300 Souls: Notes from a Young Astrologer
When Nightlight opened last summer I had been out of work for several months, my book was about to be published and I was set to leave on a book tour I had no money to afford. I had only the vague inkling that this astrology project "might actually work." Coming into the spring equinox Nightlight has 20 students enrolled in its One Year Community Donation Based Study Course, we're set to launch another course in May, and we've done a handful of successful donation based community workshops. Privately I've seen over 300 donation clients in my private practice.
Things have moved very rapidly on all fronts. So rapidly that this April's Full Moon Nightlight will be celebrating the launch of its own consultation and yoga studio space in downtown Manhattan. The center will operate as both a classroom space for students enrolled in the program and a counseling center for students to practice and observe sessions at during their six month counseling practicum (which is part of the study course). Additionally we'll be opening the space for yoga classes, kirtan, and local workshops.
While I still consider myself a baby astrologer and try to remain impeccably modest in my observations and sessions (always chopping wood and carrying water), I've noticed some distinct patterns in the souls of people visiting me for readings. I've organized some of my notes below but have made my observations very "general" in order to protect the privacy of my clients and the confidence that should be held by a counselor.
The Spiritualization of Vocation and Money
The donation system has worked well enough to support me very, very modestly. Regardless of the fact that I'm not making much money at all, it is the first day job of my life that I feel truly fulfilled by. Perhaps connected to this fact about Nightlight, the most common questions I receive during sessions are: "What can I do with my life that will be truly fulfilling and meaningful? I don't want to be in the job I'm at now forever. How do I get there?"
I also receive the question, "How are you making it work to be a spiritual practitioner? Does the donation thing really work?"
These have not been easy questions to field. First of all the answer is specific to the individual chart. But secondly, the questions themselves deserve deeper examination.
There is what I would call a spiritualized "American Dream" emerging as rapidly as many of us are opening our minds and hearts, and I believe it is a red herring. My intuition is that this materialization of the spiritual lifestyle is something that many souls will have to deal with in a deep and profound way this decade. As we are entering a decade astrologically resonant with the alignments of the 1960's I believe we will see many people trying to do spiritual business in new ways. Some of these ways will be fresh and successful. Others will be revealed as shams (like huckster shamans in a shady jungle market). Words like "Green," "Renewable," "Organic," "Sustainable," and "Love" will be utilized by people trying to sell their way out of the same old ever increasing debt to the same old dying system.
Having observed the ebb and flow of money in the donation model I have a lot of thoughts about all of this. Clients sometimes pay market value for their session (perhaps $100), and sometimes they pay what they can afford ($40-$60 average for donations). The clients who pay more make it possible for clients who cannot afford a regularly priced session. Some weeks are very successful. I might see eight or ten clients and earn six or seven hundred dollars. Other weeks are not so successful. I might see eight or ten clients and earn three hundred dollars. Several clients in one week might promise to pay later and then never do so. Some of them might wait a week to pay despite a friendly reminder email. All of this takes a toll.
When the money is delayed after you give a reading the feeling of an "equal exchange of energy" decreases and my feeling of vitality, my excitement for what I'm doing, and my belief in the 'system' also decreases. At these times it has been tempting to shift into a tighter or stricter defense mechanism. But I've watched a pattern emerge by doing that too. If I become too aggressive about payment or pricing (making more urgent a 'suggested donation' rate to my client) the spirit of the system loses its shine.
I've found the best way to deal with client issues around money is to ask politely for payment and after that, if they still don't pay, I sit quietly in meditation and ask for patience and support from somewhere else. Time and time again I receive the same answer as support does eventually come from somewhere else, "This is not a system you created to survive by while avoiding a corporate job. This is not a shamanic business trick or sleight of hand. This is not about "how to manifest." This is about faith in yourself and in the goodness of community. This is not a system, this is a way of life. One that requires devotion and heart. One that is working on your own personal karma with money and career."
But what provoked this "way of life?" And can it be used as a model? Can it be repeated? Should it be? For me I can honestly say that the economic model for Nightlight was not very intentional, almost accidental really, and so I don't believe we should spend too much time thinking about how intentional shamanic business practices should be. By the same token I don't preach or evangelize the way Nightlight does business.
