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Consciousness

The Intriguing Thought-Provoking Insights Of The Legend: Alan Watts

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I am coming out of the closet. I’m a Wattsist. A what-ist? A Wattsist. After Alan Watts, the British-American philosopher, spiritual entertainer, and author. Alan Watts was a treasure to his generation and to ours, as his words continue to provide solace, humour, and understanding. His podcasts are increasingly well-known and his books seem to be experiencing a resurgence in popularity. His son, Mark Watts, has released a new documentary about his dad, so we can expect Alan’s popularity to keep rising even though it has been many decades since his death in 1973.

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I’ve been sufficiently inspired by Watts’ work that I am writing a new biography of this great man. It’s been an interesting journey because I’m learning, as one must when traveling from the realm of pure concepts to details of a person’s life, that Watts was no angel. His wisdom is beautiful and profound, but he wasn’t a very good father and he wasn’t a very good husband, at least not to his first two wives (he had three and died while living with his third wife). We shouldn’t, however, expect perfection from our spiritual leaders, particularly when the leader in question (Watts) was fond of talking about his own and all spiritual leaders’ “irreducible rascality.”

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Watts was a British expat who spent most of his life in the U.S., with his later years in Marin County and the Bay Area. He died in 1973, apparently of natural causes, but no autopsy was completed. He was well-known to be an alcohol abuser later in his life so it is possible that alcohol had some role in his death.

He wrote a number of books, including The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are; The Way of Zen; The Meaning of Happiness; Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal; In My Own Way (an autobiography), and many others. A good selection of wonderful Alan Watts podcasts are available on iTunes – recordings of the many talks he gave, which are free and present 15 minutes of profound wisdom with wit and grace.

Watts’ worldview and spiritual views were shaped largely by Eastern traditions, in particular Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Vedanta Hinduism, but also by his Christian upbringing and training. He was an Episcopal priest for six years, serving at Northwestern University in Illinois, until he left the church after he and his first wife messily separated. Watts states in his autobiography: “If I am asked to define my personal tastes in religion I must say that they lie between Mahayana Buddhism [of which Zen is a type] and Taoism, with a certain leaning toward Vedanta and Catholicism, or rather the Orthodox Church of Eastern Europe.”

The constant themes in his talks and books are the perils of language tricking us into mistaken views about ourselves and reality, that mind is pervasive in all of reality, and – most importantly – knowing that we are, each of us, none other than God. Not “a” God, but “the” God. I’ll explore some of Watts’ key ideas further below.

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The World Is God Playing Hide & Seek With Itself

There is no better way to describe Watts’ view of God and the universe than to quote him from his profound little book, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are:

[T]here are times when the world is, and times when it isn’t, for if the world went on and on without rest for ever and ever, it would get horribly tired of itself. It comes and it goes. Now you see it; now you don’t. So because it doesn’t get tired of itself, it always comes back again after it disappears. It’s like your breath: it goes in and out, in and out, and if you try to hold it in all the time you feel terrible.

It’s also like the game of hide-and-seek, because it’s always fun to find new ways of hiding, and to seek for someone who doesn’t always hide in the same place. God also likes to play hide- and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself.

In Fact, You Are God

So the universe is, to echo the comedian and philosopher Bill Hicks, just a big amusement ride. We can’t take ourselves too seriously in this grand game. At the same time, Watts time and time again returns to the theme of who we really are. Who am I really? Who are you really? Well, Watts makes the extraordinary case, rather convincingly, that you, yes, little old you, are none other than God. Not “a” God, but “the” God. You’re the boss. In fact, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are, is all about this idea. This book was written for Watts’ children and all children who struggle to find their identity.

Mark Watts, Alan’s oldest child, was fourteen when his father sent him The Book. Mark told me over lunch at the Aroma Cafe in San Rafael in Marin County, that Alan had told him that he was thinking of Mark when he wrote the first chapter (Mark was living with his mother across the country from Alan at the time). While the book is accessible to teen readers, its wisdom is relevant and very enjoyable to adults too, including philosophically-sophisticated adults.

