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If you keep up with the current astrology, you’ve surely read the warnings — including my own — about Mars’ transit through Aries that began in June, and will be active for the rest of the year due to a retrograde.

There are good reasons for these warnings. Given the current state of our society, Mars in Aries can act like a match to gasoline, and we can expect outbreaks of fires and explosions, both metaphorical and, in some cases, literal.

But Mars in Aries also offers us lessons in courage and personal power, in the stubborn persistence of life, and the marvel of our individuality.

We learn that we must build some boundaries, and break through others.

We learn that we must develop the courage to take action and explore the unknown if we want to find new and better ways of doing things.

We learn that, as with the surgeon’s scalpel or the warrior’s weapons, we must sometimes cause harm in order to heal or prevent further harm.

We learn to test the limits of our power, and claim what is ours.

There’s no question that this is going to be a powerful and challenging transit, so I’ll offer some thoughts on how its power can be turned to our benefit.

Astrologers often offer advice on remediating difficult (overly strong or weak, problematic aspects/house placement) planets in a natal chart. Mars is one of the most difficult planets to remediate. One of the most effective and frequently-prescribed Mars remediations is practicing martial arts.

I’m not going to suggest that you run out and sign up for a kung fu or tai chi class (though I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from doing that), but martial arts training offers far more than simple physical exercise. It create habits of thought and a practice of disciplined awareness that can be very useful when dealing with the planet Mars — and we are all going to be dealing with Mars this year.

So let’s look at what we can do to harness the energy of the warrior planet’s extended transit through the sign it rules. As with the martial arts, this is done through establishing habits, practices, and conditioned responses. It also means working on increasing awareness and insight. But first, a bit about the astrology for the aficionados…

(Astrologers: Mars entered Aries on June 27th. It begins slowing down in mid- to late-August, and stations Rx on September 9th. It stations direct on November 13th. Keep in mind that the times around the direct and retrograde stations intensify a planet’s impact. But wait, there’s more! (You expected that, right? I mean, after all, it’s 2020.)

The astrological signature for 2020 — the Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto stellium in Capricorn — will be triggered by repeating squares from Mars starting in August. It stays within orb of square to at least two of those planets right through January.

Watch the stations. Watch the Moon, Mercury, and Venus as they trigger these repeating squares for timing and some daily insights. Watch what current transits are doing to the USA chart, as well, with Pluto at 27 Capricorn, Saturn at 15 Libra, and Mercury at 24 Cancer.)

We all have Mars in our chart. Among other things, it rules the way we take action to get what we want, our desires, our sexuality (along with Venus), how quickly we anger, and how we handle that anger. Mars was the Roman god of war, and the planet also rules war, arguments, weapons, defense — all kinds of combat — as well as surgery — the use of sharp instruments that must harm in the service of healing. It also rules the body as an individual entity, and specifically rules the head and musculature.

What ties all of these things together is our existence as an individual, as a creative being who chose to enter physical reality in a specific time and place, and must carve out a life, a place for our body, our self, within this world.

Creating a life inevitably involves conflict with other people, and how we handle that conflict is going to be highlighted for all of us during this transit. (It will be highlighted more for some than others, depending on your individual birth chart. Set up a consultation with me if you want insights on how this all affects you.)

Regardless of how well or poorly we handle conflict in our own lives, we’ll be seeing — we are already seeing — extreme levels of conflict and violence playing out in our communities, our country, and globally. Is there anything we can do to mitigate the violence?

The good news is yes, we can. The bad(?) news is that it’s hard work. The second piece of good news is that, if you are going to do this work, the energy of Mars can support your efforts over the next six months if you take action with awareness and conscious intent.

Saturn — the planet of discipline and restriction — is invariably paired with Mars in the training of the warrior. Self-discipline and repeated practice is essential to learning to fight effectively. And Saturn is interacting strongly with Mars this year.

Let’s consider the fact that some of the most effective systems of martial arts were developed over centuries by cloistered practitioners of two of the most peace-promoting religions on Earth — Buddhism and Taoism. So how can learning fighting skills help us find and transmit peace?

I can only speak to the styles that I have trained in — Shaolin kung fu and Chen tai chi. But the basics are very similar through most of the martial arts, and the foundational philosophies of most Asian martial arts have a strong spiritual component. So let’s look at the wisdom and insights these ancient arts offer about ways of handling conflict that do not require specific physical training but can help us cope with whatever obstacles or challenges or conflicts enter our lives.

Three Ways to Train for Conflict

1) The first battle is with yourself. Developing strength and skill — physical or mental — demands not only self-discipline, but self-knowledge and a willingness to learn. Check your know-it-all at the door of whatever classroom you have chosen. Learn your limitations so you can either overcome them or adapt as needed.

