(12.9.02) I AM WALKING south along a populated sidewalk, through a semi-familiar-looking cityscape, near dusk. To my left is the whir of rush-hour traffic headed uptown, moving along the wide avenue at a fairly steady pace. To my right, buildings line the street, insinuating themselves many stories upward, though my eyes absorb only the trendy stores and restaurants which occupy their bottom floors. I approach an intersection and cross with the light. As I near the opposite corner, all motion slows. I spot a dark-blue duffle bag on the ground, in the middle of the sidewalk right past the corner, just sitting there, waiting alone. It seems to belong to no one. On its side, instead of "Adidas", it reads "Shalom" in white Hebrew lettering. "Shalom" means hello, goodbye, and peace. In an instant, I know what's inside of the bag. And I start running. But everything is in such slow motion, each stride takes too long a moment. I have a companion running next to me, and he is a few feet behind me, moving equally slowly. I'm worried for him, and for me. We haven't made it nearly far enough before I hear the explosion erupt.

I wake up in a hospital bed. The attending nurse is telling me that they will have to remove my body piercings. The metal of the rings will interfere with the extreme detoxification treatment they must use on me. The bomb in the bag had been expertly coated with some sort of toxic filings—aluminum, mercury, uranium, I wasn't sure. A "dirty" bomb, as they call it, had poisoned me. I asked the nurse about the guy who'd been running next to me. She told me she wasn't sure, but it didn't look good. Yet there was an excellent chance, according to her, that I would be completely fine in just a few days. I'd make it, despite everything.

These types of dreams have become rather commonplace over the last year or so, judging by my own experiences, what I hear from friends and the media. The combination of fear, mourning and symbolic prophecy that they represent strikes a near-universal resonance in our culture, in this day and age. We know things are changing, but we don't yet know how. Such dreams appear to provoke anxieties, when in fact they merely illumine those which are already there within us. Each dream is an instantaneous now, identical and parallel to any other moment of our lives, sandwiched between past and future. We wake ourselves up, whether by literally piercing through our slumber or simply persevering and surviving real-life challenges. Once we are awake, we know we'll be all right. It's just the dream itself can be so scary.

As the events relating to last week's doozy of a solar eclipse continue to unfold, we may not be quite ready to face the waking world. With overwhelming intensity, the various loose threads of our lives are synchronicitously converging. They spin unifying external situations which are emotionally demanding, to say the least. We know our very sense of purpose is being tweaked, but we don't yet have perspective on it. Starting back on Nov. 19, when the lunar eclipse's Sun-Moon opposition sharply squared Uranus (the planet of unexpected disruptions of order), the planets made their promise to us, of startling surprises imminently to come. This Uranian break toward freedom started as an internal process and made its way outward by the solar eclipse on Dec. 3. Its concentration of Sun, Moon and Pluto then brought direct culminations, figuratively or literally deadly in their scope. Though these events might have seemed to externally happen to us, they originated from within other individuals, through their wild desires to spurn restrictions (as symbolized by the eclipse's sign, Sagittarius). These connections between each of us, linking our seemingly isolated internal churnings into external manifestations, aren't yet clear. Rather, their interlocking matrix exists in dream logic, where we know that this is our brother and he is in our apartment, though he doesn't look like our real brother and it doesn't look like our actual apartment. Still they are strangely familiar. We just know they are them.

This dream logic resolutely belongs to the realm of Neptune in Aquarius, a long-term outer-planet transit (spanning 1998-2012) linking us all in some esoteric telepathic consciousness toward group-minded ends. Neptune's travels through Aquarius are, in my opinion, one signal of our gradual entry into the Aquarian Age, a future favoring universal love and humanitarian values over individual concerns and intense personal emotions. (Far from a one-sided utopia, the Age of Aquarius will, like most anything, undoubtedly show both beautiful and ugly sides.) Neptune made an easy-flowing sextile (60-degree angle) to the Dec. 3 eclipse, tying its events to this inevitable progression toward Aquarian ideals. But this week, the focus is on the personal planets and their energetic resistance to this collective urge. Mars and Venus remain conjunct in Scorpio, uniting their projective and receptive powers into strong will, concentrated toward those things with deep personal meaning. Mars/Venus-in-Scorpio effects fierce likes and dislikes, in contrast to the cool collective impartiality of Neptune-in-Aquarius, which together they square (make a 90-degree angle). Meanwhile, Mercury enters Capricorn for a lengthy 2-month stay (it goes retrograde for almost 3 weeks in January). Mercury-in-Cap's mental focus on serious thoughts, careful planning, and practical rather than abstract issues meshes well with the Scorpio duo—it helps us combine our willfulness with diligent strategy for pushing our personal concerns. Though as we organize our thoughts and actions toward the direction we choose, we still face the wild-card effect (Neptune in Aquarius) that adds confusing twists, ensuring that our ultimate achievements don't end up in conflict with the role humanity intends us to play—a purpose which will only become fully comprehensible to us in retrospect

Dreams are only truly nightmarish when we cannot determine we are asleep. The most evolved of us are able, as a result of diligent practice, to recognize they are dreaming and deploy this knowledge to consciously alter the events of the dream. Once dreaming lucidly, you can fly, change form, talk to deceased loved ones, eat to your heart's content without getting fat. In waking reality, fear paints its own recurring nightmares, as we mentally play and replay the terrifying scripts of what could happen, what might happen, in the worst-case scenario. When real events do bring their traumas, during those split seconds or minutes or hours, the emotion and the adrenaline hold us as surreally in the Now as we ever are, just like a dream. The dream continues into the aftermath, with its anxiety and grief and wide-open "what now?"s. And then we decide to awaken from it, incorporate its jolting effects into our waking lives, and acknowledge that we've made it. As we continue to acclimate ourselves to whatever shocks or changes or gifts the recent eclipses have brought us, it's important to remember we will all be alright, despite everything. Or, maybe, in fact, because of it.