The Many Talents & The Quiet Mind
As a personal and professional practice astrology can be as layered and nuanced as the celestial patterns themselves. This opens the gates for there to be many types of astrologers: Western, Vedic, Chinese, Classical, Hellenistic, Renaissance, New Age, Intuitive, Psychological, Humanistic, Evolutionary, Psychic, Mundane, Mathematical, Horary, Electional, Pop, the list goes on & on. Among this variety, some are less ambitious with the scientific and procedural analysis of a chart (especially among the Western/New Age communities). They are more like like psychics, intuitives, or therapists, who happen to use the basics of a birth chart the way a tarot card reader may use cards. Others, tend to be deep researchers and data-crunchers (especially in the Vedic community) who weave narratives and predictions together with potentially spot-on accuracy, and who may not be very acquainted with the strategies or more intuitive practices of tapping into “inner” guidance.
Of course, a good astrologer needs to be a polymath, able to dance in many realms, and many astrologers east and west do. A good astrologer is part empath & intuitive, part practical researcher, part skilled divinatory technician, part honest and forthright counselor. Essential to so many of the talents that play into a competent astrology is one I find extremely useful: contemplation. This article is about developing a personal contemplative practice into one’s life and astrology sessions to support your inner capacity for deep listening, curiosity, clarity & truth-telling.
The human mind is an extremely powerful instrument, and for many of us one that needs constant attention in order to be an ally on our spiritual journey and day-to-day quest for emotional well being. We all know how it works. There is a monkey in there, or a reptile, or both, jumping around, easily triggered, reactionary, desiring and becoming attached to everything under the Sun. Sometimes it can get rather inflated, inflamed, insensitive, inappropriate, instigative, insecure, and all while lacking the insights and intuitions that are waiting just beyond the noisy room of what the ego mistakenly identifies as central command. There are an abundance of meditation techniques and yogas to help this tricky mental and Mercurial process align with a more supportive and soulful experience of the human psyche.
In general, I believe that the simpler a technique is, the better, especially when just learning. The simpler it is the more likely we will be to use it, the easier it will be for us to habituate and master, the more effective it will be at reaching people and becoming integrated into their daily lives. For these reasons, the art of contemplation is extremely useful in life and on the path of becoming a creative, competent and insightful astrologer. Most of what I will be discussing below has been inspired by the book The Art of Contemplation, by Richard Rudd. If you want to learn more, it is a great little book, easy to digest, practice and apply.
Astrological Contemplation: Meditating Upon the Stars
The practice of contemplation is as simple as stopping and taking a momentary pause in your day to become still, quiet, and setting your attention on a meaningful matter. Surround this topic with breath, silence and meditative focus. It can be a feeling in your body, a social concern, a memory, an inspiration, a prayer or personal challenge. These moments can be routine pauses, happen at times you’d naturally be shifting activities, or you could even set a timer for particular times of the day to check-in, pause and cultivate. They don’t have to be long periods of time, but could be as long as you want. I oftentimes create an anchor, an image or phrase I come back to when my mind wanders. I will focus on that anchor and return to silence and emptiness with the intention that insights may move into the emptiness and space I have created.
I think of contemplation as a sort of meditation that has issue-specific focus, calling in a particular focal point for your imagination and mercurial energy to dance with.
With astrological contemplation I will oftentimes make a persons chart, or a particular arrangement within their chart, the anchor for my practice. Let’s say I have 20 minutes between dropping my daughter off at her coop and beginning a meeting. Instead of rushing around cramming in as much as I can in such a short period of time, I may instead choose to sit down, pause, do a few minutes of breathwork or yoga, and then sit for a few minutes in silence holding someone’s chart in mind. I may actually see their chart visually, surrounding it in silence and emptiness, or I may focus on a particular planetary position or aspect in their chart I am curious about. I will sit with zero expectations, not trying to figure out or analyze anything, but just sitting with it. Just letting it be a place for me to rest and empty out. In a way it is like taking my time and concentration, and laying it on the altar of their natal chart, or taking a prayerful moment to meditate at the temple of a particular planetary deity they embody in a unique way. I consider this to be a courting process of sorts, one that uses spaciousness and silence as romanticism and invitation.
There is not necessarily a need to leave with anything, but often moments of insight are shared with me. These insights are oftentimes not things I could have figured out or “thought my way to.” They seem to drop in, in a similar way to how the first lines of a poem or blessing may drop in. You just make the space, because it is a peaceful and beautiful thing to do, be genuinely content to sit with and hold the space, and when appropriate some magic, grace and clarity seem to come from somewhere else beyond the mental apparatus of the mind and bless the space with you there to overhear. And yes, sometimes I personally wind up dropping the astrological focus and welcome the switching of hats, and just begin to write poetry if that feels right; I have a mutual reception of Mercury in the 1st house in Taurus, and Venus in Gemini in the 2nd…sometimes I just have to surrender to the poetics and prayer that are always hiding behind any contemplative moment!
Anamnesis, Revelation & Unearthing the Hidden
In Zen Buddhism the characters that mean ‘contemplation’ are literally translated to ‘light flashed through the mind.’ What are these flashes of insight and where do they come from? Can’t know for sure, but I have my speculations. I like to think that stored deep in our bodies, deep in our ancestral psyches, are all the wisdom of our ancestors and past-lives resting and waiting to be discovered. Like some sort of archeological site there are entire stories, understandings and narratives we carry inside just waiting to be unearthed. But we can’t mentally mine these out through heady digging and extracting, they come to us through flashes of clarity when we court them well and deliver a proper invitation. I also believe that these insights live in the stars and heavens, are archetypally embodied in the land & cultural symbols, and particular insights may be more likely to be shared during particular planetary arrangements, or terrestrial events. Just some thoughts…
Ancient Greek astrologers had a word: anamnesis. It is a sort of antidote to amnesia, the great remembering of things that maybe “never happened to you,” that live in our ancestral memory. It is a sort of uncovering embedded truths we know but have been forgotten or lost.
If astrology as a divinatory practice is a form of prophecy, than it depends upon revelation and revelatory vision as much as computer programs, mathematics, and sophisticated techniques. But prophecy, revelatory vision, revelation…these are big words, and are scary to go anywhere near. This is partially because of the potential inflation they tease the ego with, and partially because the potential responsibility they carry when seriously considered.
Let’s take a step back though from all that Biblical heaviness and remember that, just like there are big Gods and small Gods, there are big prophecies and small prophecies. It may be the same function, and the same room in the house of imagination, that delivers big-time prophecy as delivers some deep and life-changing insights of a friend’s Saturn returns. Best to not throw the holy baby out with the dirty bathwater. When in doubt, get quiet, pray harder, sit stiller, stay humble, expect little, and listen to your heart! Go deeper into your contemplation practice. And yes, as an astrologer you do have the responsibility to honor Hermes with contemplation and anamnesis. Just keep your humility close at hand, Hermes does lie…and he does rule the hands…