So I don't have any simple answers for the clients who ask me, "What is my destiny or my true calling? And how do I manifest it?" It's hard not to sound trite. What should I say? "Well your chart does seems to suggest you'd be good at something in the arts. But there aren't many jobs in the arts; you know that right? So you should probably meditate more. Eat healthier. Control your desires. Let go of attachments. Listen to your heart. Stay present. And let go of the need for any kind of ego recognition. That gives you at least a fighting chance to be an artist. But I'd have a backup plan too if I were you. Something you can make money at, that you don't totally hate, while taking time on the side to pursue your artistic dream."
How do you tell ten different people in one week something original about how to get out of the corporate rat race?
Outside of pointing toward certain factors that will tone the shape or approach of a person's career (the signs or planets and aspects involved) these aren't questions with definitive answers, especially not given the times and economic climate we live in. I avoid giving pat answers to clients who come asking about their vocation as exhausting and regular as the question is. This often means exploring the karma of their questions rather than a specific astrological remedy for creating their perfect career.
An Example: I had a young woman come in for a session looking for the right approach to "manifest" her dream of owning a hip, sustainable hair salon. She said, "I want to know if the stars say it will happen for me." She went on to explain, as if to justify, that her Salon would be offering cheap prices, conscious (a new catch word) hairdressers, and the right kind of take on beauty. Inner beauty. This was her dream. Her chart showed a Sun in Taurus at the mid-heaven, a sign ruled by Venus, and I felt okay enough about her idea. However, as we explored the rest of her chart the single largest factor that seemed to be blocking her personal growth was an abusive relationship to a wealthy man she shared no spiritual connection with. She was very protective of the relationship, even possessive (as Venus was in her fourth house in Scorpio). She also shared a story about a deep disconnect with her father. After some tug of war conversationally she opened to speaking more openly about the men in her life. The session resulted in a few suggestions for healing in her relationships with these men.
Two months later she came back for a follow up. Her relationship had ended peacefully, she had opened up her first honest conversation with her father about spirituality, and she was accepted into a business/beauty school all around the same period of time. Her question was slightly more advanced and less "fatalistic" when she came back. Her big question was now, "If getting out of a relationship and talking to my dad helped me create all this good stuff, and now I'm in business school, then what other things do I have to fix about myself to create the Salon? Tell me what to do and I'll do it." We spoke about faith, learning to listen and enjoy each step of the journey rather than rushing to conclusions, how to ask for help rather than demand it, and a number of other issues in her chart around the embodiment of her inner voice rather than such a single minded focus on her dream Salon.
I have no doubt that if she continues to walk her path with her eyes set on the goal of her own personal evolution rather than just the superficial attainment of a "spiritual dream," then she will succeed in finding peace and happiness, and it wouldn't surprise me if she opened her hair salon, too. Once a Taurus gets going on something they often finish what they start!
Most importantly, after both sessions this client was inspired by astrology's capacity to address her inner life and her material goals equally and sensitively. Pretty good considering she had come in thinking astrology was as simple as a "yes" or "no" question.
Note Summary: As Neptune enters Pisces and we watch a hard Aspect between Pluto and Uranus over the next decade, many people are going to want a more spiritualized lifestyle and vocation. Many people are going to want "out" of an old, corporate way of life. The degree to which we choose to learn and study the process of this vocational emancipation is the degree to which we will create a truly fluid economic model for the future, rather than an equally dogmatic, "secular-spiritual" paradigm based on similarly selfish motivations and quick or easy solutions. Moving forward boldly with any spiritualized vocational project or theory is fine, but doing so without continually listening and receiving teachings as we go would be negligent.
Will I Find True Love?
After the big questions about money or career, the next largest question my clients have asked is about love. Will I find true love? What type of soul-mate should I look for? What's their astrological profile going to look like? Do the planets say I will meet someone this year? Will my relationship last? Could you peak at his/her chart and tell me if they are the "one?" Will I have a family? Will I have children? Will it last? Should I get a divorce or stick it out?
At the summer solstice of 2010, around the time I started formulating my vision for Nightlight during shamanic ceremonies, I had a startling vision that my relationship (I was engaged at the time) might be over. Slowly but surely the relationship dissolved about as painfully and interestingly as possible. The process was the single most intense teaching I've ever received about love and human relationships. But I can say very honestly that for as painful as it was, it was also deeply heart opening. I daresay I'm thankful for all of it in case the Universe decides to dish up another "heart opener" (I'm imagining the universe like an older brother putting me into some kind of head lock!).
