Last night I was bitch slapped by Saturn.

Specifically, by Mars in Pisces, transiting my fifth house of risk, performance and self-expression, squaring Saturn in Sagittarius, now located in my second house of self-esteem.

What comfort zone was I pushed to face? I threw myself directly into the fire of my fears and went to a “speaking circle”, a way of being with an audience through“relational presence” (It’s not public speaking, the founder told me, it’s having an intimate conversation with each audience member). Essentially, it was eye-gazing (which I’m familiar with through spiritual exercises) – except you’re being intimate with total strangers while speaking (or not speaking), spontaneously and unrehearsed. For 3 and then 7 minutes. While being recorded on a camera. Oh, okay, why not just have your toenails pulled out, you ask? Or hey: wanna go scare up some mountain lions?

Yeah. My thoughts exactly.

So, with pounding heart and sweat rolling down my body, I attempted to eye gaze in the hopes that something intelligent would come out of my mouth. The problem is I’m highly empathic. In life, I don’t tend to feel much separation between I and Thou – which is super useful for gathering information from the ethers during an astrology reading, or channeling information into books and writing, but not so good when you’re supposed to look deeply into ten sets of eyes, while speaking. Without paper, pen or a focal point as anchor, I become unanchored. Spacey. Lost, wordless in those soulful eyes. Piscean.

I learned that about myself last night.

I tried to anchor at a spot on the wall, and was redirected to the sea of eyes. Desperate to find some solid presence to relate to, I tried to just scan the crowd and -nope. Then, eventually, something did happen that had never happened to me in all my experiences on stage- my ability to speak vanished. I clammed up. Because like chewing gum and talking at the same time, I just couldn’t figure out how to do both. After a few minutes of silence and enduring the mandatory positive feedback (no way in hell was my inner critic gonna allow me to receive that), purgatory ended. Hmmm. I thought I was coming here to get over my fears- not get new ones.

Afterwards, ready to sign me up for round two, the founder and group leader, remarked that my difficulty may be because I high levels of empathy then suggested that I may need to cry in front of the group to break through my blocks and feel the love in the room. Um, no…and no (my progressed Moon is now in Scorpio; emotional privacy, sharing on my own terms, feels right and true to me now. Losing emotional control in front of strangers is not on the Scorp agenda).

Sagittarius is the sign of expansion and growth, and as we know, the only way to grow is to head outside of our comfort zone. With Saturn in Sagittarius the Great Work is to willingly venture into new territory, which is by definition uncomfortable. This experience reminded me of a lesson I’ve learned a few other times: as much as the spiritual gurus and self help movement would tell you about our limitlessness as spiritual beings, in the human realm we do have limits, and there is no one-size-fits all approach to growth. My husband reminded me of a similar experience I’d had, when a well-meaning friend suggested her form of free-form dance would be good for me. At class, I was asked essentially to do the same thing: spontaneously move, in front of an audience, with no agenda, for many, many long minutes. I felt like I was dancing in The Red Shoes ballet, the shoes (or in this case, my friend) demanding that I dance, dance, dance!… right past my body’s limits. I was in pain for a month afterward.

Sagittarius wants to feel the limitlessness expansion we know is possible for us, but with Saturn in Sagittarius, there will be many gurus but the true guru is the one inside. We still need to trust our own authority. This may mean that some teachers and movements aren’t right for us. This may mean that we need to work up to the big leaps we want to make- only in order to trust that if we’re going jump off a cliff it will be into a feather bed instead of the cold pavement of reality. Optimistic Sagittarius classically “goes for it”-the growth experiences, the tri-athalons, the gurus – yet with Saturn, there is a law of gravity and common sense at play here. An 80 year old taking on a tri-athalon is a rarity bordering on the miraculous, and there’s a reason why.

As for me, this morning, ironically, I’m feeling far more confident in my old school speaking style than I had before I attended the event. And, like walking around with a “kick me” sign on your back all day and discovering later that you didn’t die, there’s something about failing so miserably that’s curiously liberating for the soul. But the next time a new-age new consciousness loving friend waxes on and on about how XYZ is the cure for everything, or how a Shaman in Peru has found the cure for cancer, I’m not going to  jump on the bandwagon or buy the ticket just yet. I’m going to take my time, to understand. And above all: I’m going to trust myself.