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Author: Sheridan Kennedy

I'm Doctor Jewels, creator, writer and practical mystic...
I believe that when we embrace our materiality and own our innate wisdom and joy, we access authentic well-being for ourselves, those around us, and for the planet.
Ultimately everything I do is centred around a simple desire... to restore a sense of magic, mystery and wonder to the world.

Do we have a lizard brain?

It’s not your lizard brain – it’s the culture

I’m sick of hearing about the lizard brain.
You know the drill: the seat of our fear. Blah blah. It’s like the ‘sabre tooth tiger’ meme – if I hear yet another personal-development coach talking about how we’re programmed for ‘flight or fight’ because we had to run away from sabre tooth tigers… please spare me your tired metaphors.

The lizard brain is a myth. I don’t mean ‘myth’ in the disparaging sense of a ‘lie’ or ‘delusion’, I mean it in the sense that it is a symbolic story for a cultural paradigm.

Even people whose ideas I respect still fall into the use of this old cliché, without questioning it.

“Your lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry and horny… the lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe… the lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to but would rather run away. …the lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival. …Wild animals are wild because the only brain they possess is a lizard brain. The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing… the lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid… The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”

Says the otherwise very smart Seth Godin in Linchpin. Not only does he conflate some biological impossibilities in his metaphors (lizards are not tribal, for example), he has fallen prey to the cliché (nice image isn’t it, clichés skulking about looking for people to prey upon?).

In fact, the ‘lizard brain’ is a misnomer, and lumping the amygdala with the lizard brain is a total furphy.

Not only is the amygdala not a lizard brain, the idea that the primitive reptilian brain is nested inside our larger human brain may make for colourful metaphors but it’s also inaccurate.

Scientists come up with theories and these work their way into popular culture where they continue to be presented as a scientific fact even when the original theory has evolved.

“One reason that the triune-brain model has so captured people’s imaginations is that it is so simple and meshes so perfectly with a very old conception of the three basic elements of human nature: will, emotion, and rationality (or, more colorfully, ‘gut, heart, and head’). This model thus posits three brains that emerged in succession in the course of evolution and are now nested one inside the other in the modern human brain: a “reptilian brain” in charge of survival functions, a “limbic brain” in charge of emotions, and the neocortex, in charge of abstract, rational thinking.” (Source)

Ideas about brain modelling have changed and the triune brain is considered out of date. It’s now recognised that reptiles and mammals diverged at some evolutionary point and reptiles developed their own cortex, so they simply have a different brain altogether.

Why does it matter? Am I just being pedantic?

Certainly, myths do not have to follow scientific facts, and even if the original brain model was shaped by cultural notions of human nature isn’t the lizard brain analogy simply making a point that we need to confront our natural tendency to fear in order to live our full life potential? Thus, it’s about the effectiveness of the personal or business coach’s process rather than whether his or her metaphor is actually scientific?

Well, yes, the results are what’s important. However, if you are going to frame method within brain science at least check the science.

But there is a bigger story here that we must challenge: are we really biologically wired for fear?

What if, instead of offering evolutionary leaps, that personal development metaphor is locking people into an old paradigm; adapting them to fit a dysfunctional world view rather than assisting them to transcend it?

So, bear with me as I dismantle this cultural myth of our “hungry, scared, angry” lizard brain, this biological tendency in our animal nature, which we must overcome to be successful humans.

What is the impact of this idea that we, like all other animals, are ‘wired’ for fear and that we must overcome this biological instinct in order to become more successful humans?

There is a direct line from ‘overcoming’ our animal nature to the notion that one must strive to be superior not only to animals but also to other humans.

This idea has been around as long as the concept of ‘civilisation’, and overcoming stuff is entwined with the very human need to be in control.

Our intention to master whatever gets in between us and our ambitions (or threatens our sense of safety) has produced our extraordinary knowledge systems and our technologies. And yet, faith in our superiority and our divine right to exploit any and all resources has long been used to justify the oppression of ‘other’ people (ethnic cleansing, slavery), to create systems that ultimately destroy environments (fossil fuels, pesticides), and to convince ourselves that we can master everything including the weather.

Back in 1852 Herbert Spencer coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’. Seven years later Darwin provided the theory that evolved ‘survival of the fittest’ into Social Darwinism, founded on the idea that the biologically superior members of the species will survive. How ‘superior’ is determined depends upon interpretation and cultural bias, but that’s another story. (We saw how effectively Hitler dealt with that one). The theory that evolution is a competition that determines who’s superior conveniently reinforced the accepted social paradigm of the 19th century. It also shaped scientific research, creating a feedback loop that confirmed the social theory!

Thus, progress and, by inference, superiority is all about overcoming that pesky lizard brain.

Fortunately, unless you live in Richard Dawkins’ universe, cultural thought has moved away from its obsession with competition as the basis for evolutionary ‘survival of fittest’. The late 20th century brought a shift in social attitudes and, due to the inevitable feedback loop between science and society, hypotheses about the value of cooperation began finding evidence that cooperation is equally as important for survival. (Could it be that half the story had never been told due to the inherent masculine bias of science? Something to explore another day.)

While nothing in science is ever concluded, at least the research is now taking us beyond the ‘fight or flight’ scenario of ‘survival of the fittest’.

One small but significant shift: researchers now consider the amygdala isn’t simply a threat detector ‘fighting for our survival’. Its function is much less emotionally charged than that:

“The amygdala appears initially to evaluate the relevance of stimuli, and then to tune the individual’s overall cognitive and emotional response.”

When it comes to the way we move through our environment it makes sense that ‘uncertainty is more arousing than what’s familiar’. However, some now argue that the amygdala is alerting us to anything that might be ‘important to furthering one’s goals and motivations’ and this depends on the psychological state of the individual.

The amygdala is not ‘the fear centre’. The amygdala is the part of the brain that sorts ‘different’ from common/ ordinary/ normal. In the face of difference there are more responses than fight or flight, otherwise the human race would never have exited Africa. Curiosity shapes the human as much as fear (and it’s the same for many animals).

