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Scientists Show How Gratitude Literally Alters The Human Heart & Molecular Structure Of The Brain

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Scientists have discovered that feelings of gratitude can actually change your brain. Feeling gratitude can also be a great tool for overcoming depression and anxiety. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that the heart sends signals to the brain.

  • Reflect On:

    Every time we struggle with depression, why are we constantly encouraged to take prescription medication when mindfulness techniques actually show more promise?

Gratitude is a funny thing. In some parts of the world, somebody who gets a clean drink of water, some food, or a worn out pair of shoes can be extremely grateful. Meanwhile, somebody else who has all the necessities they need to live can be found complaining about something. What we have today is what we once wanted before, but there is a lingering belief out there that obtaining material possessions is the key to happiness. Sure, this may be true, but that happiness is temporary. The truth is that happiness is an inside job.

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It’s a matter of perspective, and in a world where we are constantly made to feel like we are lacking and always ‘wanting’ more, it can be difficult to achieve or experience actual happiness. Many of us are always looking toward external factors to experience joy and happiness, when really it’s all related to internal work. This is something science is just starting to grasp as well, as shown by research coming out of UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. According to them:

Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. Now that’s a really cool way of taking care of your well-being.

There are many studies showing that people who count their blessings tend to be far happier and experience less depression.  For one study,  researchers recruited people with mental health difficulties, including people suffering from anxiety and depression. The study involved nearly 300 adults who were randomly divided into three groups. This study came from the University of California, Berkeley.

All groups received counselling services, but the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.

What did they find? Compared to the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counselling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

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This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief. (source)

Previously, a study on gratitude conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami randomly assigned participants to be given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another group recorded daily troubles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the troubled group. They reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more. (source)

Researchers from Berkeley identified how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies. They provided four insights from their research suggesting what causes the psychological benefits of gratitude.

  • Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
  • Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it
  • Gratitude’s benefits take time & practice. You might not feel it right away.
  • Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain

The brain part is very interesting. The researchers at Berkeley used an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity while people from each group did a “pay it forward” task.  During the task, the participants were given money by a “nice person.” This person’s only request was that they pass on the money to someone if they felt grateful.

They did this because they wanted to distinguish between actions motivated by gratitude and actions driven by other motivations like obligation, guilt, or what other people think. This is important because you can’t fake gratitude, you actually have to feel it. If you don’t feel grateful or practice trying to feel grateful by taking the necessary steps like keeping a gratitude journal, you may not experience as much joy and happiness.

In a world where emotions aren’t really taught in school and the importance is put on striving for high grades, it’s not abnormal to have difficulty feeling grateful. This is especially understandable if you’ve been brought up in the western world, which is full of consumerism and competition, a world where we’re constantly made to feel we are lacking so we need to strive for more.

Participants were asked to rate how grateful they felt toward the person giving them the money and how much they wanted to pay it forward to a charitable cause as well as how guilty they thought they would feel if they didn’t help.  They were also given questionnaires to measure how grateful they felt in general.

We found that across the participants, when people felt more grateful, their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt and the desire to help a cause. More specifically, we found that when people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause, they showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.

Most interestingly, when we compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.

It’s also interesting to note that a recent study just discovered a brain network that “gives rise to feelings of gratitude. The study could spur future investigations into how these ‘building blocks’ transform social information into complex emotions.” (source)

What About The Heart?

The work and research above is great, but where do we actually experience these feelings? They are clearly not a product of our brain, they are products of our consciousness, and when we feel them the brain responds.  Researchers are now discovering that the heart also responds and that it might actually be the heart that’s responsible for sending these signals to the brain.

A group of prestigious and internationally recognized leaders in physics, biophysics, astrophysics, education, mathematics, engineering, cardiology, biofeedback, and psychology (among other disciplines) have been doing some brilliant work over at the Institute of HeartMath.

Their work, among many others, has proven that when a person is feeling really positive emotions like gratitude, love, or appreciation, the heart beats out a different message, which determines what kind of signals are sent to the brain.

Not only that, but because the heart beats out the largest electromagnetic field produced in the body, the Institute has been able to gather a significant amount of data.

According to Rolin McCratey, Ph.D, and Director of Research at Heartmath?)