A few months after the breakup and having done a bit of dating again I am learning something amazing. I hold a presumptuous core belief that I deserve and should have a single, unique soul mate to spend my life with. I often believe that all the work I am doing, every last shred of effort, will be absolved when I find this right woman to settle down with.
Settling down in this soul-mate picture actually resembles the dissolution of my identity (Neptune). Settling down with a soul-mate actually represents a kind of immersion into oblivion, which I desire so strongly sometimes that I live life in a fog. This fog actually hides the fact that time and space are beautiful companions and not demons trying to hunt me down.
In the lives of my clients I've noticed the same pattern by way of South and North Nodes, Venus-Neptune afflictions, Moon and Pluto troubles and so forth. We are uncomfortable in our bodies and in the present moment. We believe very deeply that a partnership will absolve or dissolve us of suffering and sin. Can we really be blamed? Being human is challenging!
I try to teach my clients three things through their charts.
One: romantic or committed partnerships are not end points, dividends, or solutions on the spiritual path. First and foremost they are evolutionary teaching devices for the good of all things, not just yours or my thing. On our paths we should perhaps consider that pain and suffering are not to be avoided or transcended by the right partner.
Two: There seem to be karmic relationships and dharmic relationships. While I believe all relationships are good for us, even if they are difficult, some relationships seem to focus more on the resolution or healing of issues from the past (and because of their time bound focus seem to have shelf lives that are more predictable), while others are more essentially creative (a couple seems to do a lot of positive, new growth work). Some relationships sit in old patterns and some make new ones. I don't know if one is better than another, but I've noticed in sessions that lasting partnerships seem more aligned with the "new things" each individual in the relationship is learning independent of the other. Relationships that seem focused on old or familiar patterns seem more specifically "karmic," and I see many couples in these relationships breaking up as they start to learn new things independent of one another.
Three: I try to absolve my clients of is the idea that they must be fully individuated and enlightened before they are "ready" for a partnership or before the Universe will dole one out. I find that many spiritual people (including myself) come up with spiritual formulas for success. Once liberating mantras, "love yourself first and be free from the desire for the perfect romance," easily become dogmatic formulas for soul advancement. I often meet clients who come in saying, "I'd like to meet someone, but of course I know I never will until I love myself well enough." I often suggest that perhaps each person loves themselves as much as they can in the present moment and that their "level" of self-love has nothing to do with how worthy they are of happiness or a romantic partner. I often tell my clients to enjoy how much they long for someone rather than fight against it. Other times, depending on the chart and client in front of me, I say, "Try to let go of the longing and do some things for yourself. Take some quiet time for yourself."
One thing astrology is great for is knowing when to apply or not apply any particular spiritual "cliché." It turns out all spiritual clichés are true, but not all are true for all people all of the time. This is why knowing your natal charts is amazing. It's not always the truth that someone needs to love themselves first before wanting a partner. Sometimes it is. Each session I try to help my clients uncover their own hidden assumptions about love, life and the universe. In Greek mythology the greatest way to invoke a bad fate is to show hubris (pride). Modern hubris is nothing more than investing too much energy into unexplored assumptions. It generates what feels like "fate" so that people can wake up to their assumptions and be free instead. The more we get to know our assumptions the more that fate, and time and space itself, become malleable. The work of creation becomes cooperative. The word becomes flesh.
Vocation, money and love. The most consistent questions from the lives of over 300 people I've worked with. Big questions in my own life too. My prayer is that suffering may be alleviated for all of us no matter what karma we're working with. That freedom may be attained for all souls from all prisons literal, spiritual or conceptual. That we might discover and hold with great compassion all of our hidden assumptions, and that we might find exactly that which calls to us or that which we long for as it exists already inside of us and in front of us. In a spirit of great gratitude for the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. Blessings and peace throughout creation.
I would like to extend an invitation to the RS community to Join Nightlight Astrology Sunday April 17th for a Full Moon Party at our New Space in Downtown Manhattan. Join us as we light our store front window, enjoy Kirtan, and celebrate the opening of the first Donation Based Astrological Consultation Center in New York City!
Where: 101 W 17th Street, at 6th Ave in Manhattan (The Pine Tree)
When: Sunday April 17th at 7pm. Full Moon in Libra!
What: The Nightlight Consultation Center Opening!!
Cost: By DonationTweet