“During our first forays out as a couple, I blushed a lot, felt dizzy with my luck, unable to contain the nearly exploding fact that I’ve so obviously gotten everything I’d ever wanted, everything there was to get. Handsome, brilliant, quick-witted, articulate, forceful, you. We spent hours and hours on the red couch, giggling, The happiness police are going to come and arrest us if we go on this way. Arrest us for our luck.
What if where I am is what I need? Before you, I had always thought of this mantra as a means of making peace with a bummer or even catastrophic situation. I never imagined it might apply to joy, too.” – Maggie Nelson in The Argonauts
As I sat down to write this, I realized I was writing about the nature of happiness and of depression and that these are experiences that are ubiquitous to human consciousness. In my own experience of both and then in my experiments of how to cultivate a steady warmth of happiness, and my studies of archetypes and astrology, I want to offer some meditations I have on how happiness and depression work and how they both operate in a utility-like way. Of course, this is a lens – not everything needs to have “utility” to be valuable, yet it might, to carry out its essence, be useful. 🙂
The Sun-Saturn Conjunction in Sagittarius
At the time of writing this, Saturn is in 29 degrees of Sagittarius which is a special, culminating moment. There are 30 degrees of each sign and the 29th degree represents a culmination of the transiting planet’s energy through that particular sign. If you begin to watch the 29 degree transits and know what the planets represent, you might start to notice a certain potency emerge at the 29th degree. But the Sun is now also closely conjunct Saturn (along with this New Moon in Sagittarius) lighting up our perception of this moment in time. On December 19, Saturn will move into Capricorn. It strikes me as quite special that the Sun and the New Moon are highlighting the last degree of Saturn in Sagittarius – that it can lend itself to an illumination of making philosophical sense of a larger arching storyline, that wisdom may crystallize, that we might expand our vision of reality.
The Sun-Saturn vibration is a combination of the two archetypes (Solar: happiness, joy, creativity, shining, fun, illumination and Saturn: discipline, restriction, boundary, responsibility, structure), which carries many possibilities I’ll speak to a little below:
Themes Relevant to Sun-Saturn Aspects on Happiness and Depression
- We tend to receive what we are capable of holding, what we are conditioned to hold (by early life events, by family life, by our culture, by patterns we’re accustomed to, by our beliefs and worldviews). If we want to build more of something into our life, we may need to make room for it or make conditions appropriate for it. In terms of happiness, which the Sun correlates with, happiness and joy is a yoga; it stretches our capacity to feel and the co-occuring consequences of our feelings. If conditions are not already built for happiness, finding happiness is like work but not impossible.
- In the dominant materialistic worldview, we usually feel that circumstances give us permission to feel certain ways. We react to reality. Yet in participatory worldviews where we are also co-creators with said reality, our emotions will inform our vibration and therefore, our circumstances (as vibrations influence the development of realities in resonance with that vibration). We are involved in emotion-circumstance feedback loops. Our feelings form realities, and our realities inform our feelings. In this is a great opportunity to actually shift our circumstances not by moving hard reality but by playing with soft realities, within the emotional body.
- The more accustomed we are to accessing joy and optimism, the easier it is to pick ourselves up from the rough spots we inevitably meet. Feeling happiness or expansion for no reason is an esoteric, magical way of pushing the boundaries of reality, specifically what we are allowed to feel. Manifestation techniques often revolve around feeling (not just thinking) the way you would feel if you already had what you wanted – which allows that wanted reality to magnetize toward you. Emotions are very powerful – and you can wield them to your energetic advantage.
- Saturn holds a gift of compartmentalization, that is at times a kind of psychic maturity: I will compartmentalize my pain so I can do something else, perhaps something useful which might afford future happiness. We don’t always have the medicine for our pain at the time that we have pain – and so rather than be disabled by our pain, we put it away to deal with later, or we compartmentalize in between the times that we directly confront the puzzle of our unhappiness.
- Another option is to ask for help: this is not weakness. Asking for help can be particularly vulnerable for Saturn archetype or Saturnian people but it tends to move the blockage more quickly than when the Saturnian individual resolves to do it by themselves.