If we can watch Attenborough’s plethora of wildlife documentaries without paying too much attention to the survivalist clichés – and making allowance for the artifice of filming documentaries – we can witness the behaviour of animals. Does a gazelle spend all its time examining the environment for lions? And how is it that you can see a combination of animals that would normally be the eaten hanging out around water holes with animals that would normally eat them? I’m not saying they’re socialising together, but I am saying their amygdala hasn’t got them running in the other direction.

Even animals cannot survive in a constant state of fear, for the simple reason that all those functions of the parasympathetic nervous system like digestion and reproduction would just not work, leading to demise of the species. Thus, if life on earth is dependent upon ‘fight or flight’ there’s unlikely to be any life.

Detection of difference is an innate animal instinct. This is the amygdala’s job.
Fear is a response to uncertainty, a recognition of difference, but it doesn’t have to be the only response.

And to what degree is fear primed by culture?

What if this cultural habit we have of always trying to be in control is flooding our amygdala with stress chemicals, sparking fear and suppressing our innate instincts for appropriate action in any given moment?

Because it gets more interesting when research reveals cultural nuance in what activates the amygdala.

While it’s well established that the amygdalas of depressed or anxious people are triggered by negative stimuli, a 2013 study considered whether happy people simply had a less active amygdala because they are less fearful. What researchers found surprised them: happier people showed amygdala response to positive stimuli, but while their amygdala tuned into the positive stimuli this “did not come at the cost of losing sensitivity to the negative”.

In other words, they weren’t happy because they could ignore unpleasant things, but instead their amygdala had a balanced response to both extremes.

The researchers propose that instead of focusing entirely on avoiding personal harm, the amygdala is involved in empathetic response as it’s also activated by seeing others in need.

This suggests that our amygdala is primed by our psychological state, and how can we separate our mental or emotional state from our cultural milieu?

Neuroscience labels a person’s capacity to regulate their emotional reactions as their ‘affective style’ and considers it a combination of nature and nurture. And if the role of the amygdala is simply to help us know what signals to pay attention to this makes it a neutral observer, that is then overlaid with cultural patterning.

This is not to say that babies are born as blank slates with neutral amygdalas. It’s much more complex than that with an unborn child already affected by layers of cultural practices, as well as environmental and social conditions, which humans may or may not be able to control.

Levels of anxiety can be ramped up by the in-utero experience, which is intimately linked to their mother’s environment, her psyche and her social situation. Even the grandparents’ experiences affect the baby’s gene expression through epigenetics. And recent microbiome research tells us that before we’re born our mother’s microbial world is already impacting our emotional or mental propensities, which are entwined in multiple ways, with these microbes through our gut-brain axis and neuro-biology, (amygdala included).

We also can’t discount medical-cultural practices that affect the microbiome, the chemical body burden of living in toxic environments, and the stress of trauma or unjust social systems.

Fear is not a biological imperative, it’s a cultural zeitgeist.

Fear is a secondary response, not an automatic primal response to a changing environment.

The amygdala looks for the unfamiliar in the environment, and it’s believed that it then checks in with memory to determine action. The response is mediated by the neurotransmitters already circulating through our system, and thus can’t be divorced from our general state of mind. As mentioned this could involve stress reactions from not feeling in control, canny assessments of opportunities, and compassionate consideration for the needs of others. And the activation involves more than visual cues, including information from other senses and underlying intuitive responses beyond our logical mind.

The amygdala is intricately connected into the larger awareness of brain, body and environment, and it’s responses are intimately related to our psychic-emotive state and our life experience .

Children raised in some indigenous Amazonian tribes self-learn not to put their fingers in the fire through a natural combination of curiosity and awareness. Such ‘laxness’ would be considered severe neglect in our society where we’re constantly protecting children from their own curiosity.

In his book The Healing Wisdom of Africa, Malidoma Somé makes this point:

“… the inability to perceive, the inability to understand, to indigenous people is symptomatic of an illness. If your psyche is disordered or deficient or overcharged, blocks are created in you that prevent comprehension and remembering…Another form of this illness is the inability to accept of even tolerate those who are different from us. Worse, this inability encourages suspicion, fear, and resentment. Thus, it is an illness of the collective psyche when different cultures don’t understand one another.”

Our history has many stories of what happened when Europeans encountered other cultures. These encounters between very different people didn’t always play out as conflict, but most of them did. From the conquistadors seeking gold in the Americas to slave labour for sugar, to grasslands for cattle, European ingenuity required the oppression of other cultures that were often times regarded with disdain and fear.

Looking back at this behaviour now, it’s hard not to see how the cultural, religious and commercial justifications of superiority reveal an illness in the collective psyche.

Economic systems that thrive on dominance and control of ‘resources’ create societies focused on competition – and a pervasive sense of not having enough (money, possessions, health, love). That certainly primes our amygdalas for fear!

“Uncertainty is more arousing than what’s familiar,” but the way our individual psyche deals with uncertainty is connected to our cultural training.

A healthy response to uncertainty involves dismantling a culture based on fear, and its deep roots in our psyche.

Thus, focusing on our own joyfulness and contentment may be a grassroots way to effect cultural change – in addition to all the other health benefits it offers.

As simplistic as this sounds,  the most important clue offered by new insights into the amygdala: the more present we are in the moment, and the more we generally feel content with ourselves, the more likely our response to uncertainty and difference will be curiosity and openness instead of fear.

And the more likely our healthy instincts will lead us to the best response.

So, let’s see ‘fight or flight’ biological essentialism for what it is: survivalist propaganda that encourages a certain type of cultural zeitgeist – by which I mean it was an idea that captured the imaginations of cultural thought-leaders of the 19th and 20th century. It not only created the evolutionary biology paradigm, it shaped the story of progress.

And from there it captured the imagination of an already very fearful (unequal, unjust and warlike) society, and the rest is history. Leading all the way to where we are today.

It’s time to move on from this story.

Potent forces align for change

January 12, 2020.
We can think of this particular juncture of astrological time as ‘cosmic acupuncture’.
We’re experiencing particular ‘nodal point’ activations in a systemic treatment that has been taking place for the last year and will continue to be intensely at work at least into December 2020.

This year initiates sweeping foundational change.

Expect a working over of systems and structures of all kinds reinforced by a heavy Capricorn theme as Saturn, Jupiter and Pluto confer together in this sign.

