Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stay Put on Your Birthday: a Zen Perspective on Solar Return Astrology

printed in the Fall 2010 issue of The Ingress, NCGR-NYC's Newsletter

Human beings desperately want to find some solid ground in what is essentially a groundless universe.

It’s very easy to get lost in a fruitless rollercoaster ride of readings and urgent attempts at rationalizing the irrational. Astrology, the very process we turn to for answers, has built within it the most nebulous, mysterious, and unknowable element of all: the twelfth house.

In Zen Buddhism, it is said that true understanding arises when we learn to cultivate a “don’t-know mind.” A don’t-know mind is that place that precedes thinking and all of its limitations, and a way of being that offers us clarity, boundless potential, and spaciousness. It’s where wisdom is born and what makes the deepest and most penetrating insights possible. It’s the artist’s pure white canvas just moments before the first stroke of paint is splashed across the surface. It’s the blank word document on your computer monitor that invites you to string enough words together to create a beautiful line of poetry. When we attain this open mind and heart, there is no longer me over here and you over there—for your mind and my mind become one. When our minds are open like the sky we return to our original state and are completely in synch with the universe.

Maintaining a don’t-know mind is simply paying attention to each moment as it arises and passes. More often than not, we spend a lot of time either mulling over the past or worrying, hoping and planning for the future. When we allow our untamed minds to pull us this way and that, our lives go by right under our noses but we’re too caught up in being either nostalgic or speculative, and then dealing with the ensuing emotions and all of their consequences.

Many of us are drawn to astrology because we want to understand ourselves and the world we inhabit, and ideally get a clue as to how our lives will unfold. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that a metaphysical explanation of life will make us better equipped to control things so that events will transpire in a way that we find at the very least pleasing and at the most, highly desirable. We mistakenly believe that what we want is the same as what we need, and it’s nearly impossible for us to trust that the universe just might know a little better than we do about such things.

The birth chart is the result of a very fleeting confluence of cosmic events and a unique combination of the four elements as they came together at the moment of our birth. Our wandering consciousness recognized these conditions as the most beneficial form it could take on in order to work through its karma. So it jumps in and inhabits the form described by the chart for the number of years it was meant to live.

Astrology is at its best when it is helps someone gain insight into the talents, behavioral patterns, and obstacles that are described in the natal horoscope. It’s at its worst when it results in hyper-dependence on another person for guidance or even permission to take action.

One of the potential pitfalls of the client/astrologer relationship is that the unique role that an astrologer plays can give him or her an undue and potentially harmful degree of power over the client. Someone might be advised that they should travel to Timbuktu on their birthday, and in so doing the solar return Pluto square to their Venus will come from the third house instead of the eighth. That may sound a lot less scary but might result in a far worse scenario since we can never predict with absolute certainty how a planetary configuration in a solar return will play out.
Supposing that staying home for one’s birthday meant having a solar return chart that showed Pluto in the eighth house squaring Venus in the fourth house. An astrologer with histrionic tendencies might interpret this in the most negative light and therefore advise the client to travel to Sydney, Australia on her birthday so that Pluto will instead be in the third house squaring Venus in the twelfth. Many would say that sounds a lot less menacing.

But in heeding her astrologer’s advice and opting for the Sydney solar return, the client ended up being a victim in a string of neighborhood crimes and had her most valuable possessions stolen. Had she stayed in New York City on her birthday, she might have had an easier time securing a mortgage for a new condo she was eyeing at the time (Pluto in the eighth squaring Venus in the fourth).

On the surface, this kind of astrology may seem to be quite empowering for the client, but in reality the one who is most empowered by this kind of relationship is the astrologer. If I truly accept that your telling me where to be on my birthday will make my life somehow better over the next year, I am going to grow more dependant on you. If you tell me that the point of life is to learn about myself and the world I’m inhabiting rather than to be completely comfortable as often as possible, you’re putting the power and responsibility back in my own hands. And by encouraging me to accept life for what it is no matter what it is at any given moment, I may be less inclined to feel the need to visit you again in the future.

Fostering that kind of relationship may not be in the best business interest for the astrologer, but it might do wonders for the client’s emotional and spiritual health.

While it would be foolish to ignore the message and meaning of our birth chart, it’s equally ludicrous to get overly attached to our squares and trines and quincunxes, our sextiles and grand crosses and those mind-numbing yods. It’s tempting to turn these planetary configurations into excuses for not expressing our true selves, for not realizing our true nature, and for not reaching our full potential. The negative interpretations themselves can become greater obstacles than those they are meant to describe as we cling to our horoscopes in the hopes of explaining once and for all the underlying existential unease and dissatisfaction we were all born with.

All of this does little to ease our confusion and can give rise to the very thing we set out to alleviate: suffering, discontent, restlessness, boredom, anguish. By clinging to our charts, progressions, transits, and solar returns, we pump up the ego that’s at the very heart of the problem we are called upon to eradicate—a self-centeredness that demands control and order in a frequently chaotic world.

