Free Will Astrology

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Picture yourself carrying fresh orchids through windy city streets. You want to offer them as a gift to someone you adore. Imagine holding the delicate stems in your hand. Your grip must be firm enough to keep them from falling, yet gentle enough so that you don't crush them. Now and then, a stiff breeze threatens the blooms, moving you to pull them protectively toward your chest and raise your elbows to create a windbreak. The mood I just invoked should be the spirit you bring to every one of your important experiences in the coming week.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Thou shalt embrace the big bad contradictions. That's your first commandment in the coming week. The second: Thou shalt tickle the crazy-making incongruities. Third: Thou shalt give hickeys to the mysterious ambiguities. Fourth: Thou shalt give your most intimate, seductive attention to the slippery paradoxes. Fifth: Thou shalt say sexy prayers of gratitude for the contradictions, incongruities, ambiguities, and paradoxes that are making you so much wiser and deeper and cuter.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): The temporary city of Burning Man sprouts up every August in the Nevada desert. A mix of festival, outdoor museum, performance-art venue and survivalist challenge, it's populated by 25,000 freaks — the people who are most interesting to me. Nowhere I've ever been is more like utopia; it's my personal version of Disneyland. And yet I didn't attend this year. Instead I stayed home and threw myself into orientation week at my daughter's new school. So rather than dancing night after night till dawn under the Milky Way with slippery hordes of blissed-out, half-naked bohemians, I sat on hard chairs during long meetings with earnest parents discussing how to nurture our children's education. I wasn't motivated by a sense of sacrifice in making this decision, but simply opted for a different kind of pleasure. You'll soon have a comparable choice.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): For much of his career, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill was renowned for work that was well-grounded, lucidly crafted and formal in style. But while assembling his sprawling mystical epic, The Changing Light of Sandover, he used a Ouija board to solicit the input of disembodied spirits, including several archangels and the souls of dead writers W. H. Auden and Gertrude Stein. Make him your patron saint for the coming weeks. Let him inspire you to push beyond what's worked so well for you before. Cash in on the risks that your success has earned you. Without sacrificing any of your sweet powers of discrimination, expose yourself to provocative voices from outside your usual sphere of influence.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Happy Disinhibition Week. Here are a few ways you might observe this liberating holiday. 1) Stop denying yourself pleasure that would be good for you. 2) Dissolve taboos that were once wise safeguards, but have now become unnecessary. 3) Rethink why you regard certain experiences as off-limits. 4) Journey to a place you've never dreamed of visiting in a million years. 5) Extend compassion to an aspect of yourself you've always been ashamed of. 6) Open your mind to a political position or spiritual idea you've long rejected.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I've been working on a do-it-yourself manual for the new "Just Drop It" school of psychotherapy. It'll be pretty short. In the introduction, I'll tell you to procure a cheap briefcase and fill it up with 100 pounds of rocks. On page two I'll suggest that you imagine the briefcase is stuffed with emotional baggage you can't seem to let go, memories you love to hate and annoying frustrations you never get tired of complaining about. The third page will insinuate that maybe you should actually carry this terrible burden around with you everywhere you go for an entire week. On the fourth and last page, I'll offer the simple, elegant cure: just drop it.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): If I were to make a fictional movie based on your life, I'd include vignettes of you tracking down a stolen batch of plutonium, discovering a cache of 1,850-year-old gold chalices in a remote cave and serving as the entertainment director-cum-spiritual advisor on a submarine cruising beneath the Arctic. Those events wouldn't bear a resemblance to what you're going through, but they'd convey a sense of the shadowy successes unfolding beneath the surface of your daily life.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Years ago, my friend Eva went through hard times while living in Egypt. Her Bedouin husband had turned violent. As an outsider, she got no help from the rest of the nomadic tribe. She fled into the wilderness, where she became almost feral as she struggled to survive. In desperation, she climbed Mt. Sinai, where Moses had brokered the Ten Commandments. Bramble-haired, starving, dancing without rest, she chanted the names of God for three days. At last a divine dispensation descended upon her: a vivid vision of a certain house on a certain street in Dhahab, on the Red Sea, where she could find sanctuary. She made her way to the place and was miraculously taken in there by an old couple that nursed her back to sanity. The turning point you're at isn't as drastic as Eva's, but it's enough to warrant an act as dramatic as climbing Mt. Sinai and chanting the names of God for three days.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Among all the ordeals you've had to endure in the past, a few have been more valuable than others. That time you were used as collateral in a high-stakes gamble by a fantasy-prone trickster dramatically boosted your emotional IQ. You got similar benefits from that bogus savior who never saw you for who you really were. Now it's finally time to enjoy the educational riches you harvested through those torments. They guarantee that your next ordeal will be like being forced to eat too much ice cream.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The German religious reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) was fond of referring to the faculty of reason as a "damned whore." He believed it got in the way of faith and prevented us humans from knowing God directly. Though I regard my ability to think clearly as one of my most prized assets, I do confess to having some of Luther's mistrust about it. Like all of us, I have corrupted my logical mind by using it to disguise and rationalize my emotional biases. Can you imagine being able to suspend all of your preconceptions so that you might evaluate each situation with scrupulously objective eyes? It's almost impossible, but you can make great strides toward this goal in the coming weeks.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Can you pat yourself on the back and kiss yourself on the lips and whisper sweet nothings in your own ear — even as you kick yourself in the butt? I hope so. You need large doses of praise and encouragement along with moderate amounts of gentle criticism, and you're the only one I trust to pull it all off with just the right touch. Use just one foot, not both, to apply the motivating force to your posterior, and don't even think about doing it until after you've showered yourself with gifts.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): More than ever, you need to honor your dark fluidity and melancholy sweetness. You have a duty to pay reverence to your most poignant longings. You owe it not only to yourself but to the whole world to nurture the part of you that resembles the aurora borealis. I suggest you memorize the following poem by your Russian soul sister Marina Tsvetaeva: "What shall I do, by nature and trade/a singing creature/as I go over the bridge of my enchanted visions, that cannot be weighed in a/world that deals only in weights and measures?" Tell what you miss most about the person you used to be, and what you're going to do to resurrect it, at

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