These are potent times. What is being set in motion now will have nothing short of the same revolutionary impact of Martin Luther 500 years ago, when Pluto and Saturn were last conjunct in Capricorn. His disputation on “the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” targeted corruption at the core of the Catholic Church and ultimately initiated the Reformation. The breakdown of the stranglehold that the Papacy had over the production and control of information allowed the first scientists* to test the frontiers of human knowledge. This lead to the Enlightenment, democracy, and ultimately to the world we inhabit today.

It sounds like a nice story, this story of Progress.

But the dream of democracy is daily revealed as a farce, and we don’t have to look far to see that scientists are as corrupted with ‘indulgences’ and back-scratching as the medieval church. Despite Enlightenment (and also because of it) everywhere around us there still exists inequity and injustice. There’s cause to wonder if human consciousness has evolved at all in the last five centuries or is simply playing out the same tired old games of power.

Institutions that are supposed to protect our health and the environment are corrupted by officials fresh from executive positions in agri-chemical corporations. Education, all the way to university level, shapes our minds to play a role in the social machinery. Technologies promise us unlimited freedoms at the same time they threaten our health and wellbeing. All of these spring from the endeavours and inventiveness of what we’ve come to believe as progress for the human race.

We see enough evidence all around us that this system we cling to is rotten at the core. It seems we haven’t moved that far since the Pope sold ‘indulgences’ to spare the wealthy the pains of hellfire and damnation.

At this juncture of time, we’re facing tests of power at the level of our personal lives, and at the level of the collective. Everything we have given authority over us is up for review.

What do we do when everything we think should be working is actually contributing to the problem?

How do we respond when we must face uncomfortable truths that we can’t control?

How do we make choices that tip the balance and direct our human energies in more creative directions?

“The times are urgent. Let us slow down”
says my favourite philosopher Bayo Akomalafe.

And though I doubt he follows astrology, a recent post of his speaks simply to the demands of Saturn and Pluto, which require of us nothing short of a reformation of power – everything we understand about it and how we use it.

He points out that speaking truth to power is not a strategy for change because it still plays within the rules of power as domination and control:

“It may not be ‘enough’ to break through the glass ceiling if the building itself is left intact; it may not be enough to gain a seat at the table if the protocols of access mark bodies with the violence of entry.”


What is power really? And how do we manage it?

At its most basic level power is the ability to make something happen.

We’re living in a world which encourages and rewards power that dominates and controls, but there are other kinds of power that work with things rather than against them.

And the most simple truths of power can be unearthed by noticing where do you get activated? And what message is here for you?

In a year that is all about questioning the nature of power, there’s a message about power in whatever is ‘in your face’ right now , whether it’s confronting and explosive, or something subtle that has been around ‘forever’.

We see it outside in firestorms and mudslides and political machinations. It’s also in the smallest of things – everywhere you feel blocked, doubtful, frustrated, insignificant.

Whatever the substance, the essence will be about power – where you’ve used it well and misused it, where you’ve ‘given your power away’ and where you’ve abused your own power over others.

The more we want to see ourselves as the victim in any specific situation the more we need to view our own abuses of power in the much larger context of our lives.
No matter how righteous, power that is found through a declaration of fault or blame plays by the same rules as power that wins through dominance and control. This is a hard truth that many will not want to face. But in the year ahead it is the most potent realisation we can have.

If we’re to change this current paradigm we first need to understand how to use our own power. And gain the sovereignty of responsibility that Capricorn offers.

Sometimes we abuse our power simply through damming up and ignoring our own instincts.

These are many faces to the kind of power that thrives on control. And yet, this year Pluto and Saturn will have us face what we cannot control so we can learn a new form of power.

Saturn works with you to find your path in the world. To manifest your authority.
To follow your destiny – and that doesn’t mean that it’s already paved with stone – it’s more like finding the way in the bush by using instinctual navigation skills.

How in touch are you with your intuitive knowledge?

How well have you used your experience to shape a wisdom worthy of finding the way?

Pluto’s work is alchemical –  dissolving the old into raw energy for the new.
In Capricorn its work is to uproot the old foundational structures we’ve built to serve us, but which no longer serve the future for either humans or the planet.

Pluto wants to disintegrate anything we’ve outgrown and use it for compost to fuel the next steps in our evolution. It has been moving through Capricorn since the end of 2008, working slowly but surely on shifting the foundations of our current established order.

Together these energies are asking us to see the ways that traditional authority and ‘getting things done’ have become dysfunctional – and to bring these back into proper functioning again.

How can we be more responsible? True responsibility is not following a set of rules prescribed by social expectations – or consensus opinion.

To act from the place of our own authority requires us first to recognise that our authority is founded in the deep connection of our body to spirit.

We need to become more bodyful so we can tap into the elemental energies that help us navigate this journey to find our truth.

This is not a truth of the mind, it’s visceral, sensual, foundational.

Beneath words and emotional states, what is making you feel uneasy, off centre, even just plain sick? Wherever there is a sense of dis-ease this is a signal of the need for foundational changes.

This is not a truth I get to tell you because it’s your truth. Astrology can help you to look in the right direction, but ultimately truth is something you find for yourself.

The key question for the year ahead:  is what you’re creating true to what you believe?

We’re being called to determine what really matters to us, and to keep checking that we’re on path to creating it. Now is the time for enormous effort – but it needs to be aligned and aimed in the direction that creates well-being for all, in the most foundational and broadest sense.

What is set in motion by these crucial times will not be resolved in a weekend or probably even a lifetime.

Life has been preparing you for this. And all your experiences have been making you fertile ground for new forms to grow.

Saturn supports integrity – are you in right relationship with yourself and your community?

Are you supported and surrounded by solid, dependable extensions of your core truth?

During the year Jupiter will also be meeting with Saturn & Pluto offering opportunities to reinforce the same system of power – or to write it entirely anew.

Some astrologers have done the maths and point out that the last time this powerful trio came together in such a potent arrangement in Capricorn was about 4000 years ago.

We can only speculate on what revolutionary shifts in codes of law and ethics were made foundational at that time and have continued to shape human progress these last millennia!

