Interview with a Poet: Reflections on the Work of Bruce Whiteman

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The Invisible World is in Decline, Book IX is available through ECW Press, as well as through Amazon
9 (Melpomene) 

Lack of belief is the tragedy. It’s not that God’s ineffable face is gone. It’s out there somewhere like a star, like a childhood memory fated eventually to rise. It’s counting on the smaller things that come to be the hardest: poetry and its adagio truths, the tick-tock of love interminably out of reach and bound to fade away in any case, cocks and clocks and every squalid aspiration for eternity.

Bruce Whiteman, The Invisible World is in Decline, Book IX (p. 33). ECW Press. Kindle Edition. 

Bruce Whiteman lives in Peterborough, Ontario, where he is a full-time poet and book reviewer. Most recently he is the editor of Best Canadian Essays 2021 (Biblioasis). His selected essays and reviews will be published in 2022 by Biblioasis. Book IX, the conclusion to his long poem, The Invisible World Is in Decline, appears this April 2022 (ECW Press). His book reviews appear in such publications as The Hudson Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Canadian Notes & Queries, The Toronto Star, Quill & Quire and elsewhere.


Published this year (2022) The Invisible World is in Decline, Book IX is the last of nine books in your long poem of the same name which you began in 1981.  Congratulations on the publication, and thank you for allowing me to interview you.  As a writer who focuses on the metaphysical, particularly cycles of time and how they are expressed in culture, I find your work compelling, as it represents a concerted effort of vision which you have managed to sustain over a considerable time period.  Poetry is difficult work, as the matters of life, love, loss, hope can be onerous points of focus which many prefer to avoid. The Invisible World is in Decline represents an oeuvre of continual, concentrated self-awareness that is remarkable, and I am grateful that you are willing to share some insights. 

In Opus Posthumous (1957) Wallace Stevens says:  “The poet is the priest of the invisible.” The poet’s invocation of words charges our perception of hidden reality with power not otherwise available; through poetry, we are allowed to commune with subtleties which lie in places normally unknown.  Poetry’s precise reflectivity provides impressions of the invisible world with a power that is akin to that of visual arts such as photography, painting or sculpture, but poetry goes beyond what those arts offer, as the power of language is specifically human.  Good poetry has a visceral impact that forever changes the reader. Through the work of a skilled poet such as yourself, we are allowed to view the shape of the ethers underpinning our world, and we come away with new knowledge in apprehending a perspective not normally seen.

To be a poet takes great strength, and speaks of a love of life that encompasses a willingness to not look away and hide from tenderness of this world, but rather revel in it, transcribing impressions for the benefit of all.  I hope my questions here are not too personal, or vague, but rather represent what others may find salient in considering your poetry.  Your work and insights are deeply valuable, and much appreciated. Thank you Bruce.


#1 Define “Invisible World”

The phrase “invisible world” brings many things to mind, and as a person who tends to look at things metaphysically, I was quite struck by this concept.  For me, this phrase refers to the subtle current of energies which underpin what we consider consensual reality.  What do you mean when you use the phrase “the invisible world”?  Are you specifically referring to the world of the aesthete, the artist and musician, a world little perceived by the majority of humanity, or is it perhaps a spiritual reference? 

BW:

There have been times over the last forty years when the title of my long poem has seemed a regrettable limitation. Perhaps I should have chosen something less specific, broader, more capacious, like The Cantos or The Divine Comedy. And almost necessarily the poem sometimes strays quite far from the central armature, perhaps most especially at those times when the personal irresistibly comes back into the work, through passion or trauma or whatever is the case.

No, the title is not aesthetic; yes, it’s more spiritual. If you look back over the history of thought since the Enlightenment, it’s pretty obvious that the invisible world is in decline. Call it God, or the world of the spiritual generally speaking, its centrality to our lives has eroded. We see this in Locke, in Hume, in Nietzsche among the philosophers. In poetry, Wordsworth’s The Prelude announces the future dominance of the personal that will continue to be at poetry’s heart through Whitman and on into Modernism. Some Modernist art will aspire to be impersonal—T.S. Eliot wanting to derogate private experience, etc.—but really almost all art in every genre is personal after Wordsworth, after Berlioz, after Blake and Turner, after Freud. So the world of the spirits, as opposed to the world of the spirit, comes to be left behind or at least to decline in relevance. I chose such an idea as the central theme of my long poem precisely so I could get away from lyricism, from the ego as the source of poetry. I freely admit that over nine books and forty years, I didn’t always succeed in keeping the ego out of the poem.


#2 Is poetry confessional or impersonal?

