Maritha on Counseling

Maritha Pottenger

Our approach to astrology is to utilize it as a tool in the process of self-awareness. We assume that insight and understanding can then lead to happier, more fulfilled lives. However, for many clients, there is still a gap between intellectual (“head”) understanding of the issues and the ability to make changes, or the ability to grasp the issues on a “gut” level.

This article is designed to help cope with that gap. Although it is true that insight can, and does—at times—lead to productive change, it is equally true that action (with no insight whatsoever) can lead to productive changes as well. For the individual who feels “stuck” in a situation or an attitude which is not comfortable, it is often true that doing something—ANYTHING—is often helpful. It breaks the impasse.

I will be examining each of the 12 sides of life, suggesting options for people in terms of actions, exercises, meditations, projects, ideas which they can utilize to encourage any of the 12 sides of life. The assumption is that life is a balancing act. We all have all 12 sides of life in our psyches and in our horoscopes—but some are more emphasized than others (natally, and also in terms of current patterns). One of our life tasks is to continually strive for balance so that we do not have too much of one side of life or too little of another. There is some reciprocity as well. If we are OVERDOING one part of life, it is usually the case that we are UNDERDOING another. So, we will be looking at ways to strengthen, encourage, and further develop the various sides of life. Depending on the person and the circumstances of the life, each individual may want to work on building one particular letter of the alphabet or another.

To determine whether or not you are (or a client is) overdoing or underdoing one side of life, one path is to examine the horoscope. A strong emphasis (natally or in current patterns) shows the potential of expressing that side of life excessively. This can range from a stellium by house or sign; many close aspects to a particular planet, house or sign; or a strong repeated theme due to the house, sign and planet of one letter in the astrological alphabet all in high focus in the chart. If a theme appears to be overdeveloped, you can then attempt to discern which theme(s) might be underdeveloped and in need of some assistance. The most likely candidates are those letters of the alphabet in natural conflict to the overdeveloped side. Thus, an overdeveloped Mars [Aries, 1st house] could be related to an underdeveloped Moon (square), Venus, Pallas or Juno for Libra (opposition), Pluto (quincunx), Ceres, Vesta or Mercury for Virgo (quincunx) or Saturn (square) [or other forms of the astrological alphabet].

Similarly, the potential of underdoing is there when certain sides of life are almost absent from the horoscope (nothing in that sign or house, rulers weakly aspected, planet associated with that letter of the alphabet weakly aspected). Of course, wherever water is involved, repression is also an option—and the person may have to work to permit that side of life some form of open expression. And conflict aspects can be lived out by identifying with one side and denying the other. Then we meet that disowned part through projection (in other people) or we repress it and have to deal with it eventually in physical illness. In displacement, we express the unintegrated part of ourselves in inappropriate ways. In such cases, finding a fulfilling avenue of expression is much more helpful.

Another path for judging over or underdoing is to look at the life. Certain events, circumstances and behaviors are associated with the various signs, houses and planets. If we see a decided LACK of Martian activities in the life, we may decide that is an issue worth considering. If we notice a large number of Jupiter expressions in the life, we may feel that is noteworthy. And so on.

Once we have decided (through the life, or through the horoscope—or a combination) which letter(s) of the alphabet need(s) encouragement, we need “only” find some activities which tend to strengthen those facets of the character. It is helpful to remember here that astrology has four elements. Fire represents the principle of action and expressed emotion, where we act spontaneously from our own center, without holding back. Certain kinds of activities will exercise our fire understanding of that letter of the alphabet (whether the specific letter is fire or not). Earth deals with the physical world—both enjoying it and working successfully in it. Earth wants to produce measurable results. Such activities will appeal to our earthy grasp of the subject (whether or not the letter we are working on is itself earth). Air is the element of insight and intellectual understanding. That is why insight alone is not enough in many cases. It can be helpful to understand objectively, but we need the fire action and DESIRE (motivation), the earth recognizable results and the unconscious absorption of water as well, to fully experience any of the sides of life. Water is interior emotions, intuition, visualization and inner wisdom.

