Before the Wimbledon Tennis Final last Sunday I was looking at the chart of Andy Murray with friends over breakfast. They asked me whether Murray was going to win. We had taken a copy of the Astrological Association journal with us to breakfast with our friends and it had an article about what it takes to be a great tennis champion. This gave the exact time and date for Andy Murray’s birth and his chart. Looking at the transits of Neptune and Chiron to his Mercury and given that the article had concluded that tennis was a game largely involving the air signs and the mind, I realised it was unlikely he would win, something my intuition had already suggested. Indeed, I had been watching the way Life was setting the situation up for Andy to suffer the agony of defeat yet again with a degree of dread for the suffering it would cause. Yet, noticing his Mars-Chiron conjunction in the tenth house in Gemini also got me thinking about something that has been affecting me when watching the occassional game of sport and parallels life in general, as sport has a tendency to do. With Mars-Chiron in the 10th house opposite a Uranus-Moon conjunction in Sagittarius Andy is renowned for his taciturn Scots personality (very much Mars-Chiron in the 10th), and as a whinger who lacks charm. His family contest that we don’t see the real person (hence the opposition to the Moon-Uranus). Furthermore, Andy attracts with his public 10th house Mars-Chiron in Gemini, voluminous amounts of journalism analysing his lack of mental toughness and his inability to win at the highest level. No-one can talk about Andy Murray wihtout opining on whether he will win a Grand Slam tournament and what he needs to do to overcome the best. He is also seen as having the misfortune to be playing in era when arguably three of the best players ever to play the game are playing at the same time. In any other era, people say, he would have won. Yet all this is to miss the point of the real game that Andy Murray is playing. He is not meant to win; it is not part of his game in life. With Mars-Chiron in the 10th house his game is not about success but rather coming to terms with and understanding the nature of losing where it matters most to us. Over the last few years, as this has intensified, he has employed Ivan Lendl – someone who understands his predicament having lost four grand slam finals himself before going on to be successful. During this period, Murray has learnt to control his emotions and to stop beating himself up and blaming his own coaching team during matches – all good Mars-Chiron stuff. Had he been winning, would he have learnt so much or developed or changed? The thing he thinks he is changing is whether he wins a Grand Slam tournament, but this is just the fuel that makes the real game of growing and evolving through the pain of not winning work. Indeed when Andy Murray choked back the tears, paid tribute to the support of the crowd and expressed the pain of his disappointment, he won the hearts of everyone. It was such a beautiful expression of humility and genuine sadness that all our hearts went out to him. This was Mars-Chiron expressed with such humility and vulnerability that it opened all our hearts. So did he lose? Not at the real game he was playing, as far as I can see.
And what of Roger Federer? Roger Federer’s game involved winning, he was always going to beat Andy Murray. Yet watching his face when Andy Murray was expressing the pain of losing, one could see the conflicting emotions playing out. What is it like to always be winning when it means others are losing around you? Had he learnt or changed as much as Andy Murray over the last years? Indeed Federer himself could not but help being swayed by Andy Murray’s speech and his tributes to Federer. Federer responded in like kind with generosity towards Andy and perhaps everyone won. It was somehow showing us with this current painful Neptune Chiron conjunction and Pluto-Uranus square, how to respond to the transits. There is something about Chiron which while painful in the vulnerability and direct pain it brings has the potential to be the key in opening our hearts to others and causing us to deepen and grow. We might never chose it ourselves or choose it for others, yet it is difficult not to recognise the impact in terms of our development or evolution.
