End-of-life researcher Stephen Levine writes of a woman who was dying in terrible pain and bitterness. Suddenly, when she couldn’t bear the suffering any longer, the woman had a breakthrough: She began to experience the agony of a starving mother in Ethiopia, a runaway teenager dying of an overdose, a man crushed by a landslide. In great awe, she told Levine that she understood it wasn’t her pain, it was the pain of all beings. It wasn’t just her life, it was life itself. And this knowledge set her free.
The peace-inducing experience of unity consciousness doesn’t have to be triggered by extreme pain. One way to cultivate it is the simple but powerful Buddhist breathing technique known as tonglen. In her book When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron describes tonglen as a way to transform the pain of the world by letting it touch your heart with compassion. You simply breathe in suffering with the wish that everyone could be free of pain. Then you breathe out happiness with the wish that everyone could feel joy. Rather than trying to protect yourself from pain (yours or others’) you embrace it and gain relief.
When you don’t close off and you let your heart break, says Chodron, you discover your kinship with all beings and gain access to your intrinsic “noble heart,” no matter how far you may have strayed from it.
“Just as a jewel that has been buried in the earth for a million years is not discolored or harmed,” she explains, “in the same way your noble heart can be brought out into the light at any time, and it will glow as brilliantly as if nothing had ever happened.”
Next Friday’s solar eclipse in Pisces, the last sign of the zodiac, falls right on the heels of the final Uranus-Pluto square– and within hours of the energy-recalibrating Equinox. A lot of old karma is coming to a head, to be released and transformed once and for all. The paradigm-shifting Uranus-Pluto square, which has been stirring up change – and trouble – since June of 2012, may now be officially complete, but its reverberations will be felt for years as we re-envision and rework those aspects of our lives and the world which are crying out for change.
Pisces unifies all dualities – pain and pleasure, life and death. This mystical water sign helps us retrieve what’s been buried in the subconscious and bring it into the light of awareness. Since this New Moon/total solar eclipse (March 20, 2:36 a.m. PDT) is at the super-charged 29th degree of Pisces, it offers deep insight and healing to those who are receptive. I highly recommend doing a meditation on the evening of the 19th to harness the cosmic energies of the eclipse. Doing some tonglen breathing to process and release old pain – personal and collective – is a great way to tap into unity consciousness at this auspicious time. Then, when the Sun charges into fiery Aries at 3:45 p.m. on March 20 to kick off the astrological New Year, you’ll be recharged and ready for action.
Another way to tap into Piscean energies is by water-gazing, an ancient technique for receiving inspiring messages or visualizing what you’d like to create. For help with this process, check out the Pisces New Moon ritual from my book, Astro Feng Shui: Making Magic in Your Home and Life.