For best results, I recommend working on ALL levels with any letter you wish to strengthen. However, the most important level to work on is clearly the natural element of the drive you desire to encourage. Thus: Mars, the Sun and Jupiter are best strengthened through expressive, active, extraverted, spontaneous activities. Venus (as a Taurus Venus), Ceres, Vesta, Mercury (as a Virgo Mercury) and Saturn are best developed through regular, systematic, organized, thorough regimes with measurable results and tangible effects. Mercury (as a Gemini Mercury), Venus (as a Libra Venus), Pallas, Juno and Uranus are best fed through intellectual understanding, rationality and an objective viewpoint along with activities involving peer relationships. The Moon, Pluto and Neptune can be most assisted through intuitive activities, guided visualization, fantasy, imagery, meditation and anything which feeds the inner self.

Some generalities are possible. Where fire is concerned, seek action. Where earth is involved, seek tangible results and a way to deal with the physical world. Where air is involved, people and ideas are a focus; seek to think, read and talk. With water, visualization and affirmations are key tools and attending to dreams may be helpful. Certain physical objects and colors are associated with the various sides of life, and it is possible that surrounding yourself with more of those items could help support the desired behavior within your psyche. Thus, more backyard barbecues which involve a literal interaction with fire might assist in building more confidence, drive and enthusiasm. As with most situations, having a multitude of tools increases your options.

None of the following are truly pure elements. Life is always a mixture, but these categories are selected according to what I see as the major emphasis.

Please also note that I will be suggesting a number of activities. Some of these activities COULD BE destructive, depending on your talents, abilities and life circumstances. Clearly, not all the activities are for everyone. I am providing a list—which is by no means exhaustive—to stimulate your own thinking on these topics. It is up to the reader to use his/her own common sense and self-knowledge to choose APPROPRIATE activities and avoid those which would not be helpful. If, for example, you are dieting to lose weight, then eating sweets to encourage Letter 2 is probably not for you! (Some suggested activities and exercises for the various letters of the alphabet also appear in my book, Encounter Astrology.)

LETTER 1 (Mars, Aries, First House):

Clues to possible underdoing: feeling tired all the time, headaches, minor cuts, burns, or accidents. Lack of spontaneity, a “flat” feeling about life. Attracting violence from other people. Feeling blocked, inhibited, frustrated.

Possibilities for building Letter One in your life:

Fire: Dance, play sports (for fun or competition), work out in a gym, swim, make love, or engage in any physical activity which allows spontaneity and free expression. It should be activity you ENJOY; if it is drudgery or discipline, you are doing Saturn and not Mars. Say “No” more often. Take an assertiveness training class. Express your anger—in words, punching pillows, beating tennis rackets on a bed or in whatever physical, outward forms are okay for you. Hang glide, parachute jump, ride a motorcycle, a roller coaster or engage in some other activities which will get your blood rushing, adrenalin flowing and excitement high. Drive a little faster. Do not wait for people who are late. Run instead of walking. Do something on impulse. Put yourself in situations (e.g., a gym, a playground, games) where you have the opportunity to push (physically) very hard.

Earth: Build fires. Buy and wear more red clothes. Surround yourself at work and home with more bright, red colors. Get into metal working or glass blowing. Pay attention when you use metal tools, especially knives and really get into cutting, slicing or dicing food, grass, trimming trees, etc. Keep a journal of when you feel angry, keeping track of the circumstances, the people involved and trying to quantify the degree of anger (e.g., on a 1 to 10 scale). Get a head massage, scalp treatment, hair cut. Establish some kind of steady regime, with measurable results, for building muscles. Keep track of your energy level and do more of the activities which feed your vitality. Take enough iron.

