The Marriage of Freedom and Form

I recently did some counseling and coaching work with a client who has very strong Sagittarian and Capricornian influences in her birth chart.

Sagittarius is about freedom, expansion, joviality, open-ended exploration, and generosity, while Capricorn is about boundaries, discipline, seriousness, pragmatism, responsibility, mastery and purpose.

My client was struggling to understand how these two seemingly opposite forces could co-exist inside her.

“It takes great discipline to be a free spirit.”

The author of this quote, Gabrielle Roth, was the founder of a dynamic dance movement practice called 5RHYTHMS that lives right at the intersection of form and freedom. It teaches us to embody the rhythms of life that we see repeated in the world around us.

One of the rhythms, Staccato, is the study of lines, angular movements, no’s, boundaries, differentiation, integrity, verticality, and alignment. As we explore Staccato in the body we learn about the power of form, structure and discipline, and it may also show us the places inside ourselves where we’re overly rigid, linear and uncompromising.

Thankfully, there are other rhythms that are feminine and fluid, circular and curvaceous like Flowing, that help us soften, surrender, yield and flow when we find ourselves being excessively hardened and severe.

Likewise, Flowing can be a place where we drown in nebulousness, inertia, and a lack of direction when we don’t have the accountability, structure and containment that the masculine rhythm of Staccato helps us embody.

By moving through these rhythms and using them as a tool for somatic awareness, we can cultivate a place inside ourselves where the sharp edges of Staccato and the round earthy yin of Flowing can live together in a more balanced and sustainable way.

In my own journey I rebelled against discipline, rules and structure because the orthodoxy of my youth felt so oppressive, stifling and unimaginative to me, but as a result of that rebellion I experienced the opposite, and know first hand that a life devoid of structural integrity can, ironically, be the biggest form of bondage.

“To rebel against something is to be just as much in it’s thrall as to conform.” ~Caroline Casey

Dancing the 5RHYTHMS with regularity and working deeply with the planetary archetypes helped me reconcile the profound usefulness of roots and wings, schedules and spontaneity, expansion and contraction.

May we all cultivate language and practices that allow us to amalgamate seeming opposites, and find the freedom inside the form, the spaciousness inside the structure, and the divine inside the discipline.

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I’d love to hear about your own journey with freedom and form. Please share your experiences and reflections in the comments section below.

“Freely chosen, discipline is absolute freedom.” ~Ron Serino

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Celestial Soundbites ~ Sun in Cancer

The Dalai Lama is a double Cancer.  Can you feel it?  The embodiment of compassion, His Holiness models the essential goodness of this Moon-ruled sign.  Capable of dolloping out unconditional love, and usually some comfort food while they’re at it, Cancers serve from the heart, and nurture us in the ways we need it most.

I have a dear friend who has her Sun in Cancer. She has a designated “womb room” in the basement of her home, and regularly spends time in a womb-like floatation tank. Tracking and tending the lunar rhythms and menstrual mysteries, and sustaining her home and family are what she’s about.  Her natural dedication to the moon, the womb, the hearth and the family is quintessentially Cancerian.

Everything is warm and fuzzy until Cancer’s tending becomes need-denying, long-suffering, moody, and resentful.  Like every sign, this one has a dark side. Think of an overbearing mother who forms her her identity around being a care-giver, and lacks a solid sense of self if not constantly validated and acknowledged for all of her sacrificing and over-extending.

Cancer’s are highly sensitive to the ebb and flow of life, and have a particular attunement to suffering. This can be really painful, so they often hide out or build up crab-like armor to protect themselves from feeling too vulnerable and exposed. If you’ve ever been in an intimate relationship with a Cancer you know that it can feel like you’re negotiating emotional land-mine territory in which sensitivities abound, and you can set off their triggers left and right without even knowing it.

The idea is to find a sweet spot between sensitivity and shut-down, between giving generously and guilting, between extending and exploding in resentment.

***

Cancer, and the 4th house it rules, address themes of family, lineage, ancestry, and roots. One way you might honor this sun-sign-cycle is to do some genealogical mapping or family tree type of project.  You might record facts about your family history, collect stories and anecdotes from aging relatives, or get curious about your religious and cultural heritage.