While all this current conflagration uproots our Capricornian ideals and desires for structure and security, the North Node destiny point is transiting the sign of Cancer. And Cancer’s message is simple and clear – everything is connected. We are in kinship with all things, and true well-being cannot be found until we come to terms with our responsibility in this connectivity.

It is deeply significant of our times that it takes natural disasters, like our current bushfires – or the 2005 tsunami – for humans to understand how little we really are in control of the world. And that it takes such a recognition to bring out the sense of care for our fellow humans and other beings.

In the letting go of our delusions of power as control what remains is power that builds in community and cooperation.


*The word ‘science’ comes from the root meaning body of knowledge. In that sense there have long been scientists and much of what transpired in European Renaissance was kicked off by the work of Muslim scholars, who resurrected the ancient Greek knowledge, which they learnt studying with the Egyptians… However science in the particular way we understand it today comes from the philosophy of the Enlightenment.

Scorpio & the universal law of threefold return

Recently, I came across an old astrological diagram that applied the term ‘retribution’ to Scorpio. We’ve heard about Scorpio’s ‘sting in the tail’.
Retribution is a stinging term – very Biblical in its implications.

Scorpios get a bad rap in traditional astrology. They’re often characterised as inscrutable and occasionally morbid, even obsessive. It’s rather like Scorpio is the ‘scapegoat’ of the zodiac – the Biblical scapegoat was quite literally a goat ritually loaded up with all the sins of the tribe and then sent off into the wilderness, taking the demons away with it. A nice way to offload one’s sins.

We probably all know someone who seems to get the blame for everything, regardless of whether they caused the situation or not. And sometimes this happens simply because they’ve developed a reputation for being careless of transgressing norms – rather like the goat that isn’t averse to being contrary: to climbing trees although it’s not a clawed animal, or to eating bizarre and apparently indigestible things.

It is worth noting here that the transgressing of norms can often be an evolutionary necessity!

This leads me to consider the shadow side of retribution, which may make you immediately think of even more nasty expressions of Scorsese-style payback.

But no, I’m thinking of the shadow as the hidden face.

We’re familiar with the mean and nasty face of retribution, which is why it feels like a pretty heavy term to apply to a single zodiac sign.

But what if we take a more wholistic view of retribution?

Where to re-tribute is simply to return the tribute or gift previously given.

The wisdom and symbolism of the traditional zodiac cycle follows the (Northern hemisphere) seasons as it tracks the path of the sun. As above, so below. Thus Aries introduces the newness of spring, sunny Leo represents the height of summer. Scorpio faces into the depth of a Northern winter.

Of all the zodiac signs Scorpio is least afraid of the dark.
As the great wheel turns into the cold and privations of winter, Scorpio is the first one to go into the darkness, to confront what must have been experienced for millennia as a sense of impending dread for the harsh cold winter. Hunger and suffering are very real possibilities for those who have not properly attributed the harvest of Virgo, and re-balanced themselves through the seasonal adjustment of Libra, to be ready for oncoming winter.

In considering retribution Scorpio takes a long hard look within – and without – and must face up to whatever remains unbalanced by those Libran energies. Whatever was given, but has not yet been honoured.

From this perspective retribution can be seen as a time of reckoning, and the outcome of it depends on how well we’ve done our work.

By working with the universal law of ‘what goes out must come back’, Scorpio embodies the wisdom of the gift.

This is not your standard Christmas and birthday gift. It’s not the object that neutralises an obligation, it’s the recognition that everything that has been connected remains connected – through the deep seeded principle of exchange and reciprocation.

Some now call this ‘quantum entanglement’, but it has been known by shamans, healers, witches and alchemists well before the discoveries of physics. It’s the ancient understanding that what is given can never be disconnected from its source. And the ancient law of threefold return – that what you put out comes back to the power of three!

Modern humans have forgotten this because we’ve become so trained in logic, which seeks to understand by separating and breaking things down into apparently unconnected parts.

This is why Scorpio energies can flummox the more rational amongst us, because it means working with, and learning to understand the wisdom of complicity and entanglement: that everything we do has an effect in ways we often can’t track or reason through. So we must become aware of how our own energies and desires and thoughts, as much as our actions, are creating this reality we live in.

We need, collectively, to honour this work of Scorpio, because we’re living through an important epoch where humans must face up to how and why we’re up against the apocalyptic horsemen of our times. Our chickens are coming home to roost, as the saying goes.

There’s an urgent need to clear collective delusions and to tune into what’s true. This isn’t the nice tidy truths of philosophers and aspirational spirituality.
We have to turn our faces unflinchingly to much deeper, older truths.

Scorpio energy actually requires us is to uproot, to flush out anything that is not absolutely real. To seek out and honour everything avoided, glossed over, ignored or buried in euphemisms and pretence.

For those with Scorpio prominent in the chart, life’s lessons will continually tune us to look beyond the immediate exchange, to the true nature of retribution.

To immerse ourselves in the bigger picture where we can see that everything given back to us is a rich and varied multiplication of everything we’ve given out.

Because, as Bjork says, “you’ll be given love, but it may not come from the direction that you’re looking in…”

Earth magic: the message within the opal

Lately I’ve been immersed in the extraordinary beauty of opals.

No other stone can deliver quite the character that opals can.
Don’t get me wrong – I love many gemstones, but I believe that when we’re drawn to something (and particularly if it gets a little bit unbalanced and obsessive!), this indicates there is energy or information here that we need to pay attention to.

I’ve got quiet opals with dark faces but when they catch the light at certain angles there’s a flash of brilliant green as pure as the green ray of the heart chakra.
Others are steadfast earthy rocks (brown as the earth they’ve come from) with marvelous glowing cores like multicoloured lava.  And others have a quiet purity of intention, a preternatural glow of meltingly luminous greens, reds and blues.


White opal showing flashes of colour

When I first heard the description of white opal as the ‘Seed of the Holy Fire’ this felt so pure and true. Beneath the haze of white light there are dazzling flashes of inspiration that evoke for me the Ecstasy of St Teresa, burning with mystical Eros,  as captured so beautifully in Bernini’s extraordinary sculpture.


No stone offers quite the spectrum of colour play – or, in fact, the extremes of price – as does the opal.

