Last week, I had the flu. One of the new dreaded strains going around. One minute I felt fine — just coughing a bit — and the next I was suffering from fever, chills, intense muscle aches, a migraine, a deep painful cough … and, as if that wasn’t enough, depression. All my negative thoughts and beliefs joined together to form the infamous “itty bitty shitty committee,” which insisted that my life has been a series of failures and bad decisions, and that I am, pretty much, doomed.
The feeling of relief, as I started to get well, was overwhelming (in a good way). I felt grateful to simply be able to sleep at night without breaking into a cold sweat and needing to change my pajamas ten times while hacking up a lung. My cats, who are used to me sleeping through the night, stared at me as I paced (more like, limped) around the apartment at 2 am because I could not even sleep upright.
Sometimes, we need an unexpected or disruptive event to shake things up in our lives and get us moving in a better direction. As I continue to regain my energy each day, I feel a sense of renewal, gratitude, and hope — and those are some of words we can use to describe the Zodiac sign, Aquarius.
Tomorrow, Saturday January 20th, the New Moon will be in Aquarius (3:53 pm EST), a sign that represents renewal, forward thinking, progress, friendships, groups, and working for a cause that betters humanity and the world (to name a few things).
Getting sick exacerbated some of the issues I have been facing in my life because I was in a weakened and vulnerable state. It felt like a warning — a signal to deal with and bring into balances certain aspects of my life to create more security and stability (Taurus North Node) before it’s too late, and to pave the way for my future (Aquarius). The South Node of the Moon in Scorpio (until July 2023) points to deep fears and old patterns, or stuck energy, that hold us back. Taurus, the sign the North Node currently resides in, wants us to build something practical in the “real world” (e.g., a business, a career, a home, a family) that will ensure future security and stability. With this in mind, as of of January 22nd, all planets in the sky will be in direct motion through April 21st, making it a potentially fruitful period for progress and forward momentum. Since Aquarius represents friendships, groups/community, and working for ‘the greater good,’ progress in life may involve any of these themes. The Chinese New Year is also on January 22nd, beginning the year of the water rabbit, which is said to have the potential to turn around unfavorable circumstances and can bring a feeling of peace.
As if feeling depressed while I had the flu wasn’t difficult enough, I was also restless and on edge; you know that feeling when you no longer want to be where you are? This was alarming (lots of strong feelings at once) since I just moved to a new state last August. Being cooped up in my apartment for several days was undoubtedly at the root of this feeling, and the feeling has, indeed, since lessened, however there is something within the feeling to pay attention to: the seed to break through stagnation. The 10th house of my Natal Chart, the area that symbolizes career and social standing, is where I need to open the windows and let in fresh air. The Aquarius New Moon lands in my 3rd house, the area of the chart that reflects communication, and so this is also a part of the picture for me. Aquarius season can trigger feelings of restlessness and a strong desire to move on from what is not working in your life. It may not be possible or practical to make a change immediately, but working toward it can help to alleviate the unsettled or “on edge” feeling. If you don’t know where the Aquarius New Moon will be in your Natal Chart, you can create your Transit Chart with Astro Charts.
So, what is it in your life that could use innovation?
You can start small by, say, reading an article or taking an online class that focuses on the themes you want to work on. Aquarius wants you to break free of old patterns to align with a sense of freedom and independence in the area of life being highlighted. And sometimes, an event or set of circumstances shows up that is unwanted and feels bad, like getting the flu, but has the potential to re-inspire you.
“The home we are looking for in this world is within us all along. The lost home that we are seeking is ourselves: it is the story we carry within our souls.” – Michael Meade
When the Full Moon makes its home in the sign that symbolizes home, emotions come to the surface more readily; we feel more fully and express more easily (even us Capricorn folk). Themes of home, one’s tribe/family, the past, roots, security, support, connection and belonging are in the air now.
This morning, the Kindergarten students I have been working with for the past several weeks formed their morning circle on a big mat that lies on the ground in the middle of what we call “the forest meadow.” It is, indeed, a forest; and it serves as an enchanting outdoor classroom filled with grand and tall tropical trees that meet in the sky to form a ceiling of canopies, their vines cascading, like rope swings, down to the earth (we often have to remind the children not to tug or swing on the vines because they are a part of the trees), and a yurt with tables and chairs and cubbies. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the some of the happiest children I have ever met.
When the students joined hands on their mat this morning, they had an idea: they asked the teachers to watch them do their morning circle routine all by themselves. “We will be your audience,” I chimed in, backing away from their circle to take my seat on a rock, knowing they’d love that word and, indeed, I saw eyes light up as they prepared to serenade us and perform for us. “Good morning dear earth, good morning dear sun, good morning dear trees … good morning to you and good morning to me.” They touched their feet and stretched their arms. They jumped their feet wide and spread their arms like stars. They made bird shapes with their hands and brought their hands to their hearts. Their bodies moved in unison as they sang the songs and chanted the verses that have been an integral part of their days since last August. They have become a family, a tribe, and these early experiences are a part of their foundation.
The sign of Cancer represents both physical home and inner home, or foundation. I see a foundation as the experiences and environments that have shaped us, as well as what is passed down from one generation to the next; the unresolved stuff gets passed on like a hot potato until someone does the hard work of sitting with the pain. When we reach adulthood, our foundation consists of a lifetime of beliefs and patterns and values, stemming from not only parents/caregivers, family members, and teachers but our ancestors.
One of my favorites parts of the children’s morning routine is this: one child turns to the person next to her or him in the circle and with cupped hands extends an invisible gift as everyone sings “Good Morning, dear … (fill in a name). The child receiving the offering in their cupped hands turns to the next student to pass on what they have just received as everyone sings “Good morning dear …” to that person. And on it goes until they reach the end of the circle. Watching them do this without the teachers is what got my tears started.
January marks the midway point of the school year and so it’s a pivotal time for students emotional/mental growth, which was on display today during this impromptu full moon ceremony. Although I have not been working with this group for very long, I have developed a bond in our weeks together and I felt my eyes watering as I watched these small beings reflect back to their head teacher what she has taught and shared with them. I glanced at her and saw that she, too, was deeply moved: her students were mirroring back to her not only the words and tunes and movements they have absorbed but the beautiful community she has built.
Cancer symbolizes our roots, our families and the people who become our family.
For those of us who don’t have an immediate family or are disconnected from family, feelings around belonging may surface. At the end of the school day yesterday, I watched longingly as one of my colleagues was picked up by her partner; she slipped into the passenger’s seat and I envisioned what it would be like, at the end of a long day, to get a ride home and to, perhaps, even have a warm meal waiting for me. I thought back to my grandparents’ home, filled with family members and my Yiayia’s home-cooked meals and fresh apple pies, and I missed the feeling of togetherness and connection from those early days of my life.
I like to share Micheal Meade’s words during Cancer Moons: “The home we are looking for in this world is within us all along. The lost home that we are seeking is ourselves: it is the story we carry within our souls.” Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who had the power to travel back home at any time in her journey by, simply, clicking together her red sparkly shoes three times, you can create the feeling of home wherever you are in the world and your life story … like Dorothy, we forget we possess this power to return home.
The family members that came before you helped to create your foundation and may have contributed to a sturdy or crooked foundation but, either way, there is at least a part of it worth keeping (or learning from), even if it needs rebuilding or restructuring. During this Cancer Full Moon, you can nourish your roots in whatever way you are drawn to: cook a meal like your grandmother or grandfather used to make, look through old photographs, do a “flow-y” yoga (or movement) practice that helps you connect to your body and emotions (your body is your spiritual home), take a bath or go swimming, reconnect with family members or family-like friends, whether they are on this earthly plane or not (you can light a candle for someone who has passed and bring their memory into your heart, and you can also ask for signs from them). Any steps you take to nourish yourself will be part of the new, strong inner foundation you are creating and, sometimes, boundaries (a Cancer theme) are a necessary part of this — anyone with the sign Cancer strong in their natal chart knows the pull of wanting to be there for everyone, but this can be depleting and you can lose yourself along the way. So, what do you need during this full moon to feel nourished and supported?
In the Astrology system, there are 12 signs and houses, broken down into 6 pairs, or opposites. If you are already familiar with the anatomy of a Natal Chart and the concept of pairs or opposites (derived of two signs or two houses), you may want to skip to the next paragraph. If you look at a Natal Chart Wheel (for a free Natal Chart, go to Astro.com), you will see that the 1st house is directly opposite the 7th house, the 2nd house opposite the 8th, and so forth. Similarly, the sign Aries is opposite Libra, Taurus opposes Scorpio, and so on.
In my teachings (Yoga, Astrology, Holistic Wellness), I focus a lot on the idea of creating and maintaining balance in our bodies and lives, which we can do through the integration of opposites. In my yoga classes, I teach the poses in a way that encourages harmony between polarities: i.e., effort and ease, strength and softness, movement and stillness, the downward (earth) energy (Apana) and the upward (sky) energy (Prana). The foundation of my holistic wellness teachings, rooted in Ayurveda, is about cultivating the opposite qualities of one’s natural body/mind constitution in order to create and maintain balance.
You can think of pairs of signs or houses like a see-saw: if there is more weight on one side, it will plummet, fast and hard, to the earth. Remember the feeling when you were a kid of either descending to the ground with a bang (ouch!) or, if you were the lighter side, floating up up up to what felt like the sky, feet dangling, suspended in the air until someone released the other side or added some weight to your side?
At certain times in life, you see-saw along, both sides working together in harmony … and at other times you land with a thud, or float all the way up with no foreseeable way back down to the earth. During a challenging time in my 20’s, I was in a situation that would have yielded a lifetime of extremes, i.e., hard, painful falls versus rising, untethered, like a helium balloon … but never a middle ground, never peace. I had a strange dream during this time of a horse on a tightrope (how he got there, I do not know), being asked to perform a complicated ballet move. Performers on the tightrope were falling off of it to the left and right, plummeting to the ground, but the horse was somehow still standing, about to attempt his fancy move. Everyone was staring up at the him, motionless, waiting. I woke up with the word torture on my tongue. The poor horse had so much pressure on him to execute this move perfectly, to somehow propel himself into the sky, three times (no less!), and land securely back down on the narrow piece of material suspended in the sky.
I knew I needed to leave the relationship/love triangle I had found my way into; a situation that involved three people being asked to accept unmanageable and unfair circumstances. I had known it for a while but I couldn’t admit it. A part of me was still pretending that we were going to have a “happily ever after” … this married man and I.
We are in Eclipse season again. Eclipses happen in the same sign for everyone (a collective energy) and, on a more personal level, they trigger a set of Houses in your Natal Chart. Eclipses (similarly to a full moon) can bring events to a head and therefore, sometimes, symbolize the peak moment of change. How much you feel the eclipse energy depends on your life circumstances (are you fairly balanced, or are you moving from one extreme to the other?) and whether or not the eclipse makes contact with your personal planets. If, for example, it is conjunct or making a hard angle with your Sun, Moon, or Personal Planets, you will likely feel its theme more strongly. It may be a lesson you are heeding or a truth that you are becoming aware of, so that you can shift your mindset and behavior, and something significant may be changing in your external circumstances, as well. The relationship I referred to above ended on the evening of an eclipse. We were at a bar, having a drink and a bite to eat, laughing one moment and crying the next. Something he said triggered a frustrated and emotional response from me and I challenged him about his living circumstances; I didn’t believe that he was sleeping in a separate bedroom from his wife like he had promised. We had had many arguments about related subjects over the past couple of years but this one felt more intense and like we had hit a dead end. He broke his glasses in two at the bar, and we got the check. Outside, he punched a sign and started crying. We both knew it was over.
Eclipses can bring endings and, also, beginnings, like the birth of a child or the debut of a book.
In the approaching Eclipse (on April 30, 2022), Uranus has joined the mix, and Uranus signifies change and freedom, adding to our theme of potential change. The upcoming New Moon Eclipse is in the sign of Taurus, therefore the Taurus/Scorpio polarity is activated, which signifies your self value, what you own and what you do in the world to make a living (Taurus) versus your intimate relationships and shared resources (Scorpio). Is one side out of whack (down low or precariously high?); if so, what can you do to create greater balance and peace in your life? At the New Moon, both the Sun and Moon touch down in the same sign (Taurus), as opposed to the Full Moon, when the Sun lands in the opposite sign of the Moon. In my view of Astrology (a Psychological perspective), we are always working with polarities; when one side of a pair is triggered the other is, too, by default. The Full Moon Eclipse, which follows the upcoming one, will land in the opposite sign and house in your chart; for example, the New Moon Eclipse, on April 30, 2022 is in Taurus, as stated, and a few weeks later, on May 15th/16th, the Full Moon (Eclipse) arrives in its opposite sign (Scorpio). Usually, the Moon lights up the opposite house in your chart (or close to it).
The saying “opposites attract” points to an important truth that within each experience, theme, or archetype lives its opposite. It’s common, for instance, to be drawn to the so-called opposite personality traits of your own because the ‘opposite’ lies dormant within you like a buried treasure, waiting to see the light of day. You can connect to the latent traits, feelings, or emotions within yourself through the other. Opposite traits can create balance in a relationship dynamic, if you do the work (it can also, obviously, be combustible if the opposite energy is extreme with no middle ground), whereas too much of the same trait or theme can create imbalance; this is a core principle in Ayurveda.
The New Moon Eclipse lands in my 6th House, ruled by Virgo … so, I will reflect on the lessons of the 6th/12th axis (ruled by virgo and pisces, respectively) energies, which are something of a theme in my life (due to Pisces on my 4th house cusp and Virgo on my 10th, and Chiron in my 6th house). The forest versus the trees is the metaphor that comes to mind for this pair.
I will also list below the themes you may be working with for all other sets of houses (i.e., 1st/7th houses, 2nd/8th houses, 3rd/9th houses, 4th/10th houses, 5th/11th houses) for this Eclipse season, or any future ones.
The 6th house, Virgo’s domain, represents the minutia of life. It reflects daily habits and routines, work/day-job, and health, which includes one’s daily health/self-care regimen. The 6th house teaches lessons about the practical aspects of life while the 12th house, its opposite, points to “the beyond” — the magical or spiritual aspects of life. In the 12th house, we learn how to “be.”
There was a bee inside the store I work at. It was a warm day and I had the door open. He flew in and could not find his way out. I heard him buzzing around and slamming his small insect body into the front window, unable to understand why he could see “the outside” in front of him but could not reach it. I am an animal/being lover, but since little I have had an irrational fear, more like phobia, of bugs (it is not as bad as it used to be). I fretted over what do; how could I trap him momentarily so that I could lead him to the door? Was it a bumble bee, was it a wasp? Would he sting me? He grew quiet for a long time and I almost forgot about him as I tended to things at work. I prayed he had found his way out and I wouldn’t have to “deal,” but when I walked over to the front window to investigate the situation, I saw that the little guy was just sitting listlessly on a window display. I remembered we have a tool in the store that looks like a giant bug net (it is a sieve used for making herbal and skin remedies) and contemplated how I would trap him until I could get him to the door. I didn’t have to think on it long; in his weakened state, he simply climbed on board and stayed there for the ride to the doorway. Once he sensed the outside, he flew to a tree in front of the store and landed on a flower, where he, I imagine, received the nourishment he needed to survive. I watched him for a few minutes, overwhelmed with emotion, relieved he had found his way … and mad at myself for not helping sooner, for allowing my juvenile fears to get in the way of offering a lifeline to this small creature in need.
I am at a life crossroads that feels more like a permanent stoplight. Like the bee, I feel trapped. I see everyone else through the window, living their lives and moving onward, but I am stuck behind, what feels like, an insurmountable wall. It is not lost on me that one of the stores I am currently employed at, a business owned by a family member, is a place I had worked at many years ago, when I first moved home from California. It was, similarly to now, a transitional phase of my life, a period in which I felt lost and lonely and unsure of my next steps. I had left a dead-end and wildly unhealthy/inappropriate relationship (the horse on the tightrope), as well as a job in the Financial world that felt the same way. When I moved home with a broken heart, I loathed working at my family member’s clothing store; it seemed to highlight all my failures. I had spent so much time on my education and had big (unclear) goals and nothing had worked out. Landing at a retail job — the type of job I worked at in high school — felt like rock bottom. I bided my time there and felt pretty much miserable each day … then I’d go home and pig out on take-out and ice-cream: escapism behavior (the distorted side of the 12th house). Suffice it to say, I was not a dedicated employee. I was barely present, lost in my thoughts and job searching on the computer every chance I could get, rather than thinking about what might need to be done in the store, like cleaning or putting together gift boxes: monotonous chores (6th house). I didn’t like talking to customers because I despised small talk and the role-playing; it all felt phony and hopeless.
So when the opportunity arose last summer to work at the same store for the same family member, it dawned on me that it was something of a “do-over.” I didn’t have to force myself to be the devoted employee I once wasn’t — it just happened naturally. After so much time at home (during the pandemic) and a lot of “growing up” over the past decade plus, I genuinely enjoyed chatting with customers; people seemed much nicer and more genuine than they had back then (interesting, right, how your reality can shift when your mind state does?). I was also tackling my health/addictive behaviors — eating better and getting more sleep as a result. I had much more energy than I did back then, which was key to focusing on small tasks and helping customers. I felt good/balanced instead of exhausted and miserable. Although this is not what I expected (or want) to be doing at this stage of my life, and if I allow my mind to dwell on my mistakes and failures it takes me to a sad/low place, I mostly focus on my connection with each customer and doing chores with presence (rather than wanting to escape). In the the 6th house, we learn to be of service in the world and to be humble, to put aside our own (perhaps misguided) desires and tend to our responsibilities. Although the 6th house is associated with chores, when we give ourselves fully to these chores, when we perform them with care, we can connect to something bigger (the 12th house). In the 6th house, we “practice” while in the 12th house we create.
In life, there are often opportunities (if we notice them) to circle back to experiences left incomplete, or experiences in which we failed lessons that there were there for the learning. The first time around, at the clothing store, I failed big time. I rationalized that I loathed retail and while it’s true that Sales is not my forte, I understand now how important and crucial taking pride in your work is, whether you are sweeping the floor, entering a sale, doing inventory, or watering plants (“chopping wood, carrying water” as the Zen saying goes). The first time around, I focused on my escape plan. I was missing the point that if you do your tasks well, you feel the satisfaction of a job well done, even, and especially, if it is not a job you feel suits you, or that you would like to do long term (or even for another week). We create opportunities and new paths for ourselves by embracing our reality rather than running from it.
Candy Land was one of my favorite childhood board games. When I think about my past, I imagine sliding down a backward ramp to where I just was, getting stuck in a swamp, or re-routed to the beginning of the game, when my teammates are making their way through the lollipops and gumdrops to the finish line (I don’t really remember the order of the candy trail but you catch my drift). When we learn the lessons, we get to move forward in life.
In the 6th house, we learn to commit … to our responsibilities and to ourselves. We mature.
The 12th house, on the other end of the wheel, is where you can deceive yourself into thinking that “somewhere out there” is a utopia, but if you don’t fall into that trap it is also full of beauty. The lesson of the 6th/12th houses is that you create your own utopia by doing the work.
If, on the other hand, life becomes so focused on the nitty gritty of the 6th house, it can feel like “all work and no play” or Ground Hog Day. That makes me think of Jack Nicholson’s terrifying character in The Shining, when his wife discovers that the hundreds of pages of the novel he has been writing are nothing but the same sentence over and over: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I digress. If you wake up joy-less with nothing to look forward to, you may be in a 6th House rut. And that is exactly what happened to me recently. I am working 7 days/week (two part time jobs, plus teaching yoga). At home, I am preoccupied with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and taking care of my fur babies. I don’t have time for anything but work and chores.
At work, a couple of weeks ago, my emotions hit a boiling point (it was a few days before the last full moon). It felt like an internal breakdown. If I wasn’t at work, I would have crawled into bed. I was tired (from not sleeping enough) and wasn’t making time for exercise and yoga. Additionally, I have been diligently applying to full-time positions (that might lead me to a career path) for a long time with no results; the applications take a lot of time and effort, and in return I receive mostly formulaic rejection emails or, even more depressing, no response at all. I couldn’t help but feel like all my effort was for nothing … that I was spinning my 6th House wheels and getting nowhere. Why couldn’t I get out of this dead-end situation and find my way to where I needed and wanted to be? I was nearly in tears.
Amidst all the chores I was doing, I had no time to just be. I was on the heavier end of the see-saw, stuck on the ground.