Here’s a little story about my own family…

My maternal grandfather was a chazan (cantor).  After immigrating to the United States from Poland, he was hired to travel to synagogues around the east coast and operatically chant the Hebrew liturgy, especially during the High Holy Holidays.  I recently learned that he was listed as a reverend in the yellow pages.  It touched me to discover this overlap between us, even though our outward expression of reverence has manifested quite differently.

One of my Cancerian brothers is a professional chazan who is carrying on the linage in a way that is more traditional, much like the way our grandfather did it. My mother on the other hand can’t sing to save her life.  I think they say it skips a generation…  I remember my youngest brother – also a Cancer – at the age of three covering his ears when my mom would sing to him!

I share this with you in the hopes that it will inspire you to collect your own family stories and anecdotes, and I invite you to share one of them in the comments section below.

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The Landscape of Compassionate Liberation

How often have you heard yourself say “one part of me feels this way, and another part of me feels that way”? How often have you felt deeply conflicted, or that you’re of two minds about something? Sometimes we feel even more divided than that, sometimes we feel downright polarized, split or fragmented.

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The Parts-Work I facilitate is a fluid synthesis of Internal Family Systems, Shadow-Work processes, Voice Dialogue, Feeding Your Demons, and shamanic Soul Retrieval.

It is a simple and elegant way of working with the energies or sub-personalities that tug and pull and vie for supremacy within us. Instead of resigning ourselves to our inner discord, or acting out in ways that reflect, reenforce, and recapitulate our internal division, it allows us to:

  • move towards internal harmony, reconciliation, and integration
  • experience the power and transformation that comes with being able to hold seeming opposites and multiple realities simultaneously
  • receive insight and guidance from the unseen realms (what Rumi calls the beyond in his poem The Guest House)
  • retrieve lost parts of ourselves so that we can experience more of our wholeness

This work has the capacity to heal childhood wounds, bridge developmental gaps, resolve painful generational patterns, mitigate chronic and acute physical symptoms, and presence the unconscious in ways that yield palpable shifts in behavior and outcome, energy and physiology.

Sometimes we think that we know what lies just beneath the surface, but what gets revealed through this work often manages to surprise. When we listen with genuine curiosity, and unconditional acceptance, with no agenda but that, amazing things happen.

This process cuts right to the heart of the matter, and has become foundational in my coaching and counseling work with clients because of it’s efficiency and effectiveness.

***

The birth chart is a map of the psyche that lays out the internal landscape. It illustrates where there are karmically and genetically inbuilt places of dissonance and resonance, conflict and congruence.

In her book “Making the Gods Work for You”, astrologer Caroline W. Casey writes: “By speaking to the forces that dwell within us, we bring them to life. Neglected or slighted aspects of ourselves awaken from dormancy.” Caroline was referring to the art of astrology readings, but she could just as easily have been talking about Parts-Work.

Astrology and Parts-Work are natural adjuncts because one system lays out the parts (or selves), and the other provides a context for them to express, emote, dialogue and dance.

***

Ultimately, I offer all of this work in service to wholeness. When we can stretch ourselves to include everything that’s living within us, we can move from fragmentation into something far richer and more dynamic.

The intersection of both/and is a magical landscape of compassionate liberation.

I give thanks to my teacher in this work, Douglas Brady, M.Ed., a dedicated psychotherapist and healer who was gifted at holding unconditional acceptance for people to access, express, and reclaim parts of themselves that felt scary, shameful and unfamiliar. Douglas called his work The Psychology of Symptoms.

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Celestial Soundbites ~ Sun in Gemini

Eminently distractible, fickle and ungrounded, imbalanced Geminis can be all over the place – speedy, spinny, zippy and frenetic. They can be hopelessly noncommittal, and avert, avoid, defer and deflect like the best of ‘em. They epitomize the puers and the archetypal fools of the zodiac. They bore easily, shift gears without warning, and change plans often. They struggle with indecision, and can be of two minds about almost anything. They can be loquacious, wordy, talkative, garrulous and … redundant!

On the flip side, Geminis make great conversationalists and captivated listeners. Articulate, eloquent and deeply curious, they are quick-witted, whimsical, cunning linguists. They’re fun at parties, great at networking and making connections, effective multi-tasters, and magnificent storytellers. Oh, and they have a flair for lightening things up when the mood might otherwise be too heavy.

Sometimes Gemini people catch things on the current of the wind and vocalize them unfiltered.  They can say some really stupid shit, but they can also be keenly preceptive and offer us a spontaneous burst of insight.  So don’t shoot the Mercury ruled messenger!