Thus, there is something wonderfully egalitarian about this stone.  And in particular the Boulder Opal, which contains all the colours of its fancier cousins the White and Black Opals. It’s simply that its veins of colour are usually more narrow. Once they used to be sliced down and glued onto slabs to produce little ‘triplets’ and ‘doublets’ that appeared in ubiquitous, uninteresting jewellery in every tourist trap across Australia.

Now we celebrate them in their natural state, their colours still contained in the  matrix of rock that enabled their growth.

Opals are actually water turned to stone. You can literally see the liquid flows in the patterns of many opals, telling the story of how water and minerals trickled into channels and spaces in rocks, or were laid down in dissolving wood and the bones of ancient animals.  And then transformed, over unimaginable years, into these glorious combinations of earth and light.

Unlike other gems such as diamonds or rubies or amethysts, they don’t grow deep underground in volcanic pipes, or fiery larval flows, or dark caverns.

Opals began in the sands of a vast inland sea that covered the heart of the continent 100 million years ago.

Veins of opal in ironstone from Koroit opal fields
Veins of opal appear like rivers in a desert landscape in this opal from the Koroit opal fields in Queensland.

I source my opals directly from the miners in my home town of Winton (in ‘outback’ Queensland), which is on the edge of this ancient sea, and most recently has been made famous for its dinosaur fossil discoveries. In fact the mines are about 120kms south of the town and are still mined by individuals (very clear traceability to source here!).  Here there are none of the giant mining pits or multinational conglomerates associated with diamond mining.

Opal is not, strictly speaking, a crystal, but an amorphous ‘mineraloid’ of hydrous silicon oxide.

Unlike other stones it does not occur as crystals but as small veins, globules and crusts, usually condensed from silica-rich solutions. It can also replace the skeletons of many marine organisms and plants, which is how you get opalised shell and wood – fossils that have become jewels!

It owes its fragility to the loss of water when it is exposed to air. The surface becomes crazed with tiny conchoidal fractures. The characteristic play of colours in many opals result from the way that light is dispersed according to the angle of incidence (the angle in which the light strikes the surface).

Opals haven’t been so popular in Australia – most is sold into the US market.
I believe this is largely due not only to our ‘cultural cringe’ but also to the design abuses the stones suffered in the 70’s and 80’s!

And the increase in their popularity now is part of the rising interest in preserving our natural world. The fragility of opals is an echo of the fragile balance within Australia’s eco-systems.

In a time that feels like we are on the verge of an ecological crisis, the opal is a quiet reminder of earth magic.

In an era when everyone is trying to escape into the virtual worlds of technology – and the belief that science will solve our ecological problems – the opal evokes the sublime beauty of the material world.

This sensation of awe and delight is not only good for us, it reminds us of the preciousness of this land in which we live. The opal plays its role in re-orienting us around respect and love for the world of matter.

And this simple re-orientation is perhaps the singularly most important shift we can make to  solve what ails us in modern times.

The natural wisdom of Libra: finding balance in motion

September’s equinox signals the Sun’s ingress into Libra.  And, as the Sun crosses the equator, day and night are exactly the same length. Ancient people were much more in tune with seasons, so it’s no coincidence that Libra is the sign that represents balance.

The equinox marks a turning point and the need to adjust and realign with changing temperatures and daylight hours.

We can understand Libran energy more clearly by tapping into the natural wisdom of the seasons.

If it’s spring we think about ‘spring cleaning’, of our houses, bodies, even our minds. Throwing off the stodginess of winter foods and feeling our muscles relax into the warmth of summer. If September means winter, as it does in the traditions of the North (which we still hold to in the South – making for a bit of a topsy-turvy effect ), then it’s a time for consolidation after the pleasures of summer. Virgo is the harvest sign, and with the harvest now collected Libra prepares the village to hunker down for winter.

For those born when the Sun is in the sign of Libra, balance becomes an important theme in your life. This doesn’t mean you’re born knowing all about balance and how to do it, or that your inability to find balance is an indication you’re a failed Libra!

It simply means that discovering the art of balance is part of your lifetime’s work. Your experiences, your talents, your challenges will all be woven through with what you discover, and what balance means to you.

There’s much to learn from Libran energy about seeking equilibrium while also being in relationship with all things.

While those who have strong Libra in their chart are overtly working with the theme of balance, there’s very few of us who aren’t trying to find our ‘centre’ in the midst of exciting and chaotic lives.

This is not helped by the fact that many of us in this modern world are living split lives.
Maybe it’s that our work, where we spend the majority of our time and energy, is ultimately unsatisfying and purposeless. For some it’s a feeling of being an outsider in your family of birth, leading to a strange sense of exile, split off from the ‘tribe’. Or perhaps we love our partner dearly but the compromises we make in the relationship leave us feeling that something is blocked within us, or in the atmosphere between us.

More recently I’ve met people for whom this split comes from a sense that they are not of this world, because they feel so estranged from this earth reality. For these people it seems like either the world is just a weird, confusing place, or they’re the weird ones. (Let me just say, it’s not you, it’s this bizarre unbalanced social system that we live in!)

Libran energy is about learning how to relate with reciprocity and cooperation in a world that seems greedy and self-serving to the core. Mostly this has to be learnt through living it.

We lose our balance when we’re split off from some sense of feeling ‘true’ to the self. Like a carpenter with a ‘spirit level’, Librans are ‘truing’ themselves – bringing the self into the exact position or form required – in the face of forces which would resist balance.

A perfect symbol for this is not the weighing scales often associated with Libra, but the dynamic looping of the infinity sign. This symbol reveals the movement of energy that happens when scales or pendulums seek the balance point. It gives us a clearer understanding of how to work with energy to be in balance, rather than to simply observe it without feeling it in our bodies.

The natural world reveals balance to be a dynamic equilibrium. A continual movement between polarities that underpins the foundational electromagnetic energy of our bodies and the earth.

Here is the real secret at the core of Libran wisdom: balance is the continual motion back and forth between opposites. There is no permanent safe harbour, where the still centre is fortified against the crashing chaos of life. For that would end up being resistance, and a state of siege. Very un-Libran.

Instead Librans need to call upon their air element, to practice lightness in the face of heaviness, and movement when confronted by rigidity. Librans are cultivating the ability to continually return to balance. This is not the about holding fast to a position, it’s the ability to flow easily as air.