Watts states in The Book:

[B]ecause there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars.

In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that’s the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do. He doesn’t want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

We Can’t Change Anything

Is there anything with which I might quibble about when it comes to Watts’ thinking? Surely. One issue in particular, however, may rise above the level of a mere quibble to an actual disagreement: the degree to which we, as conscious beings, should “go with the flow” or work actively to change things.

In his last book, Tao: The Watercourse Way, published shortly after his death, Watts presents his take on Taoist thinking. Taoism is one of two major strains of Chinese indigenous philosophy and spirituality (the other is Confucianism). Taoism is thought to have begun with Lao Tzu in the 4th Century BCE.

tambookThe Chinese term Tao may be translated many different ways but is generally translated as the “way.” By understanding the Tao and not working in opposition to the Tao we literally go with the flow that is the entire universe. The Tao may also be thought of as the ground or ocean of being, the substrate from which all stuff grows. How could we possibly act in opposition to the very ground of being and the flow that is the universe? Why would we want to? This is the case that Watts makes in his book and in some of his talks.

Well, many people might want to change things, for various reasons, including desires for social justice, environmental improvement, spiritual growth, political improvement, etc. Where I think we may improve upon Taoism and Watts’ own thinking is by recognizing first that the Tao itself may indeed change over time, and, second, that the manifest universe and the Tao itself is nothing but (literally) the sum total of all individual desires and actions. While the Tao is indeed eternal, it doesn’t have to be unchanging, and it is in fact very likely not unchanging. Rather, we, as part of the Tao (of course we are part of the Tao because we are part of the universe and, in a very real sense, we are, each of us, the entire universe, as discussed above) are helping the universe to evolve over time.

What does this mean? To me, it means that every choice we make, every thought and every action, has repercussions in the entire actual universe as well as the Tao from which it grows. While the actual universe will likely grow in complexity for many trillions of years to come, it will eventually perish into complete stillness with the passage of additional trillions of years. But the Tao will not and cannot perish. Rather, it will continue to proceed blissfully and joyously for all eternity, birthing new universes, new games of hide and seek, forever and ever. The Tao, the ocean of being, contains the reverberations, the echoes, of each cycle of the actual universe within its calm depths, even as each actual universe dissipates back into the Tao from whence it came. And we are, each of us, part of that unimaginably long process.

In closing, I have been tremendously appreciative of Watts’ wisdom and wit and I hope that many others will take the time to learn more about this underappreciated philosopher and sage. His website, run by Mark Watts, is www.alanwatts.com and many of his books are still widely available. Read, listen, enjoy! Who knows, maybe you’ll become a Wattsist too.

As I mentioned above, I’m working on a new biography of Watts and I am looking to talk with people who knew Watts. If you or someone you know knew him well and are interested in discussing your experiences, please let me know (I can be reached at tam dot hunt at gmail).

Tam Hunt is a lawyer and writer based in Santa Barbara, California, and Hilo, Hawaii.

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Consciousness

Can We Expect Peace Between Nations When Our Most Basic Relationships Fail?

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To say that I’m tired of hearing about politics is an understatement. I’ve pondered wearing earplugs to muffle the pundits. I’ve considered using Google glasses to program “Trump” and “Democrats” and “Republicans” out of my visual spectrum.

Perhaps there’s one issue that must come before politics…

It’s marriage.

Our romantic relationships are the basic unit of civilization. Men and women have children and build families, which make up neighbourhoods, communities, cities, states, and nations. Basic logic, right?

And it takes civilized people to make a civilization. So how can we expect to have peaceful nations when our most basic relationships are downright crude? We have missions to Mars and particle colliders that are rumoured to open portals to new dimensions. But, when it comes to love… we’re dragging our knuckles on a flat Earth.

Our version of love is a cycle of insecurity

We can’t stand to be alone. But rather than learning to love our lives and find meaning alone, we place impossible standards for fulfillment on our lovers. We get a little security, and a lot of pleasure. But when the chemicals wear off, we’re left with the truth: We don’t know anything about our lovers.

