Happy Up!


June 9, 2017 at 6:10am PDT / 1:10pm UT

Moon and Sun opposed at 18°53' Sagittarius/Gemini


June 9, 2017 at at 7:03am PDT / 2:03pm UT

Jupiter stations at 13°12' Libra

pic"Happy Up!" is my Gemini Sun / Sagittarius rising husband's common retort when I start to grouse too much about life's assorted problems. Although his well-intentioned directive almost always results in an immediate desire on my part to give him a light pummeling, or stick my tongue out at him like some bad-tempered two-year-old; he is, of course, right about the futility and counter-productivity of complaining and maintaining a bad or otherwise "poor me" attitude in the face of life's ever-present challenges.

With this week's Full Moon falling in "sunny-side-up" Sagittarius with ruler, Jupiter, at super potent station direct on the same day — indeed stationing less than an hour from the exact Sun-Moon opposition — "Happy Up" may be the perfect mantra for us all. But not in a Neptune-delusional, or Pollyanna way, but happiness despite the pain and struggles of life, happiness and hope — that important inner light which keeps us going, keeps us from throwing in the towel even when truly devastating events happen in our lives, even when those heartless corporations and corrupt politicians keep winning over and over and over again.

"The ancients greatly appreciated laughter, which they looked upon as a divine gift and a helpful remedy," Roberto Assagioli, Italian psychiatrist and pioneer in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, wrote back in 1915, in the early stages of the First World War. "There never was a time when such a remedy is needed than now," he noted, "for people today are tense, agitated, and frantic. They are driven by the passion for speed, the thirst for possessions and for conquest, and thereby become exhausted. While not renouncing what is dynamic, constructive and heroic in our age, we should correct its excesses, moderate and balance its extreme tendencies."

Assagioli asserted that there are three primary "life arts" all of us must cultivate in order to become "sane and complete beings" — the art of resting, the art of contemplation, and the art of laughing and smiling. Laughing has a direct, beneficial effect upon our body's physical functions, he wrote, "producing rapid rhythmical contractions of the diaphragm which have a healthful effect on the abdominal organs, especially the liver. Modifying the rhythm of breathing, these contractions also stimulate pulmonary function and the activity of the heart, which produces better oxidization. "The popular proverb which states 'laughing makes good blood' is therefore scientifically accurate." Yet the psychological value of laughter, Assagioli adds, is of greater importance because it removes inner tension and triggers a beneficial emotional release.

picLaughter, cheerfulness, and happiness, as Assagioli saw it, are muscles, and like any muscle, they need to be consciously developed through exercise: repetitive flexing. In contrast to classical concepts of the four temperaments, sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic, which were based on the belief that certain human moods, emotions and typical behaviors were dictated by body fluids or humors: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm, and we were pretty much stuck with these propensities in one way or the other; Assagioli, maintains we can train ourselves — cholerics, phlegmatics, melancholics alike — to become much more inherently sanguine. One of the prescribed techniques of Assagioli's Psychosynthesis approach to inner work is just that: the cultivation of authentic cheerfulness, or the "happy up" approach to life as my husband would call it.

"It may be objected that cheerfulness is [solely] a state of mind which one either has or has not; cannot be artificially generated by means of the will. This objection raises the whole problem of the relationships between the will and the other psychological functions and activities. It is true that a change in a state of mind cannot be brought about by a direct imposition of the will. A peremptory and repressive imposition of the will is apt to arouse contrary reactions and fail in its purpose. This is the error of authoritarian moralists and educators who use methods based on prohibitions, threats, condemnation and punishment. In contrast, the application of appropriate psychological techniques, guided by an enlightened and skillful will, can act powerfully on all the psychological functions and can change the bent of a state of mind."

It does seem that one of the biggest challenges of being alive at this intense turning point in human evolution — this "change or die" crossroad at which we are all collectively standing — IS the challenge to remain positive and hold the flame of optimism and possibility in our lives amidst the almost constant reminders of escalating greed, hubris, and the resulting ecological destruction. To keep going, keep trying, keep being a force for positive change is our Jupiter-Sagittarius challenge, even though our contribution may seem so small and insignificant.

Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society. We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.

An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

—Howard Zinn, The Optimism of Uncertainty



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Roberto Assagioli founded the psychological movement known as Psychosynthesis, which is still being developed today by therapists, and psychologists, who practice his technique. His work emphasized the possibility of progressive integration of the personality around its own essential Self through the use of the will. The Synthesis Center's website offers a long list of articles and monographs by Assagioli, including the monograph, "Smiling Wisdom," which I've excerpted in this essay.

While I don't know if it will work for you personally, I've decided to try out some of Assagioli's suggestions including the following exercises to cultivate cheerfulness:

  1. Relax all muscular and nervous tension. Breathe slowly and rhythmically, express cheerfulness by smiling (it will help to assume this expression before a mirror, or visualize yourself doing so).
  2. Reflect on cheerfulness, conscious of its value and usefulness, especially in our agitated modern world. Appreciate and desire it.
  3. Evoke cheerfulness directly by pronouncing the word several times.
  4. Imagine yourself in circumstances likely to worry or irritate you: for instance, in the presence of unfriendly people, having to solve a difficult problem, obliged to do various things rapidly or finding yourself in danger, and yet keeping cheerful.
  5. Plan to remain cheerful all day, to be a living example of cheerfulness, to radiate cheerfulness.