When Libra is emphasised in your chart, you’re not a fence sitter as many like to say. Yes, Libra vacillates, but this is only a negative trait in a world fixated on dualistic thinking. Your vacillation is not indecision, it’s the evasion of rigid and fixed states. There’s no balance to be found there.

The Libran soul finds centre while in motion between the dualities.

Through Libra we learn how to pull off a balancing trick where one thing never dominates another, and thus each is able to find their place of ease and grace in the world.

The infinite dance of dynamic equilibrium

Balance. Now there’s a thing to contemplate. We keep talking about a need for more balance in our lives as we feel flung this way and that by demands, obligations, the unexpected and the unplanned.

Underneath all the noise of busy modern lives, our bodies know that we need balance.

We feel it like a quiet craving. It manifests as a creeping sense of unease in the midst of the storm of stuff we deal with daily. And we then read this as fear and anxiety, when it’s simply a need for peace and quiet.

If we ignore that craving for too long it becomes, literally, disease. For example, there’s more than enough research showing how imbalances of vital nutrients, or gut bacteria, in our bodies lead to inflammation and illness.

Our bodies have an innate wisdom, also found in all biological systems, which is simply the continual practice of restoring balance.

This is known as homeostasis, a natural ‘law’ that appears in all biological systems and cellular life. ‘Homois’ (Greek) means ‘like’ (as in ‘similar’) + stasis means state, so the suggestion is that the biological urge is to always return to a similar state. The implication is that this urge to return to homeostasis is simple and basic. In other words, more like an automatic reaction than an intelligent response to circumstances.

However, our bodies are complex systems of 40 trillion cells, situated within the complexities of social systems and the natural world. Ultimately we cannot draw clear lines of distinction between microbes, cells, cultural stories, or the weather.

This makes simplistic mechanistic concepts like homeostasis redundant.

When something has been acted upon, when it has become entangled with whatever else has entered the field, it cannot return to the similar state that it was in before this change. Clearly neither our bodies nor the natural world operate this way. What interrupted balance must now be assimilated or incorporated or transformed. (Even elimination is an act of transformation – energy doesn’t simply ‘disappear’.)

The system will never be the ‘same way’ twice. Like the old adage about not being able to step in the same river. Change is the only constant. There would be no evolution if return to stasis was nature’s basic response in the face of change.

I prefer to think of this natural seeking of balance as dynamic equilibrium.

Homeostasis is a misnomer. Balance is not a place or a state we get to, it’s the ability to sustain the continual movement back and forth between polarities and not get stuck in one side or the other. Our bodies restore balance through the perpetual motion of our heart’s beat, through the constant birth and death of cells.

This natural intelligence within offers a wisdom we can apply to our lives.


The Infinity symbol
Dynamic Equilibrium is perfectly expressed in the symbol for ‘infinity’.


The concept of homeostasis underpins our belief that health is a ‘state’, a perfect place of ease and wellbeing. But while it’s one that is possible to attain, it’s impossible to maintain!

Simply because of that one constant: change.

Instead, health and wellbeing, ease and balance are found in how we participate in the infinite dance of energy, re-finding centre through continual motion.

This infinite looping also expresses a basic law of how energy is created through a chicken-or-egg dance between electricity and magnetism. The core of the earth is a giant magnet, the rotation of the earth produces electricity – and one cannot happen without the other. The same electricity is foundational to our life. Electrical impulses initiate our first embryonic heartbeat, and underpin the functions of our neurons.

This vital energy of life in our cells, and in the farthest stretches of space is in a dynamic equilibrium. We won’t ever arrive at a state of perfect balance because there isn’t one – so we may as well enjoy the ride!

Venus rising


The lunar eclipse  of July 17th (7.38am AEST at 25º Capricorn) highlights Venus, in Cancer and close to the Sun.

Since Venus invites us to open to the joys in our life, and to choose what really matters to us, this is a timely reminder of what to focus on now.

We’re under the hammer, all this year, of big hitters like Pluto & Saturn together in Capricorn. This pair of divine blacksmiths are working in tandem, melting down our old s/crap metal in the alchemical furnace and forging our new destinies. I’ve discussed elsewhere this interplay of forces that challenges us to sort the gold from the dross.

Venus glides into this scenario at the left hand of the Sun (she’s currently the morning star, rising just before the sun to herald the new day). I’m tempted to go into the Goddess significance of left-handedness but I’ll spare you that today!

She surveys the chaotic scene at the forge – yes, depending on what’s going down for you, when the dross is being burnt away in whatever area of your life, and your old orders and systems and safe-holds are dissolving, it is deliberately destabilising…

And she says with the serene calm of a Cancer Queen:
“find the thread within yourself that really connects you into the world. That will pull you through.”

Wherever Venus sits in our chart she offers us an invitation to be more of who we really are.

Not who we think we have to be in order to be more successful, more attractive, a better mother or lover…
Because in being the gift that we are, we will naturally be all of those things, minus all the guilt and efforting.

I’m not saying this is always an easy task. Depending on how much s/crap we’ve collected, how much we’ve armoured ourselves against the slings and arrows of unkindness (even our own unkindnesses to ourselves!), there might be a lot of layers to chip away, some melting down and re-forging work to be done.

And now is the time for that. With this powerful team of Saturn and Pluto already at work, resistance is no longer an option.

How are you being called by this energy?

For me, circumstances, serendipity and a touch of divine inspiration have lead me deeper into the realms of Venus… one of my favourite places I confess!

Even if it sounds overly dramatic (and somewhat Biblical!!), I’ve had an epiphany in the last month as Venus reveals herself to be deeply significant in the next stage of my work. She is the thread that brings together 30 years of jewellery (Venus is all about beauty and pleasure), 20 years of astrology and the work of my PhD that merges science and spirit to arrive at bodyfulness. And you can probably tell that I’m more than a little bit excited about it!

Venus qualities are the key to the fresh rising of the feminine which we’re all feeling now. And her gifts are open to men as well as women, as we’re all learning how to balance the yin and the yan within ourselves.

She has long been minimised as a fairly unimportant player in the cosmic drama of astrological energies. But Venus has plenty of mysteries to reveal, and like those values considered ‘feminine’, has been much under-rated in the scheme of things. I’ll come back to that another time….