We assign a disproportionate amount of importance to ME when the only thing that will ever bring about a lasting sense of contentment and ease is getting over ourselves, our wants, our preferences. That means dropping our stories, letting go of our blaming, and learning to embrace the potent ambiguity inherent in questions rather than the delusive sense of comfort we think we can acquire through black-and-white answers, be they cosmic in origin or not.
It’s no wonder that any kind of panacea would be more than welcome—so the prospect of being able to control the course of events over a year by traveling on one’s birthday is quite an appealing proposition.

Advising someone that if they travel on their birthday, they can avoid a stressful situation and bring about a more pleasing one is both misguided and irresponsible. Junk astrology like this robs a person of the opportunity to learn how to be with what is as opposed to being in a state of constantly wanting things to be other than what they are. This is the very cause of suffering and dissatisfaction—the misguided notion that things are just not ok as they are and we need to fix them by whatever means necessary.

Attempting to bend the planetary transits according to our will is like trying to move a procession of ants from one corner of your picnic blanket to the other. No matter where you put them, you’ve still got ants to deal with, and eventually they’ll get to your sweets.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting things—it’s perfectly normal to prefer comfort over discomfort, love over loneliness, abundance over poverty. However, we run into trouble when our preferences become requirements.

I don’t believe for a second that traveling on one’s birthday and then returning to one’s home city for the remainder of the year can have any real impact or drastically change the events that are likely to happen over the following twelve months. I do believe that offering someone such false hope is both irresponsible and unethical.

Here is an open challenge to those who engage in the practice of solar return relocation astrology: instead of promising a client more money or fame or love if they just buy a plane ticket to Bermuda, consider encouraging them to be more at peace with themselves and their lives no matter what outer cosmic weather conditions look like. Offer your clients the freedom that comes with acceptance and equanimity rather than the mental shackles that go along with the misguided belief that being somewhere else on their upcoming birthday will ensure that life goes just they way they want it to that year.

Lawrence Grecco is a professional astrologer and life coach. He is a member of the NCGR-NYC Board of Directors and has been featured in the Mountain Astrologer Magazine, NBC News, Fox News, New York Nonstop, the New York Post, and Worldstreams Radio. He is a Zen Buddhist seminary student and the Director of Open Sky Sangha, an organization that offers meditation instruction and dharma talks. You can find out more about him at or by emailing

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dealing with Pluto on the Angles

Pluto often gets a bad rap—many people view it as a treacherous intruder that wants nothing more than to wreak havoc on us. This is a wrong view. Pluto merely demands that we be authentic and that we know ourselves more deeply. It has no patience for artifice and wants to probe way beneath the surface and expose what’s really underneath without any regard to the polite stories we prefer to tell about ourselves and our lives.

Transiting Pluto requires change and a deeper understanding of whatever it touches. It’s all about authenticity and bringing to the surface those aspects of our lives and character that we might otherwise remain unaware of, that we might otherwise have missed. He’s the ultimate psychoanalyst, so it’s best to lay on the doctor’s couch and let him point out those things about yourself and your life that could use some more attention. Doing so enables you to at least play a small part in the transformative experience rather than watch it happen in a state of bewilderment.
When transiting Pluto touches the angles of our horoscopes, (the Ascendant, the IC, the Descendant, and the Midheaven) it sparks inner and outer events that transform and rebuild whatever those sensitive points represent. We are asked to let go of those things that no longer work for us and give birth to something new.

The key to dealing with Pluto transits is to surrender rather than resist. Resistance to change is futile, because change is simply the nature of things. We suffer when we desire that things be something other than what they are so it’s best not to waste our time and energy on trying to prevent things from transpiring the way they do. This isn’t about complacency, it’s about acceptance. There are things in life we can have some impact on, and things that we cannot. During a Pluto transit the difference becomes crystal clear.

Transiting Pluto on the Ascendant

The Ascendant (the rising sign, or 1st house cusp) represents what we project to others, how we respond to our environment, our viewpoint on life, and how we identify ourselves.
When transiting Pluto touches your Ascendant, it’s a time of intense self-discovery and exploration. Having spent several years in your twelfth house, the work up until now has been largely hidden from view in preparation for this time. So the metamorphosis taking place in your spiritual and psychological self goes from being an unconscious activity to a conscious one. Your outlook on life changes, your relationship to your body intensifies, partnerships are born or ended, and you become more aware of your strengths and limitations. Once Pluto reaches your Ascendant, you can be sure that your life will never be the same again.