It seems it is the poet’s task to delineate ephemera, showing us what they have retrieved while in communion with energies that ultimately transcend the personal.  The poet transcribes delicate perceptions into a transpersonal form, allowing the sharing of material which is larger than the individual. How much of your poetry has served as personal testament as opposed to representing collective considerations, or vice versa?  I understand that you have converted to the Catholic faith, and you are surely aware of the importance of confession to the life of a practicing Catholic.  How, throughout your career, has poetry served in place of that formal sacrament, if at all?  

BW:

I converted in 2019, so the bulk of my poem was composed before I became a Catholic, at one of the worst moments in Church history, I might add! As far as confession goes, both in the Christian sense and the psychotherapeutic sense, when I began to write The Invisible World, I had reached a point as a poet when confession had become boring, and it was precisely to get away from the confessional mode that I turned to the prose poem and the long poem. I suppose, now that you ask, that poetry WAS a kind of sacrament when I was young and writing lyric poetry, poems about feelings largely, the sorts of things one talks to a priest or a psychoanalyst about. The seven deadly sins writ large or secularized. With my long poem I wanted out of therapy, and into a kind of language that engages larger issues that are not at heart personal. Book IV is about light, for example. Inevitably, and even against my better judgement, personal feeling got back into the poem, especially at moments in my life when I was devastated by something–a love affair gone bad, the death of a parent, etc. I even allowed the “lined” poem back in twice, once at the end of Book VII and again in Book IX, where one whole section consists of poems—translations in fact—of conventionally structured poems. So I guess the short answer to your question is, inevitably, both.


#3 Does decline imply a fall from grace, or is it a matter of cyclical change?   

To consider that the invisible world is in decline is sad, and also somewhat alarming.  The question that comes to mind is this: why is it in decline? Is saying the invisible world is in decline a statement of hopelessness, or cynicism?  Or is it a clear-minded, objective assessment?  Does this concept of decline encompass the idea of falling from grace? Do you believe that decline is inevitable, a condition of mortality, or is there a turning point which can be found somewhere?   Is decline a permanent state, or do you believe it is a cyclical affair? 

BW:

That’s a hard question to be definitive about. The metanarrative of continual human progress is not easy to argue for, when you take a cold hard look at the planet today. The climate crisis feels like just the latest demonstration that somehow we humans have wasted our opportunity as a species through egotism. Of course, when you think about progress in concrete ways, it’s hard not to agree with the statements that we should be glad not to be forced to have dental work done in the 18th century, or that the elimination of smallpox is a wonderful thing. But spiritual progress? Not really. A geographer named Carl Sauer once pointed out that the first time humans did something really bad to the Earth was during the Renaissance, when humanism came to the fore; and in that sense, it has been downhill ever since, as far as our relationship with nature is concerned. And maybe our relationship with God too. But it’s complicated, and I’m not sure that the idea of a fall from grace is historically accurate. Emotionally, though, it kind of feels apt. It’s hard to imagine that we will ever return to the sort of integrated world view of earlier periods in human history. But hope is a very human emotion, so who knows?


#4 Are poets psychopomps?   

In Book IX, you say:

“Part of a poet’s job is to journey to hell. Seeking dear ones gone into pitch. Wanting the smell of love, the touch of a moving body. Missing hoarfrost and starshine, glabrous light, polyphonic voices.” (p. 14)

And:

“Remembering the dead, our lot is to walk carefully forward. Not to fall headlong from hour to hour, from day to day, hurled like water from edge to edge, into the darkness that yawns beneath our steps. Like a man on a wire we don’t look back and can’t look down, but focus straight ahead.” (p.16)

Your use of the psychopomp as a recurring character is fascinating. For those not familiar, a psychopomp is a divine or semi-divine being who is able to traverse the borders between the land of the living and the land of the dead, travelling back and forth to the underworld usually to fulfill a specific task, relay information or retrieve something lost.  Very few have been allowed by the gods to travel to make this journey and return to tell the tale, and success usually involves not looking back at that which we wish to bring to the surface. In looking back, we express doubt, and we scorn a divine gift, yet it is such a temptation to do what we have been decreed not to do. As a poet, how do you relate to the figure of the psychopomp? Are poets psychopomps in their own way, and should they be?  What temptations does the poet entertain in traversing the invisible landscapes of the underworld?

BW:

I took the idea of the psychopomp from Jung, for whom it is much as you say—a kind of spiritual cicerone. Some of the great works of western literature describe the visit to the realm of the dead—The Odyssey in Book 11, The Aeneid in Book 6, and of course Dante’s Inferno, the first great book of The Divine Comedy. The Orpheus myth as told by Ovid and others falls into this narrative as well. All of the seekers return to the world or rise upwards, sadder but wiser. Dante has to leave his psychopomp behind, because he—the poet Virgil—is a pagan, and not qualified to enter Paradise. Orpheus of course loses Eurydice because, as you say, he lacks faith and looks back to ensure that she is following him–just exactly what he has been told not to do. As I say in a note to Book IX, the psychopomp in one way is the master of dreams. Several of my poems engage with something I literally heard in a dream and recorded–the statement, for example, “I have an immortality problem.” I was hesitant to use dream material this literally, but decided in the end that there is so much poetry in dreams that it was stupid or ungenerous to ignore it. Dreams often do feel like an expedition to Hell, and what we can learn there, and from them, seems worth registering. Are poets psychopomps in this sense? The ancients would have answered in the affirmative for sure, and I do too.