Right now though, during this eclipse season as the sun moves through Cancer, we are being called us to reconnect with what nurtures us, and sustains our sense of belonging. Capricorn, the opposition point triggered by the lunar eclipse, loves order and structure. But the deeper pull comes from Capricorn’s foundational commitment to what really matters. It understands that we manifest what we value most. It also knows, as one of the elder signs of the zodiac, that values can be distorted when they’re only in service of stability.

Another image for Saturn and Pluto in the fiery earth of Capricorn, is of two tribal elders in intense negotiation over what is the best way forward for those in their care.

Whatever is happening within us and around us now is simply another reminder that we need to continually re-examine our lives to see what still holds value.
And to create from this place.

As Saturn & Pluto re-wrangle order, it’s the Cancerian insight into true belonging and the Capricorn commitment to manifest what we truly value that will restore our place in the world amongst all the apparent chaos of the times.



This eclipse season is asking you to hone in on where you belong.

The solar eclipse of the 3rd July (AEST) brings us officially into the 2019 ‘Eclipse Season’ (a biannual event – but these aren’t always a total eclipse like this one). Not visible to us in Australia, nonetheless still as potent.

This eclipse occured at 11 degrees Cancer, the Moon’s home sign which concerns matters of home and belonging.

If this eclipse affected any planets in your personal sky map you’ll have already been alerted by some bumpy events in previous month… emotional intensity, feeling unsettled or under threat, even hopeless, as your self-faith and self-love come under some extreme pressure.


Solar eclipse in cancer
Emerald is one of the gemstones that amplifies Cancerian vibes. The ancients considered that simply gazing upon the beautiful green of the emerald soothes heart and mind in times of turmoil, despair or sadness. Its colour resonates with the Heart Chakra.


When the moon eclipses the sun (getting in between us and the solar light) it symbolises, and instigates, the dominance of emotion, instinct and more mysterious inexplicable and unseen things over rationality, reason and the visible. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, much as we’ve become quite fearful of this kind of stuff in the modern world. There’s much talk about being ‘light workers’ in these days of aspirational spirituality. We have forgotten that we need to be ‘dark workers’ too!

It’s a call to remember that love does not need reason – or even light – to be present in our lives. Use this time til the lunar eclipse at the next full moon to reconnect with what nurtures and sustains your sense of belonging. To recall your place in the world. And the comforts of darkness.

If you have a birthday around this time… or any other planets in these degrees you could be feeling the call to drop below the buzz of the mind and deepen your sense of bodyfulness- to drop awareness down into heart and spine and belly, and put your feet on this beautiful earth. To come home to yourself.

On seeking balance and finding the way through

Twice a year we are reminded, by the wisdom of the natural world, about cultivating the art of balance.

As the sun hovers on the equator ready to favour either the northern or the southern hemisphere, thus heralding the onset of winter or the approach of warmer times, there is a moment of perfection. A moment of equanimity. A moment of being able to embrace the whole view, without fear or favour.

A moment that passes just as instantaneously.

And this is enough to remind us humans that our constant aspirations to perfection and equilibrium can only ever be fleeting. Because equilibrium is never stasis, it has to be found in dynamic motion.

For millenia we’ve used these cornerstone moments to divine the spirit of the times and listen to messages about the way through.

So I asked the stars today, what is the zeitgeist in action now? And what insights offer the keys to opening impasse, and unblocking the evolutionary forces, so we can gain passage through into the spaces our hearts crave?



This year’s Aries Equinox combines with a Full Super Moon in Libra (‘super’ because of its proximity to earth).  A phenomenon that occurs every 19 years or thereabouts.

Many astrological blogs will be speaking of the Spring Equinox for this moment of fresh starts. Once again, those of us in the southern hemisphere are dominated by the mindset of the north. To what degree this reflects much of the exclusivity of our times, where one point of view dominates over another is a rich topic that deserves a much fuller exploration. Can we in the south re-write and re-story such archetypal models as the astrological system? Do we succumb and follow the system? Do we find a new system more relevant to our own locale and experience of the natural cycles? I leave these questions to another time… and instead return to the cosmic shout-out of this particular moment, 21st March 2019.

Because this juncture of time is unique, and the astrological players signal this is so.

The fresh energy of the astrological new year with Sun in the first degree of Aries and the Moon in the first degree of Libra (in full and glorious opposition to each other), is tempered and coloured by volatile forces and destabilising rumblings that have been going on below the surface of our personal and collective worlds for some time now…


How do things begin? Do they begin from nothing? Or from a slight shift on what’s already been? Or via some cataclysmic wake up call? Or all of the above?

The fresh energy of Aries, launching with a childlike enthusiasm (into a northern spring), comes into opposition with Libran beginnings which are gestating something entirely different  – a vessel for a new kind of future. One that will move us beyond our naive faith in the security of the current system. One that will show us the way through the drama of a world trying to hold onto what is way past its use by date, visions of ‘progress’ that have festered and soured in the collective psyche.

This equinox Sun with it’s close conjunction to Chiron is unable to shake free of the past and charge forth without complications or entanglements. Chiron weighs down the winged boots of Aries. Events like the bizarre divisiveness engendered in response to the NZ massacre of more than 40 people in a place of worship shows the gaping chasm between our white world and a bright future.

The nourishing and growth of our own self-love is the true aspiration of our astrological sun.

Working with Chiron, the Sun is called to bridge this chasm between the wound at our deepest core and the truth field of love. Whatever the wound, it can be traced to the same seeds: shame, guilt, fears of not being enough, of not being lovable.
Though we become adept at sidestepping and covering these over with ego justifications, this is the stuff standing in the way of whatever future we desire – whether it is one of glowing health, abundance, deep love and acceptance (substitute your core craving at this point in time).  Whatever the core wound, it blocks us from fully loving ourselves, in all our imperfection and failings, in all our grandeur and giftedness.

Meanwhile the Libran super moon is reflecting on how we meet and relate to the world in our full selfness – and to what degree we allow the world to meet us.

Libra’s traditional designation is the sphere of relationships. What kind of relationship do you have with the world? Are you bargaining your truth for security? Are you opening to possibility or are you blocking it with compromise and fear?

