Free Will Astrology

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Fifty years ago prophets believed we'd all be working no more than 32 hours a week by now. Some predicted we'd have as many as 220 days off a year, devoting just 145 to earning our daily bread. What went wrong? Most of us are putting in more hard labor than our grandparents did. But if you want to be faithful to current astrological mandates, you will spend the next few weeks doing everything you can to bring your life into closer alignment with the old prophecy. You need more playtime.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): "You may enjoy this movie if you shut down enough brain cells. I turned off all except the ones needed to remember where I parked my car." This observation comes from a critic's evaluation of the first Charlie's Angels film, but I've read similar comments in many other reviews. It's an approach that many intelligent people employ routinely in response to all the loud, shiny garbage our culture foists on us. What about you? Do you assume you have to make yourself dumber in order to have fun? Has the blaring inanity of the world caused you to shut down your smart sensitivity? If so, work hard to reverse this trend in the coming week. You'll receive help from unexpected sources if you do.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): All of us talk to ourselves constantly. The conversation is mostly silent and covert, however. As a result, we get away with abusing ourselves; we assail ourselves with mean thoughts that we'd be far less likely to fling if we actually spoke them aloud. Now is a perfect time for you to break this bad habit. I'm going to officially declare that it's Speak More Kindly to Yourself Week. For best results, shun the usual telepathic communion with yourself. Instead, say every word aloud as you carry on your dialogues. You may want to consult the book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, by Shad Helmstetter.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): "Dear Rob: In a recent column, I think you mentioned a book that dealt with making everyday tasks more spiritual. I'm gung-ho to do exactly that: give thanks before I eat, wake up laughing, bless the ground I walk on, notice with joyful appreciation the divine bounty that overflows in ordinary moments. Can you direct me to the book in question?

Dear Grateful: You must have dreamed it. Not since I touted Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul in 2000 have I made reference to any such a book. But you don't need authorities to guide you right now. Your intuition will lead you unerringly in your quest to find sacred mojo in the smallest details.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Avoid ingesting rocket fuel. That means you should be careful about eating lettuce grown in Southern California. Much of it contains high levels of perchlorate, a main ingredient of rocket fuel. (The Environmental Working Group says it's because Lockheed Martin has been dumping the stuff in the Colorado River.) In any case, you won't even need metaphorical rocket fuel. Cosmic forces are conspiring to boost your physical energy and mental agility to record levels.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Mata Amritanandamayi is one of India's most beloved gurus. Also known as Amma, she preaches no doctrine but believes all religions lead to the same goal. Her renown has grown largely through the power and quantity of her embraces. She travels from city to city doling out hugs, often more than 1,000 a day. Since she launched her mission as a young girl, she claims to have hugged 21 million people. Amma is your role model for the coming week. You'll be most likely to thrive if you suspend all your spiritual theories and ideological opinions and become a pure channel for unconditional love. Try to hug at least 20 people. For extra credit, do 40.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): George Washington had smallpox, malaria, pleurisy, consumption, amoebic dysentery, rotten teeth and Kleinfelter's syndrome. Yet he accomplished feats that earned him a place in the history books. Make him your patron saint. Draw inspiration from his heroic ability to overcome personal discomfort. You're in a prime position to render months of suffering irrelevant with a decisive triumph.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): In 1914, the science magazine Nature found that 30 percent of the world's top scientists believed in God. In a second survey in 1934, the number dropped to 15 percent; by 1998 it was 7 percent. From this, we can speculate that it's getting harder for smart intellectuals to commune with the Divine Wow the way we smart mystics do. That's a damn shame. Luckily, you're now in an unusual phase in which there's no contradiction between cultivating both rigorous critical thinking and an intimate relationship with the 90 percent of reality that is hidden from our five senses.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): The most venerated object in Islam is the Kaaba, a large cube in a mosque in Mecca. Lodged in a corner of the Kaaba is its most sacred part, a black stone surrounded by an oval silver structure. Muslims kiss it at the climax of their pilgrimage to Mecca. Astrologer Caroline Casey points out that this holy of holies has the shape of a vulva, and suggests that it reveals Islam's unconscious yearning for the goddess. That's ironic for a male-dominated religion, which, like Judaism and Christianity, has suppressed the feminine aspects of the divine. I offer this as a starting point for your meditations. What feminine aspects of the divine do you unconsciously long for and need? How can you bring more of their influence into your life?

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Frank O'Hara's poem "Meditations in an Emergency" is mostly a meandering, self-indulgent mess, but it contains three lines that should inspire you for weeks. Here they are: 1) "Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous." 2) "I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love." 3) "It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so." O'Hara's poem is a microcosm of your immediate future, when small but valuable treasures will be embedded in heaps of useless nonsense.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Last year Nigerian women launched a new form of protest against the U.S.-owned oil company that wreaked environmental havoc in their country: They threatened to get naked in public. During the invasion of Iraq, several groups of American women, inspired by the Nigerians, registered their dissent through mass nudity. More recently, Mexican farmers stripped to their underpants during a demonstration against their government's policies. It's a perfect time for you to further develop this new tradition. Take off your clothes to those you oppose! Or if that's too extreme, try the metaphorical equivalent: Disarm your adversaries not by attacking them but by expressing your vulnerability.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Every Thursday night I roll my trashcan to the curb so that the sanitation engineers can pick it up next morning. Usually it's three-quarters full of garbage bags and requires no special treatment. But on some weeks I generate more than my normal share of refuse. To fit it in, I have to become a human trash compactor. I grab a low-slung branch from the persimmon tree, pull myself up, and lower myself down inside the trashcan, jumping up and down to compress the load and make room for more. I hope I can serve as an inspiration for you this week. You should gather, compress, and throw away at least six months' worth of outworn junk, including both the psychic and physical varieties. What quality or behavior do you exhibit that would most benefit from a little healthy self-mocking? Testify at

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