Air: Read books about assertiveness training, anger, warfare and making yourself number one. Listen to a lecture by Terry Cole Whitaker or someone like her. Read inspirational biographies about sports heroes and heroines, great generals or anyone who was willing to take risks and gained a reward thereby. Talk to friends about how they handle their anger, and how they get what they want in the world. Think of 5 things people ask you to do that you really would rather not do. Then, think of 5 really good excuses or reasons for not doing them. Memorize them and use them the next time a request comes up! Be a little “pushier” with what you say. Every day, ask for at least one thing which you want.

Water: Make up a list of affirmations supporting your right to do what you want and be who you are, e.g. “I have a right to change my mind. I have the right to be happy. I have the right to disagree,” etc. Tape your affirmations someplace (or several places) highly visible and read them every time you go by. Envision yourself saying “No” comfortably to a number of people for requests you have had trouble turning down in the past. Start with the easier scenes and work up to the harder ones. See yourself relaxed and comfortable saying “No.” Visualize yourself dealing with anger in a positive manner. Make a sleep or subliminal tape asserting your right to do your own thing. Ask that your inner wisdom lead you to act instinctively in your best interests. Before bed each evening and upon waking each morning, give your unconscious messages of high energy, confidence, drive, enthusiasm and willingness to take action.

LETTER 2 (Venus, Taurus, Second House):

Clues to possible underdoing: Little pleasure in life. Limited sensuality. A “poverty script”—working very hard with little monetary reward. Puritanical outlook or tendency to block enjoyment of food, drink and other material indulgences. Little beauty in life. Lack of stability or security. Attracting people who are materialistic, boring, stodgy or self-indulgent.

Possibilities for building Letter 2:

Fire: Do three things each day purely for your own pleasure. Get involved in the active expression of beauty, such as dancing (of any kind), ice skating, gymnastics, ballet or other forms of grace in action. Take up a sport which involves rhythmic movement (e.g., skiing—and savor those hot toddies around the fire!). Walk in parks, go camping, seek beauty. Assert your right to be comfortable, to feel good and to enjoy yourself. Be willing to say “No” to people who are being disagreeable; be willing to leave if you do not like a situation. Try many different chairs and many different social situations, selecting the ones most personally satisfying. Take a walk in a safe place while wearing a blindfold and discover what you notice through textures, sounds, vibrations and senses other than sight.

Earth: Eat sweets or any foods which you find pleasurable and satisfying. Turn meal times into sensual experiences—savoring the texture, appearance, flavor of the food, enjoying the ambience of where you are eating, and stimulating your senses as much as possible. Enjoy fine wines. Spend a little more money on items which you find beautiful, sensuous or materially pleasing. Sculpt, make pottery, sew, garden or engage in any artistic activities or pursuits which create tangible beauty in the world. Treat yourself to a facial, a manicure, a pedicure, a massage, a session in a hot tub, or some other treatment which soothes the senses and adds to your attractiveness. Wear more soft and cuddly clothes that you can stroke and enjoy. Count your money and enjoy the sense of satisfaction you have from your assets. Catalog your material goods and resources and appreciate the gratification they bring you. Surround yourself with nature’s bounty and indulge yourself in the grandeur of the land, the beauty of a sunset, a seascape, a mountain range, or whatever appeals to you.

Air: Go to museums with great art, especially the tactile kind (sculpture, fabrics, furniture) and enjoy experiencing the beauty. Watch the people around you and feel a sensual appreciation for the attractive figure, lovely face or sexy body. Read the great philosophers on beauty. Look at illustrated books of great art, good food, fine wines. Read cookbooks and examine recipes for foods that would be sensually pleasing to you. Talk with friends about what is most physically satisfying, what you consider beauty, and how to find it in the world. Think about what gives you pleasure and make plans to do at least three things on your list every day. Consider your feelings about money—what you like about it, what you dislike, how you relate to money. Discuss with other people what pleasures/pains you have in relationship to finances.

