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How to spend less time fixing yourself & more time being perfect

(Or: how jewellery, astrology & bodyfulness fit together)

 

Greg Rahkozy and Elizabeth Gilbert

 

I’ve finally faced the fact that I’m the kind of person who can’t just do one thing, because I end up being bored witless.

The reason I decided to do a PhD was because hours at the jewellery bench had my thoughts wandering into ‘bad neighbourhoods’, and I realised that the devil makes work for idle minds, just as he does for idle hands.

When I popped out the other end of the PhD mincer and felt nicely squeezed into the sausage skin of academia, I had this niggling feeling in my bones, little whispers of resistance. After all there was some kind of deep irony in the fact that I’d just written a thesis on conspiracies, wrestling so hard to tame far-fetched ideas into acceptable forms. I had mustered together the wondrous and inexplicable, working hard to rationalise it and reference it to voices more authoritative than mine.

There’s always been this rebel in me who’d go against something just ’cos everyone else was going for it. It’s something to do with the Aries part of my nature.

Actively resisting anything mainstream was a 30 year habit. But then I spent 5 years shaping myself to fit academia. And yet, as my mind and my words had submitted to the requirements of being a ‘doctor of philosophy’, my body fomented a quiet resistance.

Oh blessed relief that, buried under ‘appropriate’, was still some wildness, some aching to roam freely!

I hadn’t entirely smothered that love of wonder and magic and mystery that had followed me around all through childhood. So I stepped off the gravy train and went back to being an artist.

But there was something else calling to come in, this urging to make my work a more wholistic practice. To bring in all the things that fascinated me (which I managed to tidily boil down to three. Because I do love trinities).
This is the practice of blending astrology, bodyfulness and jewellery.

So now I work with all three to cultivate the art (and the science) of embodiment.

Often a jewel will already whisper its need for a body, for fingers that appreciate its fluid curves, or that indent at the throat where it may comfortably nest.
This seductive relationship between jewellery and wearer is a theme in everything I’ve made, from the elaborate glamouring of costume jewels to the private intimacy of the amulet.

The ancient history, the social power, the talismanic magic of jewellery has inspired me since the beginning.

That certain materials contain an intrinsic energy we can acquire through wearing; that a jewel can hold our desires and memories, or remind us of promises and intentions; these ideas are as old as humans.

When we wear a piece of jewellery it takes on our warmth, it breathes with us.
It becomes a secret extension of ourselves, revealing something to us.
An essence that might otherwise never have been visible.

Of course not to romanticise it too much because there’s that other face of jewellery too. The hard and glittering gems, with absurd price tags, whose cold perfection (if we are fortunate or wealthy enough to wear them) draws attention away from our own inadequacies. Or that ‘high street’ junky stuff that dazzles us when all shiny and new, then breaks and blackens and disappoints within months.

I believe in jewels that tell their own stories but don’t leave us out of the picture.

Instead of being glittery and hard, they collude with us, and whisper of that deeper essence we sense inside.

And it’s this same essence that astrology can show us, as it opens a window onto the soul. Or gives us a map to navigate the path to becoming more completely who we’re here to be.

But all that ‘being who you truly are’ stuff can feel clichéd and airy-fairy if we don’t bring everything down to the body.

To get our toes into the dirt. To be OK with ourselves when we laugh with crazy joy, or cry like our guts are being torn out. Or wallow in the swamp of numbing depression. Or become livid with anger and do stupid things. The whole point of ‘being who you truly are’ is to live everything like this is the only chance you’ve got.

The astrology chart decodes the soul, but until we embody this it’s simply an abstraction.

It’s only by coming deeply into the pleasure and the pain of this whole experience of ‘human’ that we have any real understanding of all that esoteric knowledge.

So here we’ve come full circle. From the ancient stories that bodies and jewels tell together, to the soul’s mirror – that old symbolic language of the stars – and then back down to earth again. Back into our bodies.

There’s a variety of ways we can feel purposeful and make a positive contribution, but ultimately, whatever it is you’re here to do will only come into focus when you recognise the quiet perfection of being yourself. And accepting there’s nothing that needs to be ‘fixed’.

Like jewellery, there are many types of astrology. I’m only interested in the one that helps us decode and navigate the soul’s living experience.

It’s astrology that shows us the simple truth: we just have to seek out what makes us feel alive.

Because, as Howard Thurman says, the world needs more people who have come alive.

Bodyfulness is the practice of that deep aliveness.
And when we wear the jewel that tells our story, it reminds us that this is what really matters.
Zodiac illustration of Aries

What astrology has taught me

I first discovered astrology at a time in my life when I was stuck.
For one, my obsessive desire to be a successful artist seemed to have run aground and I wondered was the Universe working against me? Was I just unlucky? Or just plain ‘not good enough’? Was it a sign that this wasn’t meant to be?

Can you relate to that kind of situation where it feels like an uphill battle and things we have no control over keep blocking the path?

Ah, such a human dilemma! As a species we’ve been chasing that elusive control over our fate since the time before time. Whether it involved inspecting the entrails of chickens, or visiting the priestesses at Delphi for some incomprehensible gibberish, we’ve pursued this hope that if we could just unravel the signs they would reveal the secrets of what the gods had in store for us.

