REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): This week's assignment was inspired by a ritual that devout Muslims perform every year during the first morning of their pilgrimage to Mecca. Once before and once after dawn, they cast stones at three 50-foot pillars that symbolize the temptations of Satan. Now maybe you don't believe in a literal devil, Aries, but you've got to admit there's something inside you -- though you often imagine it's outside you -- that seems to actively obstruct your attempts to become the person you want to be. I'd like you to find or create a representation of that adversary, then shower it with rocks, darts, spit, or whatever form of attack gives you a fresh rush of power over it.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): Picture a golden crown on the head of an insecure cocker spaniel. Imagine the Dalai Lama using the term "iron cojones" with comic effect to make a point about being spiritually tough. Visualize yourself scaling an icy cliff in Patagonia while carrying Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head in your backpack. Picture an anarchist skateboarder playing an impeccable piano concerto by Chopin. Now contemplate the possibility that these scenes are metaphors for the state of your inner reality. What would you say is the most important task for you to pull off in the next two weeks?

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Usually I'm a crabby cynic when it comes to the Orwellian omnipresence of advertising and self-promotion. But I'm temporarily suspending my objections for your sake. Current astrological indicators suggest that your popularity and salability levels could, with the proper tweak, exceed all previous records. So rent a billboard, Gemini. Take out a full-page ad. Direct-mail your resume to 8 million households. In short, get your demographics screwed on straight and promote yourself as if you were the missing link, the no-strings-attached savior, the fully clothed emperor sent to take the place of the old naked one.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): While reading to my daughter from Dan Millman's book Crystal Castle, I came across his assertion that if you help a baby chick peck its way out of its egg, it'll die. I thought immediately of you, Cancerian. These days you remind me of a vulnerable little creature who's trying to get born by staging a jailbreak. Your "prison," poignantly enough, is a place or situation that has nurtured you for some time. I wish I could tell you exactly how to smash your way free, but that would leave you unprepared to begin your new life.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Unless you dynamically visualize your conscious desires, your semiconscious fears will materialize as events in your life. If you don't heed this advice, nothing else you do will matter in the coming weeks. Starting tomorrow, Leo, I hope you will have a brief conversation with yourself every morning, during which you will articulate your best intentions with imperious, relaxed joy.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I estimate that at any one time you have two really good ideas and five more pretty interesting wild guesses swirling around in your overheated head space. That's why this week's so astounding. You could add as many as 10 great notions to the pot -- a phenomenal increase of 143 percent! Am I predicting a run on the Patent Office by Virgoan inventors? And a wave of sizzling new trends launched by Virgoan culture vultures? And a sudden, inexplicable surge of new solutions to long-standing problems by all Virgos everywhere? I hope so.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): My 8-year-old daughter is a good-natured pacifist. She shies away from disagreements, and is a master at sowing harmony and joy. I feel it's my duty, though, to help her cultivate forcefulness. I want her to be able to stand up for herself in the conflicts she'll inevitably face. How? I appeal to her sense of play. Whenever she's in her tree-climbing, rope-swinging, world-conquering mood, I call her over and say, "Bet you can't hit my arm so hard that I blink." A fierce but fun-loving look comes over her, and she punches away until I beg for mercy. This is the approach I'd take with you, Libra, now that it's so crucial that you make your willpower more ferocious.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): A fable for you: Once upon a time there was a game show in which winners got to choose their prizes. And on this game show there was a Scorpio winner who chose a Volvo station wagon with a mountain bike rack instead of a Lamborghini with an iridium global satellite phone. She also opted for a work-study expedition at an archaeological dig in Syria rather than a luxurious cruise on an ocean liner in the Caribbean. Finally, she decided to take four sessions with a renowned depth psychologist instead of a dinner date with an Oscar-winning movie star. Her family and friends thought she was daft, but she knew exactly what she wanted.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Having devoted my adult life to dissolving my prejudices, I've even managed in the past few years to become tolerant toward Christian fundamentalists and macho jocks. There's only one group, I regret to say, that still arouses my irrational bigotry: rich people. What about you, Sagittarius? Are you in possession of any narrow-minded biases? Is there any type of person you allow yourself to subtly discriminate against? Are you harboring judgmental preconceptions that prevent you from greeting life with fresh innocence at every moment? If so, this is prime time to open your mind further than it's ever stretched before.

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