#5  What advice do you have for the young poet?

For one last question, I ask broadly – what do you have to say to the young poet?  What advice do you have?  What would you like to say to those who would follow in your path, taking up the life of a poet?

BW:

I would try to be positive, though the real-world rewards are few. I would say, read as much as possible, poetry and other literature too. You cannot write well if you do not have a rich reading experience among the poets who came before you. Poetry doesn’t begin with Mary Oliver or Leonard Cohen. Read Homer and everything or as much as possible of what comes after him. Read translations if you don’t have other languages, though knowing another language is a very good thing for a poet. And as a poet who emphasizes the musical elements of poetry, I would recommend knowing at least something about how music works. Read aloud a lot. Read and re-read the same poems to know them well. Hang out with other creative people—musicians, painters et al. They will provoke you but also be good readers of your work. Learn about where words come from, as this will enrich the ways in which you use them. Poetry isn’t much of a living, honestly, but it’s a rich way to engage with life.

Solar Eclipse April 30, 2022 – New Moon in Taurus

Whatever gets you through the night
It's all right, it's all right
It's your money or your life
It's all right, it's all right
Don't need a sword to cut through' flowers
Oh no, oh no

Whatever gets you through your life
It's all right, it's all right
Do it wrong, or do it right
It's all right, it's all right
Don't need a watch to waste your time
Oh no, oh no

Whatever gets you to the light
It's all right, it's all right
Out of the blue, or out of sight
It's all right, it's all right
Don't need a gun to blow you mind
Oh no, oh no
 - John Lennon, 1974

We have a New Moon/Solar Eclipse on Saturday April 30, exact at 10º28’ Taurus, at 16:29 EDT/20:29 UT.  This is an unusual lunation, as it is the second New Moon of April, an occurrence which is only occasional. There seems to be a trend with people calling this “The Black Moon” which sounds great, though as that term can be used for various reasons, I will not be referring to it as such. In fact, one of the old names for the New Moon is Black Moon. When the Sun and Moon are conjoined, our capacity to see is hindered, we are in darkness. Everything is perceived very subjectively, and is often too close to see with any realistic perspective. With a high energy solar eclipse like this, it’s a good idea to take a step back, allow yourself some breathing space, and know that everything is just fine. The ancients always marked New and Full Moons as days dedicated to meditation, prayer, ritual withdrawal and silence. Do not be afraid to give yourself a rest, and retreat for this day, particularly if you have been feeling stressed lately. While you may be feeling a strong sense of urgency, or confusion right now – let things settle and don’t jump to any conclusions.

Solar Eclipses are a powerful time to initiate new directions, and put to rest old, worn out ways of being that no longer serve you effectively.  Sometimes all this takes is to allow ourselves to think about things. Meditate. Delve. Do whatever feels most comfortable to honor the importance of your life, as the heavens support your efforts. This Solar Eclipse, those with planets or personal points that fall between 7º and 13º of the signs listed below will be most strongly affected, particularly any who have direct Sun/Moon or angles involved.   

Any planets or personal points in fixed signs between 7º and 13º Taurus, Leo, Scorpio or Aquarius

Any planets or placements in earth signs between 7º and 13º – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

This is the second eclipse on the Taurus/Scorpio axis, a series which will be completed May 5, 2023, with a Lunar Eclipse at 14º58’ Scorpio .  Those born in the first two weeks of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio or Aquarius will particularly feel this as a highly charged lunation, and are especially affected with forces of challenge and change. These signs have been doing deep, hard work and the foundations for new directions are showing their bones now, whether you are fully conscious of this or not. Taurus and Scorpio are preoccupied with self-definition, and issues of partnership vs ego needs. The signs Virgo and Capricorn can use this eclipse to further plans of manifestation and transformation, while Cancer and Pisces should have a refreshingly inspired lunation, allowing the chance to see your ideals coming to life.   Enjoy.

Any notable events that have occurred within the last month should be considered seriously, as the most challenging, exciting and charged concepts recently faced will form a signature of new directions manifesting, pointing the way to things which will become increasingly important in your life over the course of the following year. Think back – did any interactions particularly strike you as important or deep – any arguments, outbursts, ruminations, ear worms? Any message or idea which is uppermost in your mind now deserves your full attention. Take your time.