“Emotional information is actually coded and modulated into these fields. By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us. We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself.” (source)

Another great point made below by the Institute:

“One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – experiencing stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them are greater mental clarity and ability, including better decision making.” (source)

In fact, the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends in return. What’s even more amusing is the fact that these heart signals (from heart to brain) actually have a significant effect on brain function.

Research findings have shown that as we practice heart coherence and radiate love and compassion, our heart generates a coherent electromagnetic wave into the local field environment that facilitates social coherence, whether in the home, workplace, classroom or sitting around a table. As more individuals radiate heart coherence, it builds an energetic field that makes it easier for others to connect with their heart. So, theoretically it is possible that enough people building individual and social coherence could actually contribute to an unfolding global coherence. –  McCratey

So far, the researchers have discovered that the heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways: neurological communication (nervous system), biophysical communication (pulse wave), biochemical communication (hormones), and energetic communication (electromagnetic fields).

“HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive function. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect. It facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability.” (source)

Gratitude and Positive Feelings Can Change The World

It gets deeper:

Every individual’s energy affects the collective field environment. The means each person’s emotions and intentions generate an energy that affects the field. A first step in diffusing societal stress in the global field is for each of us to take personal responsibility for our own energies. We can do this by increasing our personal coherence and raising our vibratory rate, which helps us become more conscious of the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that we are feeding the field each day. We have a choice in every moment to take to heart the significance of intentionally managing our energies. This is the free will or local freedom that can create global cohesion. – Dr. Deborah Rozman, the President of Quantum Intech (source)

Overall, this type of work suggests that human consciousness in general can change the world.

One study, for example, was done during the Israel-Lebanon war in the 1980s. Two Harvard University professors organized groups of experienced meditators in Jerusalem, Yugoslavia and the United Sates and asked them to focus their attention on the area of conflict at various intervals over a 27-month period. Over the course of the study, the levels of violence in Lebanon decreased between 40 and 80 percent each time a meditating group was in place. The average number of people killed during the war each day dropped from 12 to three, and war-related injuries fell by 70 percent. (source)

Another great example is a study that was conducted in 1993 in Washington, D.C., which showed a 25 percent drop in crime rates when 2,500 meditators meditated during a specific period of time with that intention.

This type of information is heavily correlated with quantum physics, as many experiments in that area as well as parapsychology (telepathy, remote viewing, distant healing) indicate similar findings. (source)

This holds true as far back as 1999. Statistics professor Jessica Utts at UC Irvine published a paper showing that parapsychological experiments have produced much stronger results than those showing a daily dose of aspirin helps prevent heart attacks. Utts also showed that these results are much stronger than the research behind various drugs like antiplatelets.

This type of work has statistically significant implications, yet is heavily ignored and labelled as pseudoscience simply because it conflicts with long-held beliefs we have trouble letting go of … But times are changing.

“For many years I have worked with researchers doing very careful work [in parapsychology], including a year that I spent full-time working on a classified project for the United States government, to see if we could use these abilities for intelligence gathering during the Cold War… At the end of that project I wrote a report for Congress, stating what I still think is true. The data in support of precognition and possibly other related phenomena are quite strong statistically, and would be widely accepted if it pertained to something more mundane. Yet, most scientists reject the possible reality of these abilities without ever looking at data! And on the other extreme, there are true believers who base their beliefs solely on anecdotes and personal experience. I have asked debunkers if there is any amount of data that would convince them, and they generally have responded by saying, “probably not.” I ask them what original research they have read, and they mostly admit that they haven’t read any. Now there is a definition of pseudo-science-basing conclusions on belief rather than data!” – Utts, Chair of the Statistics Department, UC Irvine (Dean Radin, Real Magic)

The Takeaway

Emotions and other factors associated with consciousness have the power to transform our inner world in ways we don’t fully understand yet. These findings show how consciousness can actually transform the physical/material world, and that’s huge. This validates the idea that if we can change our inner world through gratitude, empathy, compassion, and meditation, we can make our outer world more peaceful.

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Alternative News

Monkey Sharpens Rock & Uses It To Smash Through Glass Enclosure At Zoo

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    At a zoo in China, a monkey uses a rock to smash its glass enclosure in what appears to be an attempted escape.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we treating animals on this planet in a way that we would want to be treated? If not, why? How does it feel to know we impede on the freedoms of living beings on a mass scale, and they don't like it?