We’ve witnessed #metoo and the fallout from ousting ‘toxic masculinity’. But how prepared are we to be honest about ‘toxic femininity’? It seems particularly fitting that this archetypal balancing act of masculine and feminine ( Mars ruled Aries sun in opposition to Venus ruled Libran Moon ) is at the centre of this Equinox Full Moon.

Is this the full, clear sight of each other, and the other within ourselves? Or are we still making the other into the enemy?

At this same moment, there is a celestial square between Venus and Mars, suggesting that we still have a long way to go before we get through this.

These energies throw up challenges not only in relation to partners, but also in relation to whatever is blocking our own sense of wholeness – the divine masculine or feminine within.

This bickering god and goddess are pressured by expansionary Jupiter and the North Node of destiny because all are sitting at the potent and challenging degree frequency 24. This frequency is the underworld rumbling of complete change. It says we need to go in, all the way in, to face whatever is impeding our destiny.

This, then, is the zeitgeist of the Equinox moment: to face whatever is holding back our access to the force field of love.

If you’re feeling the upending of things long considered safe or sacred, if you’ve been stuffing down emotions and sidestepping that little voice inside you that says ‘it’s time’, then like the canary in the coal mine you are sensing these powerful forces at work in the current zeitgeist.

These forces are very different to those symptoms of the actual disease, like the political manoeuvres of deluded leaders, or the glyphosate conspiracies by Monsanto-Bayer. I’m talking of the non-human forces, the ones our rational, progress oriented world view has been invested in hiding, ignoring, denying for so long.

This Equinox energy says we can be anything we have it in us to be.
This is not the same as saying we can be anything.

What kind of vessel are you making of yourself now? How are you a conduit for future worlds now coming into form?

How to spend less time fixing yourself & more time being perfect

(Or: how jewellery, astrology & bodyfulness fit together)


Greg Rahkozy and Elizabeth Gilbert


I’ve finally faced the fact that I’m the kind of person who can’t just do one thing, because I end up being bored witless.

The reason I decided to do a PhD was because hours at the jewellery bench had my thoughts wandering into ‘bad neighbourhoods’, and I realised that the devil makes work for idle minds, just as he does for idle hands.

When I popped out the other end of the PhD mincer and felt nicely squeezed into the sausage skin of academia, I had this niggling feeling in my bones, little whispers of resistance. After all there was some kind of deep irony in the fact that I’d just written a thesis on conspiracies, wrestling so hard to tame far-fetched ideas into acceptable forms. I had mustered together the wondrous and inexplicable, working hard to rationalise it and reference it to voices more authoritative than mine.

There’s always been this rebel in me who’d go against something just ’cos everyone else was going for it. It’s something to do with the Aries part of my nature.

Actively resisting anything mainstream was a 30 year habit. But then I spent 5 years shaping myself to fit academia. And yet, as my mind and my words had submitted to the requirements of being a ‘doctor of philosophy’, my body fomented a quiet resistance.

Oh blessed relief that, buried under ‘appropriate’, was still some wildness, some aching to roam freely!

I hadn’t entirely smothered that love of wonder and magic and mystery that had followed me around all through childhood. So I stepped off the gravy train and went back to being an artist.

But there was something else calling to come in, this urging to make my work a more wholistic practice. To bring in all the things that fascinated me (which I managed to tidily boil down to three. Because I do love trinities).
This is the practice of blending astrology, bodyfulness and jewellery.

So now I work with all three to cultivate the art (and the science) of embodiment.

Often a jewel will already whisper its need for a body, for fingers that appreciate its fluid curves, or that indent at the throat where it may comfortably nest.
This seductive relationship between jewellery and wearer is a theme in everything I’ve made, from the elaborate glamouring of costume jewels to the private intimacy of the amulet.

The ancient history, the social power, the talismanic magic of jewellery has inspired me since the beginning.

That certain materials contain an intrinsic energy we can acquire through wearing; that a jewel can hold our desires and memories, or remind us of promises and intentions; these ideas are as old as humans.

When we wear a piece of jewellery it takes on our warmth, it breathes with us.
It becomes a secret extension of ourselves, revealing something to us.
An essence that might otherwise never have been visible.

Of course not to romanticise it too much because there’s that other face of jewellery too. The hard and glittering gems, with absurd price tags, whose cold perfection (if we are fortunate or wealthy enough to wear them) draws attention away from our own inadequacies. Or that ‘high street’ junky stuff that dazzles us when all shiny and new, then breaks and blackens and disappoints within months.

I believe in jewels that tell their own stories but don’t leave us out of the picture.

Instead of being glittery and hard, they collude with us, and whisper of that deeper essence we sense inside.

And it’s this same essence that astrology can show us, as it opens a window onto the soul. Or gives us a map to navigate the path to becoming more completely who we’re here to be.

But all that ‘being who you truly are’ stuff can feel clichéd and airy-fairy if we don’t bring everything down to the body.

To get our toes into the dirt. To be OK with ourselves when we laugh with crazy joy, or cry like our guts are being torn out. Or wallow in the swamp of numbing depression. Or become livid with anger and do stupid things. The whole point of ‘being who you truly are’ is to live everything like this is the only chance you’ve got.

The astrology chart decodes the soul, but until we embody this it’s simply an abstraction.

It’s only by coming deeply into the pleasure and the pain of this whole experience of ‘human’ that we have any real understanding of all that esoteric knowledge.

So here we’ve come full circle. From the ancient stories that bodies and jewels tell together, to the soul’s mirror – that old symbolic language of the stars – and then back down to earth again. Back into our bodies.

There’s a variety of ways we can feel purposeful and make a positive contribution, but ultimately, whatever it is you’re here to do will only come into focus when you recognise the quiet perfection of being yourself. And accepting there’s nothing that needs to be ‘fixed’.

Like jewellery, there are many types of astrology. I’m only interested in the one that helps us decode and navigate the soul’s living experience.

It’s astrology that shows us the simple truth: we just have to seek out what makes us feel alive.

Because, as Howard Thurman says, the world needs more people who have come alive.

Bodyfulness is the practice of that deep aliveness.
And when we wear the jewel that tells our story, it reminds us that this is what really matters.