***

Honor this versatile sun-sign-cycle by becoming re-enchanted with the power of stories. Bite into a juicy best-seller, or return to a book that you loved as a child.  Read The Arabian Nights or The Secret Garden or The Mists of Avalon.  You may even decide to write your own story, or cultivate the high art of oral transmission and story-tell-it to someone in your life! Ask friends and family to share their stories with you too. Your curiosity and interest will surely draw them out and enliven them.

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From Wreckage to Redemption: Making Art at Ground Zero

I feel so fortunate to know people who are cultivating life at ground zero, who are going to where the land has been cleared so they can seed a new prayer. I am so grateful to those friends who are right now making art from the rubble in Nepal, revitalizing the landscape with color and hope, and fertilizing a new dream.

Sometimes we end up at ground zero. Sometimes collectively through an earthquake or an act of terror, sometimes personally through an illness or a loss, and sometimes we make the conscious choice to level the playing field and clear the land.

The questions in my heart, and the ones I have been nurturing with my coaching clients are:

  • Can we go to those places in a spirit of deep listening and make living art from the wreckage?
  • Can we dance on the ashes of what was and give birth to new life?
  • Can we revitalize and nurture where there is decay, and create something utterly new, hopeful and generative?
  • Can we allow the Self to compost and stand in faith and in awe as the new form emerges?

More and more I am working with my coaching and counseling clients using a “garden metaphor”. Exploring the cyclical, dirty, mysterious, growth-full terrain of the garden where we clear the land, plant new seeds, celebrate the harvest, and share the yield. This metaphor has been working me deeply, and it has been transformative for my clients as they orient to the necessity of letting go, beginning again, and harvesting what is truly ripe.

May we all learn to dance and paint and sing on the thresholds, where potency lives. May we plant goodness so that beauty fruits inside us and all around us. And may we extend our yield to those around us, cultivating generosity and nurturing seeds of Grace, so that we can truly begin again.

“Art grants us safe-passage by transforming grief into rededication to life and a more deeply loving heart.” ~Caroline W. Casey

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Celestial Soundbites ~ Sun in Taurus

Taureans are the master space holders of the zodiac. Like buddhas or redwood trees, they can hold steady ground through the most tumultuous and chaotic moments. They make excellent body workers, embodied dancers and sensual lovers, and can create beautiful and sacred spaces. Taureans are deeply incarnate creatures who know how to be fully here on earth.

Until they get stuck…and they do get stuck!

Then it’s inertia, stagnation and painful habituation. Stubborn, sluggish and stifled, oh my! They can be couch potatoes, overly attached to material possessions, married to routine, and utterly risk averse. And they can procrastinate. Like forever.

***

There are lots of ways to align with and honor the energy of Taurus.

If you’re feeling a lot of density you might decide to do a gentle cleanse to create some lightness. Think raw, vegan food, green juice and coconut water. The more weightless your food, the lighter you’ll feel.

If you’re feeling stagnation, meet it with movement, it’s opposite. (This will take some discipline and willpower because stagnation doesn’t like to move.)

If you’re feeling airy, anxious and all over the place, Taurus has good medicine for you! Lay down on the earth. Sit with you back against a tree. Get a deep tissue massage. Start an embodiment practice or try somatic psychotherapy.

If you’re feeling balanced then simply revel in the sensual delights and creature comforts Taurus so loves. Wear fabrics and materials that feel amazing on your skin. Fill your house with flowers and music. Make love outdoors. Take time to cuddle, snuggle and hug. Buy a crock pot and do some slow cooking. Or go out for dinner and savor every mouthful of a delicious, decadent dessert.

No matter what you’re feeling, bless this precious mama earth. All of this goodness comes from her. So bless her as if your life depends on it, because it does!

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Reverence

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been 2 years since I began my ministerial training with Center for Sacred Studies, a beautiful mystery school dedicated to sustaining ways of life based on collaboration and reciprocity with the Earth and all Her beings.

Newly ordained, I am confronted with the issue of language. So many of us have wounding around religion and spirituality, traumatized by distortions that are perpetuated in the name of something inherently sacred. We have negative associations and painful triggers that activate our wounding when we hear words like reverend and minister.

