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Zane Maser

Make your mantra "synthesize rather than polarize."
Ralfee Finn, astrologer

What if it's true that all the so-called difficult experiences, situations, impediments, and relationships that come into our life are helpful and purposeful. What then could be distasteful or disheartening? What if it's true that nothing can touch our "energetic" space other than what is required to strengthen us and move us further along the continuum of spiritual growth? What if it's true that we can only attract to our self what we are, what we give out to life, which returns in like measure? After all, is it not true that the seed of an apple does not a pear tree grow?

Life does not have to be this or that, black or white, avoid or embrace, reject or accept, though realistically there are times when a definite choice must be made. Or when a red flag of caution goes up to warn us against a certain course of action. We often categorize the experiences of life as one way or another, however, thus attempting to separate our self from what we hope to procrastinate or outright evade, like scheduling the appointment for the dental work of a crown we need. Who, in their right mind, likes to go to the dentist? Or receive the printout for the dental costs these days?

Psychologically stated, this is the classic conflict of what motivates behavior:  the desirable pursuit of pleasure and/or the fast avoidance of undesirable pain. Scholars have written about the distinguishing qualities of approach-avoidance for well over two thousand years, first by the Greek philosopher Democritus, and much later by psychologists like William James in the late 19th century and Freud in 1915.1 Most people have a predominant pattern of operation that falls somewhere along the continuum of approach (the free flow of enthusiastic energy) and avoidance (the energy of mild resistance all the way to the extreme of utter paralysis).

An interesting example of moving toward and then fleeing from perceived pain is how quickly a current, intense love for an individual, such as our marriage partner, can flip into its opposite of an equally potent aversion. Once the beloved, now the openly acknowledged enemy. Look at the many hostile separations and raging divorce battles that are legendary in today's world.

From the pole of inclusion to the pole of exclusion, around and around we go when we attempt to elude what is often a "projection" of a hidden part of ourselves or our own blind spots! The devil or saint in another is the devil or saint within. We can only recognize what we are, whether consciously or unconsciously. Awareness and increased consciousness come when we suspend our continual judging of this or that to be good or bad, welcomed or shirked. Our mind and ego creates the apparent duality when in reality no dichotomy exists. Things are simply different, or as my husband has written, "right, right, and different." From a certain point of view, everything is valid!

That's why there are two opposing houses in an astrological chart—a "house" signifying a specific area or concern of life—that distinctly symbolize the "I or me" and "you or the other." These are the First and Seventh houses of the chart respectively, which taken together are both a polarity and a wholeness. One does not exist without the other. The Seventh house shows our deepest, committed relationships of marriage, closest friends, and business partners, while it can also reveal our adversaries that are well known and out in the open. The First house of "self" reveals our need to become a unique individual. When we are inwardly balanced and harmonious, being a healthy, autonomous self and a loving, devoted partner co-exist quite happily. The philosopher Martin Buber referred to this process of individuation or self-realization as how we "become an I through a You." We complete one another, because all is in all.

The distorted creature, Gollum, in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Trilogy," obsessively loved and madly hated the Ring of Power. Tortured by the extremes of his approach and avoidance, his destiny was controlled by and eternally bond to the ring and its hypnotic power. Thus, the more we approach something (cause), the more we approach it (effect), which, depending what it is, can have positive or destructive ramifications. And the more our behavior is avoidant and fearful, the more avoidant and tight it becomes. Sometimes this turns out to be a positive thing, many times not. One of these patterns tends to beget more success and fulfillment; the other greater frustration, discontent, restlessness, and plummeting self-esteem.

So, the way out of such intractable dilemmas as love and hate or good and bad is to simply allow our self to be, to fully experience what we are experiencing in the moment and to let it be okay without any mental judgment. It's okay if it's this. It's perfect if it's that. No need for heroics. No need to strain and stress and force prematurely. No need for anything other than a naturally motivated, refreshing impetus. Welcome, include, and make friends with what is, without feeling "shoulds" or guilt or making up excuses to satisfy another—or to placate that nagging internal voice of "keeping up appearances." Just listen inside for the spontaneous, true dictates of the heart, for what "feels" right. Accept and be free to allow life to flow in its genuine measure and proper timing.

Accordingly, I may not feel today like doing the hard work of digging out the endless supply of little naturalized, lavender croci encroaching all over our front garden. My elbow may ache from too much strenuous digging in the past few days when weather permitted or I'm mentally fatigued with sorting through the saturated clay soil for all the miniscule, hiding bulbs waiting to expand into still larger clumps by next spring. If I force myself out into the garden to work, I am a martyr to my ego and my efforts may be spoiled with the begrudging energy of resentment, and hence I produce lousy results in my frumpy displeasure. My negative energy precedes me like a grey cloud! Everything wilts before my impending arrival! But ungoverned, my mind is so slippery it can trick me into believing the cause and the effect of my disharmony is extrinsic to me! It's surely not me, but rather "you" or "it!" At worst, the egoic mind is quick to get the upper hand!

A great example of stark avoidance in our collective culture is how many individuals seem bent on moving away from the natural cycle of life and the inevitability of aging. Including yourself, how many people do you know who say an emphatic "yes" to the process of sagging, slacking skin or the increasing collection of bumps and warts or the wrinkles of wisdom? It's big business through all forms of the media to gleefully plaster photos of well-known personalities and movie stars caught in unguarded, vulnerable moments, revealing their "unadulterated," "imperfect" selves. This is deemed an unnatural portrait rather than an inspirational look at real-ness and the subtle beauty of the body as life legitimately gives way to the stages of decline and death. Isn't life growth and growth change? Allowing life its natural course, which is the Universal Law of "periodicity," is to move toward the underlying principle of health, well-being, acceptance, peace, and grace. The astrologer, Ralfee Finn, put it nicely when she wrote:  "So rather than holding back, hold forth."

Take a few moments now, and from your own life, bring to mind past and current examples of events, situations, episodes, conditions, and people you felt an affinity for and naturally gravitated toward. This is the easy, comfortable, natural flow of energy-what feels right for you deep down. There is no great "efforting" or struggle but rather an excitement as you look toward and forward. Conversely, recollect when you have felt resistance, blockages, and even paralysis with your energy basically in full retreat. These were likely the times when fear or inertia or self doubts (the inner saboteur) got the better of you or the unconscious message was that something was wrong. Listen more closely to the pure guidance of your inner self—the part of you that truly "knows"—and also to the way you label and judge things as better or worse. Look at what you include and exclude in your life. See and feel where you are imprisoned or free. This is the flowering of greater equilibrium, awareness, and self-acceptance.

This last story personifies the short-term dilemma of avoidance and longer-term solution of approach and how such a seeming duality is in fact the soft breeze of acceptance that gently rocks the boat of the self temporarily and then passes as easily as it drew near to us. I am sorry to say that I did not write down the author's name or reference:

"The great Western spiritual teacher Ram Dass was once asked for advice about relationships. He told the following story in reply. Imagine, he said, that you're on a rowboat out on a lake on a foggy summer's evening. You're enjoying the sound of the crickets, the sensations of floating. And then you see, in the fog, another boat, and notice it's coming toward you. So you shout out "Hey! There's another boat here—be careful!' Still it gets closer. Now you're getting upset, shouting and cursing. But just as the boat is about to hit, you see that it's empty."


  1. Andrew J. Elliot. The Hierarchical Model of Approach-Avoidance Motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 30 (2006):111-116.


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