End-of-life researcher Stephen Levine tells 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 simple but powerful way to cultivate it is a 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 great 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, is a perfect time to polish your inner jewel. The New Moon eclipse falls right on the heels of tomorrow’s 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. The paradigm-shifting Uranus-Pluto square, which has been stirring up change – and trouble – since June 24, 2012, may be officially complete as of March 16, 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) falls at the super-charged 29th degree of Pisces, it offers deep insight and healing to those who are receptive. I highly recommend tuning in quietly on the evening of the 19th to harness the cosmic energies of the eclipse. Doing some tonglen breathing to 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. PDT on March 20 to kick off the astrological New Year, you’ll be recharged and ready for action.
Another good way to tap into Piscean energies is by water-gazing, an ancient technique for receiving inspiring messages or visualizing what you want to create. For help with this, check out the Pisces New Moon ritual from my book, Astro Feng Shui: Making Magic in Your Home and Life.