And when we do get to know each other, we hate what we find. Then we split. But each split tears a thread in the fabric of our society, because family is our foundation.

We can thrust ourselves into heady political conversations, and pretend that our red (or blue) rage is going to build a better world. But those political solutions aren’t addressing the root cause of our pain. We just need to fix how we love first.

Foundations of love

Foundations are, well, foundational to success. So we pave them for our houses, we practice scales before learning a difficult piece of music, and we learn the fundamentals of math before going on to algebra and calculus. We know that we need a strong foundation for successful relationships, too. But who actually takes the time to build one?

Loving responsibly is hard. It seems outdated or religiously nonsensical by today’s standards (getting to know someone inside and out before you take them to bed?), but if you don’t have a strong foundation, you’ve got a house of cards. Just like every one of my previous relationships.

From age 12 I trained myself to objectify women by watching porn. And until my early twenties, I was more concerned about my next sexual fix than my career. I hooked up with girlfriends not because I wanted to love them with all my heart, but because they were my key to security and satisfaction — which I got, for a time. But the net result was an increasingly lonely, unfulfilled, and depressed version of me.

By the end of my last relationship, I seriously considered taking my own life. What was I doing wrong? After picking up reflective habits like journaling and meditation, I figured it out.

I wasn’t fulfilled alone. I was bored alone. And I was unsuccessful alone. But in my mind, relationships were magical things that would wash all the bad stuff away and make me happy — kind of like a drug. In reality, for each desire that I lacked on my own, like joy, or security, I was strangling my relationships with conditions.

I’d “love” a girl until I was no longer joyful with her, or until she bored me. Then, for each condition that she failed to meet — no one can be perfect 100% of the time — I withdrew my love from her, bit by bit. The withdrawals happened on her side, too.

By the end of my relationships, whether they were six-month flings or two-year engagements, the end was predictably uncivil. We abused each other with our language. We cheated on each other, and betrayed each other’s trust. We blamed each other on and on for what the other had failed to do. Almost sounds like our relationships with other countries…

But the real failure was in choosing each other as romantic partners. It was in pursuing love without getting to know each other’s values and character traits first — before we built a foundation. We gambled on placing our faith in each other. And, like most people, we lost. Big time.

Rather than castrating myself, or settling for an endless string of heartaches — somebody shoot me — I worked on the foundation of my next relationship. I worked on me.

I learned to lean into my insecurity

Instead of running for another girl when I got lonely, I leaned into my insecurity and learned more about me. I developed a prayer life and a relationship with God. And I stuck to my new habits of journaling and meditation.

Through mindfulness, I channeled my sexual desire into my goals and self improvement. I felt the urge to ogle gorgeous women, of course, and at 27, their beauty moves me now more than ever. But I trained myself to move in a positive direction, to express healthy emotions at a woman’s beauty — like gratitude, inspiration, and awe — instead of imagining how she could please me.

Then I took it a step further.

I disciplined myself to think of a woman’s future husband. Would he respect me for the way I was thinking about her? And then I’d think of my future wife. If I couldn’t expect myself to view other wives with dignity and respect, how could I expect that of other men in looking at mine?

In my new way of thinking, I shed my selfish ways and became a man — and a neighbour, and a lover. A year into the habit I became independent for the first time in my life. I discovered my writing career and found success in it. And I became a role model for other people.

My dramatic life change happened because I figured out how to harness my sexual desire in an uplifting way. And in learning how to love civilly, I became a functioning part of civilization. *But people still call me out for not voting…

How you can love civilly

The way we think about each other determines how we act: civil, or uncivil. So you’ve got to train yourself to think respectful and positive thoughts — especially when it comes to beautiful men and women.

No matter how much we hope, the magical love chemicals can’t erase reality: We either love each other with respect, or we don’t. And if we don’t, our relationships will degrade, and our families will degrade. And as our broken relationships pick up steam down the social gradient, our communities degrade, and our cities degrade. And if the cycle of uncivil romance continues, states and nations will degrade as well. It’s basic logic.

