are not working. But the fact is, they are working. They may feel futile. They aren’t. You will feel discouraged. But this is normal epidemic trajectory.

We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse.

Stay strong and with solidarity knowing with absolute certainty that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people begin getting sick and dying. You may feel like giving in. Don’t.

Read the short essay.

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by Rob Obvious

ARIES: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

TAURUS: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

GEMINI: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

CANCER: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

LEO: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

VIRGO: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

LIBRA: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

SCORPIO: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

SAGITTARIUS: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

CAPRICORN: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

AQUARIUS: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

PISCES: You'll be spending a lot of time in your home. (At least you should be!)

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If you want your personal chart done, I recommend a colleague whose approach to reading astrology charts closely matches my own. She's my wife, RO LOUGHRAN. Her website is here.

Ro utilizes a blend of well-trained intuition, emotional warmth, and technical proficiency in horoscope interpretation. She is skilled at exploring the mysteries of your life's purpose and nurturing your connection with your own inner wisdom.

In addition to over 30 years of astrological experience, Ro has been a licensed psychotherapist for 20 years. She integrates psychological insight with astrology's cosmological perspective.

Ro is based in California, but can do phone consultations and otherwise work with you regardless of geographic boundaries.

Check out Ro's website.

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During your extended extra time at home, it might be a good time to get better acquainted with your inner demons.
Check out this cartoon.

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Say over and over the names of things,
the clean nouns: weeping birch, bloodstone, tanager,
Banshee damask rose. Read field guides, atlases,

At the store, bless each apple by kind:
McIntosh, Winesap, Delicious, Jonathan.
Enunciate the vegetables and herbs: okra, calendula.

Go deeper into the terms of some small landscape:
spiders, for example. Then, after a speech on
compromising the environment for technology,
recite the tough, silky structure of webs:

tropical stick, ladder web, mesh web, filmy dome, funnel,
trap door. When you have compared the candidates’ slippery
platforms, chant the spiders: comb footed, round headed,
garden cross, feather legged, ogre faced, black widow.

Remember that most short verbs are ethical: hatch, grow,
spin, trap, eat. Dig deep, pronounce clearly, pull the words
in over your head. Hole up
for the duration.

~ Veronica Patterson

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Alternative newsweeklies like the "Stranger" in Seattle and the "Austin Chronicle" in Texas and the "City Pages" in Minneapolis have published my syndicated column "Free Will Astrology" for years.

I'm profoundly grateful for their support of my work! Because of them, I've been able to reach a large audience with my writing, and have earned a decent living.

In the wake of our Shared Global Crisis, these fine publications are suffering financially. All the businesses in town are closed! And so of course they're not advertising in the newspapers.

I know that any help I can offer them now will be modest, but at least it's something: I've told all of them that they can publish Free Will Astrology for free during the month of April.

It's a financial loss for me, but hopefully it will help them stay healthy and thriving.

Here's the story of Seattle's "Stranger"

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I know it's "only" metaphorical, symbolic, mythical, psycho-spiritual, and magickal, but I and my 3.78 trillion allies in the astral realm just exhorted and invoked the god Garuda to curtail the coronavirus.

View Garuda

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Listen here to my song "In a Crisis"

Here are some of the lyrics:

In a crisis we cut away
What we don't need anymore

In the good times we fight our way
We fight our way inside

In a crisis we cut away
What we don't need anymore

In the good times we find our way
We find our way back home

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My neighbor Jim is spending the apocalypse sitting in his little rowboat on the creek and flying his 99-cent kite for hours upon end.

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Ira Byock writes: Anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

"A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts," Mead said.

We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.

~ Ira Byock, The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life

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If you missed my earlier message about the coronavirus, here it is again.

Throughout 2020, there is a rare confluence of three planets in Capricorn: Pluto, Saturn, and Jupiter. Right now that high-powered configuration has been getting supercharged by transiting Mars.

These potent energies are synergizing and compounding each other's impacts—interweaving in ways that confound us and rattle us.

In the best-case scenario, they will also activate us and motivate us to initiate brave transformations in our own personal lives as well as in our communities and nations.

We will use this crisis as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of how profoundly interconnected we all are. We'll respond to it by upgrading the way we take care of ourselves, the people we love, and our natural world.