The most productive way to deal with this transit is to engage in activities that help you understand yourself and your needs better. Remember that with every loss comes a gain and with every gain comes a loss, and that we are always in a state of flux. During this time you need to let go of those parts of your life that no longer serve much purpose. It’s a great time to purge and reinvent—clean out your closets, change your appearance, learn something new, or embark upon a different spiritual path.

Transiting Pluto on the IC

The IC (Imum Coeli, the Nadir, or the 4th house cusp) is the lowest point in your horoscope. It represents your familial roots, your ancestors, your sense of shelter and protection, and your home.
When transiting Pluto comes to the IC, it sparks some profound changes in your home and family life. There could be significant news about a relative, and it’s very common for a change of residence either by choice or circumstance. If there are corroborating transits and progressions in your chart, it could also signify marriage. You might decide it’s time to start redecorating and recreating your home environment in some way. Or perhaps you get a job offer that requires you to move out of state. In any event, it’s time to let go of certain aspects of your home and family life in order to make room for something new.

During this time, it’s important that you reflect on how your upbringing and family structure has contributed to who and where you are today. Pluto will bring up things about your past and your family that you may have never realized or would rather not have to deal with. In any event, pay close attention to the things that come up during this transit and be mindful about how you respond to them because it will have a tremendous impact on your sense of home and family for many years to come.

Transiting Pluto on the Descendant

The Descendant (or 7th house cusp) indicates the kinds of people we attract to ourselves, both romantically and otherwise. It describes the romantic partner and how we relate to others in general. While Venus represents what you want in relationships, the Descendant shows you what you actually get in a partner, a spouse, a best friend.

When transiting Pluto rears its head up over your Descendant, you begin the process of intensive exploration with regard to interpersonal relationships. It can sometimes be experienced as opposition from others, but this friction enables you to take a good, hard look at yourself and how you contribute to the way your interpersonal life plays out. It brings to the surface the ways in which you relate to others, and those aspects of your relationship life that work and don’t work for you any more. Becoming more aware of your relational patterns this way ultimately helps you transform them in a major way.

If you are in an established relationship, your partner’s life is likely to be changing somehow, as is the relationship itself. This need not be something negative, but keep in mind that the operating word here is transformation. So Pluto will require that your most important relationships undergo some profound changes for the purposes of growth and evolution.

Transiting Pluto on the Midheaven

The Midheaven (or 10th house cusp) is the highest point in the chart and represents our place in the world and how we are perceived publicly. It symbolizes what our career and life direction is about and reveals what kind of reputation we have either through our choices or circumstances. While the Ascendant is the mask we present to people on a personal level, the Midheaven represents our more public “face.”

When transiting Pluto reaches this point of the horoscope, we are asked to revise, reinvent, and rebuild our career. If you’re clinging to your identity as a trader on Wall Street even though you can’t stand the thought of buying or selling one more stock or even wearing a suit for that matter, then Pluto will force you to “get real” about this and take the time to consider what kind of life path is in sync with who you really are. If you are in a career that makes sense for you, Pluto may simply require that you adjust or alter your current position in some way.

Pluto gives you the chutzpah to pursue a life path that more accurately reflects your authentic self and what truly resonates in your heart. It reveals how you can best be of service in this world and inspires you to set a goal, hunt it down, and kill it if you must.

Lawrence Grecco is a professional astrologer and Zen Life Coach in New York City. He is a member of the board of directors of the NYC chapter of the National Council for Geocosmic Research, is a student of the Maitretya Buddhist Seminary and holds a certificate in Buddhist Chaplaincy from the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. A practicing Zen Buddhist, he facilitates a bi-weekly meditation and discussion group in Manhattan. Lawrence is available for astrological consultations and life coaching in person, over the phone, or via Skype or iChat. He can be reached at 212-989-3456 or . Be sure to visit his web site at WWW.ZENRISING.COM

This article is featured in Pluto Problems Got You Perplexed? Here’s What Helps! It’s a collection of articles about Pluto transits called published by Skywriter on March 19 as part of the 2010 International Astrology Day Blogathon. The purpose of this web-based event is to create a permanent library of articles about how to deal with the stresses of the Cardinal T-Square of Pluto, Saturn and Uranus. The main page for the Blogathon collections is at The Cardinal T-Square of 2010: Saturn, Uranus, Pluto.

Learn how to deal with Pluto problems HERE

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Madonna's Big Summer

If the birth time I have for Madonna is accurate (dob August 16 1958 7:05 AM Bay City, Michigan) then she is in for some major life changes by the middle of August 2008. At this time and the weeks and month just after that will be especially challenging and life-changing for her.

There are two very powerful transits happening to her this year.

For starters, beginning in December of 2007 and again in August 2008, we see that Saturn is going over her ascendant (or you could say into the first house of her horoscope) which is 8 degrees of Virgo. This suggests that a major new life cycle is about to begin for her. This cycle will last for the next 30 years or so, and the last time it happened for Madonna was in October of 1978 and June of 1979, when she first moved to New York City, became a nude model and joined a band called The Breakfast Club.