- When you stretch a muscle that is tight, it feels hard to do. The same is true for emotional stretches into new territory of emotion; the emotional body may recognize the stretch as foreign or not integratabtle. You might notice this pattern as feeling that you are going to lose something that is good (because you always lose good things), or be aware that when you’re happy, the other shoe is going to drop at some point (because there is a quota on how good you can feel that you are not allowed to surpass). This kind of thinking can be challenged and overcome. It is often work to do so, requiring some diligence and inner-discipline or enough supportive structures/circumstances to provide enough energetic permission to stretch out and to re-condition the expectations of the mind. Simply taking time to reflect on what we are grateful for (and tune our attention to what we already have) is a helpful way to warm the happiness muscles up. Making time and space (Saturn) for things that bring you happiness is another important act – if the balance is tilted too far toward only making time and space for things that seem useful in other ways (i.e. hard work, burdens, etc.) discipline is being used disproportionately – and discipline becomes characterized by hardship. (Thinking now of a person who had mentioned she has a practice of laughing with her partner in the morning – just laughing to laugh, and to induce whatever body chemistry and subtle karmas coincide with that. She actually makes an appointed space in her life for laughter for how it can expand her life.)
- Processes that I mentioned above can feel totally awkward – happiness is supposed to come naturally right? It can. But in Saturn’s realm, realities are conditioned. It can take time and repetition to condition a certain reality into existence, and the early processes of conditioning involve a lot of failure. If we are bringing something into existence and it’s confronting us with limitations and failure, these obstacles can be a worthy part of the creative process – a type of resistance training that strengthens the overall trajectory. Sun-Saturn involves the theme of creative processes which workshop through failure, restrictions, limitations, and a consequent robustness or gravity when the illumination or answer is reached.
- Depression is a moment of involution, a deep reflection, and it allows for change and life restructures. Alternately we might think we should be happy when our emotional body says otherwise – depression is a messenger, as though it is altering us to a kind of hunger that we have. In the quietness of depression, like a sheet of snow over our lives, we become more sensitive to hearing our inner voice and what it is asking for.
- The heart (connected to joy and the Solar archetype) is a muscle; it can tear and break and it also gets stronger; adversity builds character; often we are grateful for the rough times we went through because of who they made us into.
- On the purpose of happiness – it expands us. It is a healthy inflation. Happiness and peak states are like nectars that can be integrated into the fabric of mundane life if we choose to value them in that diligent kind of way. Like Audre Lorde depicts in the Uses of the Erotic:
“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honour and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence. But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies.
This internal requirement toward excellence which we learn from the erotic must not be misconstrued as demanding the impossible from ourselves nor from others. Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process. For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavours bring us closest to that fullness.”
- Responsibility and happiness – how could happiness be “too much”, and what happens when happiness or the inner-child is suppressed or negated? For people who have Sun-Saturn natally or Saturn, Chiron, or Pluto in the 5th house, or Sun-Chiron or Sun-Pluto aspects, there can often be themes around not being allowed to be happy, or having their happiness or inner-child disempowered somehow – these are signatures that also relate to what consensus psychiatry narrowly calls bipolar or mania – which is the capacity/tendency to feel extreme depressions and extreme happiness. The happiness is usually only mania because of the depth of how much joy has been suppressed and the bursting forth of that dormant joy. Because psychiatry is so attached to a materialistic worldview (brain chemicals cause the emotional reality), it does not often inquire into the nature of how a person with the capacity to feel intensely might develop practices or shift their life circumstances as to cultivate a more easeful expression of their archetypal nature, rather than for it to get stagnant (depressed) and alternately released (mania). Or, we might consider the value of container, of ritual space to release stagnant emotions.
- Happiness is not always relational – it can be an inner-fire, and inner-warmth. Sometimes we appreciate and have love for things which others around us do not – and that external disapproval is not a reason to dampen the inner-fire. There is an authority in feeling the right to keep your flame lit. This inner-fire can catch (and be contagious to others) or it might not. Either way, the fire is perfectly allowed to stay solid and others can warm themselves with it or not. The fire that is its own permission is often a source of deep inspiration to others.
- Happiness without experience of the harshness of life can blind one to the suffering of others; and being depressed can weigh a person down such that they cannot ‘catch’ happiness for the time that depression dominates the emotional body. Sun-Saturn may have some wisdom around how happiness, however sacred, is no simple thing. Many people go through deserts where joy is not accessible at all. And many of these people also discover joy one day on the other end of the desert and realize how fantastic a part of creation it is: in knowing the lack of happiness, they know the depth of its presence.