Read more about the meaning of all this, plus horoscopes that suggest ways to respond.

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Jonathan Hadas Edwards & Julia Hartsell wrote the essay below: What if the Virus is the Medicine?

The emerging pandemic is already a watershed of the early 21st century: things won’t ever be the same. Yet for all that the havoc that the virus is wreaking, directly and indirectly, it may also be part of the bitter medicine the global body needs.

How could adding another crisis to an already crisis-ridden planet possibly be medicinal?

Before we explore that question, we want to be clear: our intent is not to downplay the severity or minimize the importance of lives lost to this disease. Behind the mortality figures lie very real pain and grief, and these numbers, often discussed so casually, are personal, representing the potential loss of our parents, elders, teachers, dance companions, grandmothers or immune-compromised friends.

Already, our hearts are breaking for the physical distance with our aging parents until we know if we’re infected. There’s not only a risk of losing beloveds in this time, but having to do so from afar. Our hearts are breaking for those who may die or suffer alone, without the touch of their loved ones. We honor death as a sacred passage, but we do not minimize death, suffering or sickness in the slightest.

We pray that each one who transitions from this virus (as from the many other deadly diseases, accidents, overdoses, murders, suicides, mass shootings, and on and on) be met with on the other side by unexpected blessing, connection, peace.

Neither are the economic implications to be taken lightly. Many in this country have already seen massive impact, and the recession has only begun. As always, those closest to the edge will be hit hardest. For some, a month sequestered in beauty could be a vacation.

Others have a few months before financial panic sets in. And for others living paycheck to paycheck or gig to gig, there is a great immediacy of struggle. The economic ‘side effects’ of this coronavirus could be catastrophic.

And yet.

For many in our world, the pre-coronavirus status quo was already catastrophic. Many are facing an imminent end to their world--indeed, for many species and many peoples, the world has already ended. We are in the midst of a crisis of unprecedented magnitude: the choice for humanity is change or die. No one said change would be easy. (Neither is dying.)

And incremental change is not enough. It will take radical change to shift our current, calamitous trajectory away from massive environmental devastation, famine, energy crises, war & refugee crises, increasingly authoritarian regimes and escalating inequalities.

The world we know is dying. What is unsustainable cannot persist, by definition, and we are starting to see this play out.

What hope is there, then? There is the hope that breakdown will become, or coexist with, breakthrough. There is the hope that what is dying is the caterpillar of immature humanity in order that the metamorphosis yields a stunning emergence. That whatever survives this collective initiation process will be truer, more heart-connected, resilient and generative.

We are entering the chrysalis. There’s no instruction manual for what happens next. But we can learn some things from observing nature (thank you Megan Toben for some of this biological info). For one thing, the chrysalis stage is preceded by a feeding frenzy in which the caterpillar massively overconsumes (sound familiar? We’ve been there for decades). Then its tissues melt into a virtually undifferentiated goo. What remain separate are so-called imaginal cells, which link together and become the template from which the goo reorganizes itself into a butterfly.

Does the caterpillar overconsume strategically, or out of blind instinct? Does it know what’s coming and trust in the process, or does it feel like it’s dying? We don’t know. It’s natural to resist radical, painful change. But ultimately there’s little choice but to surrender to it. We can practice welcoming the circumstances that force us away from dysfunctional old patterns, be they economic or personal. We have that opportunity now.

Let’s return to a crucial word, initiation. On an individual level, initiations are those processes or rituals by which one reaches a new state of being and corresponding social status: from girl to woman, from layperson to clergy, and so on. Initiations can be deliberate or spontaneous, as in the case of the archetypal shamanic initiation, which comes by way of a healing crisis.

To paraphrase Michael Meade, initiations are events that pull us deeper into life than we would otherwise go. They vary widely from culture to culture and individual to individual, but two characteristics they share are intensity and transformation. They bring us face to face with life and with death; they always involve an element of dying or shedding so that the new can be born.

Most all of us have undergone initiations of one sort of another, from the death of a parent to the birth of a child. Many have experienced initiation in the form of a crisis or trial by fire. Those of us who have gone through more deliberate, ritualized forms of initiation can state unequivocally: the process is not fun, comfortable or predictable.