So, you can talk about what these morons in office are doing to feel important and keep you occupied… or you can do something that actually makes a difference. You can learn to love like a human-fucking-being. Pardon my crude language.

Learn to love for the long term. Build faith in yourself. Quit porn and casual sex. Become so joyful and inspired by your own life that you couldn’t imagine expecting anyone else to be responsible for your happiness. Channel your sexual desire into your highest self. Use those urges to remind yourself of the things you haven’t done yet to become the person you want to be. Direct that energy into a future you would admire, and a person you’d be proud of.

And when you’ve changed the way you live and think, you’ll change the way you love. You’ll love civilly.

By your example, you’ll inspire others to take the harder path and to love civilly themselves. And when enough people do that… I won’t ever have to hear another political pundit for as long as I shall live. And I’ll thank you.

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Consciousness

Are You Sure You Want To Cancel 2020?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Many people have been wanting to cancel 2020 given all of the challenges that have arisen this year, but are these challenges not what we need to wake up?

  • Reflect On:

    Is humanity living in a way we are truly capable of? Are we really going to change and create a world where we can thrive if we all remain in 'normal' with our heads down just getting by? Perhaps we need a shake up!

A massive evolution in the way we think and live is long overdue, and now the environment is perfectly set for it to happen. Many call this process ‘raising collective consciousness.’ It’s no secret, 2020 has been a intense year, and you may have noticed that many are creating memes calling for the cancellation of 2020. This comes from the idea of ‘cancel culture’ which is an ideology whereby anything we don’t like, even if it’s only some of us, has to be shamed into cancellation as opposed to dealing with what it truly says about us and why we’re triggered by it. But more on this in a moment.

Deep down I imagine you feel it. What we are doing on a day-to-day basis in our lives feels limiting and it feels like we are capable of much more. This feeling comes from an innate desire within the deepest aspect of who we are, our soul, to continually evolve and expand as a being. It’s almost as if we begin to feel uncomfortable when we become stagnant and stop evolving or growing.

Right now, our current way of living societally and our current mass unconsciousness is causing us to push away that deep desire. We do this because we have become so identified with thought, that if a desire to shift or change comes up, and we cannot rationalize nor see how we can change, and in turn, we push that desire away to hold onto what we have grown comfortable with.

Thus, intensity and chaos have ensued in our world in an attempt to wake us up. Perhaps it’s time to embrace this desire for change. Do we really want our world to simply go back to normal? Was normal truly allowing us to thrive?

Ridding 2020?

A lot of people have been sharing the idea that we want to get rid of or cancel 2020 because it has been such a ‘bad year.’ I understand what train of thought can lead here, and I understand what way of being can lead here, but regardless, I feel it’s an important time to embrace what’s going on and ask big questions about what we’re doing as a collective – living life so disconnected from anything that deeply resonates with us. What we call ‘chaos’ has always been a potent tool for evolution, only, we often get in the way of that evolution by remaining asleep to what’s really going on around us, and continually pushing away that knowing that we can create meaningful change.

Most of what is rising to the surface right now, in terms of truths regarding current events, are all realities that people have been telling others about for years – and yet most of us just went on our merry way, heads down, living life as if none of it was happening. For example, elite child sex trafficking is one collective trauma being faced right now by many, and every day I hear of more and more people facing this reality, unsure of what to do about it as they feel despair. I cannot blame anyone for wanting to hide from this information. Life can be tough and very demanding simply to get by, so questioning our reality and why it is the way it is may not be at the top of our priority list. It may feel easier to just go on with our lives as if it’s not real, continually voting, putting these ‘corrupt’ individuals in power and accepting life as it is.

But if life is providing experiences that give us a chance to evolve beyond this old paradigm, is it perhaps time we listen? Can we truly just keep our heads down as we watch our collective uncomfort rise and mental health decline as our world no longer resonates with our being?

