by Amber R. Balk, Ph.D.
While posting my thoughts on the Aries New Moon, I noticed an unsettling feeling.
I had an odd sense of my words being trite, insignificant, superficial, and lacking in something fundamental.
I had focused on archetypal potentials and possibilities in a broad, generalizing way. This is something I deliberately do to try to make my astrological pieces as accessible and relevant as possible. And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something had been over-edited and diluted out of my thoughts and words. I wondered if I was getting burnt out on writing lunar musings. Or maybe I’ve become a one-trick pony, and all my posts sound eerily monotonous. Regardless, something felt off, so I tried turning inward to see what was behind it.
My thoughts drifted to scenes from last week. Earlier last week I had been contemplating the new moon energies. I tend to look at what’s going on or heading our way, dive into some guesses at possibilities, then let the material incubate in the background of my mind while simultaneously watching for themes, synchronicities, & dreams to deepen into the material.
Last week, I realized, I was held enrapt with stories of righteous indignation.
Think to the tune of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
I followed this thread and somehow came across the story of Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who in 1963 set himself on fire as an act of political protest. I had seen the image of the burning monk before but never delved into the story. His people were being persecuted for their religious practices. Many were forced to convert to Catholicism, temples were looted, and violence against Buddhists persisted while the government turned a blind eye.
Thich Quang Duc chose self-immolation as a means to plead with the government to protect the Buddhists’ right to religious freedom.
In his farewell letter he wrote:
“Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngô Đình Diệm to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.”
The act was carried out in a busy public intersection not too far from the Presidential Palace in Saigon. A procession of Buddhist monks and nuns surrounded and prayed while it took place. The event had been planned, and organizers had announced that an important event would be occurring on June 11, 1963, so some reporters were present. Journalist Malcom Browne captured an image that swept across the planet.
The fiery act of willing sacrifice certainly made a huge impact. Yet, more strife and 5 more Buddhist self-immolations took place before actions were taken that brought substantial peace.
Last week I just couldn’t quit looking at the historical photo. The monk sits in meditation, and it is reported that he didn’t make a sound or move while burning. Interestingly, his heart remained intact even after a secondary cremation ceremony took place.
I stared at the image, nearly 58 years after the event, and felt the spellbinding power of such an act. How terrible. How absolutely tragic. How devastating that we humans do such horrendous things to each other that anyone would take such drastic actions.
And yet, my own warrior heart resonated.
Not that I would or could ever do such a thing. But I certainly understand how it feels to be passionately lit up with absolute righteous indignation.
There are many injustices that conjure such intense feeling within me. I think of the religious persecution of my Native North American ancestors; how the traditional lands of my people are now pretty much completely converted and cut off from ancient practices. The thought sets me aflame. In fact, I once wrote an impassioned poem entitled “I Am Fire” that addressed this very topic. It was a poem I wrote after recurring dreams of fire tornadoes coming down frozen beaches; a time when ancestral trauma and rage were being unleashed and made conscious in my psyche.
But there are so many other situations and circumstances that light me up.
For instance, news of another black person being shot by police.
That fucking sets me on fire.
Or news of another woman raped.
Or of a child being abused or murdered.
Of grown men crying out for their mothers–
AN APPEAL TO THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY
— in desperate pleas for help.
I feel the breaking of my heart, and through the cracks roll furious flames.
It’s just too much.
But what can I do? I could, like so many, deny my feelings. I could hide the pain. I could stifle my rage. But then it would roil and boil inside, most likely causing physical harm. High blood pressure. Heart disease. Depression. Cancer. Collapsed defeat and surrender.
No, I’d rather embrace it.
I would rather forge myself as a cauldron.
A safe place for flames to lick the air and dance around.
A place where this fire becomes helpful and life-preserving.
I would rather sit with the intensity of these feelings.
Invite their presence and their wisdom.
I won’t pretend that it’s always easy.
Today I felt pieced through the heart as I read more tragic headlines. Stories of people not seeing each other, not treating each other with compassion and kindness. Stories of knee-jerk assumptions and actions. Stories that appeal to the Fierce Mother in us all– we all know her, either directly through our own mothers, through the women who protected us as children, or even though the mother animals we’ve encountered in the wild. Even in the neighborhood mother cat or dog. WE KNOW HER.