Intriguing footage shows a Colombian white-faced capuchin at a zoo in China using a rock to smash through a glass enclosure in what appears to look like an attempted escape. The incident took place at the Zhengzhou Zoo in Central China’s Henan Province on the 20th of August 2019. Was it an actual escape? It’s hard to say, the monkey was surely surprised by the shattering of the glass, but why else would they be doing this if getting out wasn’t on their mind? Something to ponder.

In the video below you can see the monkey next to the glass, with a rock in its hand,  examining the glass before hitting it multiple times with a rock before finally shattering it.

According to Metro UK,  a bystander by the name of Mr. Wang told reporters that the monkey was actually sharpening the stone prior to hitting the glass. If this is the case, the attempted escape idea becomes much more likely.

‘The monkey was sharpening the stone, then it started hitting it on the glass. The monkey scared itself away, but it came back to take another look and even touched it,” Mr. Wang said.

Zhengzhou Zoo staff member Tian Shuliao said that this monkey actually knows how to use tools.

“This monkey is unlike other monkeys. This one knows how to use tools to break walnuts. When we feed walnuts to other monkeys, they only know to bite it. But it had never hit the glass before though. This is the first time. It’s toughened glass, so it would never have got out,[…]After it happened, we picked up all the rocks and took away all its ‘weapons’,” Shuliao said.

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Monkey begins hitting the glass with a rock.

Glass is now smashed as a result of multiple hits with a rock.

Why it matters: If this monkey is indeed attempting to escape, perhaps it doesn’t want to be in captivity. There are certainly times when humans intervene in nature to help animals who are hurt or cannot survive in the wild. Providing them with humane and expansive natural, yet safe, environments to live in can be helpful. But how often is this really the case when so much of what we do to animals is abuse and murder?

Perhaps humanity is at a time where we must reflect on whether using animals or entertainment and profit is not in alignment with a heart centred humanity.

The conscious takeaway: When it comes to the CE Protocol, looking at step 4, Living Aligned, is key because it points to being connecting with our true authentic self, beyond programmings of societal norms, but instead focused and being from a space of the heart. In this space and state of being, we are living from our authentic self and make decisions from that state of being.

From that space, how do we feel about animal captivity and the way we treat animals? This isn’t a question of belief systems, rather it’s a matter of first getting connected with your true authentic self and asking yourself how you truly wish to act in relation to animals and nature. This is why our focus is on the protocol and using the 5 Days of You Challenge to learn connection. It’s through this practice that truths and decisions become self-evident, not based on what someone else tells you or what you have to believe.

You can learn more about the protocol here, it’s how we structure all of our CE news and video content on CETV.

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Consciousness

Scientists Discover That The Heart & Brain Respond To Future Events – Before They Happen

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Multiple experiments have shown strong evidence for precognition in several different ways. One of them comes in the form of activity within the heart and the brain responding to events before they even happen.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we have extra human capacities we are unaware of? Perhaps we can learn them, develop them, and use them for good. Perhaps when the human race is ready, we will start learning more.

Is precognition real? There are many examples suggesting that yes, it is. The remote viewing program conducted by the CIA in conjunction with Stanford University was a good example of that.  After its declassification in 1995, or at least partial declassification, the Department of Defense and those involved revealed an exceptionally high success rate:

To summarize, over the years, the back-and-forth criticism of protocols, refinement of methods, and successful replication of this type of remote viewing in independent laboratories has yielded considerable scientific evidence for the reality of the (remote viewing) phenomenon. Adding to the strength of these results was the discovery that a growing number of individuals could be found to demonstrate high-quality remote viewing, often to their own surprise… The development of this capability at SRI has evolved to the point where visiting CIA personnel with no previous exposure to such concepts have performed well under controlled laboratory conditions. (source)

The kicker? Part of remote viewing involves peering into future events as well as events that happened in the past.

It’s not only within the Department of Defense that we find this stuff, but a lot of science is emerging on this subject as well.

For example, a study (meta analysis) published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon that were conducted by several different laboratories. These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems to know of an event and reacts to the event before it has occurred. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous system.