- Think to what happens when we become more self-aware about how we can consistently ‘construct’ happiness – that is, live an authentic life, take care of our needs, have community, etc. How do we structure our lives to support our wellbeing & what hard things do we do even though we don’t really feel like it but we always feel better for having done it? How do we pull ourselves out of the mud? And importantly, how do we let others heal and uplift us (when/where that is available) instead of believing we are supposed to do it ourselves? The more we share attention and energy toward these above processes, the more the hearth of happiness is stoked, and one might be joyful through the ups and downs of life and recognize all of this as a series of lessons or as M.I.A. says in “Finally” –
“I can see what’s real and fantasy
What you believe
You gotta see
Life on the planet’s university
Underneath my trouble I’m gonna find me the treble
And underneath my case I’m gonna find me the bass
You get Through
You get truth”
- Sometimes depression involves a feeling that there is no way out — we feel totally stuck or feel like we may never be happy again. The struggle can be experientially so real that even if you have been in this place and found your way out multiple times, each time you enter the dark night of the soul, its hard to conceive that there is a way through it. Such constricting moments in our lives are forging canals that birth us into a new permutation of life and our identity; often with deeper character, compassion and new abilities. It is okay to suck the marrow out of your dismal experiences — how do you make the most of your days in prison? Do you read books? Take long walks? Contemplate? What is available for you? Where is the light, however small?
- Happiness and positivity are not just commercial commodities (like a “Good vibes only” -t-shirt) as much as I am totally pro vibration amping. The shadow of this perspective when not taken holistically is that it devalues the spiritual qualities of the more difficult layers of the human condition, which further isolates people who are depressed. We do not only need to hold each other in celebration, but too there is a way to honor the grief we know and the grief we meet in others – which is not healed by shaming it or putting it into shadow, but in loving people and loving ourselves through it all.
- When people ask us how we are at the grocery store, there is not a container there in that moment to lay out a real answer. What about ritual space or community space where there is an invitation to show up as you are? This is valuable – seek and/or create it! As social animals we do thrive and heal in these spaces.
On a personal note –
- I had a friend growing up who laughed a lot – she was so full of laughter that she was not the least perturbed (I watched it not make a scratch on her surface) that other kids commonly made fun of the sound of her laugh. I’ve witnessed her go on to truly align with joy in her life; and she strikes me as an example of someone who did not feel discouraged by others, but rather stayed true to her inner-hearth fire and in that, a kind of authority and structural support opens up. While we have plenty of examples of people being overbearing with their energy, being forceful or tyrannical or simply unaware of social nuances and are just obtuse in some way — there are also plenty of sensitive people in the world who are adverse to taking up space. However, we do have a right to shine and to take up space, we each have a capacity to emanate something like the Sun and in so doing, create reality and invite others into that reality, like my laughing friend.
- Likewise, people are also afraid to take up space with their grief or their depression. From my own experience I have noticed that my grief is metabolized by sharing it with others and getting other perspectives. I know the feeling of feeling gross for sharing, I know the feeling of disappointment or even further feelings of misery or isolation when sharing my feelings to someone who didn’t get the magnitude of my inner experience. I also know the profound relief of being heard or seen in my darkest moments. In one of the worst spells I had some years ago, I would open up to complete strangers about my story and have these amazing encounters in passing with people that blurred my sense of boundary between myself and humanity – strangers in passing who I’m not connected with on any form of social media, who I met on hiking trails on hot days, strangers who shared a moment of recognition with me. There was something magical about learning the difference between rejection and acceptance. At the end of re-telling my story to dozens of people, I realized that people’s reactions to my sadness weren’t just about me and my worth, but it was also about them – I was presenting my soul to a multi-faceted diamond of humanity, each facet capable of offering me a new perspective. Because I have had peak experiences and have felt devastated, I usually crave in phases of the dark night of the soul “to be happy again”. I found that every single way I asked for help was just like chipping away at an oppressive rock or block of ice and at the end of the entire passage, I had a slideshow in my mind of hundreds of attempts “to be happy” and realized I had been miserable in the moment but in hindsight on an adventure, inviting the intrinsic benevolence of the Universe and its many agents to assist in my quest. Ask for help. It gets better and it breaks up the resistance.
Do you have this aspect? Let us know how it works in your life in the comments.
With much love,
(Top image: Tekin Ture)