Protect each other. Bear your teeth, and stand your ground. Fight injustice in ALL its forms.
These headlining tales play an endlessly repeating song of humanity.
Our task is to listen.
Responding can be so many different things. It can be advocating for others who are unable to defend themselves. It can be teaching our children to be kind, regardless of differences, regardless of misunderstandings. It can be taking to the streets and protesting. It can look like art– channeled into songs, paintings, movies, and novels. It can look like silent stillness that leaves one with clarity and an open heart. It can look like making donations or volunteering time to causes and organizations that fight injustice. It can look like voting.
There really are endless ways to channel the fire. But that isn’t to say that I don’t feel helpless and hopeless. In all honesty I am a sensitive person. The violence and hatred is mind-blowing and baffling to me. I simply do not understand it. When people get caught up in a particular mindset, and that colors their perception so that what they see validates what they believe– without ever questioning it… That can lead to destruction and violence. But this is the playing field we’re dealing with; this is the nature of our reality.
Assumptions get made.
Deep patterns are in place.
So much action is needed. But the first act is to watch ourselves. Watch our thoughts. Watch our assumptions. Watch our feelings. Watch our behavior. Watch our tendency to deny, turn away & surrender. Watch our tendency to turn & fight.
The real warrior sits in stillness amidst the flames.
The real warrior resides inside the ardent heart.
When righteous indignation lit me on fire, I chose to sit outside in the sun while listening to a Spotify playlist I put together entitled “Revolutionary Badasses– Righteous Indignation: Songs encouraging other, better ways of living.” I sat rocking in a hammock as strong winds gusted, and I dove deeply into my anger and sadness. At times I wanted to get up and scream. In my mind I danced a warrior dance, an ancient plea for justice and protection. I grieved for humanity. I appealed to the archetypal Fierce Mother, asking her to protect us from our ignorance. I prayed for all those experiencing terrible things that no doubt were happening at the very moment that I sat in privileged comfort and safety. I cried hot tears for all the mean things people do and say to one another.
I felt like I was on fire.
I thought I was getting a little too imaginative when I actually smelled smoke. It turns out some houses nearby had caught on fire. Sirens from all directions flew to the rescue. I watched the smoke billow in the sky. What a terrible synchronicity.
In the universe that I dwell within, there are archetypal energies always at play– manifest and unmanifest, implicate and explicate orders. These energies build and congregate, and when a certain threshold is reached, waking world events unfold in alignment. The material world is a conduit for these archetypal energies to unfold. We are that. Our lives are that. The natural world is that.
Animals embody it, as do trees, insects, the ocean, and yes, even you.
It is majestic.
And sometimes terrifying.
To be in tune with this throbbing pulse of manifest and unmanifested potential is both thrilling and daunting.
There are times (like now) when I see a set-up in the cosmos, and I realize some awful potentials exist, and I shirk away from it.
That happened this week. I wrote a fluff piece about an Aries warrior stellium of Sun, Moon, Venus, Mercury, and Chiron with Venus squaring Pluto and Mars squaring Neptune. I knew this could be a set up for revolt, conflict, violence, deception, and injustice. But I didn’t want to say it.
I didn’t want to name it, as if that could stop it.
I pushed away the mental image of Thich Quang Duc. I felt the crime I committed against my own intuition and voice when I regretted sharing a piece that was fluffy, optimistic, and hopeful. Instead, the fire came rolling through me the next day like a lightning storm across a prairie. Undeniable. Unavoidable. And unbelievably powerful.
I simply had to get the words written– the right words.
And yet, even now I can feel the wavering kick in– the worry that these thoughts and images will be too intense for others.
But then I think of all the sacrifices that have been made.
If we don’t look at these things, feel it all swirling within us, take action, and make changes, then it is wasted.
And that makes those sacrifices extra tragic.
I won’t take part in that.
I. WILL. NOT. TAKE. PART. IN. THAT.
I will not censor and silence myself, even though it is scary and intimidating.
I will feel this fire in my womb, fueled by breath and spirit, and let it translate into caring, growth, and effective change.
I don’t know what that might entail or how that might unfold.
But my warrior heart is aglow.
Fire flows through these veins.
And I trust myself to wield it wisely.