This New Moon is conjoined with Uranus, which adds a sense of surprise and chaos to the mix.  Innovations, sudden changes, emotional outbursts, surprise meetings, arguments and confessions can arise with this influence.  Discoveries and brainwaves can happen as solutions to old problems are found. People suddenly break up, or suddenly decide to be together.  You learn things you didn’t know about those closest to you, and they in turn also make discoveries about you.  This can affect our feelings of security, as we either want to throw caution to the wind, or else retreat in shock as we try to process what is new and unusual. 

The Venus/Jupiter/Neptune conjunction in Pisces continues to imbue the world with a hazy glow. People want to feel luxury, glamor, emotional depth. Some will feel more empathetic, creative or dramatic than usual; it’s a good time to make amends, and look at the big picture, just beware of what seems too good to be true. It’s easy to be taken advantage of under this influence, drink too much, seek too much pleasure, and spend too much money, so consider yourself forewarned. On the other hand, it is a highly creative time, and you may find yourself drawn to beauty, quietude, peace and solace. Dive in, it’s a lovely energy.

Mercury just entered Gemini, so there is a sense of analysis in the air.  This will help to dispel some of the fog that is hanging around.  Communications will be high, people will be chatty, seeking details and comparisons.  Mars is also in Pisces, sextile the Solar Eclipse, so good energy is available for active discovery and change. Saturn and Pluto remain in the background, arms folded, solid and stern. Lean on them if you need to, they aren’t going anywhere.

As this is a New Moon in Taurus, the prevailing mood is wanting to find security, pleasure, comfort and stability.  Uranus may not allow for that, but sometimes we need to change where we find security.  This is a great time to overcome habits that may be holding you back, particularly anything that holds you down and makes you too heavy.  Look at your relationship with money, and the insecurities you may be holding there – this is a good time to renovate preconceived notions about need, want and desire.

As everyone has Taurus in their astrological chart by house placement, it helps to know which of your houses this eclipse falls in.  Always consider the house holding the Eclipse, as well as its polarity point to get the fullest idea of what to expect. If you haven’t already run your own astrological chart, Astrodienst offers free chart calculations and a wealth of information for anyone interested in astrology.

Eclipses in Houses:

Eclipse along First House/Seventh House Axis – the focus is on 1st House issues of identity, persona, how we put ourselves out to the world versus 7th House issues about our relationships, partnerships, open enmities. How you do you, personally versus how close relationships affect you and how you are perceived

Eclipse along Second House/Eighth House Axis – the focus is on 2nd House issues of what we value, what we strive for, what we want and how we go about doing it versus what we need from others, dependencies (including debt and sex), what others want from us, power plays in resource management

Eclipse along Third House/Ninth House Axis – the focus is on 3rd House issues of how we communicate on a daily basis, with whom, and where.  Immediate interactions including with friends, neighbors, community versus 9th House issues of what we learn from the world at large, how the world affects our thinking and communication, higher education, travel, foreign influences, law

Eclipse along Fourth/Tenth House Axis – the focus is on 4th House issues of our most personal life, home, inner sanctum, ancestry, place of residence versus 10th House matters of career, what the world sees and knows of you, how you are viewed by the public, what you do with your life and how it represents who you are in the world

Eclipse along Fifth/Eleventh House Axis – the focus is on 5th House issues of personal creativity, joy, children (including conceptual offspring – projects, hobbies), gambling, what we do to find pleasure and enjoyment versus 11th House matters about how society affects us, our sense of friendship, fraternity, community involvement, how the outside world impacts our hopes and dreams, especially how these play out in the world at large

Eclipse along Six/Twelfth House Axis – the focus is on 6th House matters relating to our sense of service to others, jobs, work, employment, habits, daily maintenance and tasks, pets, things that need taking care of for which we are responsible (including our health) versus 12th House issues about what we are unconscious of, things beyond our grasp, the collective, dream worlds, illusions, isolation, limitations, delusions, where we fool ourselves, or engage in self-sabotage

For a list of 2022’s lunations, including eclipses, see: Lunar Events 2022

For more about Moon Phases, see: Moon Phases and Eclipses

Beauty Will Save the World: Full Moon in Libra 16 April 2022, with forecasts for each sign of the zodiac

Walter Crane, The Renaissance of Venus, 1877 at Tate Museum (not on display)

“Is it true, Prince, that you once said ‘beauty’ would save the world?  Gentlemen,” he cried loudly to them all, “the prince insists that beauty will save the world!”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, Part III, Chapter V

The Moon enters Libra on Thursday April 14 at 21:46 UT/16:46 EDT, and the Full Moon in Libra will be exact at 26º45’ on April 16 2022 at 18:55 UT/14:55 EDT.  After it reaches fullness, the Moon only remains in Libra for approximately six hours before scurrying off into Scorpio, and the last aspect it makes is a square to Pluto at 22:57 UT/17:57 EDT.  This is the first Full Moon of the astrological year, fleetingly short, a tight blend of tension and inspiration.