A few years ago, the chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Dr. Dean Radin, visited the scientists over at HearthMath Institute and shared the results of one of his studies. Radin is also one of multiple scientists who authored the paper above. These studies, as mentioned above, tracked the autonomic nervous system, physiological changes, etc.

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Scientists at HeartMath Institute (HMI) added more protocols, which included measuring participants’ brain waves (EEG), their hearts’ electrical activity (ECG), and their heart rate variability (HRV).

As HMI explains:

Twenty-six adults experienced in using HeartMath techniques and who could sustain a heart-coherent state completed two rounds of study protocols approximately two weeks apart. Half of the participants completed the protocols after they intentionally achieved a heart-coherent state for 10 minutes. The other half completed the same procedures without first achieving heart coherence. Then they reversed the process for the second round of monitoring, with the first group not becoming heart-coherent before completing the protocols and the second group becoming heart-coherent before. The point was to test whether heart coherence affected the results of the experiment.

Participants were told the study’s purpose was to test stress reactions and were unaware of its actual purpose. (This practice meets institutional-review-board standards.) Each participant sat at a computer and was instructed to click a mouse when ready to begin.

The screen stayed blank for six seconds. The participant’s physiological data was recorded by a special software program, and then, one by one, a series of 45 pictures was displayed on the screen. Each picture, displayed for 3 seconds, evoked either a strong emotional reaction or a calm state. After each picture, the screen went blank for 10 seconds. Participants repeated this process for all 45 pictures, 30 of which were known to evoke a calm response and 15 a strong emotional response.

The Results

The results of the experiment were fascinating to say the least. The participants’ brains and hearts responded to information about the emotional quality of the pictures before the computer flashed them (random selection). This means that the heart and brain were both responding to future events. The results indicated that the responses happened, on average, 4.8 seconds before the computer selected the pictures.

How mind-altering is that?

Even more profound, perhaps, was data showing the heart received information before the brain. “It is first registered from the heart,” Rollin McCraty Ph.D. explained, “then up to the brain (emotional and pre-frontal cortex), where we can logically relate what we are intuiting, then finally down to the gut (or where something stirs).”

Another significant study (meta-analysis) that was published in Journal of Parapsychology by Charles Honorton and Diane C. Ferrari in 1989 examined a number of studies that were published between 1935 and 1987. The studies involved individuals’ attempts to predict “the identity of target stimuli selected randomly over intervals ranging from several hundred million seconds to one year following the individuals responses.” These authors investigated over 300 studies conducted by over 60 authors, using approximately 2 million individual trials by more than 50,000 people. (source)

It concluded that their analysis of precognition experiments “confirms the existence of a small but highly significant precognition effect. The effect appears to be repeatable; significant outcomes are reported by 40 investigators using a variety of methodological paradigms and subject populations. The precognition effect is not merely an unexplained departure from a theoretical chance baseline, but rather is an effect that covaries with factors known to influence more familiar aspects of human performance.” (source)

The Takeaway

“There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.”
 Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (source)

We are living in a day and age where new information and evidence are constantly emerging, challenging what we once thought was real or what we think we know about ourselves as human beings.  It’s best to keep an open mind. Perhaps there are aspects of ourselves and our consciousness that have yet to be discovered. Perhaps if we learn and grow from these studies, they can help us better ourselves and others.

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Aries: Change & Renewal

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We are having a Full Moon in Aries which will be exact on October 13th at 9:08pm Universal Time. It will appear the fullest that night for the majority of the world, and on the night of the 12th for those in Hawaii.

This is the peak of the Lunar cycle which began two weeks prior with a New Moon in Libra. The energies of it build up as the Moon increases its light and are strongest in the days before and after. However, it will still be a part of the backdrop over the following two weeks.

Full Moon’s are a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Aries and Sun in Libra. It can reflect either a conflict or integration of both signs.

We can 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 Libra side and others expressing the Aries side. In some cases, Full Moon’s can also reflect/trigger some sort of release or change.

Aries is a fire sign ruled by Mars. It is about individual needs, action, moving forward, pioneering, independence, self-identity, self-orientation, and leadership. It is bold, courageous, and instinctual, yet it can also be aggressive, impulsive, impatient, selfish, and hot-tempered.