But I AM a reverend now, and I want to walk with the original spirit of that word, which is reverence. I want to embody that reverence, and I want to mirror and model and hold it for you, my clients and my community. I don’t want to upset or offend anyone, or have people turn away because they have an association that is rooted in distortion, disillusionment, and a diminishment of what is pure and true. I want to be a sanctuary, not a sore spot.

So I offer myself in reverence, and I offer to help you return to it if you choose to grapple with the pain and the paradox that keeps you removed from it. We are all walking together, discovering how to repair something that has been broken, but that can most surely become whole again.

“When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.”  ~John O’Donohue

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Celestial Soundbites ~ Sun in Aries

Despite what felt like an endless winter in many parts of the country, Spring has, once again, sprung. Bird song and blossoms abound, and people are beginning to shake off the contraction and internal freeze of winter.

Aries initiates the shift as guardian of the cross quarterly threshold of the Spring Equinox. To do this, it utilizes it’s qualities of tenacity, raw life force, and relentless determination. Without it’s fundamental attributes of impulse, instinct and ignition, nothing would happen. Certainly flowers, roots and grasses would not grow through concrete without it. That’s because Aries insists on life.

The flip side – and there always is one – is that this same raw archetypal energy can be expressed as impatient, impetuous, instigating and insensitive. Aries wants it when it wants it. It charges ahead. Keep up or get left behind. It needs constant movement or it goes painfully stagnant or aggressively explosive.

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I created this blog series to help you align with the Sun Sign of the month through devotional practices and mindfulness exercises. So here are a few to consider this month:

Cultivate courage (have that difficult conversation you’ve been putting off)
Push the edge (that’s what it’s there for)
Generate more life force (think sex marathons and high impact exercise)
Pursue what you want (it’s okay to lead with desire)
Celebrate life (it’s a miracle after all)

Small and sustainable is perfectly acceptable, just as long as you harness the energy of the sign, and show some gumption while you’re at it!

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Celestial Soundbites ~ Sun in Pisces

Pisces love to merge. They have a refined attunement, sensitivity and aesthetic. At their best Pisces are here to remind us to go with the flow, and of a Oneness so abiding it makes our hearts break open. They also remind us to dream. Pisces are the filmmakers, shape-shifters, shaman and mystics of the zodiac. They give us access to non-ordinary states, fantasy realms, and the spiritual and esoteric dimensions of existence.

Less evolved Pisces can feel murky, nebulous, evasive and diffuse. Think coyote tricksters and snake-oil salesmen. Lost in shadow, Pisces might become a meth addict, or any other kind of addict for that matter. They can be aimless, overly-impressionable, confused and disassociated.

However, real life is never so neat or liner. Most Pisces live somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, as most of us do.

***

This month I invite you to “feed holy” by honoring your intuition and sensitivity, connecting deeply with Source, and allowing yourself to dream big. Pay attention to subtlety and nuance. Go with the flow. Appreciate beauty and refinement in art, music and film. Consciously invite what is hidden and nebulous to reveal itself to you. Read mystical poetry or study the Kabbalah. Suspend your disbelief.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” ~Walt Disney
“Reality is for people who can’t handle imagination” ~Abraham Hicks
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ~John Lennon

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Celestial Soundbites ~ Sun in Aquarius

If Capricorn preserves the social order, Aquarius disrupts it. It’s motivation is humanitarian, it’s purview is visionary and futuristic, it’s method is to shake things up, stir the pot, and interrupt the status quo, and it’s purpose is to create radical change. Aquarians can seem weird, contrary and aloof, but if their energy is conscious and well-directed, they can lead us towards a more utopian world.

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Should is one of the most insidious words in the English language. Whenever you hear yourself saying it, I encourage you to drop it like a hot potato. Shoulds keep us imprisoned in our lives. They are relentless dictators that rob us of our free will, and generally run counter to our natural impulses. Should is a creativity killer, life-force diminisher, and self-expression stifler. Instead favor authenticity and cast off the things you do as a matter of course, and not as a matter of choice.

As a detached air sign, Aquarius allows us to take a step back, make inquiries, be objective and cultivate equanimity. This month, in holy devotional feeding of the Aquarian energy, I encourage you to do the same when confronted with some of those randomly imposed shoulds that dampen your spirit and dull your experience of life.

Try marching to the beat of your own heart, letting your freaky, idiosyncratic flag fly, and being your unique self.

This may mean stepping outside of your comfort zone, but it isn’t about going against your true nature. In fact, it’s about going more radically towards it.

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