Libra is a sign known for its diplomacy and desire to maintain harmony. This Full Moon, in its opposition to the Sun in Aries, is captured in a tight T-square with Pluto, putting at odds the harmonious will to personal power, the importance of relationship and the need for catharsis and renewal.  This T-square is a portrait of interpersonal tension, as people feel under pressure to determine what is theirs and what belongs to others – psychologically, spiritually, practically and emotionally. Pluto, lord of the underworld, is a difficult energy at the best of times, and here, embroiled with the forces of emotion and ego, its cathartic influence creates a profound urge for upheaval and renovation of the existing state of affairs.  Add to this the sense of compulsion that is natural to Pluto, and we have a yearning for deep transformation, an itch that needs to be scratched even if we leave ourselves raw in the doing.  The accommodating Moon in Libra feels oppressed by the heavy-handed energy of Pluto in Capricorn, and it needs help from the Sun in Aries to find its way free.

The energy of Aries versus Libra can be seen like this.  Imagine getting up in the morning, not picking up your phone, not looking at your computer, or the television, not switching on the radio – not connecting with the outside world at all.  You only check in with yourself.  You sit down and write a few notes in a journal – consider how you are feeling, what you want or need to do with your day as you focus on yourself only.  That’s Aries energy, all “Me”.  In contrast, you can immediately look to the outside world for information, direction, inspiration, entertainment, all of which modifies how and who you are in any given moment – that’s Libra – all “We.” When we add a square from Pluto in Capricorn, we are challenged by forces outside of our control.  It’s like sky debris hurtling from space, landing on our front doorstep, energy that comes from the world beyond our personal lives, and impacts everything across this spectrum of “Me” and “We.” Collectively, Pluto indicates that our very foundations are being remade, and this impinges on how we understand everything about “Me” and “We” – who we are as individuals, and our relationships with others.

The current Jupiter/Neptune conjunction in Pisces sees the two rulers of that sign united, and that could be a glorious thing, but it adds a sense of deception to this time by creating the illusion that nothing is real, nothing is important, and that pleasure and idealism are all that matters. These two planets travelling together must be handled with great care, lest we get loss in the swirling mass of mythic powers. As a culture, we have been anesthetized with time-wasting habits, and it is so easy to just disconnect from the real world – click, surf, move on. What a luxury it is to be able to deny reality!  Just remember to consider the following concepts:  how do we fall prey to illusion, in self-concept, and in relationships with those closest to us, and the world at large?  What does “reality” mean? What do we hide from ourselves and others? What is being hidden from us? While the possibility of delusion is high with this Jupiter/Neptune conjunction, there is also so much inspiration available which we can use to build a better world for ourselves and others.  As such, we cannot give up and fall into despair or delusion. There is too much work to do people! We must continue to shine light into the darkest places of our collective experience, even if all you can muster is the smallest gesture of peace and consideration, a prayer in the dark.  This is an intense time, and frightening for so many who are in the midst of conflict. Remember the ideals which lead us to strive, and hold them close. Consider this as a period of renovation; we are going through the ugly, messy, seemingly hopeless stage of tearing down what is old and useless, and things don’t look good right now. We have to keep in mind our highest ideals and what we want to see emerge from all this mess. 

The quote at the beginning of this article is from the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, from his book The Idiot, written in 1869, a time of much turmoil for the author, as well as the world. Sadly, we see how recently the actions of one particular Russian have resulted in the misery and horror of millions of people.  As a result, world opinion of all things Russian has plummeted to a state of hatred and revulsion, and even Russian contributions to literature, art, philosophy, and science are being removed from education curricula the world over. I hesitated to use this quote, given what is happening, but we cannot deny the impact that writers like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy have made to the body of literature. Some of the most profound creativity the world has ever seen comes from Russia, and we must give credit where it is due.  This small five word sentiment is one which is particularly valid at this time:  beauty will save the world.   Beauty, art, aesthetics – these are universal pursuits which elevate humanity and give us hope and the will to survive.  This is a fitting remembrance for a Full Moon in Libra, Venus-ruled sign of all things beautiful, erudite and refined.

In the spirit of Venus-ruled Libra, be a warrior for beauty.  Do something beautiful in your life – whether it’s dressing up in your best clothing, using color that pleases you in your fashion or environment, buying some flowers or delicacies, visit an art gallery, listen to some exquisite music – do something to honor the spirit of beauty, and share it with those you love.  Do your part, be a torch-bearer and shine the light of beauty into the world now, as it’s needed most.  Remember that the only way to shut down negativity is by being positive, and you don’t have to entertain negativity in your life, even if it’s the devil you know best.  Be open to inspiration and wonder.  Look for beauty in this world and it will find you. Embrace beauty, and let it inspire you as you let the delicate light of this Full Moon in Libra fill your heart with the gentle grace of Venus.