Libra is an Air sign ruled by Venus. It is about relating, relationships, partnerships, codependency, consideration, harmony, balance, fairness, art, creativity, and beauty. It is sociable, diplomatic, and intellectual, yet it can also be indecisive, passive aggressive, vain, and even judgemental.

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Full Moon Square Pluto and Trine Jupiter

The Full Moon is in a tight square with Pluto which is near Saturn and the South Node in Capricorn. This can trigger the energy of the previous Lunar Eclipse which had strong themes of purging, letting go, as well as the potential for rebirth and transformation. It may reflect things from the past that need to be resolved or concluded.

The area of life in which this may occur depends on how it was interacting with your natal chart. It could be connected to Capricorn themes such as ambitions, career, control, management, social status, financial areas or potential structures in our lives.

This can also reflect issues pertaining to fears, obsessions, compulsive behavior, shadows, dark drives, manipulation, desires, deeply repressed feelings, jealousy, the underworld, and destruction. Conflicts around power and power struggles may also play out which may be connected to Aries-Libra themes mentioned above. Pluto may increase the potential of intensity and Saturn can reflect obstacles.

Although this configuration can be challenging, this Full Moon is also in a trine with Jupiter in Sagittarius which brings some positive and hopeful energy to it as well. This aspect can be good for expansiveness, exploration, and learning. Themes around morals, faith, beliefs, and perspectives may be a part of the equation. It can be good for addressing issues by looking at the big picture and incorporating a higher understanding.

Mercury In Pre-Retrograde Shadow Period, Sextile Saturn, Pluto and Trine Neptune

Mercury in Scorpio will be going retrograde on October 31st and has begun its pre-retrograde shadow period on October 11th/12th. Some of the developments or thoughts that are occurring now and over the coming weeks will go through a process in November in which there could be adjustments, new realizations, and overall some sort of re-calibration to set things up for the following months or even beyond that. I will be writing a separate article on this retrograde, you can join my mailing list here to ensure that you receive it.

Mercury is in a sextile with Saturn in Capricorn which is strongest during the Full Moon and the following day. This is good for any type of mental effort and using our mind in a realistic, practical, tangible, or essential way. Communications with others can feel solidifying, productive, or have themes around responsibility and commitment.

Mercury is also in a trine with Neptune in Pisces which peaks on October 15th/16th. Our thoughts, communications, or activities can be idealistic, imaginative, inspired, spiritual, creative, compassionate, or sensitive. This can heighten intuition and we can be more tuned in to symbolism. It can also be good for doing anything involving visual media.

Mercury is in a sextile with Pluto in Capricorn which is strongest October 19th/20th. This can reflect wanting to understand or communicate things on a deeper level. We can be more focused, penetrating, strategic, persuasive, and compulsive. In some cases it can also be good for getting a point across to facilitate some sort of change,

Venus and Mars In Each Other’s Signs

Mars (the ruler of the Aries Full Moon) is in Libra which is ruled by Venus while Venus is in Scorpio which is traditionally ruled Mars. Generally these planets are considered to be challenged when in these signs on their own, however, in this case they are assisting each other in what is referred to as a ‘mutual reception’.

The midpoint of both Venus and Mars are aligned with the Sun/Moon opposition, as well as in aspect with Pluto. Considering all of this, it helps to alleviate any of the potential conflict between the Aries-Libra opposition and can also help to unify both sides of the polarity.

In the day prior to this Full Moon, Venus was in an opposition to Uranus which could have reflected some changes, insights, disruptions, or surprises around Venus ruled areas such as relationships, money, pleasures, or values. Following this, it is than moving towards a sextile to Saturn which peaks from October 19th-20th. This can bring a more stabilizing, mature, realistic, and supportive energy around relations or finances.

Things To Consider During This Period

How can you approach individual needs while also being considerate of others? What changes do you need to make to help you grow and expand? What is going on beneath the surface? Are any of the potential challenges happening in your life connected to something that you need to release or transform? How do you feel about everything when you take a step back and look at it from a higher perspective? What is the big picture and how can you incorporate your understandings to help you proceed or resolve any difficulties?

These are just some examples of what could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out. 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 after the peak when as wanes over the following two weeks. The exact moment of this Full Moon is on October 13th at 9:08pm Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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astrology, astrology readings, carmen di luccio

Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. 

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