Free Will Astrology

ARIES (March 21-April 19): "The supple willow tree does not contend against the storm." So says the Shaolin monk advising his young pupil in the old TV show, Kung Fu. Let that be your watchword, Aries. There will be other times when your best interests will be served by digging in, steeling your will, and launching a fierce counteroffensive. But this is not one of those occasions. If you're as supple as the willow, no harm will come to you. In fact, you'll probably end up feeling like you've gotten a very deep, long massage.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): The greatest gift you can give right now might be the gift that you yourself were never given. The most valuable service you have to offer your fellow humans may be the service you have always wished were performed for you. An experience that wounded you could and should move you to help people who've been similarly wounded. You now have the power to heal yourself by healing others.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Welcome to your crash course at Happiness School, Gemini. To begin your first lesson, say the following aloud: "In the next 20 days, I will rigorously test the hypothesis that it's possible for me to become far more skilled at creating happiness for myself. During that time, I will do everything within my power to make myself feel good." Now take a piece of paper and write a list of ten familiar experiences that you really enjoy and ten untried experiences that would fill you with well-being if you summoned the courage and initiative to actually attempt them. Finally, Gemini, do at least one of those 20 experiences every day for the next 20 days.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): As of this week, I have written 1,500 astrology columns. Some have been better-written and more useful than others, but I've given my utmost effort to every single one. My style has mutated over the years; the horoscopes I penned in, say, 1994, are so unlike those I write now that they almost seem to be the product of a different author. But then I myself have transformed radically since then, so it makes sense that my work has, too. In fact, my personal development has been fueled by my growth as a writer. I urge you to do what I've just done, fellow Cancerian. Take an inventory of the big tasks you've been doing for years. Evaluate the way they've evolved and how they've shaped your destiny. It's time for an expansive look at the labors of love that have made you who you are.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Japanese farmers have perfected a way to grow square watermelons. At the market the fruit can be stacked with more ease and efficiency, and at home it fits better in the refrigerator. I suggest that you make the square watermelon your metaphor of the week, Leo. What can you do to retrain nature so that it better serves your practical goals? How might you engineer your unruly instinctual urges so as to further your civilized needs?

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): In her book Gender Shock, Phyllis Burke notes that as recently as 70 years ago, pink was regarded as a strong, masculine color, and blue as delicate and feminine. This is one of many pieces of evidence she cites to support her argument that definitions of gender arise more from transitory cultural biases rather than biological axioms. If you'd like to align yourself with cosmic rhythms, Virgo, you'll experiment with her hypothesis. Are there ways you've cut yourself off from potential powers because you wrongly assume they're a specialty of the other gender? For instance, if you're a woman, have you been timid about developing your will? If you're a man, have you crippled your ability to be receptive?

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): If you have been experiencing some form of injustice, it's an excellent time to stage a protest, strike, or boycott. The astrological omens don't necessarily guarantee you'll get all your demands met, but they do make it likely you'll be able to harness your anger with maximum lucidity. For best results, don't just fight for your own rights, but for the rights of others as well. You should also make sure that in fighting the disrespect you've suffered that you yourself don't disrespect anyone.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): "You can't wait for inspiration," proclaimed writer Jack London. "You have to go after it with a club." That sounds too violent to me, though I agree in principle that aggressiveness is the best policy in one's relationship with inspiration--especially for you in the coming weeks. Here's my modified version of London's advice: "Don't wait for inspiration. Go after it with a butterfly net, fishing rod, specimen jars, petri dishes, leashes, sweet treats, juicy bait, persuasive arguments, and sincere flattery." And whatever you do, Scorpio, don't fall into the trap of thinking that inspiration is a rare stroke of luck you're powerless to summon.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): "Earth is a school and daily life is our classroom," asserts Dan Millman in his book Living on Purpose. Our teachers aren't always experts and authorities, he says, but often appear in the guise of strangers, acquaintances, children, animals, and unexpected circumstances. The lessons we're asked to master come to us first as simple, straightforward challenges. If we refuse to work at solving them, they take on progressively more difficult and painful forms. Among the most basic of our assignments is the mandate to take good care of our bodies. In my opinion, Sagittarius, that's the most important homework you have in the coming weeks. I hope you'll make dramatic strides in your understanding of what helps your body thrive.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The language we use has a tremendous power to shape our experience. This is especially true for you right now. The words you choose to describe your feelings and adventures will tip the balance of your energy toward delight and vigor or else toward discouragement and apathy. The fewer negative perspectives you formulate, the better your health will be. To spur yourself in the right direction, make frequent use of beautiful words like the following (or create your own list): mellifluous, thrive, melody, luminous, undulate, freshening, reverence, primordial, shimmer.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): There was an indignant uproar after revelations that James Frey's bestselling memoir A Million Little Pieces contains fabrications. Hearing about it prompted me to ruminate on whether there's any such thing as a completely accurate account of any person's life. My conclusion: no. In every autobiography and biography ever written, the author imaginatively strings together selectively chosen details to conjure up artificially coherent narratives rather than depict the crazy-quilt ambiguity that actually characterizes everyone's journey. If you and nine writers set out to tell your life story, you'd produce ten wildly different tales, each rife with subjective interpretation, misplaced emphasis, unintentional distortions, and exorbitant extrapolations from insufficient data. Your assignment this week, Aquarius, is to celebrate the malleability of reality. Regale listeners with stories about the time you worked as a pirate in the Indian Ocean, or rode the rails through Kansas as a hobo, or gave Donald Trump sage advice in an elevator.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Biologist Rupert Sheldrake regularly riles up the scientific establishment with his theories about telepathy and other taboo subjects. After he published his book A New Science of Life, the editor of the prestigious British journal Nature denounced it, saying "This infuriating tract is the best candidate for burning there has been for many years." The same editor later attacked Sheldrake for "heresy," advocating that he be "condemned in exactly the same language that the Pope used to condemn Galileo." I propose that if you're doing your job correctly in the coming weeks, Pisces, you will attract similar protests from the status quo. Fulfilling your mission will require you to wander into territory that's regarded as off-limits by the guardians of the way things have always been done.

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