A transit like this is normally characterized by significant endings and beginnings. This could relate to her career, her marriage, where she lives, and also the way in which she identifies herself. It can even me all of those things.

If her marriage is strong then it will be tested but remain intact since Saturn naturally opposes the descendant (which symbolizes one's marriage partner among other things) when it is hovering around the ascendant. If there are some problems there with Guy Ritchie that they aren't able or willing to work through, then Saturn will terminate the relationship by August or early in the fall.

It has already been reported that she has a new album coming out in the early spring and that she's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but I suspect that there will also be some more difficult events going on for her this year.

It will be a time when she will be seen very clearly for who she really is--the world will get a sober look at her for better or for worse.

Another challenging astrological event she faces this year is transitting Saturn going over her natal Moon at 11 degrees of Virgo in September of 2008. This is another extremely important transit for her. It indicates some development or change in career direction for her and perhaps a change with regard to any organizations or groups she is currently involved with since Cancer rules her 11th house. And since the Moon represents our emotional nature, our family, and our attachments, Saturn is going to restrict these parts of her life and cause them to change in a profound way. Depression and a feeling extreme loneliness are not uncommon during a transit like this. This conjunction of Saturn to her Moon last happened in November of 1978 and July of 1979, also pivotal years in her early career.

Just a reminder: Saturn does not take anything away that really and truly belongs to us. It just strips things down to their bare essentials and demands that we let go of anything that no longer works in our life.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Transformation of the United States

2008 and 2009 will be pivotal years for the United States. The astrological weather for that time period suggests that our country is about to undergo a series of radical and dramatic shifts, both socially and economically. This pertains to all things that are Saturnian in nature--since Saturn and Uranus are going to be in opposition beginning on election day of this year, and Pluto will be in the sign of Capricorn (a sign that is ruled by Saturn) between 2008-2023.

Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024)

Since 1994 Pluto has been in Sagittarius. This period was characterized by our desire to live excessively (i.e. through borrowing and spending beyond our means). Under this influence we've been a country that craves instant gratification and this will be changing by 2009. Sagittarius also rules international affairs, religion, and media, and Pluto's journey through that sign transformed the way all of those aspects of life operate in the world: the rise of religious extremism and church scandals, terrorism and "holy wars", and the way certain parts of the media has been transformed from offering neutral coverage to sensationalistic reporting with an obvious political agenda (think Fox News). Incidentally this started with the OJ Simpson trial in 1994 just as Pluto was making its way into Sagittarius.

When Pluto leaves that sign and enters Capricorn in 2008, we're going to see a significant transformation of all things related to that sign: the political structure, financial institutions, real estate, established religions, big business, concepts of career, status and wealth, and issues pertaining to buildings and even fatherhood. Traditional institutions like marriage will continue to undergo massive changes between 2008-2024 because Pluto reinvents everything it touches and demands that it change in a major way. Things that were hidden until now will be brought to the surface for the purpose of cleansing and transformation—Pluto loves to expose the underbelly of life and hold it up for all to see, no matter how distasteful it is or how uncomfortable it makes us. It doesn't care how we feel and it steamrolls over everything whether we like it or not so it is best to accept the changes it brings about rather than to resist them.

The last two times Pluto was in Capricorn:

1515 AD to 1532 - Martin Luther's Protestant revolt and the ensuing crisis for Emperor Charles the V and the Catholic Church.

1762 AD to 1777 – The American Revolution


Saturn opposing Uranus is the polarity of new vs old, revolution vs tradition, and a challenge to the status quo and the powers that be. It happens every 40 years or so and its effects are usually felt over a two year period.

Dates of the upcoming Saturn/Uranus opposition:

November 4, 2008- Election day, a radical change in government (the first female president perhaps?)
Feb 5 2009
September 15 2009
April 26 2010
July 26 2010

The last time Saturn and Uranus were in opposition was between 1964-1967, a period of great social unrest and upheaval and just after the assassination of John F Kennedy

The fact that this opposition will be taking place on election day of 2008 suggests a radical shift in the way Washington is run—which suggests a major change in leadership and therefore an easy win for whomever the Democratic candidate ends up being (which appears to be Hillary Clinton at the moment).

The temptation by some to cling to the past (Saturn) will be more pronounced in reaction to a demand for change and revolution (Uranus)

The last time we had this opposition was between 1964-1967, a time that marked by civil unrest, cultural changes, protest, and a demand for equal rights, particularly by women and African-Americans.


The time period between August 2010-January 2011 should be particularly important for the United States as Saturn goes over the Midheaven of the United States and we also have our Saturn return. This marks a time of culmination and can described as a 'make or break' time where we will be at a crossroads and will have to take a significant new course of action in some way. It will be obvious what this is about once it is happening.