Just because the truth makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we don’t need to address it, it just means we are avoiding it, and if we continue to choose not to look, it will ‘blow up in our face’ – just as it is right now.

May years ago people would ask me ‘Joe, do you think people will one day know about all that is going on behind the scenes?’ I said yes, there are collective truths and traumas people will HAVE to face, there is no avoiding it. This is why so many people are doing their inner work and becoming helpful members of the global community who will be able to help others through their emotional upheavals when more of this truth continues to come out, just like it is right now.

The human race has been oppressed for centuries. At the core, is the suppression of human consciousness. The less we know who we truly are and what we are truly capable of, the more we can be coddled and controlled into living lives that serve a few. The reality of this is coming to the surface.

So should we cancel 2020? Or embrace what it’s trying to bring up on a deeper level, and choose to focus on inner work, personal transformation ad collective transformation? This, as opposed to mentally and emotionally running around trying to say why everything is wrong and bad, will this truly bring about meaningful change?

We’re All Playing Roles

With that said, instead of looking at who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, I challenge others to think of it in terms of roles. What role are people playing for one another that allows us to question what’s going on, learn a lesson, and change? Do you want the world as it is today to continue in this manner? Do you feel we are capable of harmony and thrivability? What do you want the world to look like?

Viewing it in this manner will bring us to solutions as opposed to arguing about what the problems are from our political point of view. Staying within the paradigm of our current world, where we create sides, argue, and remain in a political landscape, will always create more separation and will limit our potential, won’t it? It’s time for a new perspective, a new way of looking at things, and in order for that to happen we must come to terms with what not paying attention has created in our reality.

When we live in this manner, are we living life fully? Or are we just getting by? Are we caught up in the future or the past, trying to live in those states? Or are we fully living now? Are we ready to move from a state of being where we are identified with our thoughts and ego constantly, and move to a state where we are truly who we are, our awareness, living fully?

This is what this transition is about. This is what 2020 is helping to bring forth: the necessary events and revelations that push us deeply to question our lives and society. Start dreaming again, start thinking outside the box. Whatever world you choose to plug into is the one we will actively create. If you feel humanity is capable of something different, or better, beyond just the changing of a president, then now is the time to truly put your intention and action into that.

It’s a potent time for change. Perhaps we don’t want to wish normal back into existence?

Explore this process more deeply here.

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Aquarius: Erratic Progression

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We are having a Full Moon in Aquarius on August 3rd/4th, it will appear the fullest on night of the 2nd in Western North America. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began with a New Moon in Cancer on July 20th/21st, as some of the themes mentioned in that article are still in effect.

The energies of a Full Moon are strongest in the days surrounding it yet its astrological configurations also play a part over the following two weeks. You may start to see its effects slowly build up after the New Moon prior to it.

Full Moons are a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Aquarius and the Sun in Leo. It can play out as either a conflict, an integration, or some sort of dynamic playing out between the energies of both signs. The Moon reflects the expression of feeling and emotion while the Sun reflects the expression of ego and conscious self.

We may feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Aquarius side and others expressing the Leo side. In some cases, Full Moons can also reflect/trigger some sort of change or release.

Full Moon In Aquarius Opposite Sun In Leo

We have been in Leo season since July 22nd and will continue until August 22nd/23rd. This is the sign of self-expression, creativity, love, affection, children, courage, vitality, passion, leadership, generosity, and playfulness. Ruled by the Sun, it is also about shining in our power and being in alignment with what really lights us up and gets us excited.

The negative expressions of Leo can be egotistical, self-absorbed, authoritarian, dramatic, stubborn, jealous, and hot-tempered.  As it is associated with seeking praise and attention, it can be demanding of respect and be boisterous without considering or caring about how others respond to that.

The Full Moon highlights and brings the energies of the opposing sign of Aquarius into this Leo backdrop. This is the sign of friends, networks, social dynamics, the group, the team, humanity, and being in the best interest of the collective. Associated with Uranus, it can be unconventional, idealistic, innovative, progressive, original, inventive, technological, reforming, and even revolutionary.