I was thinking about this when I went on a business trip to Bratislava to coach two close friends, who had both been through the selection process for partnership at a large law firm which is one of my clients. Like I did with Andy Murray, I experienced a sense of slight dread when I went to coach them both for the first time some four years ago. They were both interested in the I-Ching and keen to learn more about it and also receptive to Astrology. I was intrigued to see what Life was up to taking me to Bratislava to meet two such wonderful people so keen to take a wise approach (it was not necessarily the norm in a major global law firm!). Yet my dread stemmed from my intuition about what Life might have in store for two such close friends, I suspected it was going to test the friendship and see how it responded to competition. This was not what I wanted, I loved these two wonderful men and the last thing I wish for any of the people I coach in these situations is for them to be unsuccessful, yet often those who are, are the ones who learn and grow the most. When we did the I-Ching at the end of my first visit, one threw Oppression on its own and the other threw the The Preponderance of the Small. I could see that for the one who threw The Preponderance of the Small, he was such a big personality and so full of confidence that the I-Ching was warning him to be careful (he had the Sun rising conjunct Venus in Virgo and according to Chrissy Philp’s model Virgo equates to Preponderance of the Small – cf. http://www.chrissyphilp.com) that he didn’t get carried away with himself. This proved prophetic on the I-Ching’s part because he failed the first time round at the event but then passed the next year. His friend threw Oppression on its own and Chrissy reminded me that according to the stages of development outlined in The Great Treatise in the I-Ching this stage is one where we are tested to come to terms with our fate no matter what life throws at us. Given this it was clear that the experience for him was not going to be an easy one and indeed he did not get put forward the following year and the year after that, last year, he failed again. Over the last year I had been coaching the one who made partner each time I came and he told me that the one who had failed was fine and was concentrating on his family and the birth of his third child. It is an irony here that the two’s peronsalities are in direct contrast to their physical appearance. The one with the big, confident and dominant personality is physically small and slim, whilst the one with the more naturally modest, receptive personality stands at six feet five inches tall with a large muscular frame. I could see that the temptation was for both to put the disparity in their positions under the table now and the bigger personality wanted very much for the one who had failed to be fine with it, but I could see this was dangerous, that the sadness he felt at not being successful and the difference now in their roles needed to be aired or it would undermine their friendship. For the one with the larger personality he felt uncomfortable, like Roger Federer, it was no good pretending that he had not been successful or stopping being such a big personality so that his friend did not feel hurt, he wanted to somehow “solve” it and coach his friend into what he needed to do to succeed, yet from my own experience of being a big personality (I have the Sun rising in Sagittarius), I suggested that all he could do was empathise and be aware of the impact of his personality. It was no good suggesting that he change. Instead could their friendship encompass the potential difficulty of the situation? At the same time for his friend, we talked about recognising that his was not a personality that could dominate or lead but instead was a quite beautifully kind and receptive personality. He also needed to see that being a partner, like Andy Murray, was not his game at the moment, instead he was learning, like Andy Murray how to express his disappointment and to come to terms with not succeeding. Thus it was possible to provide the opportunity for their friendship to encompass the awkward situation of their different positions and be able to take the learning for both of them, rather than to deny the painfulness of the situation and risk the friendship.
I realise that when watching sport now, I have lost some of my sense of anticipation of the event. I recognise that it is more akin to watching a film, where you know the ending is pre-determined. Most matches turn on small incidents of luck or sometimes inaccuracy by officials or technology. Were we skilful enough astrologers or scientists we would be able to predict the outcome if we could see all the variables. Yet, we write and think about sport and many other aspects of life as if the individuals involved are affecting and controlling the outcome. If the latest scientific thinking that we are living in a hologramatic world is right, and given that Astrology is in many ways a hologramatic framework, it is more like we are watching a 3D film. I suppose that, as with films, we get emotionally involved with the action but yet we know that we cannot influence the outcome and neither can the actors, the script is already set. Thus in sport, much is written about the reasons why X team won by the smallest of margins over Y team analysing the qualities that brought it about but it seems like an illusion, like Andy Murray, his script never included winning Wimbledon this year. I suppose that we have to be conned into playing the game of life and learning our lessons through the motivations of our personalities but I am interested in seeing and playing the game of consciousness that the motivations of our personalities serve rather than get stuck in taking too seriously the game of personality.
At the same time as these events I was also attending my last meeting as Chairman of trustees for the Steiner School that I have been involved with for the last thirteen years. When my fellow trustees and staff were thanking me at the end for all I had done, I noticed that they described the way I had been able to lead the school to a position where the relationship between the staff and trustees was one of complete trust and openness. The Chair of College (the closest equivalent to a Head teacher) described the fact that having worked in many Steiner schools (as she is now approaching retirement age), she had never worked in one where she felt she could be completely open about her views without having to be careful in anyway and where she also felt able to hear others views without feeling criticised or defensive. What it prompted me to question was “what can we change?”. The school still faces many of the same challenges and themes, with powerful personalities, difficulties over organisation, wavering numbers given the economic situation, yet what struck me was that the school cannot escape its chart, or personality, it regularly attracts similar characters and painful situations, yet the relationships, co-operation and goodwill and the ability to learn have all transformed dramatically. Applying this to business or to the many challenges facing the world at the moment, I realise we cannot escape these challenges, or perhaps ever escape them, yet somehow we can change how we as human race work together to respond to the challenges; the tolerance we have for each other, the goodwill, the commitment to learning together.
The painful myth that business is exploding is that somehow, we can control our material success, that if we work hard enough, manipulate others, manipulate the system we can become rich and that will make us happy no matter what the means we used to get there, but more on this next blog (hardly a cliffhanger more a pause!).