Water: Make a list of affirmations concerning your right to enjoy the physical, sensual world. Post them and repeat them daily. Visualize yourself growing more and more beautiful. See yourself becoming more sensuous, more capable of gaining vast pleasure from the material world. Use guided imagery to set material, monetary goals for your future gain. Key messages of prosperity and pleasure into your unconscious. Meditate on comfort and the ability to enjoy life. Imagine you must move by spaceship to another planet, and you can take ONLY TWO of your possessions with you. What will you take and why? Determine what is most enjoyable for you, and visualize methods for creating more in your life.

LETTER 3 (Mercury, Gemini, Third House):

Clues to possible underdoing: A sense of “heaviness” in life. Inhibition of thinking, speaking, casual conversation. Problems or issues with siblings, relatives, neighbors or people close at hand. Breathing issues. Injuries to arms, hands or shoulders. Attracting people who are gossipy, superficial, scattered or excessively cool.

Possibilities for building Letter 3:

Fire: Allow your spontaneous impulses to come out in speech, especially if they may be funny or lighten the atmosphere. Play Scrabble, Boggle or other word games. Take up Trivial Pursuit. Learn to play Fictionary.* Build hand dexterity with magic tricks, dealing cards or other nimble-fingered activities. Put yourself in situations giving opportunities for repartee. Begin communicating more with gestures. Use your hands to convey richer meanings.

Earth: Keep track of how many words you use in various situations and make a deliberate effort to increase the quota by at least one word per day. Memorize jokes and practice them until you have the punch line down solid. Then try them out. Use the Reader’s Digest and other quizzes to increase your vocabulary. Buy yourself a dictionary or thesaurus. Put more yellow in your clothes and surroundings. Keep a journal of topics which you can handle best in conversation. Add a new topic each week to research and increase your expertise.

Air: Strike up one conversation each day with someone you do not know. Start saying “I don’t care” in situations where the outcome matters very little to you, until you can say it and mean it. When emotionally upset, ask yourself “Will this matter in one hundred years?” Try saying “So what?” or mentally thumbing your nose. Attend more cocktail parties, coffee klatches or other situations involving casual conversation. Skim a newspaper, chat with a neighbor or call someone on the phone. Take a course on becoming an interesting conversationalist. Take a class in anything you are interested in—just for your own curiosity. Think about how your voice sounds to other people (tape record it); consider making it softer, louder, more emphatic, less whiny—anything which might give more weight to your messages. Analyze the “fit” between your words and body language and consider improving it.

Water: Meditate on floating. Replay experiences in your life using the Psychosynthesis technique of the “Fair Witness.”** Make and use affirmations such as: I can let life flow by me. I can remain cool and calm in the midst of emotional chaos. I can think rather than feeling when appropriate. I am a fascinating person to talk to. I have many interesting bits of data at my fingertips. Visualize yourself at ease in many different social situations, listening, talking and sharing freely and easily. Imagine everyone in the world is limited to one hundred words per day. Who would you talk to? What would you say? Imagine you HAD to talk steadily for five minutes. What would you say? How can you integrate these two imaginary possibilities? At least once a day, when you think you know what someone is thinking, ask them—and discuss it.

LETTER 4 (Moon, Cancer, Fourth House):

Clues to possible underdoing of Letter Four: Rootlessness. Alienation from home, family or children. Stomach problems. Strife with mother, a mother figure, or your own maternal potentials. Discomfort with dependency and/or nurturance. Attracting excessively needy or overly helpful individuals.

Fire: Construct your own home (or parts of it). Do at least one “good deed” (taking care of someone) every day. Become active on behalf of women, children, historical monuments, old houses or public safety. Swim. Rock in a rocking chair. Cuddle with someone you love. Give lots of hugs and receive lots of hugs. Take advantage of any opportunity to hold a baby or pet an animal.