The 12th house, Pisces territory, is where we find meaning in life … and unicorns and fairy dust. The stuff dreams are made of. A ferry ride on the top deck under the bright full moon and inky sky. A moon-lit walk on a pier with water on either side and twinkling lights in the distance. Fleeting moments of otherworldly beauty. These 12th house moments connect you to something greater than the self and your everyday reality … these are moments that fill the soul.
I had been neglecting my yoga and breathing practices because it was hard to squeeze it in in the morning and I was tired at night, but after the mini inner-breakdown I made time for my practice and noticed the feeling of space it created. I took a walk by the water a few days later on Sunday afternoon. I felt refreshed and renewed after my walk, and vowed to find the time for my well-being (6th house) so I could connect to the feeling of “being” (12th house).
What I also realize is: the more I focus on feeling trapped or stuck, the more frustrated and out of sorts I become. I know this lesson well, but we often need to go over the same lessons many times in a lifetime before they really stick. On the day at work when I felt emotional and exhausted, I was avoiding any tasks I had — I couldn’t focus and just wanted to go home. And that is more than understandable sometimes … I usually complete all my tasks. When I returned to work the next day, with a different mindset and less exhausted, I tended to the details in a calm and focused way — I vacuumed, swept, watered the plants, and communicated kindly with customers. I felt satisfied and lighter. Nothing in my external reality had changed: I hadn’t gotten the job overnight, or received an acceptance letter from a literary magazine (something else I have been working on for eons), but I felt the freedom that comes when you accept “what is.” My main man/guru, Eckhart Tolle, teaches about acceptance; his wise and simple teachings were my introduction to this truth many moons ago and life-changing. I continue to work with and re-learn the lesson of acceptance. Acceptance lives in the 12th house. Interestingly, so does addiction, which makes perfect sense if you think about: addictive behavior is used to resist your present life situation; when you overcome addictive or avoidant behavior you are met with the utopia or bliss of acceptance.
The way out is always through (the doorway, not the glass window, dear bee).
A distorted 12th house mirrors avoidance and escapism behavior, falling into the trap of thinking the magic is always elsewhere. It’s easy to fall into that mindset if your daily life feels disconnected from your bigger goals and dreams or life purpose (like mine do), and there may be something that needs to shift so that more 12th house magic can enter your days, but it is also up to us to create the magic and meaning even and, especially, in the dull moments and periods of life. My career path (if I ever get there) will likely contain as many or more headaches as the “day job.” It will be worth it, I’m sure, because I’ll care about my work but I also know my salvation is not the dream job. My salvation is the present moment.
First find the magic in the “day job,” in the ordinary, in all the annoying chores that make up your everyday reality. And then, perhaps, by the grace of god (or a kind soul), you will be guided to the doorway that leads to the flower that will nourish and sustain you.
*Note that if the Eclipse hits your Sun, Moon, or Personal Planets, you may feel it more powerfully. If the eclipse, however, does not make hard aspects to your natal planets it is likely that it will pass without much ado.
To reiterate, the New Moon Eclipse is in Taurus. In the case of a New Moon, the sun and moon shine in the same sign as opposed to the Full Moon, when the sun and moon reside in opposite signs. The upcoming Full Moon Eclipse, in May, arrives in Scorpio and therefore highlights the Taurus/Scorpio axis. In the case of the Full Moon, it is common to feel more emotional or unbalanced than at the New Moon because your inner self and outer selves can feel at odds; the moon represents your needs and feelings (it’s the feminine energy) while the sun (the masculine) represents your drive and ego (i.e., what you want versus what you need). At a New Moon, the energies of Sun and Moon tend to blend better, while at the Full Moon they can feel disparate, with a need for integration. I often point out in my yoga classes that we are, via the union of breath and movement, bringing together the disparate parts of ourselves, the parts that may have gone offline.
Scorpio is the opposite or underbelly of Taurus, and vice-versa. The opposite side of something is always part of the picture whether or not it is in our awareness. Taurus represents things you value, including yourself, and on a more practical level the way you earn money or “worth” in the world, including your level of self-sufficiency. Scorpio symbolizes your intimate relationships and the things you don’t see, i.e., the stuff under the surface. If Taurus is your physical stuff (what you have built and accumulated – the stuff you may feel attached to), Scorpio points to what is buried underneath that stuff (there is usually a lot of dust underneath stuff, waiting to be cleaned). Scorpio is about intimacy and shared resources, as mentioned above, and releasing “stuff” so it doesn’t drag you down — it also represents digging for meaning and healing wounds.
Below, I list the Pairs of Houses. You can read for the New Moon Eclipse in Taurus (April 30th in Taurus), the Full Moon Eclipse in Scorpio (May 15/16 in Scorpio), and any future Eclipses — and, also, for House Themes in your Natal Chart (e.g., the IC/MC, Ascendent/Descendent, North Node/South Node).
Eclipse in your 1st/7th House Axis: You will likely face issues around your identity versus your relationships. What you need and want versus what others need and want. The 1st house represents the self and the 7th house symbolizes your connections, and how you see yourself through other people’s eyes. What side of the see-saw are you on when it comes to self versus relationships? Are you stuck on the ground, weighed down by a dead-end relationship or one that is stunting your growth? Or are you floating, untethered, in one that likely won’t lead anywhere? Or, perhaps, you are alone and wondering where everyone has gone? If you are feeling disconnected or unsupported, it may be because you have let go of a relationship that is no longer appropriate for you and are now in a transitional phase that will lead to a more balanced life. On the other hand, you may have self-isolated due to carving your own path, for example, and did not want to be bogged down by others. Or, perhaps, you have fears around commitment and would like to have more genuine and fulfilling relationships in your life. Whatever your truth is look at it in the face, reflect on what you can do to move forward in a more fulfilling way … and then do it.
Eclipse in your 2nd/8th House Axis: You may be dealing with issues of self-worth reflected by your income, business, and possessions (or lack thereof) versus intimacy and shared resources. What does the see-saw feel like in this area of your life? Are you more of a “taker,” fearful of sharing with your partner or loved ones, or do you perhaps rely on your partner or family too much for support and would feel more confident if you created your own source of income? The 2nd/8th house axis is, like the 1st/7th houses, a “me versus we” theme; in this case it is you and your stuff versus you and your partner and your joint stuff. Of course, the “stuff” I speak of may be emotional/non-physical and, usually, it is both; our physical stuff mirrors our mental stuff. In the 2nd house you develop your self-sufficiency, and in the 8th house you learn to share and to build important relationships or partnerships. If the Eclipse is in this house axis, you have a double dose of the Taurus/Scorpio theme, discussed above, because Taurus rules the 2nd house and Scorpio rules the 8th house.
Eclipse in your 3rd/9th House Axis: Themes of your daily thoughts and words/communication versus a wider perspective or higher mind, publishing your work (perhaps), and a sense of freedom versus being in a smaller neighborhood or area could be coming up for you. In the 3rd house we do a lot of thinking and absorbing of information, and this pair of houses is connected to your belief system, which is made up of information you receive or have received and repetitive or ingrained thoughts. If there is an area of life where you feel stuck or unfulfilled, you may be called to examine your belief system and determine if that is, at least in part, at the root of the current circumstances. The 3rd house represents teaching and learning at a more cerebral (or sometimes mundane) level, while the 9th house is all about bigger-picture topics and subject matter, like religion and philosophy, and points to teaching and learning that is inspirational or has a wider scope. Maybe you are considering going back to school or take some type of online education program that will enhance your day job or daily work. You may also be working on a writing project and are considering publishing. Another manifestation of this house polarity is that you do a lot of local travel and are tired from all the commuting and want more freedom/ “space” in your schedule; a move somewhere further away could be part of the story.
Eclipse in your 4th/10th House Axis: This is the axis (called the IC/MC) that runs vertically down the center of your chart. The signs on the cusps of these houses are usually recurring themes in your life (as in my story above). The 4th house reflects your home and private-life — the inner you — while the 10th house symbolizes your place or standing in world — the outer or more visible side of your personality/identity. The 4th house is connected to your home or nest, childhood, parents, and memories while the 10th house is connected to your career, outside life, and social standing or place in the world. When this house axis is highlighted during the New Moon Eclipse, you may face themes (we tend to feel the eclipse in the days and even weeks beforehand, btw) involving your home or inner self versus “where you stand” or how you are seen in the world, including your worldly accomplishments. How do you balance your home (and, perhaps, family) with your career or outside life and obligations? Usually, one side of the spectrum needs more attention and, if this is where the eclipse makes itself known in your chart, you likely know which side needs to shift for greater work/life balance.
Eclipse in your 5th/11th House Axis: This pair of houses is about your need to shine in the world versus being a part of a community or collective effort. In the 5th house, you share your creative gifts with others (you seek recognition for your talents), while in the 11th house you use your gifts for the greater good, in the name of higher-minded pursuits or worldly-responsible goals. This house axis, like the 1st/7th and 2nd/8th, highlights the “me versus we” theme. What are my natural gifts and talents and how can I receive recognition or accolades for them, versus how can I use my gifts for bigger picture pursuits? In the 5th house, we strut our stuff and want to take center stage, while in the 11th house our creations may become an integral part of a bigger movement or cause, which can bring even more satisfaction. Another way this house pair energy plays out is in friendships versus romantic involvements. The 11th house represents your friendships while the 5th house depicts your lovers. In some cases, friends become lovers or lovers become friends; the most fulfilling love relationships are often those that began as friendships.
Eclipse in your 6th/12th House Axis: See above for my story and ton of info. on this polarity.
I cannot sugarcoat my experience; the following description is intense and true, which are both qualities of the planet we call Pluto.
Pluto is the archetype that depicts the underworld, i.e., our demons and deepest fears. Pluto is: traveling to the depth of darkness and despair. Pluto also is: resurfacing renewed and transformed, worlds stronger and more resilient. Your fear is gone because there is nothing left to fear, and that, in a nutshell, is what is behind the empowerment we speak of when we speak of Pluto energy.
Pluto symbolizes the breaking down or destruction of something and the regeneration that follows.
Yes, exactly what you are thinking: Yikes.
In my 2nd house, the house that symbolizes income, possessions, values and self-worth, Pluto is working his way through, having his way with me. This transit through the 2nd house is more significant and intense for me because that is where my Sun, Mercury, and Venus live. The Sun represents the core of who you are, while Mercury reflects your mind and communication style, and Venus your relationships and environment.
This is what happened when Pluto went mano a mano with my Sun and personal planets, through my 2nd house:
My mother was diagnosed with liver cancer.
I lost my main source of work/income and community, due to the pandemic. The closure of the yoga studio I taught and worked at for years, and with it the community that had become an integral part of my life, happened just a few months before the worst of my mom’s illness.
I cleaned house, getting rid of everything that felt superfluous.
I moved from my apartment, which I owned with the help of a guy I was in an undefined relationship with for way too long; someone who ultimately added to my feelings of being stuck and overlooked.
Finally, after many failed attempts, I cut the cord on said undefined relationship/situationship.
In the weeks leading up to my mother’s death, I half carried half dragged my frail (formerly strong/active) mother to the bathroom, holding her up on the toilet, redressing her like a child, begging her to let go of the towel bar she was clinging to so we could “move forward” and get her back into bed.
Calvary was the next stop on our hell ride: the creepy and nightmarish (sorry to those who feel differently) Catholic hospice, in the Bronx, where people go to die. The window in my mother’s room looked out to a dank, abandoned parking lot, the kind where I imagined people getting murdered. I know Calvary is considered one of the good ones, as far as hospices go, but it is cold and sterile and ugly (not cozy or home-y) and it felt, for me, devastating and heartbreaking to leave my mother there. Numbness was the main ingredient that got me through each day (and my family and friends – so much gratitude for them). Two and half weeks felt like two and half months, as I watched my mother suffer in the silence; with Pluto in her 12th house and a Capricorn moon, my mother did not express emotion easily, or at all for that matter.
Each evening before bed, I obsessively checked and doublechecked the phone numbers filed in my “favorites,” so that calls from my mom, the hospice, and my brother would come through (I had to shut the rest of the world out). Adrenaline shot through me each morning, and I almost needed to catch my breath as I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that my mother was dying, alone, in a hospice – a place I did not know existed a few weeks prior to the ambulance dropping her there, and a place I pray I will never return to.
Because this was during the pandemic, visiting hours were limited; we were allowed to be with her for only four hours/day, starting at 1 pm, and there was only one person allowed in her room at a time. We took turns waiting outside, on a bench, while one of us sat with her, staring at the TV or the photographs of family we had taped to the wall, which confused her — “Let’s take those down,” she’d say, looking for her travel bag.
Finally, her organs gave up. She was barely able to hold her head up as she struggled for each breath. I will never forget the sound of her body attempting to pull in the last drops of oxygen. As difficult as this was to witness, there was relief in knowing that her suffering was easing up, that she was fading away from reality and less aware of her dire circumstances.
We received the call from the hospice late on the evening of October 5th. I knew it was coming but I still wasn’t prepared; I had told myself I had one last day to say goodbye. I paced around my mom’s home (where I had been staying), as I struggled to get air in my lungs — it reminded me of my mother’s laborious breaths earlier that day, the last day of her life, and also the way I used to cry for her when when I was a child. She worked full-time when I was young and my sweet grandmother took care of me; it was like I had amnesia each morning as the tears came and Yiayia reminded me that mommy had left for work. I loved my grandmother with all my heart but I was desperate for my mother; no one compared to her. Our relationship had been unstable since I was born (my mother was either distracted by her dysfunctional marriage or working full-time to make up for my father’s gambling habit) and it created deep anxiety and fear of separation within me, which I was revisiting now in its most extreme form. I was being left behind. The finality of it felt something like claustrophobia. My mother was gone and I would never speak to her again. Just like that, she had left the planet.
In the days that followed, I had the task, with the help of my mother’s sister, of cleaning out her home. My mom had a lot of stuff neatly packed away in her closets and drawers, and it was overwhelming when I realized how much there was to go through; it was remarkable how much she managed to store in a one-bedroom apartment. She had never gone through the process of clearing out things from the past, things she didn’t need or was not going to use. She held onto it all with the fantasy that she (or I) would use it “some day” (e.g., fancy chinaware and glasses, my beautiful baby clothes). Some day. A phrase she used often when she referred to my future, even though I was past the age of a “some day.”
When we realized that my mom’s health was declining fast, my brother and sister-in-law drove to my mom’s home with my 4 year old niece, 2 year old nephew, and brand new baby nephew. My niece and nephew were playing in my mother’s bedroom while my mother lay on the bed. My niece, Giuliana, peeked under the bed and slid out a big clear bin. “What’s in here, Yiayia?” she asked as she opened it. Before my mom could answer, Giuliana was removing the delicate and ancient little garments that I had worn in my baby years (my mother worked for a French fashion company when I was little). She had stored them all of these years with the hope, I imagine, that I would have a daughter. Giuliana giggled and threw the clothing around as she dug further into the bin. I tried to explain that they had been mine, but one look at my mother’s face stopped me. I saw in her eyes the pain of lost time, the realization that “some day” would never come. We would have no happy ending. My mom, who used denial as her main defense mechanism throughout most of her adult life, could not handle this right now, I could see. I pretended everything was fine, but inwardly my heart was shattering and I was on my knees sobbing. I grabbed the top to the box and said, “Let’s put this back,” glancing at my mother, who nodded quietly and said, “Yes, let’s put them back.”
Also stored under the bed and in the closets were boxes and boxes full of memorabilia. I spent many nights reading, with tears running down my face, old letters, notes, and postcards … many of them were cards and drawings I made for her when I was a child. I pored through old photographs for hours at a time, texting friends and family the gems I found, laughing and crying. I spent a season sorting through it all, processing an entire lifetime and the end of one of the most defining relationships of my life: the mother/child bond.
It was, in Pluto fashion, a necessary process.
As I made my way down memory lane, I remembered the adoration and pure love I had for my mom when I was a child. It was all coming back to me. But as I grew, and by the time I reached my young adult years, I had accumulated a boat load of anger and resentment toward her (join the club, right?). My mother’s disappointments and anger at staying in life situation that wasn’t right for her overshadowed everything in her life, including me. When I was young, she did not support or encourage me in the way a child ideally needs to be because, as I understand it now, she was not fulfilled in her own life. Instead of support, I received criticism that weighed on my shoulders and dragged me down, and because my mom presented a cheerful face to the world, no one saw this or would have suspected it. It was confusing. My mother and I share a Neptune Moon in our composite chart, and Neptune is a symbol for things appearing differently than they actually are — it also rules compassion, idealism, and spirituality.
My mom’s 12th house (symbolizing things that are hidden) Pluto (depth, truth) and Capricorn (stoic, strong) Moon (feelings) made it difficult for her to express emotions or, even, to discuss sensitive or intimate issues; we never had an honest or “real” conversation about anything that went down in our family life, or really at all for that matter; most of our conversations revolved around practical matters and surface issues, or other people’s affairs (a diversion). All the dysfunction and pain of our family life (which included guns, hospitals, and homeless shelters at the worst stage of it) was brushed under the proverbial rug. And like a Roto-Rooter, Pluto has the job of clearing that shi* out.
Pluto is also the symbol for abuse and power. My mother’s only outlet for her anger was in her home, so my brother and I received the brunt of her emotional turmoil (raging over something accidentally breaking, for example), which was hidden (12 house) from anyone outside the home — her Leo Rising personality was sunny and warm. Needless to say, my relationship with my mom was complex with unresolved emotions and issues simmering under the surface. Throughout my entire life, I felt the weight of my mother’s disappointments, her unfulfilled hopes and dreams and talents, represented by my Capricorn Sun; we mountain goats often hold the weight of the world on our shoulders. I made myself small in response to her emotional needs, which I felt on an intuitive level (that joint Neptune Moon).
The process I was going through now was helping me to release what I was holding, energetically, for my mother. It was also a way of reclaiming my personal power.
When I was ready, I bagged up all the photos and letters and cards, saving a few special ones and taking photos of many of the other ones I was discarding. My friend/the undefined relationship guy (mentioned earlier) couldn’t understand why I was getting rid of my mom’s stuff, especially photographs and memorabilia. He thought I could keep it all, but that is not what you are meant to do during a Pluto transit. I could not shove things back under the bed; putting stuff back into storage and holding onto it would have been like drinking poison. As I packed stuff up and brought it to my car for my next donation/recycling/garbage run, the heavy energy was palpable. I felt irritated and angry and stuck with the stuff in my car. It was overwhelming, suffocating, and icky. After dropping the bags off, my whole body and being felt lighter — it was a big, fat relief.
Pluto is about rites of passage. It symbolizes a cleansing and healing process. As I let go of these items that my mother was attached to (due to regret, sorrow, and fear), I was freeing up space in my own heart and life.
When my mother was dying and I helped her through those last excruciating weeks of her life, I experienced the most important rite of passage of my life. It was horrifying and life-shattering. The saddest and hardest thing I have ever faced. During the worst of her illness, I had an emotional breakdown on my way to the store to buy her chocolate protein drinks (the only thing she could still, partially, consume). I said a silent prayer to my father, who had died several years earlier, to help me through the next weeks so I could take care of my mother. After that, a calm washed over me and I was able to put one foot in front of the other, to do what I needed to to get through the worst experience of my life.
I have been fearful most of my life of suffering and I think, similarly to my mother, I have avoided situations or important experiences, including intimacy, because of this. Pluto brought me face to face with my fears.
Pluto is death. It is also rebirth.
I cleaned out my own closets, next; an easier process than the task of cleaning my mom’s closets because I had been through the process a few times already at pivotal stages in my life, however there was still a lot I didn’t realize I was holding onto, and also things I had left at my mother’s home which I had forgotten about. I went through the last of “my stuff,” whittling it down to the essentials: everything else was going the way of the dumpster (or Green Drop, as it were).
Next, I moved from my apartment, which I owned with the help of the aforementioned guy. Moving from the apartment was like severing ties with him energetically and the first step in moving on from a relationship/situation that was dragging me down. I knew I was worthy of so much more than he was giving me (basically nothing) but old habits die hard and there were elements of “anxious attachment” (a field of research on relationship dynamics) and addiction in this bond. As Taylor Swift wrote, “[he] kept me like a secret, but I kept [him] like an oath.”
So at the ripe age of 43, I was starting from scratch.
Pluto burns away what you no longer need … right down to the very core of your being.
Uranus has been transiting my natal moon for the past few years, which also symbolizes the separation (Uranus) from my mother (Moon) and freedom (Uranus) from the past (Moon). There are typically a few significant transits happening at once during pivotal times in life that symbolize and reflect the events you are experiencing.