Aries:  Even warriors need time to heal and rest, Aries, and that is perfectly fine.  You are feeling full of spit and vinegar, and ideas for expansion of what you hold most valuable are flying faster than you can catch them.  Take the time to record all this good stuff, you’ll be surprised to review it all later.  This Full Moon is a good time to take a long hard look at your relationships and consider how they are affecting who you think you are.  You want the world to see a different you – alright, it’s going to take some serious soul-searching, a solidifying of your act, and courting some more mature playmates.  The inspiration is there, and your dreams are beautiful.  Let go of the reins, and let them come to life they way they want to, once and for all.

Taurus:  Your persona is crackling with innovation, and hell, maybe just a little bit of genius, but you need to stabilize that good stuff.  You like stability, remember Taurus?  It’s time to get serious – really serious about how you want the world to see you, and that is going to take work, work and more work, but in a new way that reflects this emerging worldview. Are you up for it?  The spotlight is on your habits, your daily routines, and your health.  How could subconscious material be tripping you up?  What are you hiding from yourself, what needs to be uprooted to free up the energy you can put to better use elsewhere? Old stuff impacts how the world is seeing you; that’s not necessarily bad, but structure could be useful.

Gemini:  The spotlight is on your creativity Gemini.  Embrace the beauty in your world and let yourself be a channel this Full Moon.  Share something that makes your heart sing, and let your sense of beauty inspire how the world sees you.  Much energy is available for you to capture your inspiration – look to your dreams, flashes of vision, and let the creative juices flow.  Zingers from your subconscious mind will surprise, but could very well lead to new directions as you work on solidifying your personal philosophy.  Control issues could prove discomforting, as you work through what’s mine and what’s yours.  Stand your ground, but don’t be a bully either.

Cancer:  This Full Moon, the spotlight is on your home/career axis, Cancer.  What does home mean to you?  Partnerships compel change, and you look to your worldview, philosophies, higher learning and your sense of justice to inform the decisions you make about how your power and that of those around you impact your sense of personal mission.  Expect surprises from your social scene, you may meet new people who shake you up with their innovative ways.  On the career front, your ego is in the game, even though you feel a bit put upon by the past, expectations that just won’t seem to leave you alone.  Some things cannot be changed, and it is wise to acknowledge what that means to you, and make peace.  Seek the solace of your inner sanctum, and make it beautiful.

Leo:  The spotlight is on your closest confidants, your buddies, your immediate environment and how you communicate on a daily basis.  You have ideas brewing about the world, and you want to share them, though issues of power, sexuality and control add spice to the mix.  Partnerships are either solid, stodgy or downright withholding right now – take your pick and work with it, even if it’s no fun. Go for what suits you, but don’t shy away from structure.  Remember, not everyone can keep up with your shining ways.  Work, routine and health provide an arena for change – what can you do to eliminate bad habits and start on a new path? Expect surprises in career, perhaps an announcement about a sudden change in direction.  It could even come from you.

Virgo: What do you hold dear, Virgo, and how does that measure up with what those closest to you value most? This Full Moon, allow your closest relationships to inspire you as your passion principle gets an overhaul. Partnerships and intimacy show you where your dreams lie, and beauty is found in higher thinking, learning, art, law and foreign travel and influences. Inspiration comes in surprising flashes as ideas you’ve been chasing suddenly become available for review. This is an excellent time to tighten up on any bad habits, do an overhaul of your health and domestic routines. If you want to start a new path and clean up your act, now’s the time to do so as you will be able to clearly see what needs work.

Libra:  The spotlight is on your persona this Full Moon, Libra, as you stand face to face with issues of how others influence the way you put yourself out into the world.  You are going through deep inner changes, revamping what security means on the deepest level of home and body; old traditions are sometimes the best, but if you want to put a spin on things, now would be the time to materialize your visions and kick up the old ways a bit.  Creativity feels hard to come by, but when it does come, it sticks and what you make is solid.  Don’t let yourself overindulge in workaholic tendencies; you need to rest and recuperate, and remember, lots of work happens in downtime too.  In fact, that’s often when the best inspirations strike.

Scorpio: This Full Moon, connect with your dreams, Scorpio. It’s like there’s a light shining into your subconscious mind, and you have the opportunity to feel wonderful inspiration in your creative self expression, and in your experience of beauty and pleasure. Sounds great, but materializing your inspirations will take looking at your daily habits, your routines and your approach to work to unlock that good stuff. Home life could pose some restrictions, or on the other hand, allow you to feel the support you need to let that inspiration unfurl. Career is out there for all to see, though how (and what) you talk about it is in a state of transformation. Expect surprises in relationships and partnerships, or even an appearance from an old flame or enemy.