When you fall flat on your face, when you fail, pick yourself up, heal what needs to be healed, then — as the WWII posters say — carry on.

Don’t let subconscious fears and forces drive your behavior. Examine your beliefs and habitual responses. Make your choices consciously.

2) Think in terms of awareness and strategy. In any situation of conflict, you need to be aware of the physical environment. You need to be aware of your opponent’s skills and state of mind. You need to be aware of others and your surroundings.

We can practice skills of awareness by taking time to stop and thoroughly assess our surroundings at various times during the day — scheduled or random, but you might want to use your phone to remind you to take one or two “awareness breaks” daily. Then randomly, as you move through your day, do a quick sweep of the physical and energetic realities around you.

We can practice strategy by making a point of coming up with several different options when we have choices to make. Even simple situations allow us to practice this skill — what to do about dinner (take out, cook in? frozen or fresh? Set the table or eat in the kitchen?) or whether or not to pass the car in front of you (play chicken with that car coming up in the left lane? Pass on the right? Or stay where you are?)

Training ourselves to always look for alternate possibilities trains our brains to respond faster with options when we need them most.

3) Pay close attention to your body. Give it what it needs for health, and work with it to improve its function. Training is key in the martial arts, and while you may never do a hundred or so roundhouse kicks in quick succession, pretty much everyone can find ways of training the body that work for them.

For some, it might mean using biofeedback to learn to release chronic tension. Others might make a habit of walking, or stretching, or even training by working with the breath. Each body is individual, but we all can set some kind of physical goal, and then train for it within our abilities.

Remember that what’s important is not just physical repetition, but mental focus as well. Work to better understand how your body affects your mind and vice-versa. Give both what they need to work optimally.

Stand for Justice, Bring Peace

When you improve your mental and physical capacity, when you are more confident of your response in the moment of conflict, the better able you are to defuse a situation, and react in ways that lead to a helpful resolution, or at least have a strategy that helps protect you from harm.

But the monks and nuns who developed and still train daily in these martial techniques also train daily in spiritual techniques that lead to the development of compassion. Because true power comes when we strengthen ourselves, then use that strength to compassionately connect with and help others.

Working with Mars in Aries, looking to the philosophies and techniques of martial arts, we can strengthen ourselves — body, mind and spirit — to become powerful individuals. Then we can become part of one or more of the powerful groups whose goals we share that are changing the world.

The strength and influence of a group depends on the personal power and heartfelt dedication of the individuals in the group. A group made up of broken and fearful people may use Mars’ energy to attempt to gain strength through violence and aggression. A group made up of strong-hearted, compassionate people will take a determined stand in service of a just and peaceful society, knowing that violence should be the last resort, that determination and inner strength are what will lead to the most successful outcomes to any situation.

I wrote most of this post before the tear gas hit the leaf blowers in Portland, but the situation in that city is pure Mars in Aries — a volatile, incendiary conflict that had, and continues to have, profound effects on our country by illuminating internal conflicts and demanding resolution.

The protesters exemplified the determination, awareness, courage, and commitment that is essential to the successful practice of martial arts, and in the end, with more and more people showing up every day to support the Black Lives Matter protests, Portlanders drove the intrusive, unnecessary, and violent Federal presence out of their city. (And if you don’t think rubber bullets and tear gas are violent, you need to do some research on them.)

Now that the Feds are gone, the protests continue, as they should, until law enforcement (ruled by Mars) in this country eliminates racism in its ranks and remembers that its job is to protect and serve every citizen.

This is a great example of the good that can come from working with the energy of Mars. Bringing down the social structures that support racism, misogyny, fascism, and other forms of prejudice takes a willingness to fight for what we believe in. Replacing those structures with ones that reflect a healthy approach to our foundational values of providing all citizens with life, liberty, and opportunities to pursue happiness will take a willingness to explore and pioneer new ways of being.

It’s also important to learn and practice the importance of independence, particularly in our thought processes. Letting other people’s opinions color our perception of reality leads to mob mentality. It’s important to know what we believe and be willing to stand up for our beliefs.

We humans seem to create best when we cooperate while still supporting each individual’s creative abilities. Mars has a lot to say about our body and our birth into physical life, our ability to take a stand and make our own place in the world, to claim the space and resources to create a life for ourselves.These traits of Mars can be used to improve our own lives, our communities, and our country.

And, speaking of our country…but no, that should be another post. I’ll write next about the astrology of the USA, particularly regarding the upcoming elections. See you in a month or so.

Blessings of the first harvest to you.

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