“Suppose… the body is a God in its own right, a teacher, a mentor, a certified guide? Then what? …. Are we strong enough to refute the party line and listen deep, listen true to the body as a powerful and holy being?” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves

If you’ve had a hard time starting 2010 with a bang, then you are perfectly in tune with cosmic energies. The slow, inward-turning energy shifts this month, when Mars the action planet starts moving forward again on March 10, and then the Spring Equinox begins the astrological new year on March 20. 

We’re laying the groundwork for new beginnings, while completing a time of deep healing and inner exploration. Mars Retrograde – since December 20 — has asked:  What do you really want? How do you pursue your goals and is that working? Are you fulfilling your creative potential? Is your work in alignment with your heart’s true desires?

To answer these questions, we’ve had to SLOW DOWN. And often the Universe’s most effective strategy for making that happen is illness.

Illness is an inconvenience, a disruption of our go-go-go lives, forcing us to put on the brakes and put our external lives on hold. This is exactly where the cosmic forces have wanted us. Quiet, unplugged from the distractions of daily life, we can finally hear the voice of our inner wisdom. The illness itself may have a message for us, and/or the illness may be a strategy for getting us to pause and tune into our inner guidance.

As Christiane Northrup writes in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (which I finally had time to read while I was sick last month): “For healing to occur, we must come to see that we are not so much responsible for our illness as responsible to them.” Instead of seeing illness — or even our bodies — as an enemy to be conquered, “we must learn to trust that the symptoms in the body are often the only way that the soul can get our attention.”

Ultimately, Mars the Warrior represents power, and these past three months of Mars Retrograde ideally involve reclaiming our power from where we have given it away. The body is an essential ally in this process. 

Truth and Healing

“Chiron is the wounded healer, he triggers us into feeling the deepest inner wound so that we can clear inner pain.” – Barbara Hand Clow, Chiron

The theme of illness and healing is being triggered on a deeper level by the conjunction of Chiron and Neptune, exact on February 16 and continuing as a strong influence throughout this month. The rare alignment of these two slow-moving planets has been unfolding over the past year, and in 2009 included the presence of Jupiter, creating the potent “Aquarius Super-Conjunction.” I wrote about this influence last December, in my post Opening to Oneness.  

The Chiron-Neptune conjunction – like all long-term planetary influences – works on both personal and collective levels. In this case, we have the potential for healing collective wounds (Chiron in Aquarius) by dissolving the imagined boundaries that keep us feeling separate and isolated (Neptune in Aquarius). That all sounds sweet and lovely, but in practice, “Chirotic” healing requires the painful first step of entering into the wounded places.

I had been putting off watching the documentary Food, Inc. for some time, because I knew it would be disturbing and uncomfortable – I didn’t want to feel the pain. Food, Inc. goes behind the scenes of modern agri-business and reveals the sad truth of where our food comes from. I knew about the brutality of factory farming, and the evils of Monsanto, so I knew what I was getting into.

For me, watching Food, Inc. was a journey into collective – and particularly American — pain. I felt overwhelmed by the sadness of where we are as a culture, that we could treat animals so brutally, and treat ourselves so brutally by feeding ourselves this industrialized, unwholesome, health-destroying diet.

If there’s any truth to the old adage, “You are what you eat,” then most Americans are ingesting unspeakable pain at every meal. Not only the pain of the animals, but also the pain of the exploited humans who work in appalling conditions in factory farms. And of course the pain of the Earth herself, as these farming practices destroy the land through mono-crops, chemical fertilizers, “terminator” seeds, etc.

Despite feeling deeply disturbed, sad and pissed-off, I’m grateful I watched Food, Inc. There’s something inherently healing about encountering the Truth. Even if we aren’t aware of all the facts, on some level, since we’re all connected, we still FEEL the pain and suffering. Knowing the truth of what’s going on empowers us to respond in a conscious way. As long as we’re operating unconsciously, avoiding pain and discomfort (as our addictive-prone culture encourages us to do), there’s no hope for healing.

Aquarius represents truth, freedom and revolution, and the Chiron-Neptune conjunction in this sign reminds us that the Truth can set us free, and is a pre-requisite for meaningful change – both in our personal lives, and in the life of the collective.

Reclaiming Our Bodies’ Truth

“[Chiron’s] wound is the heritage of centuries of repressing and persecuting our instinctual selves, and it is the condition in which much of the so-called civilized world finds itself today.” – Melanie Reinhart, Chiron and the Healing Journey

In Greek myth, Chiron is a centaur, with the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. The human half represents the intellect and consciousness while the animal half represents the wild, instinctual nature. The wound that Chiron carries, and which he can never heal, is to his horse self (his hip, leg or foot, depending on the version of the story). 

The discovery of Chiron in 1977 — signaling that humanity is ready for an evolutionary step forward — is symbolic of our readiness to re-integrate the mind-body and spirit-body split that has characterized Western culture for the past 2,000 years. The masculine-feminine duality — the rational intellect versus the irrational, intuitive nature — is another manifestation of this split. 

How we treat animals in our culture reflects the devaluation of our animal selves. In factory farming, animals are feeling-less, soul-less machines to be exploited for maximum profit. Humans are treated much the same way. Whether in sweatshops, mines, or office cubicles, the needs, health, comfort and desires of the body are sacrificed to the god of money. Disconnected from our bodies, we lose connection to our natural instincts, our feelings and intuition, our inner guidance system. Unplugged from our bodies’ truth, we are more likely to give away our power to external forces.

The Chiron-Neptune conjunction inspires a revolution in our relationship to our animal selves — the potential for dissolving the dualistic paradigm and integrating mind and body, spirit and body, the masculine and feminine, logic and intuition. Instead of either/or, the new paradigm is both/and.

As we prepare for Spring Equinox — the time of rebirth and renewal — our bodies are offering valuable information about what we need to heal or release in order to take our next steps forward. In listening to our own bodies and honoring their wisdom and guidance, we participate in the collective healing of our wild, animal nature, and take a step toward healing the relationship between human and non-human animals, between “civilized” culture and the wilderness.