Earth: Buy “safe” commodities and possessions which you can hang onto and which give you a sense of security. Trace your family tree. Get some cuddly stuffed toys. Eat more. Wear more silver (jewelry and the color in your clothes). Touch people you care about. Plant a garden full of things you love to eat and carefully tend it. Make a list of all your mother’s admirable qualities and consider how to incorporate them in your behavior. Make a list of all your mother’s unadmirable qualities and figure out the behaviors you would rather exhibit and how to encourage them in your own expression.

Air: Read cookbooks or recipes. Discuss with other people their experiences of nurturing and being nurtured. Talk about the kind of childhood you had and what you would like now. Dialogue with your mother or mother figure—either directly (if the experience is likely to be positive) or with you playing both roles (aloud, on paper, etc.). Read myths about the Moon goddesses. Sing the national anthem. Discuss feelings and emotions with the people around you, especially women and children. Reach some decisions about how YOU want to handle your emotional life.

Water: Adopt a pet or a stray and feed it. Create affirmations about your right to be taken care of, to have intimacy, protection and a warm, caring relationship with others. Ask for a favor you would not normally request, which is easy to grant. Provide emotional support for someone you know rather than not getting involved. Watch the moon rise—especially over the ocean. Hold an imaginary dialogue with the child you might have and explore your feelings about nurturance and protection. Keep a dream journal and watch for themes within your dreams.

Alert readers will note that some activities appear on more than one list. This is because life is not divided into pure categories, but contains mixtures. Swimming, for example, when we focus primarily on the muscular movement and vigorous action, is a fire (Letter One) activity. When we focus primarily on the sensation of being immersed in the water and surrounded by that element, we are experiencing more of the Letter Four side of it.

*Fictionary is a word game, best played with six or more people. One person selects a word from the dictionary which s/he feels the other people are unlikely to know (e.g.,”hogmanay” might be the selection). The word is read aloud to confirm no one is familiar with the definition. Then, the person who selected the word writes down a definition from the dictionary. Everyone else takes pen and paper and MAKES UP a plausible definition for the term. The individual making the selection then collects ALL the definitions and reads them over for legibility, to be sure s/he can read them all aloud smoothly. All the definitions are read (and re-read, if needed) until everyone (except the person doing the reading) has selected a definition which s/he believes is the correct one. For example, with hogmanay, you might have to choose between:

1) A form of divination based on reading pig intestines.

2) A canoe-shaped sleigh used by the Lapps.

3) Mackerel salted for the winter in Scotland.

4) An oatmeal cookie.

5) A small antelope found in eastern Africa.

6) A measure of corn or wheat, approximately equal to three bushels, but varying from region to region of Scotland and England.

Once everyone has cast a vote, the correct definition is revealed. If you wish to keep score, individuals get one point for correctly choosing the actual definition. Individuals also get one point for each person choosing their fictional definition. You can also get a point for a real definition nobody chooses. You can play until 20 points or any arbitrary number. After the first person has chosen a word from the dictionary, a second person does, and so on until everyone has had at least one turn. (Rather than playing to reach a certain number of points, you can also play until everyone has presented one word—or two words, etc. You can also choose to play for fun without keeping score.) Some people choose to occasionally make up humorous definitions as well, to keep everyone laughing.

**Fair Witness is presented in the literature on Psychosynthesis (e.g., Psychosynthesis or The Act of Will by Roberto Assagioli). In this exercise, you choose an incident which involves another person and still bothers you emotionally. You then replay the incident from the point of view of the other party. Then, you replay the incident from the viewpoint of an objective “Fair Witness” who is uninvolved and emotionally detached. The replays can take the form of dialoguing (aloud or on paper) or purely visualization.

I hope everyone will add to these lists, and use them to spark ideas of their own. If you are willing to send in additional ideas, we will be happy to publish them in The Mutable Dilemma.

Copyright © 1985 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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