Imagine traveling to a land with no Sun. Travel far north enough in Scandinavia and you will find yourself there, at the last northernmost land mass before the North Pole-in Svalbard, Norway — which is where I spent Christmas this year, and where I am taking you on a Capricorn trek with me, by proxy. You are here during Polar Night, where for four months there’s no visible difference between midnight and noon and the terrain resembles the barren Moonscape. Here, as you walk through the howling arctic winds at 30 below zero, the only sounds are those banshee winds and snow crunching underfoot like Styrofoam.
Whether you’re an Explorer of 1813 or 2013, you’re learning that your experience varies only slightly; then you used whale oil for lighting and heat and now you use gas and electricity. After that, you are still simply at the mercy of the elements, the weather. Even in your modern hotel, the days pass food and slowly runs out, gone until the next shipment arrives so you learn to adjust your expectations knowing tomorrow’s breakfast will be leaner. Out on dogsled for hours at a time, the freezing cold as ominous as any monster in Pan’s Labryinth and just as hungry dangerously threatens to claim your fingers and toes. When, for brief periods, you lose sight of the only beacon of light in front of you, engulfed by silence, darkness and that howling wind, you too easily imagine being literally swallowed up by the polar night. Shuddering, you recall the many explorers of this early outpost did not survive, and this sharpens your resolve and will to live while the blizzard conditions sharpen your senses, focusing you on your next step, your next move.
In this harsh, unforgiving environment, there’s no room for mistakes. Navigational errors, lack of preparedness (food, clothing), sudden changes in the weather or inattention to your environment (polar bears eat humans) could prove fatal. Daily living has its special spiritual requirements, too. Those who settled here left words like these, written in daily diaries: “The ability to adapt, and art of resignation, are some of what is needed by those who shall live in Svalbard.” You find this holds true for you, too. In the face of endless night, you have had to let go of all of your prior expectations to see a polar bear, ice glaciers, majestic mountains –to “see” anything at all. You have questioned your ability to rise to the occasion multiple times; from being cold at length, to the darkness and isolation threatening your peace of mind. In the face of another desolate cold day, your internal resistance comes out in full force as you sullenly imagine tropical beaches and easier, happier times. You physically ache for the comforts of home, friends and family.
This is not what the travel brochures promised -a polar majestic beauty and perhaps a glimpse of the famed Northern Lights! Bah! You can’t see the out the outline of a near mountain let alone the caravan 5 meters in front of you. Yet you keep re-focusing on the task at hand, putting one foot in front of the other, and as this harsh environment bears down on you, forcing you to face your survival fears and to use resources in your self that you rarely draw upon voluntarily, you start to feel an old familiar internal muscle flex with newfound strength: your hardy resiliency, your persistence in the face of fear and uncertainty. As the cold drives you deeper into your self, reflecting on the hardship and suffering in your life (as you often do), you contemplate the nature of challenge and difficulty. You think about the people you’ve known whose life circumstances never pushed them to grow beyond their perceived limits and you think about the lives they lead today. You wonder, Who would I be without the challenges I’ve faced? Would I be Me? As you systematically go through the Big Ones you realise these challenges have given you spiritual integrity, an inner magnet that defines your compass, your True North, and that without these hardships you wouldn’t be the person you are today, a person you not only like and unconditionally love, but one you admire and respect. Suddenly, despite not enjoying your self at all, and initially wanting to be anywhere but here, a more substantial form of pleasure alchemizes in the depths of your soul: integrity, self respect, a feeling of personal accomplishment.
It’s a Capricorn New Moon. Our ambitions are high at this time of year, the New Year, as are our perceived lacks. There are mountains to climb, and the call of the Gods’ of Necessity is strong, too, as the celestial weather regularly updates us with reality checks, focusing on survival, sustainability. Is the lifestyle you lead sustainable? With Pluto currently transiting Capricorn (and square Uranus in Aries), an unpredictable element of Fate is at play, causing many to question just how much control we actually have, over our future, our choices, lives. Arctic explorers faced these tough questions every day, as they continually re-assessed the weather, provisions, planned for the future while acknowledging both its uncertainty and potential consequences. This Capricorn New Moon gives us not only the pragmatism to see our life clearly, but the commitment to change it. If we face uncomfortable, difficult challenges, Capricorn can see they may be helping to cull hidden resources in our self – resources we need to be whole, strong, capable, centered.
And in this wintry season we, too, may need to master the art of resignation. But instead of resigning our self to hardship, attempt to be more artful about meeting the difficult realities of our life with clarity, joy and a sense of purpose. Venus, Goddess of Pleasure, is retrograde right now. What will bring more relaxation, joy, fun and pleasure to your life in 2014? Maybe this means: making a work choice that will simplify your life – like figuring out how to either love what you do or do what you love. Maybe the art of resignation, for you means literally resigning from a project, ambition or work situation in order to lead a more peaceful, easy life. Accomplishment is a form of pleasure, but if the roots of your whole life and self are not being nourished and watered, the flowers of accomplishment feel artificial and empty, like a rose with no scent. New moons are as much about new commitments as endings. Perhaps at this new moon we need to master the art of letting go of what we want, for what we need to clearly see. What we may most need at this new moon is to surrender our expectations about what we think we need for what truly makes us happy.