Negatively, Aquarius can be overly detached, aloof, unemotional, and very invested in the mind at the expense of the heart. Traditionally ruled by Saturn, it can also be unyielding when it comes to the ideas and perspectives that it has already decided on.

Both Leo and Aquarius have some similarities. They are ‘Fixed’ signs and therefore can both be determined yet stubborn. They are also both associated with originality and authenticity. In Aquarius, this comes from its unconventional and innovative Uranian attributes while in Leo it comes from being inspired by its Solar heart centred self-expression.

Full Moon Square Uranus, Sextile Chiron

The Sun and Moon are in a T-square aspect with Uranus bringing its energy strongly into the equation. This planet is associated with Aquarius and viewed as a modern ruler of this sign, therefore it emphasizes some of the Aquarian themes mentioned above.

This can also reflect an energy that is disruptive, unpredictable, erratic, nonconforming, and rebellious. It can be hard to focus and more prone to sudden changes, accidents, loss, or separations. However, it can also reflect liberation, breakthroughs, excitement, and is a good time to shake things up and try new approaches to things.

This Full Moon is in a supportive sextile with Chiron which shares unorthodox and innovative qualities with Uranus. Chiron is also about bringing healing and wholeness to a situation and is associated with personal growth. It brings a potential for integration, learning, problem solving, finding solutions, purpose, and the elevation of consciousness.

Full Moon Sextile Mars, Squaring Jupiter & Pluto During Pre-Retrograde Shadow

The Sun-Moon opposition is in a harmonious aspect with Mars which can bring an active, asserting, energetic, sexual, or even a competitive or fighting energy. Mars is also in its own sign of Aries as it slows down to go retrograde on September 9th/10th. We will be experiencing a period of adjustments over the coming months in how we apply Mars in certain areas of our lives depending on our personal birth charts. Some of the things that are happening this month, leading up to it, will contribute to that process.

At the time of this Full Moon, Mars is also in a tight square with Jupiter which has been building up in the days prior. It also moves towards a square with Pluto over the following two weeks. We may overextend ourselves during this time or do things in an excessive, overconfident, compulsive or obsessive way.

Conflicts around beliefs, perspectives, hidden matters, or abuse can also arise. As we get closer to mid-August the energy becomes more intense with an increased potential of power struggles. This aspect can trigger passion and is good for strategic actions. All of these factors mentioned in this section are cranking up Mars energy overall. I will be writing a separate article on the upcoming retrograde as we get closer to it, join my mailing list here to ensure that you receive it.

Mercury & Venus In Hard Aspects With Saturn, Venus Conjunct North Node

Mercury is in a tight opposition with Saturn. This can reflect thoughts or conversations that are cautious, hesitant, pessimistic, or limiting. We may experience delays or obstacles around commuting or communications with others.  The need to be realistic around certain issues may also come up.

Like Mercury, Venus has social qualities and is also in a hard aspect with Saturn, this one being a frustrating quincunx. It can be hard to integrate or juggle Saturnian areas of responsibilities, commitments, boundaries, discipline, and structures with Venus areas of friendships, love, pleasures, sensuality, values, money, attraction, or other things that are aesthetic related. We may need to be extra adaptable or make adjustments.

Venus is also moving towards a conjunction with the Lunar North Node in Gemini in the days following this Full Moon. New relations, or developments around past relations, could have a fated quality that can bring growth and help us to move forward in a better or constructive way.  Our perception or approach to Venus ruled areas (mentioned in above paragraph) may evolve in a helpful manner.

Things To Consider

In what areas of your life should you try new approaches? What can you do to shake things up? What are some potential solutions for issues you are facing? How can you use your creativity in an innovative way? What are your relations with others pushing you towards? How can you be more of a team player? How can you better balance needs of self with the needs of the group?   What parts of your life are calling for originality and authenticity?

These are just some examples of themes that could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well.  If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up at this Full Moon, it is best to do so anytime over the two weeks following when it is waning. The exact moment of this Full Moon is on August 3rd at 3:59pm Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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