You may well feel like you’re going nuts. You may not know who you are anymore. You don’t get to choose which parts of you die, or even to know ahead of time.

One of the overriding feelings is of uncertainty: you don’t know where you’re going, only that there’s no going back. And there’s no way of knowing how long the transformation will take. It can help to remember that the initiatory chrysalis phase is a sacred time, set apart from normal life.That it has its own demands and its own logic. That it cannot be rushed, only surrendered to. That it may be painful, but also, ultimately, healing.

Imagine what happens when an entire society finds itself in the midst of a critical initiation. Except you don’t have to imagine: it’s already happening, or starting to. It looks like chaos, a meltdown. We’re in a moment of collective, global-level crisis and uncertainty that has little precedent in living memory.

The economic machine--the source of our financial needs and also a system that profits from disease, divorce, crime and tragedy--is faced with a dramatic slow-down. We are all facing the cessation of non-essential activities. There is opportunity here, if we claim it.

This is a sacred time.

However, unlike a traditional rite of passage ceremony, there’s no priest or elder with wisdom born of experience holding the ritual container, tracking everything seen and unseen. Instead, all at once there are millions of personal quests inside one enormous initiatory chrysalis.

And yet, look closely: amid the goo, you may start to notice imaginal cells appearing. Pockets of people who are aligned with something they may not fully understand, in receipt of a vision or pieces of one, beaming out their signal to say: let’s try something different.

This is an opportunity to loosen our grip on old and familiar ways. Those ways worked for as long as they did, and they got us here, for better and for worse. They seem unlikely to carry us much further.

What if we’re instead being asked to feel our way forward, from the heart, without benefit of certainty--which, when concentrated, quickly becomes toxic? No one has all the answers in this or any other time. Right now the questions may be more valuable.

What if we honor this time with sacred respect?

What if we take the time to listen for the boundaries and limits of our Earth mother?

What is truly important?

How can we receive the bitter medicine of the moment deep into our cells and let it align us with latent possibility?

How can we, with the support of the unseen, serve as midwives to all that is dying here and all that is being born?

With these questions resounding, let us s l o w d o w n and listen. For echo back from the unseen, for whisperings from the depths of our souls and from the heart of the mystery that--no less so in times of crisis--embraces us all.

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by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Translation of this poem by Pablo Neruda is by Alistair Reed

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by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down. And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love--

for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

--Lynn Ungar

More of Lynn's poetry

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Astrologer Chani Nicholas writes: We are each a strand of the impossibly intricate web of this world. Our care for one another is the glue. Our interdependence is non-negotiable. The myth of making it solely on our own is a fantastical tale with a bitter end.

Even when our privilege allows us the delusion of being self-made, we will eventually succumb to the insecurity of being in a body. Moments like this make us well aware of that.

The very real threat to our physical health that we are facing forces us to unpack emotions that live beneath the surface of our conscious awareness.

Living in a society that leaves the marginalized among us out to dry, condemned to suffer from the systems set up to have them fail, will plague us until we remedy it.

It’s time, past time, to live in a world where necessities are provided and excess is shared.

More from Chani Nicholas

More from Chani Nicholas

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Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World:

* Distilleries Across the United States Are Making Their Own Hand Sanitizers to Give Away for Free

* Air Pollution Plummets in Cities With High Rates of Quarantine

* Johns Hopkins Researcher Says That Antibodies From Recovered COVID Patients Could Help Protect People At Risk

* Uber Eats is Supporting the North American Restaurant Industry By Waiving Delivery Fees for 100,000 Restaurants

* Athletes and sports teams are pledging to pay the wages of arena employees during the shutdown.

* Utility companies, landlords, automakers, and internet providers are waiving a number of late fees and payments to ease the financial burden of the shutdown.

* School districts across the country are still opening their doors to serve meals to kids and families.

* Seattle-based author Ijeoma Oluo has launched a relief fund to help artists who have been severely affected by the outbreak.

* In the small town of Coos Bay, Oregon, coffee shop owner John Beane is hosting virtual story times for kids after shutting down his cafe.

* The supermarket chain Raley's started a special program offering a bag of groceries at a reduced price for seniors and people in need.

* The popular restaurant chain Puesto, which was forced to shut down because of the virus, gave away some 500 free care packages this week.