Sagittarius:  The spotlight is on your society, Sagittarius.  Who do you rub shoulders with?  Who inspires you?  What do you wish for most dearly?  How do the people in your social scene affect your ideas of pleasure, joy and creativity?  Do they help, or hinder?  Communicating about this stuff feels tough, but if you have something important you’ve been wanting to say, now’s the time, because the message will be perceived as important and will be respected.  Home life is dreamy, and you feel inspired by your inner sanctum.  How you access the resources you need to keep those dreams alive needs some renovation.  Don’t be afraid, your value structure is changing.  Look for surprises in domestic, work and health routines as a new approach becomes apparent; pay attention, it could be a stroke of genius.

Capricorn:  The spotlight is on career, Capricorn, and how your very roots affect what you put out into the world.  Home offers you the foundation you need, but it can feel like an eternal compromise.  Your persona is in the midst of total renovation, and your value structure is solidifying; you want to see the money, long-term and you are willing to do the serious, long-term work. Make peace with what you can’t change, and seek beauty in your daily world.  Communications with those closest to you are inspired and you have much that is wonderful to consider.  Joy, pleasure and creative output are supercharged; pay close attention to any brainwaves that come through over the course of this Full Moon.  You are plumbing the depths; keep a record of this stuff, you will find it valuable in the future.

Aquarius:  The spotlight is on your philosophies, Aquarius, and how foreign ideas, teachings and people from other places impact how you communicate.  Your daily routines, interactions with those closest to you, and short-distance travel become amplified and you could find yourself quite busy as you seek to ground what you value in closer alignment with your outward persona.  This is a good time for manifesting your dreams, though do be careful if you are taking out a loan that you don’t overextend yourself now.  Home life and ancestry pose surprises; information comes to light which could change a lot about what you thought you knew, and material you’ve been carrying with you for some time.  Keep a close record, you will want to review later.

Pisces:  The spotlight is on power, power plays, how people hold things over you, and how you in turn like to control others, Pisces.  Your value structure is what it is, for better or for worse, and you know it – but now’s a good time to look at how your values mesh or not with those most important to you.  Expect surprising communication from relatives, siblings, neighbors and a lot of zooming around over the next few weeks.  Old material that’s been buried in your subconscious mind feels like work as it maintains a heavy presence just below the threshold of consciousness.  Your persona is inspired and you want to express your sense of blissfulness to the world.  Let it unfurl, share what you know to be beautiful, and expect your social scene to respond in kind.  Changes in your hopes and dreams are brewing.  Take care of the daily stuff first, the rest will follow.

Beauty in action, standing against oppression. In the streets of Kharkiv, Ukraine-22 March 2022 – Bach Cello Suite no 5 in C minor BWV 1011, Prelude.
“My name is Denys Karachevtsev, I am a cellist and a citizen of Kharkiv. I love my heroic city which is now struggling to survive the war. I deeply believe that we can help. I believe we can restore and rebuild our city and our country when the war is over. I am launching my project in the streets of Kharkiv to raise funds for humanitarian aid and for restoration of the city’s architecture. Let’s unite to revive our city together!”

On Psychic Grooves, Balance and Free Will

Sri Dharma Mittra of Dharma Yoga Center, New York, NY in Niralamba Sirsasana (hands-free head stand pose), an expression of perfect balance.

Balance is ultimately a matter of Self-control, a refinement of how we exert our free will through careful consideration of proportion and scale in our behavior and action. Most people live in a well-worn habitual mode of action, using that mode as their regular vehicle as they move through life. Think of all the times you hear people say self-defining things like “I’m so stupid. I’m a pot-stirrer. I’m just lazy. I’m a bull in a china shop. I’m this or I’m that…” and you will understand what this means. In yoga we call these self-defining, habitual modes of thinking and being samskaras. These samskaras can be regarded as psychic grooves, much like the grooves on a vinyl record.  No matter how many times a record is played, we experience the same song over and over again, maybe with a few scratches here and there as the record gets older. As we move through our days, each of us is playing our own record, and our psychic grooves cause us to respond to the world in a habitual way.  We tend to think the same thoughts repetitively, feel the same feelings, and react to circumstances, no matter how novel, in ways based on pre-established memory and presupposition.  We seek recollection of previous experience for ways to comprehend what we have before us, whether the response proves to be balanced or not.