I have nearly one more year of the Pluto Transit. Pluto is a slow-moving outer planet so his journeys are long. But Pluto is now on the other side of my Sun and personal planets, meaning the God of the Underworld is starting to move past the natal degrees of my Sun, Venus, and Mercury, so he will perhaps be more gentle for the next several months, as I make the rest of the necessary changes to move forward with my life (one can only hope). *Addendum: I forgot when I wrote this part that Pluto was soon to move into his Retrograde phase (April 28 – Oct. 8, 2022), and so as Pluto moves backward he will hit my Sun and Venus again (oh boy) before he finally makes his way forward. Pray for me. 🙂
Because Pluto moves so slowly through the zodiac, you only experience his powerful presence in certain areas of your natal chart, life, and psyche.
If you are facing a Pluto transit, hold on … but know that, ultimately, you are learning how to let go.
When I sit for meditation, my mind resists for a time, bouncing from one topic to the next. On a good day, my mind eventually settles and stills. I begin to feel grounded in my body, connected to a world beyond my meandering thoughts and ‘small self,’ i.e., the self that is only concerned with details, issues and problems. In this more expansive state of mind, rebel thoughts pop in to test me, but the space around them is bigger now and I am at peace, i.e., the thoughts no longer have a grip on me and I am not as invested in them.
When I sit down to write, I am purging my thoughts and feeling (sorry, computer screen). It feels messy at first. I am not always sure where, if anywhere, the writing is headed and, in some cases, what it is even about on a universal or bigger picture level. As I continue to write and craft my piece, I begin to see something that wasn’t there before, like an etching. I am connecting the dots; the life experiences I write about begin to make more sense and take on a deeper meaning. This process of organizing my thoughts and feelings helps me to get in touch with the big emotions stirring in me; in the Astrology world, I am a Scorpio Ascendant and if you know anything about this sign you know we feel deeply but tend to keep our feelings inside, hesitant to express them. Writing feels like a safe place to express.
As I move into the polishing stage, I feel a writing “high,” like the space that opens when I meditate. The writing process creates objectivity around a situation or experience that I was enmeshed in. As I complete a piece of writing, it is a ceremony of freeing stuff I was holding onto that was, undoubtedly, creating holding patterns in my mind and body.
Like a fire ritual, with each essay I write, I throw my emotional baggage into the flames and watch it burn.
The operating system of my Mac, the tech told me, did not have enough internal space. It was stuck. It could not go back to the old operating system but it also could not go forward. My only option was to delete the old operating system, with all the rows of folders, full of e-papers, and everything else the laptop had accumulated over the years. My heart sped up. I took off my sweater. I thought of all the essays I had been working on and various documents and the photographs … all the stuff.
I had no choice if I wanted a working computer, so I calmly said, “Yes, let’s go ahead and do that.”
It started a week ago. I began a Kundalini yoga practice to clear out “stuck” emotions and the past. I have been working on this, on and off, for years. I’ve cleaned out my closets and simplified my life, and although I have made progress and significant changes, I’ve been holding onto the past in a few forms, such as relationships with unavailable people and overeating/overindulging, which started when I was young. Food and gifts and goodies got wired together in my brain with, you guessed it, love (and, I think, security and safety). I developed an insatiable need for more … more delicious food (even though I was stuffed), more sweets (one dessert at night was never enough, even though my body was telling me it could not handle the sugar), more nice things, like expensive clothing (even if my bank account was in a precarious place). In a nut shell, dysfunctional behavior. It was all in an unconscious attempt to connect to a feeling of being loved and not alone (in the lonely sense), which starts with feeling that L-word for yourself (that’s Chiron in Taurus in my Astrology chart, for those who care :)).
I was able to transform many of my self-defeating habits, like spending on clothing and things I didn’t need. After some time with a consistent yoga/meditative practice, it became clear that shopping and constantly searching for something to fill the void wasn’t bringing me joy and, if anything, was making me unhappy. Instead, I focused on practices that were nourishing me, like yoga and walks/hikes in nature and connecting genuinely with people on a similar path (for so many years, I was in hiding, disconnected from myself, others, and the world).
So, last summer, motivated by my mother’s death, I took a look at some of the habits I was still holding onto and how they keep me stuck in patterns that stunt forward movement in a positive direction.
After the devastating experience of witnessing my mom become sicker and sicker due to tumors in her liver and all the chemicals to try to slow down the process, I decided to “get serious” about my health. I have, for most of my life, been fortunate to eat well, to enjoy fresh food, starting with my grandparents’ big vegetable garden in our backyard (my childhood roots), and I care about my health (hell, I have certifications in Ayurveda Counseling and Yoga), but I also have the aforementioned overindulgent gene, plus a mean sweet tooth that comes out at night. The witching hour.
Last June, the month of my mother’s birthday, I finally changed my eating habits.
In the Ayurvedic system, your individual constitution, or body-type, determines which foods and daily practices are most supportive and balancing for you, so what works for me may not be the exact right fit for you. Traditionally, the Vata (or air element) Dosha, which is one of my primary Doshas, does well with a little meat and dairy, but as mentioned above, due to our chemical-laden commercial food system and, also, for ethical reasons (how animals are treated and the effect on the environment) I cut way down; I tried to cut them out entirely, but when I have too many dietary restrictions I feel confined and start to rebel, so I settled for having meat and dairy every once in a while and doing my best to eat organic, grass-fed, etc. when I do.
The dietary and lifestyle changes I’ve made have lead to happier mornings. I used to say “I am not a morning person,” but that was in large part due to abusing my body the night before; I was depleted, fatigued and unfocused, from all the refined sugar and also eating more than my poor system could handle. In the practice of Ayurveda, eating when you are not hungry is one of the worst things you can do. I have more energy now than I’ve had in a very long time — maybe ever. I slip up, now and again, and go back to my old ways, but, mostly, it just serves as a reminder that I don’t want to feel stuffed and heavy, anymore. I am done with that state of being. Being stuffed is a way to not feel, to avoid and numb out … the same as a drug. These days, I’d rather feel clear and light enough to do a meditation before bed, or at least feel good/balanced when I go to sleep.
About a week into my kundalini program, which is, basically, intensive breath-work along with movement, I was feeling a shift — brighter. Then stuff starting coming to the surface. Old stuff. Rejection. I had a dream about waiting in line for coffee; I was last in line and got the last, not even full, cup of cruddy, muddy looking coffee. I stared it, wondering, what the heck happened to that poor cup o’ Joe. I accepted the coffee, after waiting so long for it, even though I wasn’t sure I could drink it. In the same dream, I became aware that I was purposely not invited to a party, or gathering, that my friends were having; I felt excluded and betrayed. I am conjuring up one of my favorite childhood books here, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible Very bad, No Good, Very Bad Day). Next, I was at work, at a store; customers had come behind the counter, in my space, without asking; they were blow-drying their hair and putting on makeup, and being loud and disrespectful, even though they knew I was trying to work and that they didn’t belong there. I asked them to leave and said there was a bathroom down the hall where they could do their primping. All of these strange, seemingly disjointed events seem to be pointing to getting the raw end of the deal or short end of the stick, as they say, and a need to value myself and affirm stronger boundaries (the root cause of the self-defeating habits and my Taurus/Chiron combo, which is also connected to my moon and sun, by the way.).
Simultaneously, and for the last several months, my website was under attack. I was receiving multiple emails, weekly, from my website security app. that indicated someone or something was attempting to log into my site from various IP addresses; they’d try, over and over, and get locked out and then try again the next day or week. They’d been at it for many months, determined to “break the code.” I mostly ignored it because I didn’t want to spend extra money for a website I wasn’t utilizing, but I changed my password frequently in hopes that I was a few steps ahead of the hackers.
The day before my operating system deletion, I decided to strengthen my website security once in for all; be gone with you, pesky hackers. I had started writing blogs again and I have been working hard on them, so I didn’t want some a-holes holding my writing for ransom. I called Go Daddy and added a firewall. Take that.
The operating system, the tech told me, did not have enough internal space. “You mean the only way is to delete everything on my computer?”
“Yes, I’m very sorry, she replied, her voice was small and quiet, as if someone had died.
The only way out was a new system. A wipe-out.
I assumed I had lost everything and wasn’t able to fully comprehend in the moment what that meant, and even though I was anxious and knew I might be devastated later in the day, I also felt, weirdly, excited and ready.
My prior desktop was filled with rows of folders, many of them filled with documents I had not opened in many years. Now I stared at a blank and unfamiliar screen. I opened icloud and discovered that most of my essays and important documents were saved there. I pressed my hand to chest. Whew. All of that work on so many essays, over many years, had not vanished. My apps were gone, however, including my Astrology app. that I use to create natal charts (after two inquiries to the company I still haven’t been able to retrieve it, but that is “a small price” compared to what I thought I had lost).
I have the sense of a clean slate when I look at my new blank desktop, and I am hesitant to save anything to it; I like the look of it.
My next project is to go through my documents on icloud and, slowly but surely, delete everything I no longer need.
This is nothing new, but what the Sam Hill, Autocorrect?! Why do you insist on changing common words in my text threads, like “about,” and “for” to less used words like “snout,” and “fir?” I don’t think I have ever used the word snout in a text thread, or fir for that matter.
That said, on a more esoteric level, I sometimes think spirit is trying to talk to me through autocorrect — Yes, I really do.
About a month after my mother passed in 2020, I was texting a friend. I don’t remember what I was writing but when I looked at my text after I had sent it, it read “Rest Firstborn.”
Never have I ever used that phrase, and my text was not even vaguely related to those words.
I am the firstborn: I have a younger brother. Just a month prior, I experienced the most intense and prolonged crisis of my life; I took care of my mother in the two month’s before she died of liver cancer. Physically and emotionally drained does not even touch on what I was feeling; it was as if my nerves had short-circuited … which is weird because autocorrect, after her passing, was also changing common words in my text messages to “fire.” I started to worry that I should be on alert for a fire.
The other correction that happened consistently and for so many months that I finally paid attention to it, was: “and” to “abs.” I sighed, Ok spirit guide or mom or whoever you are, What are you trying to tell me? Do I need to work on my abs?
But seriously, I did.
In the chakra system, the 3rd one, or the solar plexus, is connected to personal power/empowerment and manifesting goals (and dreams) on the physical plane — two themes that have alluded me in my life. I am working on this now with a deeper yoga practice that focuses on pranayama (breath exercises) and core work: kundalini.
My mom, I believe, had trapped emotions in this region of her body that she was unable to clear out and release; she held onto anger and shame, I believe. She didn’t have an outlet for expressing emotions, which I think she had learned at a young age were inappropriate or could get you in big trouble.
Like mother like daughter, as they say, but fortunately I have the practices of creative writing and yoga that help me to connect with my emotions. I am working (as noted above) on the clearing part.
As I do inner work to free up unresolved emotions and energetic “stuff” that keeps me stuck, I feel that I am doing it for both of us — if you read me, mom, send a sign (via autocorrect). 🙂
So my dear autocorrect, even though, I admit, they irritate me, if you have any other “corrections” send them on through. I am listening.
But can you cool it on “fir” please?
I’m a Capricorn, so that makes me a child of Saturn (Saturn rules Capricorn, and co-rules Aquarius).
One of my favorite Astrology books is called Ruling Planets by Christopher Renstrom. It has beautiful illustrations — it’s a big book. He devotes a chapter to each Ruling Planet, e.g.,”Child of The Sun,” “Child of the Moon,” and uses mythology, stories, and examples to describe each “child.” At the end of each chapter, there’s a section on the Retrograde placement. If you are a Child of the Sun or Moon your “planet” does not go retrograde (lucky you), but for everyone else there is the possibility your ruling planet was in its retrograde phase when you were born, and so the interpretation for that planet changes a bit – it’s kind of inside-out, as I like to say. For example, if Saturn “direct” represents hard work and effort, Saturn Retrograde natives may feel that something or someone is working against their best efforts. They may be tempted to give up; giving up (in the face of overwhelming limitations) can be themes for Saturn Rx, but for all children of Saturn (retrograde or direct) there is the nagging need to keep going – it’s almost as if giving up is not an option. And, so, you get up, dust yourself off and try, try again.
Saturn, besides being the planet of hard knocks, stands for long-lasting success – the success of truly fulfilling life-work that you have worked hard for. So, my Saturn Rx children, hang in there because for us it takes longer and there are more delays, no doubt; we’ve got it two-fold, or a double whammy as my mom used to say; Saturns itself is about delays AND the retrograde energy is indicative of delays and do-overs … and, yet, we are as strong as nails, patient and resourceful; we find a way around all those roadblocks thrown in our path.
In the book, Stephen Hawking is used as an example for Child of Saturn with Saturn Retrograde. I came across a Stephen Hawking quote, one day, that resonated with me and I brought it with me to read in my yoga class. As I read his words aloud, my voice caught and if I hadn’t been in a room full of people expecting me to lead a class, I would have started crying like a baby. I hadn’t expected this.
The quote was from an interview in which Hawking was asked how he felt about his life, meaning his physical limitations. If you’re not familiar with his disease, he had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes all of one’s muscles to atrophy. He was confined to a wheelchair from a young age, and he communicated through a computer and a voice synthesizer and, later when he lost the use of his hands, he moved the muscles in his face to communicate.
His answer to how he felt about life with a a progressive neurodegenerative disease: “Who could have asked for more?”
It hits me in the core every time I read it. Who could have asked for more.
There is something in his experience I can relate to. His answer exemplifies, perfectly, the child of Saturn Retrograde; he was dealt a difficult hand, one that there was seemingly no way out of, and yet he not only learned to work with his physical limitations but he transcended them in that he found great peace and fulfillment in his life’s work. He also lived for an astoundingly long time with this disease, beating the odds. There are different interpretations and explanations of why he may have been able to live so long. Saturn is about hardship and, also, longevity, success, and fulfillment .. even, and especially, if Saturn is retrograde in your chart.
In my Natal Chart, Pisces is on the cusp of my 4th house, meaning this watery and creative sign flavors this aspect of life. The houses of your natal chart represent different sections of the sky and, on a personal level, your life.
The 4th house symbolizes home and family. It also represents emotions and childhood memories. I am extremely sensitive to my environment — Pisces is a highly intuitive and sensitive energy — and especially any negativity in the home; it’s almost unbearable for me. My home is creative, aesthetically speaking (colors, design), and I love living and being near water; I feel “at home” when I visit the ocean. Each sign is associated with an element and Pisces is a water sign. Neptune rules the ocean.
There was addiction and confusion and, even, deception in my childhood home. Pisces symbolizes addictions and things that are hidden or hard to decipher.
What sign is on the cusp of your 4th house? If you are not that familiar with your natal chart, the sign that rules each house is dependent on your Ascendent (AKA Rising) Sign. It is an insightful and fun exercise to look at which sign is flavoring each house or aspect of your life.
Do you ever wonder why it is considered appropriate to ask a stranger if they have kids? Or, worse yet, why they don’t have kids? Imagine asking someone you have just met if she or he has caught their spouse cheating recently? You wouldn’t do it because that’s considered personal. I am here to tell you that so is asking a stranger if they are a mother.
Consider this: you ask someone who has lost a child, had a miscarriage or abortion, or someone who desperately wants to have children but can’t. I recognize that if we become too cautious about asking questions it might be hard to “make conversation,” since many topics can hit on sensitive or vulnerable spots … but can we all agree that small talk is the pits anyway?
I think: 1. we can get more creative if we want to strike up a conversation, and 2. If obliged to talk and you don’t know what to say, just stick with the trusty ole’ weather. Yeah, it’s a terrible topic but it beats being asked an intrusive question by someone you don’t know. Also, as Bex Main expresses in her article, “Please, please stop asking: “Do you have children?”, someone who has a child will generally bring that up early in the conversation anyway, so the question, in many cases, is unnecessary.
A young woman with a baby came into a shop I was working at. I typically enjoy chatting with people but the dynamic between us felt slightly off, for whatever reason … we didn’t hit it off. As I was ringing up her sale, she randomly asked, “Do you have kids?” I paused, thinking where did that come from? We weren’t talking about children or anything related to children, so the question wasn’t natural or at all necessary in terms of our interaction. It felt a little like a jab.
Instead of saying “No,” which often leads to an awkward moment of silence, I answered that I have a niece and nephews. When people ask me about my child-bearing status, I like to use it as an opportunity to whip out photos of my fur babies (sorry ya asked now, aren’t ya?) — in a few cases, the question asker looked at me like I had just shared a photo of my private parts (not an animal lover, I see). I digress.
The Millennial with her baby replied, in a high pitched voice, “That’s the best!” perhaps, recognizing that it wasn’t “the best” question to ask. My niece and nephews ARE the best (no prejudice here). They love me a lot and I them. That said, the “kids” question can be a sensitive one, and in that moment it was for me.
The thing is: I am not heartbroken over not having children … but I am not, let’s say, in the place I imagined I’d be at “this age.” I’m in my 40s (I think I might be in denial), unmarried, and in a career transition/crisis. Lately, I feel like the odd man out wherever I go, not quite fitting into any situation. I lost my work and community during Covid, as well as my mother to cancer. Some of friendships faded while other older friendships have grown stale. I feel isolated and unsure of my next steps, so I am in a somewhat vulnerable situation, emotionally speaking. And the thought has crossed my mind that if I had been able to get my life together, so to speak, maybe I would have loved being a mom, and that makes me a little sad … but, then, another part of me thinks, pretty resolutely, that motherhood is not my destiny in this lifetime and I even cringe a little at the idea of domestic life (my Astrology chart seems to agree), and believe I can enjoy and connect with little people, in a more fulfilling way (for me), by teaching them yoga and mindfulness.
This is all to say that the kids question usually rolls off me, especially if the person asks in a kind or interested way, which I’d say the majority of people do, but on this day it did not feel that way. The question felt intrusive and a little judgmental. To give the benefit of the doubt (which is always a nice thing to do) maybe she really was just trying to make conversation and it came across the wrong way; either way, the irritation I felt in that moment caused me to write a Facebook post that generated some heartfelt, insightful, and humorous responses, causing me to reflect on the bigger picture of women’s roles/identities and why we (and probably men too) are constantly and indiscriminately asked this question when we reach a “certain age,” as well as other inappropriate status questions.
A man I went to high school with, who recently got married, responded to my facebook post. He said, before he got engaged it was: “When are you getting married?” When he got married, in came: “What took you so long?” Now that he is married, he is interrogated by the baby police.
We all put the proverbial foot in the mouth at times, and, god knows, I am no exception to this rule. I tend to get nervous when I’m “on the spot” and sometimes blurt out strange or awkward things that don’t quite make sense, so I don’t mean to sound judgmental or criticize someone who is just trying to make an honest connection. Words are not always easy to string together and sometimes they don’t adequately reflect what we want or are trying to say. I get that. Here comes the big “that said” … That said, there are also simply nosey parker people asking nosey parker questions, and to these people I say, stop that! As I said to my mom once, who asked my friend who had recently gotten married when the babies were due to arrive, get a hobby! I understand that it can be “a generational thing;” my friend loved my mom, who did mean well (as we like to say), but I could tell she was also uncomfortable and didn’t know how to respond; her husband was tentative about having kids, so it was absolutely a personal subject that she probably did not even have the answer to. Let us leave behind these “conversation starters” and nosey questions with the yesteryear. After all, how would the same person feel if you asked him or her, “Are you divorced?”, “When are you getting divorced?” or “What took you so long?”
And if all else fails, when someone asks if you have kids or why you don’t have them, you can take a line from The Onion and answer, “It’s not child-bearing season.”
This is an old email, I resurrected, to my friend Aimee. I was working at a mind-numbing temp job in a finance office and my only source of inspiration and connection was emailing with Aimee. I walked by a man’s cubicle and saw a picture of a rainbow taped on his cubicle wall. The Crayola words read something like, “Dear Daddy, You and Mommy are the best parents in the whole world.” I recalled my own love notes to my mom when I was a kid and all the resentment I now harbored toward my parents. But at the time it was, “I love you so so so much” and “I can’t wait to see you and our baby (my brother) after school.” That got me thinking: today it’s the rainbow and tomorrow (or in several years) it’s “Dear Daddy, you and Mommy ruined my life. I hate you!”
When you’re a kid your parents walk on water. Whether or not they deserve it, you idealize them until you slowly understand what the heck really went down. I don’t have kids but I thought about how hard that must be for parents, especially ones that earnestly tried to be supportive and loving parents … one day it’s all over and they hate your guts, or at the very least they are painfully embarrassed of you. If things weren’t too dysfunctional, give it another ten or so years and you will hopefully be back in the good graces.
Deep thoughts. You’re welcome. 🙂
For the love of god, will men on Bumble PLEASE stop asking: “How is/was your day/Tuesday/Wednesday. etc.?” How about this? My day just got a little worse because you are so painfully boring (or just lazy?) that you can’t think of anything to say besides, How was your day? Just take a glance at the profile and, voila, there is a world full of conversation starters in there. If you truly cannot think of anything else to say consider taking a course in interpersonal skills. That is all.
Addendum: There is also a tendency on dating apps to scratch out the face of another person in the photo; while I understand the privacy concern, consider that the black e-marker haphazardly scribbled over a person’s face looks creepy. The better bet is to crop the photo (or I have seen emojjis in place of faces, which is cute and slightly less creepy). Just sayin’. 🙂
When I was a kid, my best friend, Allison, and I had a prank calling side hustle, a passion project if you will. These were the days before Caller ID and cell=phones. We set up shop in my brother’s bedroom — he was the only one with two phone jacks in his room. With two phones, we could both listen in.
One of our favorite pranks was telling people they were a part of a nation-wide contest: if they could list all 31 Baskin Flavors flavors in 60 seconds they would win a prize. The prank callee, if they hadn’t already hung up, would frantically blurt out flavors, at which point we could not hold in our howls and they would usually catch on and angrily hang up, but one time someone successfully listed all the flavors and Allison announced: “You are the proud new owner of a matching shower curtain and shower cap!” I have no idea how she came up with that one but, because it was so random, it sent us rolling on the floor with laughter — it still makes me laugh, I admit.
After the booby prize notification, I think the “poor devil” (as my mom used to say) probably hung up. I can’t recall, but I do remember that we devoted many weekends to our hobby of annoying people.
Allison and I always kept ourselves entertained. One day, we decided to turn everything in my mother’s kitchen upside-down, from items on the counter tops to pictures hanging on the wall to salt and pepper shakers: everything. When my mom came home later that day, we proudly announced that we were celebrating The Day of Upside Down-ness and presented our exhibit. My poor mother, who was not usually in the mood for a prank, sighed angrily: I think her life already felt “upside down,” so the last thing she needed was to come home to a literally upside down kitchen.
Random thought of the day: Do you ever get confused by the “love” feature on Facebook? For example, you “love” a few comments on a post you wrote but then as you are “loving away” you pause, unsure if you should love or like the next comment, which may be more in the “liking” realm and you don’t want to use “love” in vain (or be creepy for that matter), but you also do not want the commenter to feel unloved and only liked … what a dilemma. #sensitivepeopleproblems
Addendum: I was recently part of an online community and one of the founders “loved” most comments and questions, seemingly indiscriminately, so on the rare occasion he “liked’ a post I wondered if something was wrong.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, you may be feeling overwhelmed. News that you have a long-term illness or disease can be shocking and disorienting for anyone, and it’s essential to process your thoughts and emotions while giving yourself grace along the way.
Once you begin to cope with your diagnosis, you will want to start thinking of maintaining your quality of life. From evaluating your budget to adjusting your lifestyle to nurturing your relationships, consider these practical tips from Nicole Athena:
Change Your Budget
Depending on your specific illness, you may need to make room in your budget for medical bills, home modifications, and other changes. Take a close look at your monthly budget so that you can make any adjustments necessary and leave more room for saving for unexpected costs.
Sometimes, it is as easy as finding less expensive alternatives or canceling subscriptions and memberships that you rarely use. You may also consider learning some new recipes so that you can reduce your monthly dining out expenses.
If you adjust your budget and still find that you need more funds for medical care or home modifications, another option is to refinance your home. This means replacing your current mortgage with a new one with a higher balance. You can cash out the difference between your refinance home loan and old loan to keep handy for any needs that come up related to your chronic condition.
Adapt Your Lifestyle
Chances are, you will need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle to accommodate your chronic condition. The best approach is to view yourself as your health and wellness manager.
For instance, make sure you keep up with any treatment plan and prescribed medications to maintain your quality of life. Don’t miss any of your scheduled doctor appointments, even if it means using phone alerts or a paper calendar to remember. And remember to take practical self-care steps, such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and prioritizing your sleep.
Depending on your illness, you may need to speak with your doctor and research different types of exercise movements that can allow you to stay active and healthy without exacerbating symptoms. And if you have trouble falling and staying asleep, try other bedtime routines to help your body and mind unwind and relax.
Reduce Your Stress
Along with fostering your eating, exercising, and sleeping habits, make sure you are actively reducing stress in your daily life. Find a calming activity that you can look forward to every day, whether it’s first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or after you get home from work. Many individuals diagnosed with a chronic illness find that picking up a new hobby can go a long way in helping them manage stress.
Express Your Thoughts and Emotions
Your illness will likely disrupt your life and plans, which has a way of invoking various thoughts and emotions. Each day, take time to reflect on your overall well-being. Keep tabs on any grief, fear, depression, stress, or any other emotions you are feeling. Then, find an outlet for expressing your thoughts and feelings.
Exercising is a great start. Listening to your favorite music, cooking, writing in a journal, maintaining close relationships, reading about topics of interest, and an array of other activities can help too.
Manage Your Relationships
Finally, you will need others around you to support you as you navigate the challenges that come with your chronic illness. Depending on your specific condition, you might not have quite as much time or energy to put into socializing with friends or relatives. However, do your best to maintain your most important relationships and don’t hesitate to explain your challenges to others.
Being diagnosed with a chronic health condition is not easy, but you must fight the temptation to allow your illness to define your everyday life. Consider the tips above as you review your budget, make the necessary lifestyle changes, and find stress-reducing activities to incorporate into your routine. And remember to identify outlets for expressing your thoughts and emotions and maintain your closest relationships.
April Meyers, a huge advocate of embracing the mind-body connection. She teaches yoga full time to help her students nurture both their physical and emotional health, and she created Mind Body Health Solution to support people far and wide in their wellness journey.
As you know, from my last blog post Mercury was rewinding through Sagittarius, which rules faith, optimism, and the ability to see the bigger picture and opportunities.
As of Saturday, December 1st, Mercury Rx has shifted into the deep Scorpio waters, and will toggle back into Sagittarius on Thursday, December 13th.
Mercury Rx is a period for reassessing and re-evaluating, and your attention may shift now to Scorpio matters: shared resources, other people’s money (including bank loans, mortgages, stocks/bonds, etc.), intimacy/relationships, releasing clutter, freeing yourself of emotional baggage from the past, esoteric subjects and detective work/research (e.g., psychology, astrology, mythology, tarot), rebirth/transformation. Scorpio energy lends itself well to focused, intensive work, and “digging beneath the surface” for meaning. Since Mercury is in Retrograde, any projects or subjects you are focused on will likely be connected to something from the past, or you are re-starting something you began or have wanted to begin.
Scorpio, as most of you know and have heard me say, is an intense sign. I should know: it’s my Rising Sign :). We, Scorpios, are not fearful of diving deep and uncovering sensitive issues (of course this varies with each natal chart) because something in the Scorpio personality understands that in order to heal, in order to be empowered, and move forward in life unencumbered by heavy emotional baggage, s(he) needs to first face this “baggage” aka demons.
You cannot free yourself of emotional baggage without the first step of facing and acknowledging what is there. Because of this “Roto Rooter” quality, Scorpios are the most misunderstood sign of the zodiac: people, usually, will either “love or hate” a Scorpio and feelings toward them may fluctuate wildly. Most people don’t want to “look at their stuff,” and for this reason the Scorpio person can seem (usually on a subconscious level) threatening and will even be scapegoated. These are all themes to be aware of with Mercury and Venus in this powerful sign.
Venus will be in Scorpio from Sunday, December 2nd through Monday, January 7th. Venus rules, to put it simply, love, beauty, and money–this includes one-on-one relationships (romantic, friendship, business partnerships, and so on), self-love, self-esteem and your ability to receive love, earned income/the money you make for the work you do in the world. With Venus moving back into Scorpio, after her Retrograde period (which ended on November 15th, however we are still in the Venus Rx Shadow period through December 17th), issues/themes that come up now will, likely, be connected to the recent Venus in Scorpio Rx transit; for instance, there may be final pieces coming together in your process of resolving old wounds when it comes to matters of the heart.
To re-cap, Scorpio rules Rebirth and Transformation and Venus symbolizes our relationships and ability to give and receive love; when Venus Rx was in Scorpio, ancient issues connected to love and self-esteem may have resurfaced. Now, with Venus in Direct motion, back in Scorpio, the issues that were festering are ready for transformation.
Now is you chance to discard, for good, the junk that is taking up precious and valuable space. If repeating themes come up in relationships that are not serving you and/or creating dysfunction that is a clear sign that stuff from the past is clouding your present. When you disconnect from the present you lose your power. One way to know if this is happening is to “look at” your day-to-day to life (i.e., the moments that make up a day). Do you tend to dwell on small things that make you feel bad? Do you get caught up in things that didn’t go your way or something that offended you, for example? These are signs that you are focusing energy on the past; even if that “past” is only an hour ago, it is still the past and reflects your larger mental and behavioral patterns. When this happens, point it out to yourself (say “thinking about the past”) and then breathe deeply and re-focus your attention on something that feels positive, proactive and/or supportive (i.e., something that does not drain your vitality).
One part of the Scorpio energy is about moving through the muck, yes, and negative feelings will come up that need to be processed, but that is different from spending time ruminating on perceived slights and insults (a Scorpio tendency), i.e., things that are not truly important, waste your precious time, and hold you back rather than aiding in your transformation/empowerment.
Perhaps a chapter in your life is closing, which will lead to a greater sense of empowerment and freedom. Keep in mind that we are in the Venus Rx Shadow period until December 17th, so you may still be sorting things out and working your way through; Since Mercury is Retrograde, a slower process is well-supported now. Venus in Scorpio can be intense and, yes, challenging, but it is also beautifully empowering once you get through the weeds.
Mercury is the planet of communication and learning: it, essentially, represents the thinking mind (among a few other areas, such as your vehicle or mode of transportation, local travel, neighborhood, siblings and relatives).
In your Natal Chart, Mercury resides in a sign and a “house” and this gives you insight into how you learn, take in and process information, and communicate and interact with others. For example, if ‘your’ Mercury is in an Earth Sign, your thinking tends to be slower and thorough and you need concrete/real-life examples to fully understand something; on the other hand, if ‘your’ Mercury is in a Fire Sign, you take in and digest information like rapid fire.
If Mercury was in Retrograde Motion when you were born, you will likely experience, from young, challenges around learning and communication and need more support in this area. As you grow older and mature, there is potential for deep and lasting fulfillment in this area of your life (for example, you may have a career in teaching or supporting, in some way, young people who struggle in this area.)
When Mercury “Goes Retrograde” by Transit (as it does, 3 or 4 times per year), it is time to slow down, to hit the pause button and reflect on where you are, how you got there and where you would like to go next. What you are reflecting on, reviewing or reassessing will be indicated by the sign that Mercury is retrograde in and which House(s) of your Natal Chart Mercury is traveling backward in.
The current Mercury Retrograde phase for November 17 through December 6, 2018 (the shadow period ends December 24th) is in Sagittarius. (Note: I will update this for each Mercury Retro. phase). You may now question your belief system and your relationship with faith and trust, especially in the house/area of your chart where Mercury rx in Sagittarius is traveling in. For example, in my Transit Chart, Mercury rx in Sadge is moving backward in my 1st house of self/image/physical body. If you are a late degree Scorpio Rising or an early to middle degree Sagittarius Rising you will currently have the same transit. Mercury Retrograding through the 1st House reflects how I perceive myself and, in turn, how others perceive me. It is a call to reassess my beliefs surrounding self image. Here are some questions to ask myself: What do I believe to be true about myself, and is it serving me and others? Do I trust myself? Do I trust others? How do I communicate with others about my beliefs? My beliefs about myself and faith, or lack thereof, in myself will affect how others see me and how they interact with me. If you, for example, have Mercury Rx in Sagittarius journeying through your 2nd house of earned income and self esteem, similar questions may arise, or be helpful to ponder, and will be more closely connected to the money you are earning in the world and your sense of self-worth. Keep in mind that all the houses of the natal chart are, of course, inter-connected.
Additional themes that may be highlighted, and come up for review during the November – December 2018 Mercury is Rx in Sagittarius are: Teaching and Learning, Religion/Religious Beliefs (be aware of this one during T-giving, please!), Travel, Sports, Other Cultures, Expansion and Opportunities. I will add that there is a Neptune/Mercury Rx Square to be mindful of now because Neptune can bring confusion and, sometimes, deceit (at its lower end); when Neptune is involved situations may seem dreamy/romantic/beautiful because you are wearing the proverbial rose-colored glasses … and that’s okay, however you may want to internally note that this could be the case. If you are experiencing a rose colored situation, enjoy the moment and also know that your perception of said experience may shift drastically in the near future.
Mercury Rx is, generally, not the time to plunge forward with new projects and endeavors because you are still gathering information/insight/clues and there may be missing pieces to the puzzle that will come to light when Mercury is in direct motion. That said, if you are re-starting something from the past then that, actually, may be well supported at this time. There are always exception to these Mercury Retrograde “rules,” so if something transpires that truly feels right or that you must begin at this time due to circumstances, my advice is to first make sure you are in line with your truth/intuition (i.e., do your due diligence and ‘sit with’ the decision for some time, if possible) and then to trust your decision. By the way, I leased a car during the Mercury rx phase 10 years ago and have since bought and paid it off; and my friend got engaged during Mercury rx and is, several years later, happily married. I do not believe we cannot do or commit to anything during the Mercury Rx phases.
For me, the Mercury Rx symbolizes a time to slow down, reorganize and reboot your “system” so that you can begin again stronger and clearer. I don’t attach a plethora of “do’s” and “don’ts” to Mercury Rx because that kind of thinking, I believe, leads us away from the beautiful and enlightening art of Astrology and into superstition and fear.
You can BOOK A MINI READING with me to learn more about what Mercury Retrograde means for you during this phase.
Mars is taking a long and uncharacteristic summer nap. The MARS RETROGRADE period officially began on June 26th, however you may have felt it’s impending reversal as early as May, when the “shadow” period began.
In December I began a new job and moved to a new apartment, so I have been regimented with my time: my weekends have been full of teaching, class planning, setting up my new place, regular life chores, and getting in my own yoga practice.
Over the last few weeks, however, I find myself on random excursions, like a long, unexpected hike, when I was on my way to a coffee shop to class plan. Last Sunday, I decided to go for a “quick” lunch after teaching my morning yoga classes and then get back “to it” (i.e., to “doing” mode”), and instead I walked to the Ritz Carlton and plopped down on one of the comfy sofas in the lobby restaurant and had a glass of wine and a burger; I kept thinking how random it was that I was there (it’s not exactly my ‘go to’ spot), having wine in the afternoon, and then to make the experience even more surreal, the classy looking business woman (or so I thought) sitting next to me kept pouring, surreptitiously, what looked like champagne from a funnel that was attached to her tote bag to refill her glass as she drank it. I digress.
When I was driving to work last week, I was listing (out loud) the things that I needed to do after work. I stopped at a traffic light and saw the license plate in front of me said “Be.” During the Mars Retrograde period, something within us (maybe the child within) wants to explore and experience life. Mars is the planet that symbolizes action, and if you know anyone with Mars prominent in their natal chart, you know that they cannot sit still for long; they are restless and somewhat intense, “doers” by nature and achievement oriented, and that’s generally an admirable trait.
My friend, who has a lot of Mars energy in his natal chart and fits the description above, went to the city yesterday and wandered around all day with no plan, exploring and walking (11 miles) and eating good food; he said it was totally spontaneous and a really nice time. The Retrograde periods are about releasing plans, goals, and control and experiencing life through the lens of a child.
After all, what is it all for if you don’t take a pause once in a while? The “pause” can take the form of lying down outside on the grass (careful of tics, please) and watching the clouds go by or playing frisbee (I played a few times recently at the school I teach at — I forgot how fun it is). If you’re able to schedule a getaway, it may be the perfect time for it. Mars Retrograde is probably not the time for the “To Do” list; you have permission to put it away for the summer, although that does not mean that you cannot be productive during this period. You may find yourself circling back to old projects or tasks that you had abandoned (for me, writing is one of these ‘tasks’ I tend to circle back to), especially things that connect you to your more creative, right-brain hemisphere. If you were born with Mars retrograde then, for you, this may be an uncommonly productive time when you are in the flow of life and accomplishing tasks and projects that have alluded you.
Mars Retrograde can play out in different ways, as is always the case with Astrology, depending on your own natal chart and what is happening in your life. If you are trying to move forward with actions that don’t seem to be coming together or gaining any momentum then that’s probably your signal that now is not the time for it. Mars Retrograde can be a time when you reassess how you use your energy, and if its productive and effective for you, and it can also be a time to explore your masculine side and questions regarding balance (of masculine and feminine). For example, are you able to assert yourself in a healthy way? Do you ‘over’ assert yourself and get aggressive? Are you usually able to create the results you want with your actions, or do you believe your actions will not produce results? Are you very achievement oriented but neglecting other parts of your life? Do you tend to take the passive or more active role in relationships? Mars retro can also be a time when repressed anger comes to the surface – if this is the case, it may be the time for you to connect with this anger (e.g., therapy, writing, yoga, art, etc.) so that you can finally release it.
Jupiter in Scorpio is squaring the Sun in Aquarius today until February 11th.
What does this mean? I will break this down into its parts and then give you an overall idea of how this energy may play out in your life.
Jupiter represents a bigger than life energy; it’s jubilant, carefree, brimming with ideas and potentials. Those who have Jupiter prominent in their natal charts like to kick their shoes off, throw a care to the wind and enjoy life. They don’t want to be tied down to too many responsibilities and commitments.
Ok, now we will look at the sign our freedom-loving Jupiter currently resides in: Scorpio. Jupiter will be in Scorpio until November 9, 2018 (due to Jupiter turning retrograde next month), so what I am about to describe applies for the next several months. Scorpio has two distinct sides: the Scorpion, crawling on the earth, and the Eagle, flying with expansive wings, above it all. Jupiter expands the sign it’s in and so can bring energy to either the “lower” end of Scorpio (e.g., fears, trauma, grudges, resentment, deep emotions connected to past trauma and pain) or the “higher” end (e.g., healing, empowering yourself and others, a deep understanding of the subtle layers of life, focus and determination, inner strength). You may be feeling, lately, old emotions and grievances coming to the surface. You may also be drawn to esoteric subjects or involved in research. Scorpio is also about merging resources/partnerships, intimacy, sex, death and taxes (ya know, the lighter subjects of life).
The Sun represents what we want; our drive and ego. It’s like a light shining on our life-path. Where do we want to go and how do we get there? The Sun is lighting up quirky and friendly Aquarius these days. Aquarius themes and archetypes are groups, friendships, communities, the bigger picture of life, getting involved with humanitarian causes (it’s the Robin Hood archetype), the rebel (doing things your own way/being non-conventional), the underdog, freedom, the mind/intellect, the internet and technology (anything future oriented), a spark of insight. When the Sun is in Aquarius we may be focused on or driven by any of the above.
Ayurveda translates to the Wisdom of Life. I like this definition because it reflects the truth that wellness and health cannot be separated from the larger whole. Our bodies and beings are intrinsically connected to our environment, to the larger whole: what is outside of us is also within us.
Ayurveda philosophy is rooted in the three Doshas or Constitutions, which embody the elements of nature: they are Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth). According to Ayurveda, there is no “one size fits all” approach for wellness. For instance, a raw food diet, although it may work great for a Pitta dominant person, can wreak havoc on a Vata dominant person’s digestive system. I am a Vata dominant person so I can attest to this: Vata people are delicate like flowers while Pitta people tend to have a “strong constitution.” There are, however, daily morning practices, called Dinacharya, that work well for all three Doshas. They can also be tailored to meet the specific needs of your current state of being (note: your current state may differ from your dosha/natural constitution).
Below are the daily morning Ayurveda practices that I have committed to. They are simple and yet the accumulated affect is that I feel more grounded and balanced in the morning (the morning has always been difficult for me so this is a big deal). I encourage you to adopt any or all of these morning practices. If you’d like to learn about your natural constitution and current state of being through an Ayurvedic lens, I offer an online Ayurvedic Assessment and Wellness Plan.
- Use a tongue cleaner before brushing your teeth and on an empty stomach (7-14 scrapes). The Ayurveda perspective holds that a tongue cleaner is essential as a toothbrush because it helps to reduce Ama (toxins) in the body by keeping the bacteria level in the mouth healthy and stimulates the cleansing of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Drink a glass of warm (not cold and not hot) with lemon – this helps to soften Ama (toxins) and is cleansing for the system. *If you need to stimulate Agni (the digestive fire/metabolism), add fresh ginger.
- Meditation and/or Pranayama (I know this is a ‘toughie’ but you can make the time for at least 5 minutes! Shoot for 10 -15 minutes, but 5 is a great start.) *Pranayama is yogic breathing techniques for, for example, centering or stimulation/energy. This breath-work can be tailored for your dosha and/or current state . The benefits of meditation are many! A few I have noticed since I began meditating on a daily basis are greater mental focus and an ease of expression (i.e., easier time finding the “right” words), a feeling of contentment and more balanced emotions.
- Oil Pulling. On any empty stomach, take a tablespoon of Sesame Oil or Coconut Oil (or blend of the two)- swish it all around your mouth (in front and in back of your teeth) for at least 5 minutes and up to 15. It takes a little getting used to but there are many benefits! A few are: healthy teeth and gums, improves respiratory health (helps with allergies and asthma), supports the body’s process of releasing toxins. Banyan Botanicals, a site I used for my Ayurveda Products, developed a product called Daily Swish that has peppermint and spearmint essential oils so the taste is more palatable!
- A splash of cold water on face/eyes. This reduces heat or leftover pitta energy from the night, when your body undertakes repair work. It’s also stimulating and refreshing.
- Before shower or about 10 minutes after, put 1-2 drops of Nasya Oil in each nostril. This is a blend of oils, herbs and essential oils. The nostrils are a direct passageway to your brain and in order to feel well and balanced this passage needs to be clear and unblocked so the breath/prana (life force) can flow. Nasya Oil helps to clear congestion, cleanses the tissues, supports mental clarity and is said to improve vision and the quality of the voice.
- Self Massage: I love this one as it especially beneficial for my prominent dosha, the Vata dosha. If you are a fellow Vata, you can do this after the shower like I do because your skin tends to be dry, but if you have oily skin this can be done before your shower. I use Sesame oil and this is the preferred oil for the Vata dosha (Sunflower or Coconut oils can be used for Pitta, especially during the summer months, and dry brushing may be more appropriate for Kapha). I add a few drops of essential oils, which is optional (lately I use Lavender and Eucalyptus). Massage the oil on your body, using long strokes on limbs and circular strokes on joints and broad circular strokes on belly (clockwise) and chest. There are lots of benefits, such as: improves sleep, promotes healthy skin, nourishes the tissues, stimulates circulation and the internal organs. This takes me about 5 minutes in the morning and truly makes me feel more grounded and supported. The oil is like a protective layer on your skin as you navigate the different experiences and energies of the day, and so, as I mentioned, this practice can be especially helpful for Vata because Vata people tend to be sensitive/delicate.
- Sun Salutations and Moon Salutations. Take 5-15 minutes to practice morning Salutations. Switch it up to Moon Salutations during the Full Moon Phase or any time you’re in the mood for a softer morning yoga routine.
A few days ago, I had an exact conjunction between Venus in the sky and my natal Chiron. I didn’t realize it until I checked my Transit Chart halfway through that day, thinking to myself what the heck is going on with me today?
It started with a wayward paycheck. I sent a third email to the person who was supposedly in charge of payroll to ask when I could pick up my now 3-week late check. There were a few other minor work issues I was trying to sort out and as I spent the morning trying to track down money I was owed or pinpoint things that didn’t seem pin-able at that moment, my rising emotions took on a life of their own and I got swept away. (Note: the moon was going to be Full in two days, when emotions tend to swell.) I have had a recurring dream, on and off for years, of tidal waves and tsunamis and I remember one in particular in which I was in a canoe with an old friend in the middle of the ocean (ya know, just chilling) as an oncoming tidal wave roared toward us, turned our little boat vertical and we rode down the side of the wave. Interestingly, the canoe never capsized and maybe this is a sign of my internal strength even as I have navigated the turbulent waters of life.
The issues I was facing this particular morning were, on the surface level, of money/income/getting paid for my work and also of receiving support I needed to complete tasks. On a deeper level, this was about supporting myself in the world and feeling valued for the work I am doing, for what I am giving. Chiron wounds have deep, deep roots. The spot in the Natal Chart where Chiron dwells points to the wounds that we have trouble even looking at; we bury them well. It’s the place where we feel inadequate and cut off from ourselves and we may attempt to compensate in some way, by either proving ourselves again and again (an endless cycle), or giving from an empty place (the giving is, therefore, not genuine/pure), or withdrawing and taking ourselves out of the game altogether because it feels safer than the rejection that may come if this wound was revealed or activated.
I have Chiron on the cusp of Taurus and Aries and so issues of self-worth, confidence, and valuing myself run deep. Taurus rules, among other things, the material world and earning an income, which is intrinsically connected to how we value ourselves. Aries rules the self and the physical body. Somewhere along the way I learned not to value myself and my own needs, and that to do so was somehow inappropriate. It’s no surprise then that I have often faced circumstances of not being paid enough (or at all in some cases!) for my work.
And so my emotions were running high this morning. I decided to do a yoga practice. Note: if you have Chiron in Aries, yoga and other types of therapeutic body work are excellent for you. I use Yogaglo (online yoga classes) when I can’t get to the yoga studio and I’m in the mood to be guided. I have a few favorite teachers on Yogaglo and as I searched for a class to take, a new class taught by one of “my teachers” popped up. It was, amazingly, a class on Artha, the Sanskrit word for having the wealth or resources to fulfill your dharma or life purpose, i.e., using your innate gifts for service in the world. I felt like he (the teacher) was speaking directly to me. I have to pause here to say how cool is that? The universe was supporting me. Recognizing this inherent support is the first step in healing/integrating my Taurus/Aries Chiron wounds. It’s no coincidence that when I teach I often hear myself asking students to accept support, to feel the support of the earth underneath them, etc. We teach the lessons we are learning ourselves.
It’s interesting to note that I currently have Saturn transiting my 2nd house of earned income/material resources/self-value. I liked the way my Astrology teacher/mentor whimsically described Saturn Transits: “Wherever Saturn is in the chart, you know he’s going to be busting chops.” The chart house Saturn visits usually calls for some restructuring, discipline, hard work/effort and facing whatever it is you neglect in that area of life, so that you can fully utilize your resources and create something solid, something lasting. Once you get used to looking at Natal and Transit Charts, themes begin to pop out at you; if you see something significant (like, Venus making a conjunction with my natal Natal Chiron) chances are that theme will be highlighted elsewhere in the chart. Saturn is pushing me to face and organize this area of my life (my material resources), so that I can receive the support I need and, in turn, support others.
When Venus and Chiron get together in the Natal or Transit chart, ancient wounds connected to relationships (how we relate to others and our environment) can resurface and fester, and there is also a chance to clean them out. I love the idea of the wound actually being the gift, which is why I resonate with the Rumi quote: The wound is the place where the light enters you. The wound remains a wound, I believe, because we cover it up and emotionally cut off that area of life or ourselves. You can look to the sign and house Chiron is in to learn more about your ‘wounds’ and how you can learn to re-integrate them.
If you recall, my Chiron is on the cusp of Taurus and Aries and it sits in my 5th house, right near the cusp of my 6th house. I am learning to care for myself (I have an Ayurveda daily morning practice) and to support myself in the material world (building my business). I teach yoga and it has taken me a long time to free up my creative energy (5th house) and voice (Taurus) so that I can be “myself” when I teach. When I connect to my own creative flow students can connect to theirs. I notice that if I am “in my head” too much when teaching or when doing anything in life, I don’t give others the space they need to be in their own “flow.” It’s a good thing I started teaching yoga later in life, as I was beginning to face my Chiron wounds and lessons, or else I would have believed I was no good at it and have moved on AKA quit (6th house Chiron), which is what I did, work-wise, throughout my twenties and early thirties (tried something, deemed myself unfit and jumped ship).
I can only do my work and service in the world when I face these wounded pieces of myself because it’s difficult to give when operating from a place of lack. Once you “own your Chiron,” it’s as if you have a new found, unshakeable power that comes from those dark experiences. We can then use this power, this strength, to support others who have similar wounds. This is why Chiron is called the Wounded Healer.
I am learning how to play the harmonium and it’s a whole new world for me. I didn’t play instruments as a kid and have a memory of a Middle School chorus teacher insulting my voice (Chiron in Taurus). After that, I pretended to sing, mouthing the words, which is sad because I loved to sing as a child and always sang in the shower. I said to my Harmonium teacher, who happens to be interested in Astrology, “I have my moon in Taurus and I have read that this placement can indicate a hidden gift of singing or using your voice.” I said it with a chuckle because although I can carry a tune, I am clearly not a gifted singer and I didn’t want her to think I was delusional. She seemed to understand and confirmed, without hesitation, that it was indeed “a gift.” By singing and playing the harmonium I am healing my wound (freeing up my voice and my creative expression).
It’s no surprise that my throat is one of the most vulnerable places in my body; when I get sick I get a sore throat first. For most of my life, I felt I didn’t have “a voice,” that I couldn’t express myself well and clearly. I didn’t know how or have the capacity to express what was on the inside, what I really felt. For this reason, I never felt “heard.” Although I longed to be heard and seen, I deeply feared being heard and seen: my Chiron block. Leo rules the 5th house, where Chiron lives in my chart, which is about being seen and heard, how you shine, and using and expressing your creative gifts.
On the vision board in my bedroom, which I created at the beginning of the year, it says “I am enough.” Although I think the phrase is a little corny/cliche, as I spontaneously cut the words out of a magazine I knew it was an integral component of my “vision” for this year, without fully understanding why. Now I know.
“I am enough” is a good mantra for a Chiron/Venus aspect. With this aspect, there can be a feeling of giving a lot in relationships and not receiving in return what you need, hence the feeling of support needs to first come from within. We can do that through daily Ayurveda and yoga practices, for example, or any other form of self-care that keeps us feeling balanced. Taking the time to provide ourselves with care and nourishment is self-love. The key is to love ourselves enough in order to feel that we are worth this effort (something I am learning). As I cultivate self-love, I believe I will continue to draw situations and dynamics into my life that feel supportive and enable me to do my dharma. I am learning that my dharma is using and sharing my hidden gifts (creative self expression, being playful/joyful, teaching children) to support others in their creativity, in whatever form that may take.
If you’re interested in learning more about Chiron in your Natal Chart, check out my custom Your Chiron and Healing Report.
We currently have four (soon to be five) retrograde planets in the sky, through the end of May. To take a step back, Retrograde refers to the appearance of a planet, from Earth, to be moving backward in its orbit. It is said by Astrologers that the illusion of the backward motion turns the energy of that planet inside-out, so to speak. In other words, if Saturn (when in Direct motion) is about responsibility, structure and discipline, when Saturn is in Retrograde motion these themes are reversed. It’s not that Saturn Retrograde is about being irresponsible or undisciplined, although it can show up in your life that way; it is, instead, a time to reassess, review, re-do (anything with an “re” prefix, basically) or fine-tune your responsibilities and your relationship with discipline, so that you can make sure that your life practices are in line with your true values. For this reason, the Retrograde energies urge us to pause, to slow down, and to go inward (a time for self-work/self-awareness) in order to re-align any aspects of our lives that may be out of whack.
My friend shared an article yesterday on her inspiring Blog that illuminates the deeper meaning of the Retrograde planets. The author of the article, Tanaaz, writes: “Retrograde energy is also highly feminine and in these patriarchal times, on a subconscious level, many of us struggle to accept and integrate feminine energy into our every day lives.” This was an AHA moment for me. I had never thought of it this way. When many of us, who know something about Astrology, think of planets in Retrograde, we understand that life can feel more chaotic, less smooth or productive, during these times. Why is this so? As Tanaaz expresses, it’s because we are meant to take a step back from our worldly pursuits at this time in order to align with the “feminine,” the non-doing side of life. So, it seems, if we resist this energy and try to force our will because we want to see immediate results for our efforts, we will be presented with obstacles that show up in various forms and frustrate us. The antidote is the act of, good ole’, Letting Go.
How do we let go? Well, we can start with breathing practices and meditation and yoga. I noticed today, as I was reading my book, a nagging feeling that I was wasting time because I wasn’t doing something that was going to produce tangible results, at least not right away. These feelings and patterns are not easy to unwind because they are so ingrained, however just being aware of them is, I believe, an integral step in making shifts. Letting go our our agendas, of how we think things should be and look frees up a huge amount of energetic space. It frees up our creative energy. The Feminine is not attached to a gender: it is our creative energy, the force behind our inspiration and passion. The purpose of the Retrograde periods is to restore balance in our lives, so take a breather. 🙂
I have four Retrograde planets (well, five, if you count Pluto in Shadow Period) in my Natal Chart and one of them is Mars. Retrograde planets, as I discussed above, turn the energy of that planet inward thus the fiery and fierce energy of Mars has been, for me, internalized and I have had difficulty expressing my strength and power, moving it out into the world. I see now, in a moment of integration, that I have been on a path of learning how to own my ‘Mars’ energy, to use it in a fair and balanced way (past-life karma likely at the root of this one: I have my South Node in Aries), so that I may lead/teach in a strong yet loving and compassionate way. True strength comes from compassion and this is the lesson of Durga, the Warrior Goddess.
Yesterday, I re-visited (during retrograde periods you may naturally find yourself re-visiting things from the past) one of my favorite books and teachers: Awakening Shakti by Sally Kempton. I like to teach my yoga classes around themes, so I was looking for inspiration on what to teach next. According to Kempton, Durga is both the Goddess of Battle and the Divine Mother. Her ferocity and commitment, her ability to overcome obstacles, comes from a true inner strength (core strength) and compassion.
Our lives are full of connections and synchronicities when we are present to notice and absorb them. It dawned me, after reading Tanaaz’s article about the Retrograde planets, that it was no coincidence that I was re-reading my book about the Divine Feminine Energy in all of us (Shakti). With all my Natal Retrograde planets, I have embodied a more passive and gentle nature, or at least I think I have been seen that way throughout my life. In my family of origin (I’m sure the roots are deep), femininity was linked with being modest and not going after one’s needs and desires. I learned to be the “good girl.” I also believed that if I was not the “good girl” I would be shunned. This created a chasm within me and trapped energy (Shakti) inside me, waiting to be freed, to roar (Durga rides a lion). This trapped energy has come out over the years in bursts and eruptions, built up frustration and anger that I haven’t quite understood and that has caused me to feel shame. Like Persephonne, the Queen of the Underworld, who starts out in the story as the innocent maiden, before being captured by Pluto/Hades, King of the Underworld, I have a dark side too. We all do.
When, some years ago, I was immersed in my second Yoga Teacher Training, my mentor, after watching me practice teach one day said, matter-of-factly, “You’re a good teacher,” to counter my evident self-doubt, and “It’s time for you to step into your authority.” I have thought of these words often. I used to find myself in situations with women who embodied the shadow side of Durga: controlling, harsh, quick to anger. My immediate response was withdrawal. This is an ancient feeling, a core reaction: I’m like my cat when he hears the doorbell and zooms under the bed, as if the person at the door plans to kill him. Jungian psychology posits that when we disown a part of our personality, it appears in our lives as the shadow side of the energy. I was always surprised that I seemed to attract these fierce and, sometimes, harsh women. A yoga teacher who lost her temper because I had stepped the ‘wrong’ foot back; a boss who was controlling and, therefore, disempowered her employees. I understand that I am meant to reclaim my power and am in the process of doing so now in my life’s work. A different type of woman and mentor has entered my life now; one who shows and feels deep compassion and seems to ‘see’ me in a way that I have not previously felt ‘seen.’
In Sally Kempton’s beautiful book, the myth of Durga goes like this: the Devi gods, who represent light and joy, convince her that she must fight the battle against the Asuras, who represent the ego gone astray and corruption, in order to restore balance in the world. She is the only one who can defeat the demon kings because those wise guys made a pact long ago with Brahma, the Creator, that they could not be defeated by any man or god, but there was no mention of a goddess. When Durga meets the demon kings, she is disguised as an innocent, beautiful maiden goddess and they, of course, want her. She tells their servants that she made a vow when young to only marry a man who can defeat her in battle. They laugh and think this is absurd but she persists and they become impatient. They send their men to go and get her, to drag her into their palace by her hair. Durga raises her sword and the men’s bodies are dissolved into thin air. The devil kings finally realize who she is (Shakti) and they remember the loophole. They know that they must defeat her in battle or die. Durga has the powers of all the gods and goddesses within her and so they don’t stand a chance against her. When she defeats them, they are returned back to source, the heart of the mother, and the balance in the land is restored. The stories of the goddesses are about integrating dark and light and finding our way back home.
The Retrograde planets are calling for a similar energy: by slowing down and releasing the need to produce something tangible in the world, we will reconnect with ourselves, with nature (get outside and take more walks during this time!) and with divinity (the connection to all that is), so that when we create things in this world it comes from a balance of heart of mind.
For 2017 Retrograde timing, check out this website (scroll down for 2017).
Today I’m thinking about how yoga teachers can present cues and comments in a positive and open-minded way. Are you supporting and encouraging your students? Are you being kind and compassionate, or is your tone bordering on bullying and nit-picking due to your own issues of perfection: We can only be open and accepting of others if we are that way with ourselves, right? As a person who is ridiculously hard on myself, a recovering perfectionist, (and I don’t mean that things I have created have resembled “perfection” but that I held myself back from creating anything at all due to illusions of perfection) believe me, I am the first to admit that this isn’t always an easy task.
That said, one of my greatest goals as a teacher and, I believe, strengths (due to my own life experiences and lessons) is enabling students to feel accepted no matter what state of being they stepped into class with that day, whether that is a fiery need to conquer their practice (they may have excess energy to burn) or the desire to lay in Savasana the entire time (they may feel depleted). I am here to say that it’s not always a perfect balance of “effort and ease” even though we may aspire to it. And although I love to remind my students of the beauty of this message (of effort and ease/strength and grace), I recognize that sometimes we need to play with extremes, and that that’s okay too. After all, yoga is about acceptance of this moment, not forcing something or someone to be different. As Eckhart Tolle reminds us: “Whatever we resist persists.”
Recently, in a yoga class I attended, the teacher , after a challenging posture, inquired, somewhat sharply: “Were you burning a hole in the floor with your gaze?” I paused, feeling, for a moment, ashamed. Was I? I may have been. My gaze had felt intense and focused, and there may have been, ahem, blue blazes emanating from my eye balls. I am vata-pitta (air and fire elements) constitution, according to the ancient science of Ayurveda, and was feeling my pitta (fire) that day. So perhaps I was guilty as charged. It’s true that pitta dominant people can benefit from softening their gaze, and I believe it’s a good and honest question in terms of softening around the places we tend to harden (I often encourage my students to feel for the places in their bodies that might benefit from softening). I also believe that how we teachers phrase our cues and questions can go a long way in terms of enabling students to find that place of balance we talk about.
In the same class, after another balancing posture, the teacher interrogated: “Do you feel you just nailed that pose?” The question was meant to point out the fact that nailing a pose might not be very “yogic.” I wanted to say, “Yes!” The truth is I was glad that I had since there are plenty of times that I don’t. I have spent most of my adult life trying to find solid ground, so when I occasionally “nail” a balancing pose it can feel like an accomplishment and that, I believe, is something to celebrate. Consider this: Nailing the pose is also part of the dance. It is not always “better” to do less. It is not a one-size fits all situation.
I like to acknowledge students’ hard work, whether they land the pose or fall out of it; either way is a beautiful effort in my book. If you are someone who always “nails” poses and doesn’t allow yourself room to wobble then you might consider what it would feel like to allow room for wobbling, to even throw yourself off balance purposefully by trying something different like closing your eyes. In either case, whether students lean toward the “effort” or “ease” side of the road, questions can be phrased in a way that encourages them and perhaps allows them to find new ways of doing things. Why not ask students to explore what a pose felt like? Were they feeling their fire? Were they shaky? It can be an effective way of diving into the body and feelings/emotions.
In general, an inquiry or reflection that stems from one’s own practice/experiences is, for me, a much more effective/helpful cue; for example: “When I attempt a balancing pose and fall I try to remember that the stumbling is also part of my practice/experience.” When we ask genuine exploratory questions, such as “What does it feel like if you lengthen your stance?”, while recognizing that it may not feel right for everyone, we are giving students space to feel the practice and make decisions based on that inner intuition. How about: “What does it feel like when you hold steady in a pose versus when you fall, and is it possible to be okay with both?” On some days it might be possible “to be okay with both” and on other days the answer might be “No.” I remember practicing next to a woman once who was consistently losing her balance and she was visibly and extremely irritated by this, swearing under her breath. We don’t know what she came to her practice with that day; maybe she was taking care of someone who was ill or going through a break-up; maybe she needed to swear under her breath in that moment; who is to say what is and isn’t “yogic?” By giving permission to be inside the extremes (e.g., feeling my fire), we can, ironically, more easily move into that place of balance. Because it is by accepting where we are, not criticizing or beating ourselves up for doing something “wrong,” that we bring in the space needed for change. When we focus and dwell on what we perceive as the wrong thing (i.e., I suck for eating that 2nd slice of cake and now I am fat and have ruined my diet), we tend to stay stuck in that very place we don’t want to be in. (By the way, I know nothing about that cake banter. Wink.)
I wholeheartedly believe that it is essential for teachers to keep in mind that we are not here to control our students. Each student is coming from (in general or on any given day) a different place and that is a very personal thing. For me, excessive nit-picking during my formative years had the effect of stunting my creativity, my spontaneity and flow (probably why I’m drawn to Vinyasa style of yoga), so when I am practicing yoga a ‘nit-picky’ type of banter is truly the last thing I need. When I make my way into a posture, an invitation to explore is what will enable me to blossom and more naturally find my center (of course I also recognize that when we cultivate inner strength and balance what someone else says or does will have less, if any, effect on us, but that is for another essay).
So although each teacher’s particular teaching style will inevitably stem from his or her own experiences, I think it’s valuable to consider that those experiences are not necessarily your students’ experiences. I have spent many years holding myself back due to fear and uncertainty, due to faulty early lessons that it is not proper or ‘lady like’ to go for the things you want in life, or that to be good at something is ‘showing off’ and, essentially, that it is not safe or appropriate to be powerful and strong. For many years, due to these ingrained lessons, I have been out of touch with my fire, my power center/strength and, subsequently, my ability to manifest the things I want and need in my life in order to feel supported and free. My teacher, on the other hand, admitted to coming from a place of being a “Type A” personality, on over-achiever, someone who consistently “over-did.” I come from a place of floundering; I fall enough, on and off the mat, to learn and grow. For someone who is used to always getting it right, it might be freeing to wobble a bit, to learn from missteps. The thing is you can’t know. That’s the point. And that’s why I favor open-minded language.
Most importantly, a teacher, I believe, is there to hold the space for students, not to correct or control them. Consider this: when people receive input in an open, non-judgmental way they are more likely to listen and perhaps make changes they would benefit from. In The Wisdom of No Escape, Pema Chodron relays that “when you find yourself slumping that’s the motivation to sit up, not out of self-denigration but actually out of pride in everything that occurs to you, pride in the goodness or the fairness or the worstness of yourself–however you find yourself–some sort of sense of taking pride and using it to spur you on” (p. 11).
I am not trying to be all scrooge-y … well, a little I am … but I was thinking that along with Facebook’s ubiquitous “Throwback Thursday,” or TBT, we should begin a Truth-day Tuesday revolution: a day of sharing what’s really happening in your life, i.e., “I just had a hideous argument with my significant other,” or “I am declaring bankruptcy.”
Ok, maybe we don’t want people unloading all their dirty laundry on social media sites — now I am conjuring up an image of my SNL friend, Debbie Downer (fine line, I guess)– but I do think that the social media culture has engendered the need to project one’s self in a certain light (i.e., a pristine, flawless one).
The flower we planted in our garden may bloom and that is special. Or we get all gussied up before a party. I’m not saying these aren’t snapshot worthy moments or moments worth reveling in, and I think it’s natural to want to share them. The point is that these moments are there but that they are fleeting. The flower dies. We get food on our blouse or have to unbutton our pants because we ate too many cookies (that might just be me). The day to day details, rather than the rewards, are what we most often are dealing with. The act of holding up an unrealistic image of everything in bloom all the time is not only untrue but it’s actually isolating, which is the opposite of the original purpose of facebook: to connect.
I think all we humans beings want, truly, is connection. When we connect on a deeper level (beyond the niceties and small talk) it can be healing. Small talk is necessary, no doubt, and hard to avoid and I am no good at it. I am in awe of people who actually excel at it, but that’s another story. My point is that ‘small talk’ can be isolating. “How are you?” “Great!” Meanwhile you want to crawl under your blanket and cry. That schism between expression and emotions (when there is no outlet for real or raw expression) is, I think, what leads to deep unhappiness, depression even.
Connection is the crux of 12 step programs and why they are considered spiritual: the simple act of sharing what is real for you in that moment and having others listen, truly listen with no agenda, is healing for many people. When people share stories with similar themes people begin to feel less isolated (less separate) because they realize they are not alone with feelings that may have been overwhelming or painful.
So … maybe just for one day (Tuesdays!) instead of those perfect, happy images, we will instead share a more realistic/truthful depiction of ourselves: a grumpy, pre-coffee photo, a few lines about why life sucks. Kidding. Sort of. I’ve noticed that when friends who are mothers post something more truthful about the challenges (as well as joys) of parenting that other mothers really appreciate it. We don’t have to pretend that everything is amazing all the time. How about “So cursed” instead of “So blessed.” Kidding! Debbie Downer is sneaking in again (she and I used to be too close, but I have created stronger boundaries).
All kidding aside, let’s break the illusion together one Tuesday at a time. Truth-day Tuesday, here we come — or is that TMI?!
Here is my first attempt at a TDT post: Last night I ate an obscene amount of cookies.
Lately, I’ve been pondering speech patterns we develop over time (analyzer that I am) and what they reflect about our inner workings, specifically my mother’s relationship with the word “inside” (I’m sure she’d be thrilled). For example, in response to a question about where something is located, like “Where is the cat?” my mother might respond, “He’s inside.” She means he’s not in the room she currently resides in but in another part of the apartment (just to be clear, he is not an outdoor cat so she is not referring to the literal meaning of the word). In essence, wherever she is, inside is not. It occurs to me that she, from this perspective, is always on the outside. This is interesting to me because I have felt like an outsider for most of my life. I don’t doubt that this pattern emerged long ago, a family relic, something she picked up from her mother, and which her mother, my Grammy, picked up from her mother (Yiayia). I naturally also picked up on these familial speech patterns, carrying these words from one generation to the next. Several years ago, I was a nanny for two children, ages 7 and 9. We were in the kitchen one day and one of them asked where something was–their backpack, I think. “It’s inside,” I responded, meaning it was in the dining or living room. They began to giggle and one of them acknowledged, “We are inside!” It hit me in that moment that the statement didn’t make much sense. I laughed too. Although, I have to say, a part of me still believes this sentence makes perfect sense.
For the past several months, I’ve been doing core work. Physically speaking, I am doing the work that will strengthen my abdominal muscles enabling my transitions from one yoga posture to another to be more fluid, graceful, easeful. Metaphysically speaking, I am connecting to my center, the unwavering space inside free of worries and concerns and the opinions of others. My center is where I can access my sense of power and grace.
Toddler photos of me reveal a cute, protruding belly; it seemed to be one of my signature features. My aunt once told me that my mom was a little concerned: “Will she grow out of this?” To answer her question, at the ripe age of 37 I may finally be ‘growing out’ of or transcending my belly issues. In my teenage and young adult years, I hid my stomach. It was usually dissented and I was embarrassed. My stomach expands easily; sometimes, when I drink water or eat fruit my stomach grows into what looks like a pregnant belly or an inflated balloon. I’m thin and it’s easy to hide but it’s uncomfortable; you can’t breathe well when your stomach is at its full expanse; it’s as if there is no space to breathe.
It occurs to me that I have been hiding my power center for most of my life.
I had a dream several years ago that I had the ability to move objects by the sheer power of my will. Similarly to the little girl in the movie Fire Starter (remember that movie? It was a favorite of mine), I could set my gaze on an object and rather than set it on fire, I could send it flying across the room like it had acquired wings. It was one of the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had and I remember becoming aware in the dream of this inner power I’d possessed my entire life. Of course, I thought to myself in the dream, of course I have always been able to do this. It was a little frightening–these super powers I held–but at same time it made perfect sense to me. When I awoke it took me a little while to understand that it was ‘only a dream,’ that I could not move objects by gazing at them. I even tried.
If I were to have a most-used-words contest “might” and “maybe” and “hopefully” would be contenders. Tentative words. Uncertain words. Maybe this. Might that. Hope this or that. I watch them fall from my mouth, pause and, if I am feeling grounded/present, change my word choice to something more certain, confident. My body posture, pre-yoga, also reflected this tentative nature, this unsure heart of mine: when I began practicing yoga and bringing attention to my body, I realized that I stood on the edges of my feet. A bizarre balancing act, I called it in one of my essays about how yoga has enabled me to shift unsupportive patterns in my life. As I allowed my feet to feel the ground beneath them, I realized I had never stood fully, comfortably on my own two feet. I had never felt supported and like I was “inside”, connected to myself and others and my environment, a part of something bigger. I felt, as the Indgigo Girls song lyrics go, that I was “always on the outside, looking in on other’s lives.”
The opposite of those wishy-washy maybe’s and might’s is will: I will do this.
The Manipura chakra or the third chakra, located in the solar plexus, means “lustrous gem” or “city of jewels” and is the seat of our willpower. To take a step back, the chakras are likened to energy wheels or vortexes that live along the spine, from the base to the crown of the head, and reflect the metaphysical or ‘subtle body’ underpinnings of that area of the body. It is represented by the color yellow (the color of the sun) and is connected to our willpower/inner power, our confidence, our truth. Interestingly, yellow had always been one of my least favorite colors and now I am drawn to it. The manipura chakra represents our power source; just as we cannot live without the sun’s energy, we cannot thrive with a weak power center. I am not speaking about the type of power that is manipulative or forceful (in fact, that type of power use likely indicates an imbalance in this area of the body) but a purity that comes from knowing yourself and what you need, and the ability to meet those needs, and to express yourself honestly with both strength and kindness. A few days ago, at the close of my yoga class, a student came up to me to tell me that she loved the way I taught because my voice was “commanding and clear” and that I moved at a pace she could follow. This was the best compliment I could have received because my voice, my self expression, is one of my greatest struggles (it is why I write: to make sense of what I feel). The student’s comment reminds me that my core is beginning to shine through, even if some days I don’t feel that way (i.e., it is a, let’s say, work in progress). Even on those days that I feel weak again, I do know this: I am less fearful these days of being seen and heard and of being rejected, which I believe is the culprit behind my weak core and hidden power. Not good enough said the little voice that plagued me every time I attempted something new, put myself out there, so to speak. It might as well have said Boo Hiss, you suck, rotten tomatoes. I listened to that crabby, little voice for a long time, was beholden to it.
I believe my bloated abdomen is due to my sensitive system (I try to avoid foods that seem to cause bloating) and, on a metaphysical level, my inability, for a long time, to absorb and process what nourishes me. Maybe I didn’t feel good enough about myself to accept nourishment, support. That has slowly been changing over the years, each time I step onto my yoga mat and reconnect to my body. Building, strengthening my abdominal muscles is part of the process and, even more importantly, I think, is the commitment to a practice each day; for many years I’ve practiced yoga but never, if I’m honest, consistently (until more recently). That, I believe, is how the willpower is developed and sustained. Step by consistent step or one step at a time, as the saying goes.
You may have heard yoga teachers invite you to “Find your center.” The center is the essence of who we are beyond all the stuff that covers up our truth and beauty (not perfection beauty: beauty beauty) and brightness. When I am feeling centered, I notice that I am not as easily swayed/affected by other’s opinions and responses (whether positive or negative). I can carry on strongly and gracefully whether or not I feel “liked” or “accepted” by others because I have accepted myself; I can rely on my own center to support and sustain me. When I am in that zone I feel nothing (relatively, speaking) can knock me off my course. It occurs to me that I don’t want to live on the periphery of life anymore. I have begun my journey inward but I have a lot of work to do still. I want to feel my emotions and I need to be able to breathe freely in order to do this (emotions begin in the body), so I can face them, process them (digest them) and risk being rejected and hurt (the elusive culprit of my fear), so I can truly live on the “inside” of life and, from that centered place, reveal and share my light.
Too drained to climb the stairs to my apartment, I walk toward the old-fashion wooden elevator. I pause to glance at my cell phone and the elevator floats upward with a ding. I sigh.
A few minutes later, the elevator lands back in the lobby, and a little girl with light hair and bright eyes bops out. She looks to be 5 or 6 years old. A pretty woman, her mother I imagine, walks behind her. I recognize them: we rode the elevator together a few weeks back. We exchange a neighborly greeting and begin to go our separate ways when the little girl swings around: “What’s your name?”
“Nicole,” I tell her. “What’s yours?” Her mother and I smile at each other.
“Isabella,” she says softly, suddenly shy.
“Isabella. That’s right,” I say. “I remember now.” And she perks up, a smile forming.
“Do you have a kid?” Isabella questions, brow creases appearing as she tries to place me. Her mother winces at her personal inquiry and I laugh at her brash innocence, sweet boldness, and use of the word “kid.”
“No, but I have a kitty cat,” I offer. Isabella studies me for a moment, then requests my cat’s name.
I tell her, “Jespa.”
“Jessica?” she asks, uncertainly. I repeat the name and spell it for her, pointing out that it’s an unusual name. She smiles grandly and announces that she will come visit me and the cat. I tell her that sounds great. She asks if my cat is friendly, and I explain that he can be shy with strangers but once he gets comfortable he usually comes out of his shell. I wonder if she understands “comes out of his shell,” but she seems pleased to hear this.
“Let’s make a play date!”
I am amused that I have been deemed a suitable playmate. This does not completely surprise me since I joke that I am aging backward–emotionally speaking. I am more in touch now with the child-like qualities of playfulness, creativity and spontaneity than I was when I was a child.
“Sure!” I say, trying to match her enthusiasm, and add which floor I live on. She reports that Fridays are good for her (her mom explains that they are only here on weekends), and I say that’s perfect.
As I get into the elevator, I hear: “Have a great day!”
And she has, most certainly, made my day.
I was recently mesmerized by the charming voice of prison inmate, Saint James Harris Wood in a series of letters he wrote, over a 10-year period, to The Sun Manuscript Editor, Colleen Donfield. The letters were published in the February 2015 issue of The Sun, entitled Your Wretched Correspondent. Wood, Donfield relays, is serving a twenty-two-year sentence in California for second-degree robbery; he apparently robbed banks and other venues with a toy gun to support his drug habit.
In the shower the other morning, I was considering what it would be like to live in prison (where you are not even guaranteed a shower after a 7-hour stint of dishwashing in a gnarly prison kitchen) as I was staring out the window to a springtime blue sky and green trees from a bright, clean bathroom. My soul seems somehow to understand the feeling of being trapped and I shuddered to think of the prison walls, the shared showers and the overall wretched environment. I imagined how an inmate might feel standing in a private shower across from an open window, a soft breeze and sunlight streaming through; and the ecstasy of other simple events like waking up each morning in a bed of one’s own (something that my non-morning-person self does not currently delight in), placing your bare feet on a clean floor, choosing your breakfast, and on and on and on (I can only imagine).
Wood writes, “One of the most jarring parts of being in prison is waking up. Every morning it comes crashing down: the smells, the walls, the noise, the irrefutable fact of being trapped, and the memory of the events that led me here” (p. 38). He doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself though (well, maybe sometimes he does; who wouldn’t?); instead, he accepts full responsibility for his current predicament and I think this sense of unexpected grace coupled with a raw sense of humor and willingness to look at himself are among the qualities of his writing voice that I am drawn to. Wood Writes, “The first ten years behind bars didn’t change me as much as they might have a normal person. Even though my life is in ruins, a complete catastrophe, a profound debacle (get out your thesaurus, look up ‘fucked up,’ and add to this sentence), right from the start I figured I could use the time to write and maybe regain my foolish soul (p.45).
I am reminded of the beauty and blessings in my life. I need to pause here to say that I am not a big fan of this word blessings because of the way it is sometimes used, as in “I am so blessed!” to have such and such (insert: brand new jeep for my 25th birthday … one of the more obnoxious “so blessed” offenses I have come across), as if those of us who don’t have such things are not blessed? Cursed? I refer to blessings here in a more ‘everyday’ sense (“ordinary blessings,” in Joan Didion’s words). Blue sky. Green trees. Song birds outside my window. I digress.
That morning in the shower, before I glanced through the bathroom window and noticed the beauty around me, I had been fretting over things that now seem like luxuries. How much of our lives are wasted by stressing over things that might be considered a luxury, a blessing, to someone else, or worrying about things that are out of our control (I am a big culprit of this one) while we ignore the beauty that is all around and within us? Believe me, I know it’s not all roses but I also know that we can create our own private prisons even in the most physically appealing environments and, by the same token, inmates (or those who are physically trapped) can create freedom, space, for themselves by transcending the ‘little’ mind (the part of the mind that keeps constant tabs on what is wrong; that keeps us feeling separate and disconnected from the source). Saint James Harris Wood is an inspiration to me because he is creating art, beauty, inside prison walls. If he can do that, I think we (i.e., those of us who are not in prison) can find our way too. Namaste, Saint James.
An excerpt from an essay in The Sun Magazine (I love this magazine with all my heart): “Looking back, I don’t know how I got through the anxiety and shame of early recovery. Sometimes the pain was so great it felt physical, and I sat twisting and moaning as if cloven feet were stamping through the chambers of my heart. But as the tiny pieces of my detonated life slowly drifted back to earth, I began working as a home-health aide, helping the elderly and caring for kids on occasion. A peaceful, sane existence began to take shape. The only problem was, I could no longer write. Somehow in sobriety I just didn’t have the juice to pump out pages and judge them as good or bad. Forced to acknowledge that I was a failure as a writer, I learned to live with my dashed dreams. That’s when it occurred to me that I didn’t have to write to prove to the world that I was a worthwhile human being or that all my pain and turmoil had a purpose. I wasn’t special – or, no more so that anyone else. It was time, finally, to grow up.” -Sybil Smith
I like these last lines very much. They feel wise and earned in a very real way. I have also thought that if I publish a book or attain some worldly success that all the “pain and turmoil” will then finally make sense, will, as Smith writes, have a purpose. But it seems that when we let go of the need to transform pain and turmoil into something that looks good from the outside, then the real healing and work can begin. I checked out Sybil Smith’s author website and saw that she in fact has numerous publications, and so it seems that by releasing her desire to prove something she did in fact reach her initial goals. I imagine in that “peaceful, sane existence” she discovered in life after addiction, that her work became deeper, more authentic and carefree (maybe she stopped caring so much about what other people thought) and that that shift, that “growing up,” enabled her to enjoy the success she had been chasing in her earlier life. I never liked the term “grow up,” because it tends to connote judgment, as in “grow up, already.” Maybe that’s because I did not want to grow up myself, to take on the responsibilities of adult life. As a child, I was acutely in tune to my parents’ pain and turmoil. Growing up did not seem fun.
J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, certainly did not value the idea of growing up. His preoccupation with youth stemmed, it seems, from a very sad, tragic past, and he did not seem to have the ability to “grow up” due to deep childhood wounds (and, interestingly, did not physically grow past the height of a child). I am realizing that we are privileged if we get to “grow up,” to experience (or earn) the sweetness of a “peaceful, sane existence.” Pixie dust is pretty and all but, in the end, it’s just an illusion.
Yesterday afternoon I walked in Rockefeller State Park. Blue sky. Soft breeze. Birds singing. Sun shining. It felt like the first official day of Spring … but my thoughts were not cooperating: they were spinning self-defeating little webs.
No matter what I did (yoga practice, walking in nature) I could not find the off switch for that pesky cluster of cells that Jill Bolte Taylor, in My Stroke of Insight, says lives in the left-brain hemisphere and is responsible for our maniacal thought streams. Round and round they go. Once the thoughts gain momentum they seem to have a life of their own and yesterday, despite my efforts, I could not detach from what they were telling me (that I have not reached the milestones that I should have by now, that I should give up on everything I’ve worked for because I am obviously not making any progress). As if that wasn’t enough doom and gloom, every bad memory (from the most minute to the more disturbing ones) seemed to be bubbling their way up into my consciousness.
I felt heavy, like it was a giant effort to place one foot in front of the other. A moderate hill that I usually enjoy walking up felt like Mount Everest. I was frustrated with myself because I knew I was wasting a beautiful day distracted by dark thoughts, and the more annoyed I became by my inability to ‘snap out of it’ the worse I felt.
Some days are just like that.
It feels impossible to detach from thoughts and the best we can do is to put one heavy foot in front of the other. I couldn’t even write my thoughts out yesterday because I felt so low and depleted. I stared at the computer screen for a few minutes and then promptly shut it down, poured a glass of wine and made dinner. The wine made me sleepy and I went to bed early, but it did not feel like what I needed.
Some nights I drink wine or eat cookies to stuff my emotions inside me and on other nights, I do a restorative yoga practice or a meditation or take a bath and read a book. It can be hard to do the thing that nourishes you when you want to reach for the cookies or the glass of wine (the quick fix) and, essentially, get numb. Knowing what’s behind the cookie or wine party can gradually shift the behavior. It is a process.
We must be kind to ourselves because when we beat ourselves up we wind up turning to the wrong things for comfort (at least the cookies don’t talk back). And, by the way, sometimes a glass of wine or sweet treat, in moderation, is just what the doctor ordered (if, of course, it is not a serious addiction). It just depends on what the motivation is, but being too strict with ourselves doesn’t tend to produce balance in our lives either.
I remember Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now & A New Earth) revealing, in a live web discussion with Oprah (back in 2008), that people are often surprised to learn that he enjoys a cup of coffee or glass of wine. He added that it’s rare he will want a second cup/glass; I suppose because he is truly enjoying and present for his drink, so there is no need for more; there is no attachment to it. For us non-enlightened folks it may prove a tad more difficult to refrain from that second cup o’ joe but we can all bring more mindfulness into our days by slowing down, smelling the coffee 🙂 (really) and accepting that particular moment as it is, even and especially if it is a bad mood or a lot of self-defeating thoughts. The bad mood or thoughts tend to shift once we make some space for them.
And, so, this concludes my 30-day writing challenge. It wasn’t perfect but I reached my goal (this is more consecutive writing than I have done since I was in my MFA program) and I think, ultimately, that’s what counts. Yassas (cheers), as they say in the old country.
Tonight, I picked one of my Osho Zen Tarot cards for inspiration. I chose Innocence. Here is what Osho has to say: “The old man in this card radiates a childlike delight in the world. There is a sense of grace surrounding him, as if he is at home with himself and with what life has brought. He seems to be having a playful communication with the praying mantis on his finger, as if the two of them are the greatest friends. The pink flowers cascading around him represent a time of letting go, relaxation and sweetness. They are a response to his presence, a reflection of his own qualities. The innocence that comes from a deep experience of life is childlike, but not childish. The innocence of children is beautiful, but ignorant. It will be replaced by mistrust and doubt as the child grows and learns that the world can be a dangerous and threatening place. But the innocence of a life lived fully has a quality of wisdom and acceptance of the ever-changing wonder of life.”
An astrologer once told me that I was aging backward. As a Capricorn, he clarified, I become more youthful with age. “You are old when you’re young and young when you’re old,” were his exact words. Sounds about right, I thought. I was a cautious and shy child. My parents both worked full-time when I was young, and I missed my mother with urgency and desperation; in fact, I cried every morning when I remembered that she had already left for the train. My sweet grandmother, my Yiayia, soothed me and braided (and re-braided until I approved) my hair, made me breakfast which included tea with milk and honey, just how I liked it.
I associate my warmest childhood memories with Yiayia and Papou. I was deeply loved. But nothing compared to having my mom around and I pined for her during those years. My dad was absent so often (he worked in the restaurant business) that I was accustomed to it, but it was a treat when he was home; we always did something fun, like searching for the Banshees, the magical, little creatures who lived in the woods, or going on a drive to Sleepy Hollow to catch a peak of the Headless Horseman (sometimes, he let me sit on his lap in the car and help steer) or even shopping (I once, around the age of 5, randomly requested a maroon colored woman’s purse; I still remember the scent of the leather and my mother’s disapproval.).
But as a young girl, I had, in true Capricorn form, the metaphoric weight of the world on my shoulders. Intuitively, I knew that something was very wrong in my parents’ lives and I carried that with me, a heavy backpack full of fear. I questioned my mother at a young age about the man in the moon. I could see the round, luminous globe in the sky and had spotted the outline of a figure inside it. He was an evil entity who would prey on us, a force threatening our safety and security. I wasn’t satisfied by my mother’s flippant response: “The man in the moon? Who told you that?” she laughed. She didn’t seem to understand the weight and urgency of the subject. “So he won’t hurt us?” I repeated.
When you live in a fearful state, the world is dangerous. The moon is not bright: it’s ominous.
As I age, that backpack lightens and I begin to see again, as if through a child’s eyes, the wonder around me. I have taken to placing my hands on trees when I pass them just to feel their tree-ness, looking up at the sky as often as possible, connecting with children and animals. I have no problem barking like a dog when I’m teaching a children’s yoga class; something you would have never caught me doing in my teenage or even young adult years; I would have felt too embarrassed, too self-conscious. I’m letting go of old, outworn items in my backpack. They were never my items to begin with. Pretty soon, I might even lose the backpack all together and, just possibly, replace it with wings. Wheeeee.
Here is the second card I picked:
Today, a quote: “The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone. – James Baldwin
Restorative Yoga is one of my favorite classes to teach and this amazes me. I am a Vata girl to the max. The Eastern Medicine system of Ayurveda posits that we are born with usually one or two doshas (body types), dominant. My dominant dosha is Vata, or the air element.
Vata people need to move. And movement is a good thing for people with this body type, however, as is usually the case in life, we need to find balance and there is a tendency toward too much movement for us vata folk. We can move so quickly that we don’t feel what’s going on in our bodies. Movement becomes a means to avoid. Vata people need to slow down enough (I’m not saying to a halt; stop and go energy exacerbates Vata – at least this Vata) to feel our bodies, to feel our emotions and get connected.
When the Vata dosha is out of balance we are disconnected, ungrounded — frantic, even.
Being a movement prone person, I rarely attended Restorative classes or slower moving classes, and would feel frustrated in yoga classes that began very slowly and sleepily. I wanted to get going! (That is also my pitta/fire speaking, which is my secondary dosha). So, I wink at the universe because of course I am a Restorative teacher. I think I get as much from teaching these classes as the students get from taking them. We all leave class calmer, lighter, and more grounded.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone, no matter what your primary dosha is, can benefit from time to just be. And although it is hard for most of us, especially Vata and Pitta souls it is vital for health. There is a growing field of research on the benefits of this type of practice.
A few months ago, my close friend’s grandmother, Gigi, died. This friend is like family–we’ve known one another since 2nd grade; my mom and her mom, M., are also longtime buddies, like sisters. My mom was helping M. clean out her mother’s home when they came across a box of Angel cards: “Messages from your Angels,” it reads on the outside of the box. M told my mom to give me the cards, knowing they’d be “up my alley” (as my mom likes to say).
When my mom handed me the box that evening, I accidentally dropped it and one card slipped out and fell onto the floor. I picked it up; my Angel, Gabrielle, had a message for me. “You have an important life purpose involving communication and the arts. Please don’t allow insecurities to hold you back. I will help you.”
I have spent many years of my life in hiding, fearful of messing up or failing or maybe even shining too brightly. Over the last two years, since I began my yoga teaching career, I have taken more risks than ever before–leaving my zone of comfort and sharing my truth with others, opening my heart. Allowing myself to be vulnerable. It feels like coming out of the shadows. And some days, as I’ve written in past posts, the teaching feels inspired and connected, like a dance between myself and students. On other days, it’s more like an awkward first date: silence that feels strained and heavy. On those less than inspiring days, I gaze longingly at my old hiding spot, wondering why I left. My old insecurities re-emerge and cause me to question if this is an appropriate path for me; a shy girl.
Gabrielle, the Angel, reminds me that growth happens when we move into our fears, not away from them. I needed the encouragement on that particular evening and silently thanked Gigi for sharing her Angel cards with me.
Today I taught yoga classes for kids at a school carnival. These little people were so eager to listen and sing, and bring their hands together at their hearts. They also love barking in Downward Facing Dog, howling at the moon in Upward Facing Dog and hopping like bunny rabbits. They are pure joy. Pure love. They reminded me tonight, after a mundane day (the grey, damp weather reflecting the blah-ness of the day), of the joy in simple moments.
Last night, I was reading an article on Happiness in The Sun Magazine. The author, Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi, writes: “Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us come to being happy.”
I feel, on some days, when the stars are aligned, hugely grateful for what I have in my life and, yet, on other days the things I do not have seem to be obstacles to my happiness. When I look around (especially in Facebook land) everyone my age seems to have basic external markers that I do not yet have and I wonder what the heck happened to me and sink into a state of lack and despair. It does not feel good there. It seems in these moments that those missing pieces will provide me with the happiness I seek, If I can just meet the right guy etc. And yet I know, on a deeper level, that external circumstances will never change the way I feel about myself, and will never make me truly happy if I am not already – at least not for long.
Csiksgentmihalyi (not even going to even try pronouncing that) reflects that happiness does not occur only when “external conditions are favorable” and, actually, seems to occur more when they are not (or at least when we have moved outside of comfort). He writes that those “who have lived through near-fatal physical dangers often recall that in the midst of their ordeal they experienced extraordinarily rich epiphanies in response to such simple events as hearing the song of a bird in the forest, completing a hard task, or sharing a crust of bread with a friend.”
I had once partially filled out a questionnaire for a website; the question I’d left off on was “Are you happy?” This question kept popping up in my inbox, a reminder that I had yet to complete the questionnaire. “Are you happy?” it chided me.
I finally filled the damn thing out. I checked “Yes”, knowing that I have the power to be happy right now, in each moment that I choose to be present. Maybe all I have to do is howl at the moon in Upward Facing Dog. Awwoooo!
Now that makes me happy.
Rain. The soothing tapping sound. The cleansing feel of it on my face, like lots of teardrops (no umbrella). Some days I love the gloominess of the rain.
Morning cuddles with my kitty cat. A few scratches thrown in the mix, of course (I am accustomed to having scratched up arms).
Peeling a big red “violation” sticker off my side window (I parked in a 2-hour visitor’s parking spot all day because I didn’t have my work parking permit). The rain helped.
Making progress on a work “to-do” list.
Early evening yoga practice with some core work … the feeling of building strength.
“Nonna’s pizza” from local pizza place. Pretty tasty.
A photo of my friend’s new puppy. Scrumptious.
A caring text from a friend.
My cat sticking his nose in my drink and then attempting to stick his paw into it. He likes ice cubes. Needless to say, it is now his drink.
I picked up an old issue of The Sun Magazine, realizing I had never read it, and am engrossed in the advice columns from Cary Tennis’ book, Citizens of the Dream: Advice on Writing, Painting, Playing, Acting, and Being.
A jazz pianist wrote to Cary for advice on his career/life path, explaining that he’s heading for his fifties and just sneaking by on his musician’s income. He writes, “We always hear heartwarming stories of people who followed their dream and never gave up and succeeded, but what of the people who followed their dream and failed?” He says that he once thought staying true to his art was everything but that now he yearns to know the satisfaction of earning a living. He’s sick of driving many miles for crappy gigs and money, and is concerned about his future.
The jazz pianist’s dilemma struck a chord with me (no pun intended). I recently took on a part time office job that is unrelated to anything I am interested in but will enable me to make a living. When I was attempting to teach yoga full- time I felt stressed and pressured. I was ‘running around’ from class to class and subbing whenever I could, but it did not add up to a full-time salary. Subbing cannot be counted on for income and even permanent classes are subject to change, so there is little stability. And ‘god forbid’ I taught a class that was less than great; it sent me into a downward spiral of despair and doubt, questioning whether I was any good at teaching and if I could continue on this path at all.
Cary tells the jazz musician that when he first sat down to write to him he was at a loss; he had no words. He took some time away from the computer to clear his head but still no words came. But then he noticed a bumper sticker on a car that read “Real musicians have day jobs!” Cary writes, “… it was a needed reminder: Your music does not have to support you. In fact, your music might be happier if you were supporting it.” He encourages him to find part-time work to supplement his musical career or to even change paths completely if he chooses and play his music on the side. I found this oddly comforting.
The next question to Cary comes from a young woman who has had no worldly success with her writing, no tangible results to prove that her writing is worth pursuing. She wants to know when she should give up in terms of making a career of writing. Cary reminds her that writing is not only about “displaying one’s talent” but that writing is a “spiritual practice and mode of self-discovery.” He continues on to discuss the “practice,” the notion of putting in the work each day to improve one’s craft.
The universe has been sending lots of messages my way about practicing with consistency and love for the craft, and finding the grace to detach from the results. Practice is not about getting to an end point. I have been practicing every day (my writing, my yoga) and I feeling fuller, nourished, and more stable … those feelings I’d been looking for when I was practicing erratically and praying I would get my big break at some point. It would still be great to get the big break but what is really great is simply feeling the effects of my practice in my body, mind and soul.
A dream: I had been shot twice in the area around my heart. I didn’t realize at first that I’d been shot, didn’t feel anything, but then I looked down at my chest and saw that I had two bloody wounds. I felt a tingling sensation, a quiet pain. It wasn’t the pain that concerned me but the knowledge that the wounds were much deeper and more severe than the pain indicated, and that I just couldn’t feel the full intensity of them yet. I didn’t know if the wounds were fatal so I asked a police officer for his assessment; he seemed to reassure me that I would be okay.
The wounds, I suspect, are symbolic of my father’s death and the slow process of connecting to such big emotions. I was, for a long time, disconnected from my emotions (a defense mechanism); my yoga and writing practices have helped to sync up my mind and body so I can feel what I am feeling, but, still, it is a slow process for me. I randomly cry in the car in response to a story on NPR (often one that seems, on the surface, unrelated) or a song.
Lately, what triggers me to feel are beings that are helpless or in pain. Since I was a little girl, I’ve had a soft spot for animals. Books like Where the Red Fern Grows were almost too much for me to handle; I cried like I had lost my own family member. As I grew older, I hardened and closed my heart and didn’t feel with the intensity I once had. I guess I learned that it wasn’t safe to be that vulnerable. A consistent yoga practice has helped me to re-open in the places I closed down, which brings connection and love and, also, vulnerability and pain. Recently, posts and petitions on social media about animals that are suffering hit me at the deepest places in my core and heart. I want to save them all. I want for them to be safe and comfortable and loved. I can’t stand the idea of them being alone and scared.
My brother’s recent decision to give up the dog he adopted, a dog who has anxiety and abandonment issues that affect his behavior and make it too difficult to have him in a small apartment, sent me into a tear fest. I couldn’t speak when I heard the news because my throat was so full of emotion. I cried for days. My words to my brother, just weeks before he made the decision, were: “Don’t give up on him!” I had sensed it.
My brother said something recently that surprised me: he said his dog’s face reminds him of our dad. We laughed and my brother’s wife asked what he meant but I knew immediately. It had occurred to me that my reaction to the news about the dog was connected to my father. My father was in pain for a long time, ever since I can remember, trapped by his addictions, and suffering immensely. He was also kind and big-hearted and cared deeply about other people, especially his family. He couldn’t show us in the same way a father who is “available” and “well” might, but I always felt his love.
We could not help my father. I watched him slowly devolve and deteriorate. I was in high school when I began to understand that something was very wrong. About a year before he died, I had little contact with him. There had been so many ups and downs (homeless shelters and veteran’s rehab and finally recovery and a period of health, but not for long) and I understood he would never change. I didn’t make a conscious effort to withdraw but it happened naturally (on both sides; he didn’t contact me often either) and I felt sad and guilty when I thought about him but every time I picked up the phone to call, or thought about visiting him, I could not do it.
I recently read in an interview (I think also in The Sun) that grieving is not a linear process … like in my dream, it may take time to get to the depth of the real wound.
Seinfeld does a funny skit about “day guy” and “night guy.” Night guy, he says, sabotages day guy. Night guy is not at all concerned with day guy’s wake up time: day guy has to get up in 5 hours; oh well.
I think this skit is hilarious because I have a day guy/night guy personality. My “day guy” wants to get everything right, accomplish all the tasks on my “to do” list, eat healthy, exercise, and get to bed early, but by the time evening rolls around day guy is a goner and night guy is ready to parteeee (I’m thinking of the line from Bridesmaids–from the scene on the airplane), and by party I mostly mean staying up late to read, peruse the internet, or watch TV. Okay, okay, and eating way more than my body needs (this is where my dessert addiction comes in) and sometimes drinking vino. Before I know it, it’s way past day guy’s bedtime and I know day guy will be miserable in the morning (day guy is sensitive and needs beauty sleep), but it’s too late. The damage is done. Night guy has struck again.
How to integrate the day and night guys? Where do these disparate souls meet?
Day guy is great and all, always getting stuff done, but can become rigid and serious, consumed by the mundane details, whereas night guy is more about the big picture (he or she, as it were, enjoys reading Astrology and Mythology blogs at midnight) and couldn’t care less about the tasks on the “to do” list.
In order to honor both the night and day aspects of my personality I think I have to find equal time for being responsible and for being carefree, working hard and dancing in pajamas, accomplishing tasks and doing nothing. I think night guy is akin to the loose-y goose-y right brain hemisphere and day guy is aligned with the business-like left brain.
PS. I am in night guy mode at the moment and don’t feel like doing anything but sitting on the couch with a glass of vino and my kitty cat, which I will go do now. I will do my best to keep him in check, so that day guy can thrive tomorrow.
This is night guy signing off.
Tonight while I was teaching my yoga class I was present, fully present. There is a rhythmic flow that you can step inside of when you leave the thinking mind and teach from that higher, connected place; a dance between teacher and students ensues and it can feel magical. The sequence, the words, the technical aspects of the class fall into the background–they are there but it is the energy of the class that buoys everyone, that leaves both students and teacher feeling light and whole.
Unfortunately, there are also those classes that feel “off,” when you just can’t, for whatever reason, click in, find the beat. My voice, my words, my movements feel awkward and foreign to me and I struggle through the class like I was doing hard manual labor.
These “off” classes are, thankfully, more rare now but when I began teaching they happened a lot, probably due to old, deep fears of being “seen” and “heard.”
I wondered if it was a good idea to share this on my blog since I teach yoga for a living, but we all have “off” classes or days and to share these truths reveals our humanity and connects us to others. I am learning to move on more quickly from the classes or experiences in life that don’t go as well as I would have liked, and to keep in mind that it is all practice. The more I practice my craft the stronger and more experienced I become.
So instead of failing … how about falling. Falling is a part of the practice. I say this to students when they’re in Tree Pose because it can be so frustrating to feel unbalanced, but by the very nature of it one’s balance varies day to day, and there will always be some wobbling and, sometimes, falling.
The question is, can you fall gracefully? That is an art, too.
“The paradoxes of life are all there in the sea. The ocean is often referred to as feminine, but the weaves arrive in a masculine surge. As soon as they reach the full extent of their masculine expression, they shape themselves into a tube, a womb. . . . There are tempests and dark depths. You do not mess with the ocean. It will pummel you and chew you up. It is devastatingly brutal. And yet it can be luminous and delicate and tender. We clean our wounds there. What a reflection of our own impossible nature. We’re so brutal, so base, so horrific, and yet we have the capacity for such tenderness and warmth, such empathy, such generosity.” -Ran Ortner
I love the line: We clean our wounds there. I lingered over this sentence. I have always been drawn to the ocean. Although I did not grow up near the ocean, we are intimately acquainted. I’m Greek so I suppose the sea is in my blood. When I’m near the ocean I just feel right. The sounds. The smell. The feel of the air. It’s like coming home. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.
In my twenties, I spent two summers living and working near the ocean. It was not the best time in my life; I was feeling lost. I didn’t know which direction to move in career-wise or otherwise and felt stuck and defeated by past decisions (a recurring theme in my life).
When I look back at this time, I see it as a period of healing my wounds. Emotional issues from the past were coming up to the surface for confrontation. I spent many hours on the soft, warm sand, listening to the ocean and writing in my journals, diving into turbulent waves and cleaning wounds. Each morning before work I sat on the sand and drank my coffee, mesmerized by the wild, soothing waters. During that first summer I began creating again–writing and making art.
It was a time for touching heavy emotions and releasing them through creative expression. With the fierce, gentle ocean by my side.
Day 15 of my 30-day writing challenge. Halfway there. I was talking to a friend today about her new health plan; for the first 30 days it’s very structured and after that she will be more lenient but will stick to the overall nutritional plan because she feels great. I’m thinking of this writing challenge in the same way. It will feel like an accomplishment to hit day 30, but the point is to continue.
It’s said that it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit and, usually, for most people, between two to eight months. It’s not about 21 days or 66 days; it’s about forming a habit and then staying with it. No matter how long it takes. And, no, missing a day here and there will not doom you. We don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s not healthy.
I like this habit forming notion when it comes to writing. I’m exercising my writing muscle every day and it is starting to feel more natural. Some days I meet the screen with blank eyes and mind; I feel that I have nothing to write about but once I begin I’m surprised that I actually do. I am practicing. The biggest obstacle is letting go of the need for it be perfect.
It dawned on me last night, as I was scrounging for words, that I was having a hard time because I felt I had to put a cherry on top of each piece, to make it sweet and palatable and then I realized that no one wants to read that shit. I’m aiming, for the next 15 days (and more), to write truthfully and fearlessly, to be less afraid of sharing the real stuff.
In a past issue of The Sun Magazine (here’s some honesty: I am reading this 2012 issue for the first time; it has been hanging out on my book shelf since then. Interestingly enough, it came at the prefect time), Ran Ortner, an artist, is interviewed by Ariane Conrad. Conrad inquires: “I notice you don’t ever mention talent, something innate, a gift you have been granted”, and Ortner replies: “Talent is just the inner need. There is the Christian saying ‘Seek and ye shall find,’ but this does not convey the intensity. I think of the zen passage that says you should seek as if your hair is on fire and you’re looking for water. Intensity plays a huge role in the creative process. The deep need summons the resources required to achieve a breakthrough” (p.8).
Ortner goes on to discuss a period of his life when his work did not feel authentic and he lost his way, his sense of what art was. He stopped his art and began reading; he read not only the biographies of well-known artists but about many different fields, including psychology, spirituality and science, and what he surmised was that creativity is more closely linked to science than spirituality. Ortner tells Conrad: “Patterns emerged. A scientist and a monk and an artist are all looking for the same thing: some deeper reality outside themselves, or inside themselves. They are all involved in the same process: they have an inkling of possibility and are working to realize that potential. And there’s a process to finding it. You have to build up a practice, a system of approach, a set of resources – and from there you can confront the mystery. Everything I read pointed to deep research and arduous work – and then, in a relaxed moment, the aha. The epiphany comes from the concentrated endeavor, not despite it (p.9).
This message of hard, consistent, structured work is coming at me from all angles these days. It’s everywhere. In the wind. The sun (the real one and the magazine). The stars. Everything I read seems to contain this message. A couple of days ago, I picked up a Young Living (a company that makes essential oils) newsletter I’d been meaning to read for weeks and it contained the same message. I guess this is how the universe communicates with us. I am listening, universe. I read you loud and clear.
Ah, today. What can I say about today? I started the first day of my new job and like all first days it was a little (or a lot) chaotic, confusing, unsettling. I felt the familiar pressure on my chest, that ‘uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into?’ feeling. I know that feeling well enough by now to know that it is just that, a feeling, and that it will pass.
So, how do we get through things that are difficult or uncomfortable or frustrating? Step by step. Breath by breath. One foot in front of the other.
My cat has a clothing addiction. He loves to eat soft material, especially cashmere – what can I say, he has good taste. I have learned my lesson and keep all closets securely shut these days. A chair now serves as a barricade to my closet door after he broke in and had his way with a few sweaters. Sweaters, shirts, a few yoga pants and even a coat fell victim to the clothes addict.
I used to have a clothing addiction myself. No, I didn’t take bites of shirts and sweaters like my furry friend does, but I loved to buy new things to wear. I worked in retail, on and off, for years and I think I spent more money than I made on the merchandise. When I lived in San Francisco and worked in Finance, I bought a new garment regularly.
The outfits, the stuff, didn’t ever make me happy (for more than a few minutes) and now seem to me like armor, insulation, a way to not feel. A metaphor for a closed heart. My cat, Jespa, has taught me how to love again. Animals are pure; they teach unconditional love. Jespa has, literally and figuratively, bitten through my armor, the defenses that keep me hidden away from love and real emotions.
Who needs new clothes when you can have a little tiger friend?
A post, today, about my newfound love for essential oils. I began using them about a year ago and I think it’s safe to say that I am addicted. Just a warning: this is not a cheap hobby. I envision myself living in a tent or a van down by the river with nothing but my essential oils; at least I will smell good. Magical goodness in tiny bottles is what they are.
*Many years after writing this post I want to add that I no longer use the fancy brands, Young Living or Doterra, that I was convinced are the only pure brands on the market. I now think that is rubbish and that, mostly, they are just overpriced. I use Aura Cacia, a brand that Whole Foods sells and they smell exactly the same to me. There are also a lot of small/mom and pop organic/pure EO brands out there – do your research. The big companies say that only they have the equipment needed to purify the oils properly … I’m not buyin’ it (pun intended).
Ways to use the oils:
A few drops on a body part with a carrier oil (e..g, sesame oil), or you can do an an overall massage. The practice of Ayurveda suggests a self massage every morning before or after the shower to nourish your skin and also protect it before you go into the world — I use sesame oil, and it’s nice to add an essential oil if you can. Lately, I like Lemongrass.
A drop or two of peppermint oil or lemon oil, for example, in water or tea. I just ordered tangerine. Yum. BTW, you can also bake with them; I haven’t tried that yet. A drop or two of Thieves oil in water or juice if you’re feeling run down. (Addendum years later: I learned it is not safe to ingest them; they can burn your esophagus).
Add several drops with filtered water to a diffuser and your home will smell divine. Every home should have a diffuser. 🙂
I also use the oils in spray bottles (filtered water with several drops of the oil) to purify the air. I use the spray bottles in my yoga classes during Savasana (the final resting pose) and sometimes to purify the room beforehand. Below is a photo of the oils I have been using lately in my classes (minus the lemon: I use that one at home to clean).
An excerpt from Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing:
“When it comes to storytelling (and it’s all storytelling) I often tell my students that we need to be dumb like animals. Storytelling itself is primal. It’s the way we’ve always come to understand the world around us–whether recited around a campfire, or read aloud in an east village bar. And so it stands to reason that in order to tell our stories, we tap into something beyond the intellect –an understanding deeper than anything we can willfully engage. Overthink and our minds scramble, wondering: Should we go in this direction? Or that one? . . . But when we feel our way through a story, we are following a deep internal logic. The words precede us. We hear them. We sense their rightness. How did I do that, we ask ourselves, once we’ve finished, once the paint has dried, once we’ve worked through draft after draft after draft. . . . We are animals, our ears pricked, our eyes wide open. We put one hoof down, then another, on the soft and pliant earth. The rustle of a leaf. The crack of a branch. A passing breeze. We do no stop to ponder, What’s around the corner? We don’t know. There is only this: the bird’s nest, the fawn, the snake curled beneath the gnarled root of an ancient tree. There is only the sound of our own breath. Our pulsing bodies. We are here. Alive, alert, quivering. We are cave dwellers. With a sharpened arrowhead we make a picture. A boy. A bear. The moon” (150).
Did you ever notice in writing workshops that the students who were the best at critiquing others’ pieces weren’t always the strongest storytellers? I’m not saying that they were not strong writers–they were– but that there was sometimes something missing in their stories? The emotions we feel when we connect to a story has to do with the essence of you and me, which you cannot reach through the thinking brain. In my yoga & journaling workshop, we’ll use the yoga practice (i.e., meditative movement) to shift from the hustle bustle of the left brain hemisphere to the freedom of the right brain–to tap into something beyond intellect. It is in this more spacious state of being that we can connect to ourselves and the world around us: the rustle of a leaf. The crack of a branch, as Shapiro writes. From this centered place, we can express ourselves more authentically and create with our “sharpened arrowheads,” or whatever writing utensil you choose. 🙂 A Boy. A bear. The Moon. I
Today, on his birthday, a tribute to my father.
I’ve been reading books about the other side. I teeter between believing that my father is around me, watching me and helping me navigate this tricky earth plane to thinking he is simply, gone.
After he died, I saw cardinals on a walking trail near my home. My father loved the outdoors and I felt like the birds were a message from him or a sign that he was around. A few weeks later, I read a post on Facebook that said just that.
One day, some time after the cardinal spotting, I was planning my yoga class for later that day. I wanted to read a poem but wasn’t sure which one and so randomly opened the page to, you guessed it, a poem about a cardinal. I read the poem at the end of class that day. I wasn’t sure if anyone was listening.
A week or two later, I was feeling down in the dumps at the yoga studio I teach at. I was about to teach an evening class, which was unexpectedly big that evening; now on top of feeling depleted I felt a rush of the old anxiety around being seen and heard, surging through my body – I wanted to run away. That’s when I said the Hail Achilles (that’s my dad’s name) — Dad, I try not to ask for your help that often; I know you’re busy on the other side, doing your work, but I really need you right now.
Just then a student (one of my favorite students for her kind nature) with long, thick red wavy hair waved to me. She said she had something for me and so I walked out of the studio with her, into the hallway, already feeling a slight shift in my anxiety; I was glad to be out of the studio where students were piling in. I felt like she had rescued me. She handed me a gift bag; I reached inside and pulled out a string of red paper birds; a mobile. I gasped. She had been touched by the poem I’d read in class, she said, and was inspired to make me these origami birds. As I held the birds in my hand, I felt a surge of energy, like being filled with bright light. I was suddenly on top of the world. I walked back into the studio, confident and whole. I was ready to begin class and it wound up being a lovely class filled with good energy, which I attribute as much to the students/the collective ‘energy’ as my own teaching and energy and, of course, the contribution of those I couldn’t see that night (thank you, Dad).
Railing of the desk. “Turn
your world red,” he says,
insistent, beckoning. “Risk
life outside your hard-earned
walls and windows. Cast
aside caution, propriety,
and your too small sense
of what you can and cannot
do. Fly! I tell you that the
sky knows no constraints.
All you are or can be comes
clear in the near approach of
clouds. Fly! That which you
fear the most holds your
deepest teaching. Let your
spirit be the bridge between
safety and release. Soar to
the far end of what is known
from dawn to twilight, then
throw yourself at the whim
of the wild night winds.
Turn your world red, and
live with no regrets. Fly!
And if you are blown off
course, just change your
destination. Choose to
land wherever your two
feet are standing.
Today, I took a yoga class today at the studio I teach at. It was a full class and as we were about to begin one last student made her way in. She paused, yoga mat, handbag, and water bottle in hand. There was a good-sized space between two mats in front of me, and a student next to the space waved her over.
The woman didn’t budge.
When F., our teacher, spotted her he walked over and stood in the space, smiling and motioning her to settle here. She moved tentatively, her body stiff, and unrolled her mat, plopping her giant handbag and other belongings onto the floor beside it. She stood awkwardly on her mat, as though she didn’t know why she was here, and looked around suspiciously at the grey folding chairs that were surrounding everyone’s mats; F. had asked each student to take a chair for today’s practice. The room had lots of stuff in it.
Although I didn’t have a full view of this woman’s face (I could see her only from the side), I had the distinct feeling that she was not amenable to the chair situation, maybe downright pissed about it. She made a face and asked the student next to her a question, ostensibly about the chairs and when the student answered and pointed to the extra chairs at the side of room, she seemed to answer curtly. The other student’s eyes widened and she took a step back on her mat.
F. approached (let’s call her) grumpy pants, handing her a chair and the necessary props for the practice. She begrudgingly accepted them. I wondered why, in a room full of students, my energy had propelled toward the one person who had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I felt my heart rate quicken and that old, familiar sense of unease, of something not being right.
I breathed a little deeper as we reached our arms skyward. My gaze traveled through the window that was directly in my line of view, meeting the Hudson river. Hello water. I did my best not to notice when Grumpy P, in the middle of the pose, reached into her handbag and took her phone out. In her defense, she may have been turning it on silent.
As the class progressed, my focus moved away from my chair-hating friend and I didn’t think about her again. At the end of class, after a long Savasana (the resting pose) and a sweet serenade by F., we were all feeling pretty good. I had almost dozed off I was so relaxed. I glanced at Grumpy P and saw that she had lightened, her face visibly softer, and I’d wondered if I’d imagined the whole thing. Maybe she had not been in a bad mood after all.
Or maybe the yoga practice had worked its magic.
We all come to the mat feeling wretched some days. These are the days we most need our practice and the days it’s hardest to get there. I was reminded in that moment all over again of the profound healing potential of the practice.
Showing up for day 3 of my writing challenge (write every day, even if it’s for 10 minutes). Today may be a 10 minute kind of day. White is floating around in the sky.
This morning I drove to an interview for a summer yoga teacher position, teaching kids. The interview was in the same city I live in and yet I got lost for a few minutes (not a surprise to those who know me and my spatial challenges): my GPS lead me astray –recalculating, recalculating, GPS lady bellowed.
Recalculate is now one of my least favorite words.
I realized on the way home from the interview that, although I enjoyed the conversation with the man who interviewed me, the position wasn’t right for me. I feel disappointed and other deeper feelings about my wayward career path and purpose in life have come to the fore.
Do your yoga now, my higher self (the wiser self) pipes in. I shrug. And feel my clenched jaw. My constricted throat. I try to breathe into those places but it feels half-assed. It’s interesting: when we most need the tools at our disposal we don’t want to reach for them.
With each sentence I write a bit of tension is released. My heart softens. I regain my sense of humor.
The little snowflakes are hustling to reach the ground now. They went from meandering around to being on a mission.
The act of writing, formulating sentences, pinpointing feelings and releasing them to the page (or screen as it were) is healing for me. It’s like having a conversation with yourself; it creates space between you and your bad mood, or whatever event is causing you to feel stressed.
I am thinking about writing at the same time every day, in the morning. Sy Safransky shares his rituals around his writing practice in the February issue of The Sun. He wakes every morning (or most mornings), before the sun comes up, to write. I write at different times each day; erratic even within the consistency. I understand how the ritual of waking each morning to write can put you into a rhythm, a forward motion, which is easier to step inside of. I want to step inside of that.
I am not a morning person. I avoid mornings, sleeping until the last possible minute, yet feel a sense of loss at having missed the sacred morning hours, having rushed through them to get to where I need to be, and then feeling plagued all day with a need to “catch up,” to fit in everything I want to accomplish.
It’s time to face the morning. What am I so scared of anyway? The sunshine?
Here I am showing up to my practice. This is not easy for me; my writing practice has been ruled by inspiration and inspiration alone, which comes and goes like the wind or ever-changing moon, and so it has been a spotty practice. A wildly erratic practice, in fact. Making this commitment to write each day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, feels good. And scary (am I up for the challenge, now that I have boldly announced it?). And a little boring (every day?). But also refreshing and exciting within the boringness (is boringness a word?). I have nothing to say, was my first thought after logging onto my blog. But now, look, whaddayaknow, I have completed a paragraph. It’s a start! And the starting is the hardest part.
I am trying (oh-so hard) not to edit and judge my words as I type them, but to allow them to be, just be (I can always go back and revise after, I reassure my inner critic). I have come to realize that one of my biggest blocks to fulfilling my goals/dreams is perfection (aka a fear of messing up). Perfection is the pesky culprit of procrastination and sucks the life right out of creativity. I am learning how to gracefully accept my flubs, to be kinder to myself when I mess up, so that I don’t send my creative spirit into hiding, where she has already spent too much time.
I have recently begun teaching classes that blend yoga and journaling. This class is about creative self expression. We move slowly, steadily (one breath at a time) away from our analytical left brain and into the open, bright space that can be accessed in our hippy-loving right brain, so that we can express ourselves freely, with abandon (no rules; just write). In intervals throughout the practice, I offer creative inspiration and writing prompts and then invite students to jot down images, snippets of memories, draw pictures … to release onto paper whatever is bubbling to the surface. The writing does not have to be profound. It does not have to be poetic. It does not have to be anything. That is the beauty of the practice. We are giving our well-meaning but annoying friend, perfection, the boot for the day.
I recently read Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing. She writes: “The two greatest shocks I have experienced–my parents’ accident and my son’s illness–ignited in me what had been an already flickering flame of awareness–some might even say a hyperawareness–that life is fragile. That bad things have happened and, without a doubt, will again. That to love anything at all is to become able to lose it. Some days, this awareness gets the better of me. Anxiety sets in. I grow impatient and controlling. Or I retreat from the world. But more often than not, this burden of accumulation feels like a gift. It has taught me that ordinary life–or what Joan Didion calls ‘ordinary blessings’–is what is most precious. … We are revealed to ourselves–just as our characters are revealed to us–through our daily actions. When making my son’s breakfast, I try to focus simply on cracking the eggs, melting the butter, toasting the bread. It doesn’t get more elemental than that. As I drive down country roads taking Jacob to school, I remind myself to focus on the way the sunlight plays on the surface of a pond, the silhouettes of cows in a field. I’ve learned that it isn’t so easy to witness what is actually happening. The eggs, the cows. But my days are made of of these moments. If I dismiss the ordinary–waiting for the special, the extreme, the extraordinary to happen–I may just miss my life” (p.123).
And so, word by ordinary word, I am creating. I am practicing. One word in front of the other. One word at a time. You get the idea. Just get them out, and onto paper or screen. That is the secret (to Still Writing; as in “are you still writing?”). I finally understand.
Last weekend, I had plans to have tea with a student from my yoga class. We had been saying for months that we would get together and had finally set a date. I planned to get a certain amount of work accomplished in the first half of the day, and when the time to meet neared I realized I had not met my goal. I thought for a moment about asking if we could reschedule and was answered by my inner voice: “Stick to your commitments.” So I bundled up in my winter gear and stepped into the cold air. The snow had been whirling down from the sky all day. I walked the 15 minute path to the cafe, welcoming the feel of snowflakes on my face.
At the cafe, I ordered a green tea and sat at a small table, watching the door until I spotted my friend/student. I had not seen her in months and after we hugged, she pointed to her belly as she unbuttoned her coat. She was pregnant! She had trekked in the snow to meet me. She was happy to get outside and move her body, she said. We sat there, at the cafe, chatting about life for hours. It’s rare to meet people you feel completely comfortable around and she is one of those people.
I am working on sticking to my commitments (to myself and others) every day. Step by step. I realize now that every seemingly small decision counts, that all of the day-to-choices we make accumulate into something big: our reality. These daily decisions and habits are the threads of the tapestry that become our life experience. (I shared this sentiment in my yoga class a couple of weeks ago and one student exclaimed aloud, “I’m in trouble!”). It’s okay if we mess up; it’s unavoidable. This isn’t meant to be a militant message (clean up your act or else!); it is simply a reminder that we have the power to change. At any moment. With each decision we confront.
Later that day, after meeting my friend for tea, I was back home doing research for a job I would be interviewing for and came across this sentence: “Excellent outcomes are the result of excellent habits,” followed with a quote by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do.” I let the message sink in.
I take a lot of classes during the week on YogaGlo (online yoga classes). One of my teachers on the site, Marc Holzman, teaches a class called “The 60:60 Challenge for Endurance, Strength and Detachment.” Marc instructs us to hold each pose for 60 seconds throughout a 6o minute practice, committing fully to each posture, slowing down the practice enough to feel what’s happening in your body and mind. He reminds students that consistency, practicing each day (even if it’s only for 10 minutes) is the key to meeting your goals. It’s not the action of making goals that allows us to attain them (although that is step 1); it’s doing the work each day: that nitty gritty work that we (read: I) love to avoid. Marc says, the cool thing is that you can detach from the goal because you’re putting in the daily work that will take you to where you need to go; that’s when trust comes in. You can’t rely on motivation or inspiration alone because those guys are fickle and elusive; it is consistency that you must befriend. For those of us who are not exactly consistent by nature (hello fellow Vata friends), it is a hard earned lesson and one that needs to be learned over and over.
In the “60:60” class, Marc discusses the art of writing as an example of consistency. Lately, he shares, he has read a lot of blogs whose authors repeat the same message: the key to success is doing something, in this case writing, every single day (that slightly annoying hashtag #yogaeverydamnday makes more sense to me now): wake up each morning and practice (yoga, write, meditate).
Last night, I was reading Sy Safransky’s preface to his new book, Many Alarm Clocks, in the February 2015 issue of The Sun. He wrote this: “I write in my notebook early in the morning, almost always before the sun comes up. Some of the entries are long and carefully considered; some are just two or three run-on sentences; fragments of essays I’ll never write, snatches of conversation, postcards from the dream realm … I usually write each morning for at least one hour; on some mornings maybe a half-hour. Writing something every day is important to me – no matter how little sleep I’ve gotten or what mood I’m in. When I’m faithful to the practice, my skin has a rosy glow, the car starts in the morning, my cats come when I call. But I’m not always faithful. Sometimes I oversleep, or I wake up worried about an impending deadline and head straight to the office. Even then, I try to remember what the physician-poet William Carlos Williams said. He was also a busy man, known to compose poems between patients. He insisted that ‘five minutes, ten minutes, can always be found.'”
I like the feeling of being faithful to my practice.