These days, the world can seem like a dilapidated vehicle with expired registration, careening headlong toward the edge of a cliff. The sheer scope of humanity’s troubles is enough to make you want to take to your bed, pull the blankets over your head, and wait for it all to pass.
Ideally, of course, we would learn from our current crises rather than simply enduring them – or worse, ignoring them. So how can we transform the demands, frustrations, irritations, and boredom of daily life into spiritual nourishment? It’s a tall order, because for many of us it’s a challenge just surviving our days, let alone mining them for Big Lessons. An overwhelmed mother of two with a full-time job would probably love to spend an hour each day in soulful meditation, surrounded by candles and incense. But between keeping her job, cooking dinner, and keeping one kid from biting the other, she’s got her hands full.
When you’ve got too much on your plate, even the most trivial chores can quickly snowball into Herculean tasks. Take the several baskets of paper, folders, and files piled up right next to my desk that need sorting, filing, and shredding. Every time I walk into my office, determined to roll up my sleeves and get to work, my heart sinks as I survey the sheer size of this pile. Not only does the prospect of dealing with it seem overwhelming, but even if I somehow managed to subdue this pile, another tower of paper would surely rise up in its place.
This, in a nutshell, is what it can be like when the Sun comes together in Neptune, as it does at this Full Moon – overwhelming. And it’s not just papers, laundry, or preparing tax returns that overwhelm us now, but more serious worries such as evaporating retirement accounts and contagious disease. In the wake of the recent, hard-edged conjunction of Saturn and Pluto, we may be finding it especially difficult to contend with terra firma’s recent, violent shifts. When we’re overwhelmed, spiritual enlightenment sounds like one more burden, and it’s tempting to seek escapist pleasures instead – TV, the internet, our iPods, alcohol, food. Retreating into these immediately gratifying mini-retreats, while not the healthiest or most enlightened response, is sometimes the best we can do.
Interestingly enough, the mundane tasks we find overwhelming may potentially provide the spiritual solace we seek. I offer you a tactic proposed by my sensible, Moon in Virgo mother. Growing up, I was an extremely oversensitive kid who generally coped by reading books and as I got older, making music. But there were still days when I felt so rudderless, so completely ill-equipped to meet the challenges awaiting me in the real world that all I could do was to lie on my bed and stare up at the ceiling. Fortunately, my mother was a cheerful sort and regularly dragged me from my pit of despair with a well-timed nugget of Virgo-ish, practical advice. “Whenever you get overwhelmed,” she used to say, “Do just one small thing that doesn’t take too much thought and that you can finish quickly. Clean one drawer.”
How can cleaning one drawer in your dresser, desk, or kitchen help you save your house or send your kid to college? It can’t, of course. It won’t even get rid of that pile of papers in my office. But when you’re overwhelmed to the point of inertia, taking even a single step at least sets you in motion. And focusing on one tiny area of your life—setting a modest goal and seeing it through to completion—immediately gives you a sense of power and control.
Though ethereal Neptune dominates this Full Moon landscape, the Virgo Moon trines four planets in Capricorn. Capricorn reflects a yearning for stability, for rules—for a plan. Unfortunately, Capricorn’s ruling planet, Saturn, can also make us feel as though we’re all alone, and it’s still pretty close to Pluto, which can make the tasks before us seem insurmountable. Saturn and Pluto have been like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo, demolishing structures we’d once considered inviolate. But there’s another way to think about it, too – which is that the dismantling of your external support systems can teach you just how much inner strength you possess.
Our tasks seem to grow more and more difficult, our “To Do” lists longer, and the help we need to complete them in short supply. What’s more, Saturn is moving soon (March 21) into revolutionary Aquarius, which warns that it’s too soon to get attached to any one solution to our problems, because as Bob Dylan once wrote, “the wheel’s still in spin.” But the promise of this moment is that we can, by accepting the limitations of the times and attacking our problems systematically, build a strong foundation for the future – even if it takes awhile to see progress.
So if you feel overwhelmed at this Full Moon, try tackling your days—and your life—in bite-sized chunks. File one folder. Shred one stack of old receipts. Clean one drawer. The world is set on its own precarious course, and it will take awhile for the dust to settle so we can glimpse the long view. In the meantime, as long as you’re breathing you have more than you know. You are more than you know. Just wait and see.