Samskaras are the result of years of conditioning and in cases of particularly unmovable patterns, likely previous karmas that we carry into this life which create preconceived notions that we rely upon to navigate the world. We often find ourselves stuck in repetitive thoughts regardless of our intentions, and recurring memories affect how we proceed with our relationships, often hindering us from seeking better ways of doing things. These are samskaras in action making it difficult to separate what we believe we know from what is there to be known. We all live in our samskaras, and while they are fundamental to consciousness and it is impossible to exist without them, our goal is to change our limiting grooves, realizing where we may go wrong as a result of acting through habit or misconception.  This is why so much attention is paid in spiritual development practices on learning how to disconnect from patterns that may not be to our benefit to follow. Consider yourself as a vehicle with the tires on one side stuck in a rut. Sitting in the vehicle, you find yourself unbalanced, and it is your goal to remove yourself from that rut and set yourself back on a balanced path. This takes a concentrated effort, but is not impossible by any means.

What we spend most of our time thinking about eventually overtakes our personas, and we come to embody our habitual thoughts – a self-fulfilling prophecy is enacted.  This is the principle behind what is commonly known as “The Law of Attraction,” which, while a deceptively simple idea, is usually only half-considered.  One believes that to focus on prosperity and wealth will attract such benefits in our lives, and yet, the psychic hygiene required to maintain positive focus typically falls away through ennui, lack of sufficient evidence of efficacy, or simple distraction, and people resume their immersion in negativity once again.  Habitual thinking leads to habitual behavior, and if the habits are inherently negative and Self-denying, life force, happiness and personal effectiveness are curtailed. To manifest positivity, we must live our lives positively, on a continual basis.  Positivity is not something that we schedule as a point of focus for 15 minutes here or there throughout the day after which we resume bad habits.  A positive, productive and prosperous life is built on establishing a positive overall outlook, and that outlook must be maintained with passion and commitment.   This is a matter of free will and choice.

“Do not grieve over your present state and do not worry. If you refuse to worry, you will remain calm and you will surely find a way of reaching your goal. Remember that every time you worry, you put on a mental brake; and in struggling against that resistance, you place strain on your heart and mind. You wouldn’t try to drive off in your car with the brake on, because you know it would severely damage the mechanism. Worry is the brake on the wheels of your efforts; it brings you to a dead stop. Nothing is impossible, unless you think it is. Worry can convince you that it is impossible to do what you want to do. Worrying wastes time and energy. Use your mind instead to try to make some positive effort.”

Paramahansa Yogananda, The Divine Romance

What about people who have been traumatized, who have suffered terrible violence, are immersed in depression, anxiety, limited circumstances or otherwise compromised?  Do these people have a choice to be positive, or are their negative experiences going to define their lives? Unfortunately, it is true that societal forces have resulted in the destruction of capacities to live good lives for huge swaths of the human population. Ultimately though, the choice with what to do with one’s life, and how to best live that life, is up to the individual.  One only has to reflect on survivors of trauma, of horrors such as war, cultural genocide, Holocaust, slavery, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse and look to the inspiration of stories told by those who overcame their traumas to understand the potential of the human spirit.  We see that positive mental outlook and choice are the forces behind successfully overcoming traumatic pasts.  The human spirit can be unbelievably strong, and it is possible to summon that strength to overcome anything, even when it does not seem immediately possible. Don’t ever let anyone or any circumstance lead you to believe you cannot overcome what you want to overcome. This power is available to every single member of humankind. Have faith in your abilities to find balance and live the life you want to live

Currently we find the world gripped in great tension, with large-scale exertions of individual and collective power, extreme expressions of violent tribalism, and delusive ideological bludgeoning causing mass confusion and uncertainty. Sadly, for many people, this all proves to be too onerous, and we have a burgeoning population of those who suffer, unable to find their way free of the burdens that they bear. But we must remember this: nobody needs to give us permission to choose to live a balanced, positive life. It is within the power of each individual to take the steps forward to find harmony for themselves. When we become imbalanced, we easily succumb to negative states of mind which spiral outward, affecting everything around us, but even one step on the path to balance leads to a sense of inner encouragement, and a person can see their accomplishment and build new foundations. The grooves that we travel in life do not have to be negative, and we do not need to remain stuck in them. We have the power to make new tracks, create new songs, and to seek out positive, creative ways of being. Only in focusing on maintaining balance in our own Self will we find any semblance of balance in the world around us. The more people choose to maintain balance in themselves, the more balanced we will all become, something which is sorely needed in this world today.

“The material and the spiritual are but two parts of one universe and one truth. By overstressing one part or the other, we fail to achieve the balance necessary for harmonious development. Life is expressed in a threefold way: through thoughts, desires and actions. Rightly guide all three forms of expression and they will lead you to a higher state of consciousness. In your activities you are the creator, the preserver, the transformer; your will is the director. Practice the art of living in this world without losing your inner peace of mind. Follow the path of balance to reach the inner wondrous garden of Self-realization.”

Paramahansa Yogananda was a Kriya Yogi and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship