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 are at a bar, having a drink and a bite to eat, laughing one moment and crying the next. Something the guy I was dating 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 at the bar and we got the check. Outside, he punched the air 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 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.

The moon represents mother and the feminine. It’s connected to our intuition, feelings, memories, and dreams.

What are your experiences of mother? The moon in your natal chart provides insight about your mother and/or care-taker and how you experienced her (or him) … starting in the womb (aspects of the moon go even further back than that to past lives!).

My brother was nearly born in the car! It was a race to the hospital. My mom’s friend, Maryanne, relayed the story many times: she had her hand on his head, she was shouting at their driver to hurry! (Their driver was my mother’s midwife, who had apparently never asked which hospital they were going to and assumed they had more time than they did). “Hold on Matthew,” Maryanne coached my brother. After arriving at the hospital, he was born within minutes.

I, on other hand, got stuck. I was detaching from the placenta and an emergency C-section was performed. (The emergency part of my birth is also reflected in my Scorpio Ascendant.) My moon is in the sign of Taurus, an earth sign that is slow-moving, admittedly stubborn, and can easily get stuck: I’m not ready! My brother’s moon, on the other hand, is in the freedom-loving and fire sign Sagittarius: Let me out of here!

My Taurus moon also reflects the soft blankets I was wrapped in, the delicious home-cooked meals being made in Yiayia’s kitchen (where we lived when I was a child), the goodies (my mom had a sweet tooth), and my beautiful clothing (my mother worked for a French fashion company when I was young). Taurus is ruled by the sign Venus, which represents beauty and the nice things in life. My mother was also beautiful and had been an aspiring actor when young (the acting is a reflection of her Leo Ascendant).

I can’t speak, fully, to my brother’s experience but when he was young, our mother worked in real estate; those were the days of driving clients here, there, and everywhere. My brother was her driving companion when she brought customers to see homes, and she often took him to work, where he had a good time playing with her work colleagues and once drew mustaches on their faces with eyeliner (well, that was Maryanne’s doing. 🙂 Please note, Maryanne also has her moon in Sadge). It’s true that the sign of Cancer is connected to real estate, not Sadge. My mother indeed was a Cancer Sun, but Sagittarius indicates, if you recall, the need for freedom and travel (e.g., meeting new people, exploring new scenery). My mother worked in one place when I was little, but when my brother was little she was on the road, so the speak, which describes the freedom and varied experiences of Sagittarius. Plus, they drove cross-country together to visit Maryanne when she moved to Florida.

My brother and I have our moon in the same house: the 6th house, Virgo’s house. I think we both saw my mom as, ahem, particular, e.g., “Why are you using that pot to boil the spaghetti?” “Why don’t you use this one?” If you wanted to leave something out, in the kitchen, say, that you planned to use in a bit, you’d better announce it or else it would vanish to the sink or dishwasher before you could say boo (which is a term my mom used to use). Everything I did, from small to big, was nit-picked — sorry, Virgo friends, but we know you have that tendency, along with all your wonderful traits, such as being of service and hard workers.

In true Virgo/6th house fashion, my mom was always there for me when I needed her, and always willing to help a friend. When Maryann’s mother died, my mom helped with the big job of cleaning our her home. My mother was practical (Virgo/6th house all the way) and detail-oriented, and if she was doing a job she was doing it well. One of her bosses came, unannounced, into his store early one morning, before opening time, and my mom was already there cleaning the tables where the clothes were folded. He was impressed and made her the store manager.

Another interesting layer, or aspect to consider, is the composite chart, which is your natal chart joined with another’s. My mom and I had a Pisces moon in our composite chart. Pisces rules the surreal and spiritual, addiction and escapism, and it symbolizes things that are hidden and abandonment. One of my biggest fears, when I was a child, was losing my mother. I always wanted to be with her. I cried in the mornings when my grandmother woke me to get me ready for school. It was like I had amnesia; each morning I asked Yiayia, in tears, where my mom was. Poor Yiayia had to explain to a distressed little girl that mommy had left for the train and then watch me break down. Yiayia cheered me up with tea and honey, home-cooked breakfast, and braiding my hair just how I liked it, but I still felt abandoned every morning – it was, as symbolized by the moon, an ancient feeling connected to my subconscious. In the evening, I was happiest when our siamese cat was at the front door, which meant my mother would be pulling into the driveway soon (animals and their heightened senses), or when I took the trip with my grandfather to pick her up at the train station.

Pisces symbolizes heightened  intuition and even psychic abilities. My mom I shared a close (albeit difficult) and, I would say, nearly psychic bond; for example, we knew things without having to speak them. When she got very ill and eventually died, I felt like I was dying, too. That’s the Pisces connection; you feel one another’s pain.

The moon in your natal chart is a doorway to your soul and psyche; the experience of mother is intrinsically linked to our roots and all the women who came before her. If your experience of mother and the feminine principle was not a positive one, and you want to be a different kind of mother to your child, you can be the one in your family who paves the way for the future generation (and hence changes unfavorable moon aspects of the natal charts of those who come after you).

Below is a list of all the Moon signs and a brief description of your possible experience of mother (or mother figure). It’s interesting to ask siblings what their experience of their mother was like and listen to how their perceptions differ, and how that matches up with each of their moon signs. In my descriptions, I use words like “likely” and “may have” because this is one aspect of your natal chart out of many; other placements and aspects could affect the more general interpretation. As you are reading the descriptions, keep in mind that we integrate our experience of mother and the feminine, so as much as your moon sign is a reflection of mother it is also a reflection of you. *I mention the birth process as related to your moon sign; your Ascendent sign is also an indication of your debut into the world (as I noted earlier, my Scorpio Ascendent symbolizes the Emergency C-section that brought me into the world.)

If you don’t know your Moon Sign, you can get a free Natal Chart HERE.

*Please note that I wrote these descriptions in the past tense since I am, mostly, referring to your childhood memories and perceptions of mother as you grew up – for the sake of fluidity, I have kept each section mostly in the past tense.

Aries Moon: Lunar Aries likely experienced mother as active, “on the go,” a “do-er,” and, perhaps, argumentative — even volatile at times. Yours could have been a speedy or urgent birth, and it could have been a fight for survival. Mother, in your eyes, may have been courageous, proactive, impulsive and a wee-bit selfish (the sign of Aries is known for putting the self first). She may have been into fitness, yoga, or sports since Aries rules the physical body. You probably saw her as quite strong; a force to be reckoned with. Likely with an Aries moon, your experience of mother was not bland or boring. It is also likely that you argued with each other a lot. Aries is the sign of passion, so the relationship was/is, likely, a strong one – hopefully, leaning more on the passionate than combative side of things. PS. As I am writing the description for each Sign, I see that I wrote more in the following paragraphs, which is apropos because Aries likes things short and sweet. Aries energy does not have time for long-winded explanations; give an Aries person the most direct and simplified version of something or you will lose their focus and probably annoy them! It’s important for Lunar Aries to have independence and the freedom to carve out their own path.

Taurus Moon: See my description above for MY Taurus moon experience of mother. Lunar Taurus’ birth process could have been slow and there may have been an experience of being stuck. The birthing may have been in a serene or beautiful setting (not mine but when I got home that was true). As a lunar Taurean, you probably felt protected by mother (she may have been affectionate), and you could have been lavished with the finer things (for example, beautiful and soft clothing and blankets) and decadent food (this Taurus moon girl loves a blend of gourmet and fresh/healthy food). Taurus is the sign of the tangible world, so even if your mother leaned on the earthy side of Taurus (grassy picnics and nature), she likely introduced you to the world of things (especially things that please the senses) – I have to say my clothing addiction (since quelled) started with my fashionable mother. She may have been (or is) a business owner or someone who enjoyed earning money. She may have also been (or is) a gardener or had an affinity for plants. She could have also been an advocate for the environment. It’s important for Lunar Taurus to connect to what truly nourishes you (i.e., probably not sweets and overindulgence).

Gemini Moon: Lunar Gemini likely had a busy mother. Your birth could have been a bit chaotic! Or it involved movement. Maybe your mom read to you daily in the womb. Gemini is the sign of the thinking mind, communications, electronics, and short-distance travel. It is likely that all or one of these themes relates to your experience of mother. My friend has her moon in Gemini and she mentioned once that her mom was always doing a couple of things at once, like emailing/texting or perusing a magazine while having a conversation. Gemini is the multitasker of the Zodiac, so it is likely that you experienced mother as juggling a few things at once. It is also one of the signs related to children and humor, so your mom may have worked with kids (or been good with kids) and she probably enjoyed a good practical joke. As a lunar Gemini you probably love to laugh and make jokes, and this is very likely connected to your experience of mother. Your mom may have been (or is) a writer or in the field of communication, or she may simply have liked to talk (read:gab) with you, family, or friends. Gemini is a lively energy so you may have experienced mother as fun and lively, and also scattered. It’s important for lunar Geminis to communicate their thoughts and be “heard,” and to have fun.

Cancer Moon: Lunar Cancerians may have been a home birth, birthed near water, and/or with lots of family awaiting your arrival. Cancer is ruled by the moon, so the moon is “at home” here, as Astrologers like to say. This is the moon sign of deep family roots (and ancestors). You likely experienced you mother as strongly connected to her family or tribe and, likely, “home and hearth” was very important to her. She was, perhaps, a homebody. You may have seen her as “maternal,” a true care-taker, nourishing you with home-cooked meals and tending to you when you were ill. My Dad had a Cancer moon and his mom was known as the best cook in town – I can attest to that; I still long for her chicken parm. and lemon potatoes. I will say, as noted above, that this depends on other aspects of the natal chart; I have a friend who’s moon is in Cancer and he claims his mother didn’t have a maternal bone in her body (which is interesting b/c he also has his moon in Aquarius’ house, which symbolizes detachment, independence and freedom), although this same friend’s mom certainly has a nurturing side in that she feeds and cares for the neighborhood kitties. Mother of lunar Cancer could have readily expressed emotions and/or was moody. She likely was viewed as kind and compassionate and may have loved or cared for animals (like my friend’s mom, the neighborhood cat lady). It’s important for Lunar Cancers to be connected to their roots, home and some form of family or tribe, and to both give and receive emotional nourishment.

Leo Moon: Lunar Leo may have come into the world in a show-y way. Your birth could have been the talk of town, or your mom had fans awaiting your arrival. You may have seen your mother as somewhat dramatic, and she may have been a performer of some type. She was likely creative and connected well with children because of her own child-like spirit. The mother of Lunar Leos, no doubt, loved attention even if another side of her personality shied away from it, and she may have been a bit, ahem, self-centered. Leo is ruled by the sun and since the sun takes center stage, with all the planets revolving around it, you could have felt, at times, eclipsed by your mother. You also likely felt showered in her love, affection and adoration. The sign of Leo is connected to the heart, and those with Leo prominent tend to lead with their heart; you likely saw your mom as big-hearted and, possibly, brave. Leo is the sign of the leader, so your mother may have easily taken control and you probably felt protected by her. There is also an innocence about the proud lion and you may have seen that in your mom. It’s important for Lunar Leos to nurture their creativity, have an outlet for it, and share it with others – to be “seen.”

Virgo Moon: The birth process for lunar Virgos could have been a lot of hours or hard, tedious work! Mom was criticizing your process already, in the womb (sorry, I couldn’t resist). A Virgo moon birth may have been in a very clean and tidy setting (hopefully the case for most hospitals), and perhaps it was a birth without painkillers. You probably saw your mother as organized and efficient; she had a tidy desk and clearly marked calendars and to-do lists. I am laughing as I write this because, although, this would be the case for many lunar Virgos, if you recall I have my moon in Virgo’s house and my mother did not even own a desk, and there seemed to be a perpetual mountain of unopened mail on the kitchen counter; my best friend in High School remarked years later that when she thought of my childhood home, she thought of a pile of mail on the counter and my mother cleaning the kitchen floor on her hand and knees. As you can see, these descriptions can vary; cleaning on your hands and knees would conjure up Virgo, for sure. Lunar Virgos may have perceived their mothers as focusing on the minutia of minutia at the expense of the bigger picture, especially if there was a lack of Pisces (the opposite sign) or a projection of the Pisces energy onto others, which often happens with the polarities. Pisces represents the big picture while Virgo is the small stuff. Lunar Virgos’ mothers may have been called saints for their capacity to help and be there for their friends and family; they were the responsible ones and the ones you could count on (unlike their Pisces counterparts – sorry, Pisces, I love you, too, but we all know you are not the best in that area). Lunar Virgos’ mothers may have worked or been involved in the health and wellness field or been focused on diet and nutrition. It is important for Lunar Virgos to take care of their health and wellbeing in every way, from the food you eat, to the thoughts you feed yourself, and the people you surround yourself with. This is important for everyone, of course, but for moon Virgos a healthy lifestyle is connected to security and safety … this said, if you become too regimented and rigid with your routine you won’t have time or space to enjoy life (it can be a tricky balance for this placement but you can do it).

Libra Moon: The birth process of Lunar Libra. Hmm. Perhaps you were born under fashionable or high society circumstances. 🙂 It’s likely that your mother’s partner was by her side (unlike my poor mom who said my dad came to visit once in the two weeks she was at the hospital – the aforementioned emergency c-section was followed with her running a high fever). Libra is the sign of balance and relationships — both friends and foes. You may have seen your mom as a partner or friend (hopefully, not an enemy but it could have been both). You may have experienced her as beautiful, fashionable, or refined. Since Libra rules the scales of balance and the law, you could have played the role of restoring balance when things got out of hand, and she may have done her best to keep the peace within the family. Perhaps she was a lawyer, as mentioned above, or involved in the arts. Libra represents manners, pleasantries and appearances. If you have the signs Scorpio or Aquarius strong in your natal chart, you may have called her out (or wanted to) on caring more about image than the truth, or what you felt was important. Libra is also the sign of politics, so although we think of Libra as a nice and friendly sign (and like to  villainize Scorpio), it is often those subtle Libras that know exactly how to manipulate a situation or person in order to get what they want. Perhaps your Libra Moon mom was more complicated than you realized, or than she let on .. but she sure was (is) lovely. For those with a Libra Moon, connection and relationships are important; cultivating a sense of fairness and harmony in relationships (and life) allows you to feel at peace.

Scorpio Moon: Ah, lunar Scorpio. This may have been a difficult birth process. Scorpio reflects the birth process, in that it is the sign of birth and rebirth and transformation. Scorpio also rules trauma, healing, and intimacy. With the moon in Scorpio, your relationship with mom was likely complex and deep. You may have perceived her as protective and, in some cases, very attached to you. Scorpio reflects extremes so she may have run hot and cold, so to speak. Since Scorpio rules joint resources you may have been supported by her in the way of money and resources and, possibly, inheritances. Scorpio is a magical sign that is associated with esoteric subjects (like Astrology!), so she may have been a good witch (and, due to the aforementioned extremes, sometimes a not-so good one). You may have viewed her as secretive or withholding of emotions, and she probably had some good detective skills. No one could pull the wool over her eyes and she was, probably, perceptive and keenly observant. Scorpio can be viewed as intense, thorough (similarly to Virgo, Scorpio is a stickler for details), and powerful. She may have worked or been involved in the healing arts and therapy.

Sagittarius Moon: See above for my brother’s Sadge moon birth process – almost in the car! He was rearing to go and nothing was going to hold him back; they nearly didn’t make it to the hospital in time and he was born, I am pretty sure, within 15 minutes of their arrival. My mom couldn’t even sit properly in the wheelchair that was rushed out to her because his head was partially out. There was no time for painkillers, that’s for sure. Sagittarius is a bigger than life energy– full of enthusiasm and, in some cases, hot air (meaning lots of big ideas but not necessarily the follow-through – we need “earth” energy for that). Sadge births may involve spirituality or religion (my mother was very religious), foreigners, or living in a foreign country. When my brother was in the womb, my mom and I read lots of books together; every night before bed, we embarked on adventures to places like Camazotz (from a Wrinkle in Time). Sagittarius rules travel in the mind as well as actual trips, and symbolizes, as mentioned above, religion, spirituality, philosophy … the higher-minded subjects that broaden one’s horizons and open the mind. The mother of lunar Sadge may have offered wise advice and insight and had just the right thing to say at the right time. That said, there can be a preach-y side of this energy (perhaps mom was a preacher): a “do as I say, not as a do” quality, or beliefs that don’t match up with one’s actions (note: this is a less evolved manifestation, which each sign and planet have). Sadg-y people tend to take the high road and they can see from a more objective angle than most, so your mom may have been able to help you put things in perspective, to see how all the trees in the forest are connected, so to speak. I am not sure this was the case for my lunar Sadge brother, I must admit; his placement is symbolized more by the religion aspect of the sign. Our mom, dutifully, attended church most Sundays. She grew up in a tightly knit Greek community and the church was her only outlet for socializing on account of her strict and overly protective father. For my mom and her sister, church was like a second home and an integral part of their foundation. My mother dragged us to church when we were young; most of the service was in Greek, so we found it boring and Sunday school felt oppressive. Since Sagittarius is a fire sign and the moon is symbolized by water (i.e., emotions and feelings), these two energies may clash in the sense of emotional needs being met. A person with a Sadge moon could have felt emotionally abandoned in one way or another, and perhaps mother did not have naturally maternal instincts. Sagittarius reflects a free spirit, which can be seen as the opposite of domestic life, so that could be where the clash existed. In my brother’s case, our mother felt trapped for a long period of her life in a marriage that wasn’t working and that she wanted to break free of, but did not know how to. As a result, she worked a lot when my brother was young and coming of age (if you read the opening, she had changed careers at this point and was now a store manager); my brother would often come home to an empty house after school. This moon sign can point to a lack of domestic structure and security, and/or emotional needs being met. It is also likely with this placement that despite any of the aforementioned issues, one still holds positive feelings toward mother. For Lunar Sagittarius, your deepest needs are met when you have the ability to explore new territories (whether physical or mental), and a sense of freedom, expansion and wonder in your life. Sagittarius represents life-long curiosity and learning, and with moon in the sign of the Archer  it is what allows you to feel truly nourished.

Capricorn Moon: I am not going to sugarcoat it (Capricorns don’t like that, anyway); this is not an easy placement. Capricorn is the opposite of moon energy (Cancer, the sign ruled by the moon, is Capricorn’s opposite). Capricorn is hard angles, concrete buildings, big companies, and rising to the top as a result of painstakingly hard work. The moon is soft evening light, a mother’s embrace, the warmth of home/a cocoon, your favorite comfort foods. Gestation and birth were serious business with this placement, and there may have been a somberness or heaviness about it for one reason or another. My mother had a Capricorn moon. I was told that my grandmother became pregnant with her after a miscarriage; the prior pregnancy was with a boy and they had already chosen a name. Apparently, my grandfather was deeply disappointed and, as a result, my Grammy must have been stressed. I heard bits and pieces of the story, and it makes sense to me in terms of my mother’s personality. She had a deep fear of abandonment and rejection and it is what, I believe, kept in her relationships that were not good for her. She was drawn to people who were not available. At her core, she felt unworthy. Capricorn is the energy of proving one’s self over and over and not giving up in the face of failure; it is the sign of hard knocks and life obstacles. My mom’s mom was a Capricorn, so in this case my mom’s moon clearly represented the mothering energy in her life. My Grammy was kind and gentle, I am told, but she was not affectionate or demonstrative, nor did my mom and she have deeper/meaningful communication or intimate moments; there was a formality to their relationship, as I understood it. Grammy had it rough growing up and, as a result, I don’t think she was able to make an emotional connection with her children — emotions were not easily expressed or acknowledged. As a result, for my mother and for anyone with a Capricorn moon, emotions can get pushed down or “swallowed,” which is very unhealthy, from a holistic perspective, and can lead to dis-ease in the body. It is important for lunar Capricorns to find a way to connect to their emotions and have an outlet for them. On a more positive note, Capricorn is the sign of hard work, stability and reliability —  perhaps you saw your mother this way. She was likely stoic, strong in the face of challenges (depending on other chart placements as well) and there for you when you needed her (on the physical plane, at least). The mother of a lunar Capricorn might also be career-minded or an authority on a subject or field. My mom’s mom was good with numbers (a Capricorn trait) and worked for a short period as an accountant, but it was frowned upon for women/mothers to work at that time. If you have a Capricorn moon, self-care and nourishing is very important; this includes, as I noted above, allowing yourself to feel and express emotions.

Aquarius Moon: With Uranus, the co-ruling planet of Aquarius, involved there is a good chance your birth was sudden or that there was something surprising or erratic about it. Excitement is in the air with this sign. Aquarius represents a lively energy, friendship, community, freedom and broad minded and innovative pursuits (thinking outside of the box). Because Aquarius, in its best form, is focused on activist/humanitarian causes it is not an energy that naturally meshes well with the moon. The moon is about feelings and memories and Aquarius is about detaching from feelings in order to focus on a cause or calling. You may have seen your mother as somewhat aloof or distant. She was, likely, also friendly and may have had the signature Aquarius sparkle. Aquarius is co-ruled by Saturn, Capricorn’s ruling planet, which denotes fathers and bosses — there is a paternal or tough love theme, but the moon wants intimacy and the soft touch of a mother. Just like our Cappy moon friends, those with this placement might have felt that mother was not totally available and most likely inconsistent. Mother may have wanted and needed freedom at the cost of family life, and she my have been erratic with her care or presence, or even unstable. She may have been an advocate for the underdog or the zany professor type. Likely with this moon placement, mom was a friend and she may have been an integral part of her community. With this moon sign it is important that you have grounding and balancing tools and practices, like yoga and meditation, because you may be prone to nervousness and anxiety. It’s also important to have a sense of freedom in your life, to not to be too “boxed-in,” and to be able to do things your own way, which is a bit (or more than a bit, depending on other aspects) unconventional.

Pisces Moon: This is a dreamy, elusive, and romantic placement. With a Pisces moon, you may have been born near water or in a soothing environment and perhaps mom played music or painted when she was carrying you in the womb. There is also a chance that there was something hidden or unclear about the pregnancy or birth. Mother was likely creative and compassionate, and there may have been a fuzzy aspect about her identity or who she was to you -perhaps something that was concealed. Sometimes, a Pisces or 12th house moon mother was unavailable or not in your life. A friend who has both her sun and moon in the 12th house (Pisces’ house) lived with her brother from her young teenage years because her parents had retired and moved across the country (she is the youngest of three); she had a life that she didn’t want to leave behind when her parents were ready to move, so she opted to stay with her brother. Pisces is represented by water, depth, the psyche, music/creativity, and spirituality. There is often a  lack of solid boundaries with this sign, so you may have been emotionally enmeshed with mother in some ways. Mother could have been an artist, poet, musician, or someone who felt and cared deeply about all beings -it is a highly sensitive sign. She may have been into esoteric subjects and she was probably highly intuitive and, perhaps, in touch with the world of spirit. Pisces represents all there is beyond the mundane world; for this reason it is a beautiful and, sometimes, surreal energy, like a fairytale. With a Pisces moon, it is important for you to develop firm boundaries to protect yourself from negative energies.

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. Most important was putting an end to the late-night eating/over-indulging and taxing my poor liver. I began eating dinner earlier, so my body has time to digest before bed, and I try to eat smaller dinners, making lunch the bigger meal when I can (mid-day is the time when digestion is strongest hence the best time to eat a bigger meal). The biggest change, and also the hardest one, was cutting out dessert. Cakes, cookies, donuts, cupcakes, oh my. Like a drug addict, one donut leads to two and a slice of cake – yum (it is a wonder that I have always been thin; but that has, in large part, to do with my constitution/body-type). I cut out refined sugar (besides the obvious, you must read labels carefully and eat out less to do this) and gluten (which has chemicals, if not organic, and is hard on my system). I also cut way back on meat and dairy, due to chemicals and the heavy qualities of these foods (even if it’s organic, we don’t know for sure, unfortunately, that the label fully reflects the organic process). Most importantly, I am eating more fresh and less processed foods.

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 most important take-away in all this is consuming fresh, non-processed, food (if/when possible). As the Medical Medium (Anthony Williams) writes in his book, The Liver Rescue, the liver loves fruits and vegetables. I will add, for the Vata/air constitution, vegetables generally need to be cooked and warm, especially in the winter. Please keep in mind, raw food and juicing are not everyone; they can be very hard on a Vata constitution’s stomach, due to a weaker digestive system, however the pitta/fire constitution usually reaps the full benefits of this type of diet due to their naturally strong digestion. The Kapha (water/earth elements) constitution tends do well with fruits and vegetables, too.

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.

My mother died of liver cancer in October of 2020; needless to say, it was a deeply painful and difficult period of my life. A few months after, I watched a documentary about “the other side,” called Surviving Death, and read the book,  Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe by Laura Lynn Jackson. It was comforting to listen to stories about the spiritual world and consider that maybe my mom hadn’t died at all, that I just couldn’t see her anymore.

In her book, Signs, Jackson. a well-known Clairvoyant, claims that you can communicate with your deceased loved one. She jokes that she and her father have a better relationship now that he is dead; they communicate often and he sends her meaningful and funny messages. Jackson also relays stories of people she has worked with who have received poignant messages from their loved ones on the other side.

Besides my persistent iphone autocorrect typos, which I began to think might be a sign from my mother (mom, is that you telling me to work on my abs?), I hadn’t felt her presence strongly … well, other than a few days after she died, when my cat stood up in his bed for a long time and stared with wide eyes at something in the room that I could not see. I was watching the Netflix series, Anne with an E, which my mother and I watched together when she became too sick to leave her bed. I had the last episode on that evening, which we didn’t get to see together.

I have an open-mind and, also, a cynical side; I waffle between believing that her essence has not died and thinking that I am only seeing “signs” because they are in my mind or awareness. According to The Frequency Illusion, or Baader-Meinhof effect, when you become aware of something, you start seeing or hearing it, like a new vocabulary word you have learned. Although the incident with my cat was unusual; I have never seen him stand in his bed like that (he is more of a lounging sort of guy), and I want to believe her spirit was with us that night, my practical side tells me otherwise.

In the days after my mom’s passing, my brother and sister-in-law had a frequent visitor: a ladybug … in my niece’s room in their new home, on my baby nephew. My mom, her sister, first cousins, and close friend called themselves the ladybugs. It was their dear friend, Jeannie who coined the friendship name and when she died of breast cancer they all got ladybug tattoos. My mom’s little red and black friendship badge was on her ankle. I saw a few ladybugs around me, too, after my mom died, but nothing as synchronistic as my brother and sister-in-law’s sightings … until last November, that is (will get to that later.)

My big sign came on my birthday, three months after my mom had died. The first birthday without her, the person who brought me into this world. It was also during the height of Covid. To say I was feeling untethered and alone is an understatement. I drove upstate and went on a hike by myself that day and stared at the water, but it didn’t bring me much comfort. The following day, I went to dinner with my aunt and cousins, I opened a card from my cousin, Fabiana, and smiled. I couldn’t take my eyes off the glittery pink bicycle with the banana seat and basket. It read “Happy Birthday” in pink letters. I kept talking about the bike. “I just love this card … isn’t it so cute?”

“Yes, it really is,” everyone agreed, humoring me after the third time I said it.

When I got home that evening, I looked at the card again. My mouth opened and I pressed my hand to my chest.

In my mother’s eulogy, I opened with a childhood memory: learning to ride my first two-wheel bicycle with her by my side, for many tedious hours, as I wobbled to and fro but did not catch my balance … until finally, miraculously, I did. I remember the feeling of freedom when I was able to ride my pink bike on my own, without my mother holding the back of the banana seat, and mostly how happy she was for me.

The birthday card was from my mother. I just knew it. It was my pink bicycle on the card with the banana seat and basket, as I had described in the eulogy. Fabiana was not at the lunch after the funeral service, when I read the eulogy, so she knew nothing of my pink bicycle. No amount of cynicism could convince me otherwise; my mother, who never missed a birthday and loved giving cards and gifts, was saying happy birthday. I felt her presence so strongly when I looked at the card; it was a knowing beyond words.

I displayed the card in my bedroom (and now on my refrigerator) and every time I see it, it really and truly feels like my mom is saying hello. It looks like the type of card she would pick – sparkly and festive.

Next, I met up with my friend, Geanina, at a farmer’s market last summer. In the days prior, I was going through the last of my mom’s belongings – small, special items I had packed in a few boxes. I told Geanina I was bringing something for her: three of my mom’s handheld folding fans. They are colorful and lace-y and delicate and, like my mother, Geanina is drawn to antique decor.

At the farmer’s market, Geanina got out of her car and we hugged hello. I was excited to give her the fans. Then I saw her pants.

“Your pants!”

She looked down at them and laughed, not fully understanding my big reaction. She told me she bought them during her recent trip to Colorado from a woman who hand-makes them. They had little pink and yellow bicycles with baskets all over them. “Hi mom” I said aloud. “Hi Helen,” Geanina chimed in. “I will take good care of your fans.”

Last but not least, this past November, I was visiting my mother’s best friend, Aunt Denise (I call her). Her daughter invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them; it was, in fact, a week prior to Thanksgiving because Aunt Denise was having a major surgery the day before Thanksgiving. Aunt Denise and I were talking in the kitchen; she was reminiscing about the days of her and my mother’s youth; they grew up together in Washington Heights. When my mother died, Aunt Denise posted on Facebook: “A lifetime of friendship.” Those simple words make me cry every time I read them. It’s rare to have a friend for nearly your entire life.

As Aunt Denise and I were talking and laughing about their childhood antics, Sammantha, Aunt Denise’s daughter, walked into the kitchen and announced that a ladybug landed on her in the living room. The ladybug was parked on her shoulder and it wasn’t budging. Sammantha didn’t know about the “ladybugs,” but Aunt Denise understood the reference immediately. We laughed about having the ladybug join us for dinner, and my heart felt lighter.

My cynical side hasn’t completely disappeared and some days I think the “signs” are just the mind attaching to what it wants to see and believe and, like the fatalistic existentialist French lady in I Heart Huckabees (do you know what character I’m talking about?), I think there is no spiritual world and the signs are merely coincidences (I can hear her voice as I write this), but then I see my pink bicycle on the frig.

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.”

I gasped.

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?

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.

I digress.

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’d like to know more about where Chiron is in your Natal and/or Transit Chart, please book a Reading with me. 🙂

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).

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.

Greek 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 IMG_1667man 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:

IMG_1666

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.”

IMG_1497I 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.

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.

 

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.

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?

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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).

Cardinal calls me from the                       IMG_1519

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.

-Danna Faulds

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.

Recalculating.

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.