Astrology provided fuel for my obsession to decode the mystery of who I am. (Notice this theme of obsession running through my oeuvre?? And yep, it can be seen in my astro-chart). I’ve always felt different – you know, the weird kid at school, the oddball who didn’t know how to do things right – and I desperately wanted that difference to make me distinctive, instead of a victim of ‘not good enough’.

So initially, like many others, I was drawn by astrology’s promise to reveal destiny.
And I had really high hopes of what I would find – although I confess I was a bit disappointed. It felt like Alice’s rabbit hole and I could keep digging forever without finding definitive ‘answers’…

Now, 20 years later, and with the comforting retrospection that only time affords, I recognise that astrology doesn’t hold all the answers, but it does give us the ability to develop tremendously useful wisdom of the most practical kind.

In fact, there are 4 very useful things that astrology has taught me.

1. Perspective.

Or what I like to think is ‘the God’s-eye view’ – that view from a great height or depth or distance.

What the soul knows that the brain doesn’t.

When we understand how certain qualities we possess create our expectations of what we’ll meet in the world, we can cultivate the ability to ‘step outside’ of the frame and get that ‘big picture’ view.

Astrology gives me perspective on how I ‘operate’ – not only my character traits, but also what my soul is learning in this lifetime.

Ironically, I only developed perspective after I stopped relying on astrology for all the answers to even the little things. Because astrology’s greatest promise is to be a map for the soul, and maps give us a perspective we don’t have when we’re on the ground with the road in front of us. That’s why I refer to the astrology sessions I offer as soul-mapping.

If we start to believe astrology offers all the answers we lose the ability to access the truth it really does offer.

So now I think of our charts as our own personal sacred geometry, a map we can use to navigate life.

Capricorn and Sagittarius
from: Constellations of the Zodiac, Atlas Maritimus by John Seller, 1679

2. Compassion.

With perspective comes compassion. Too often in the age of psychiatry we’re fond of blaming others (especially mum or dad) for our foibles and failings.

Astrology shows me I’m not a victim, and what I’ve experienced is what my soul expected to experience.

It also shows what’s to be learned through having that experience.

I can’t tell you how huge a leap this enables. It helps move me move through resentment and blame, even in the most challenging experiences.
And so perspective has helped me cultivate compassion – for myself, for my parents, or for anyone who’s presented me with challenges  – in way that is completely natural, not forced or obliged.

3. What to do when things get challenging.

Perspective and compassion underpin the ability to know when to act and when to wait patiently. (Or in my case, as a rampant Aries, how to learn patience!)

Astrology not only reveals where I need to be paying attention when the proverbial hits the fan, but also the nature of a challenge – and it’s ‘reason’.

It provides the shortest route to the heart of the matter.
And shows how this challenge fits into the much larger play of time, and my own personal mythology unfolding over a lifespan. It’s even possible to see where it fits the collective challenge of a generation or an era.

4. Repetition is necessary

And in respect to the ‘play of time’ – do you find yourself still doing things that you think you should be over by now? Like perhaps you’re always ‘choosing the wrong man’. Or you could be in a work situation and suddenly feel like you’re reacting in a way that takes you straight back to some high-school horror story…

We think we should be past that by now, but repetition doesn’t mean you’re stupid and you’ve learned nothing.

Astrology has helped me to be OK with repetition because I recognise that when I’m repeating myself it just shows where I’m not really awake yet to what I’m supposed to be learning about this particular theme that keeps recurring in my life.

So that means I really know I’ve ‘got it’ when I don’t repeat it anymore. And maybe that’ll be never!!

 

Aries the ram
from: Constellations of the Zodiac, Atlas Maritimus by John Seller, 1679

 

Essentially, astrology shows me a more wholistic picture of who I am, and how to be more of me – to accept myself as I am.
It helps me get comfortable with being both the shadows and the light.

I don’t need to ‘overcome’ some bits of me in order to be a better human.
Because in every quality there is an advantage and a hindrance.

Of course developing the above skills doesn’t mean life is easy… but it sure makes it easier to deal with.

(P.S. If you want to know more about my astrology technique check out the Body + Soul Code sessions.)

The Solstice Gateway

[this post relates to the astrological phenomena of Uranus square Pluto that was active from 2013 to 2015. What happened then is still relevant now].

There’s a revolution underway.
Can you feel it – the pressure of forces beyond our control?

If it’s something you sense, it’s likely that the Uranus/Pluto square has laid siege to some of your personal planets…

Those with birthdays in early April, July, October and January know what I mean.

And for any of you with planets in the mid degrees of the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn), Uranus and Pluto have been playing rough on your turf too.

Pluto moves with tectonic slowness.
It unearths the deep psycho-social forces that underwrite human lives.
Its urge is to break down, to split apart the old and the outworn (ideas, behaviours, realities). Things past their use-by-date.

Not destruction merely for the sake of it, but as a necessary natural force, using this energy of entropy to generate new life. Just as soils are made fecund, and seeds are sprouted by the action of earthworms in shit and decay.

Pluto could take 20 years to move us through this elemental regeneration.

Until Uranus steps into the mix, says ‘ready or not’, lights the fuse.

Pressure builds to critical, forces beyond our control push us forward, outward, in any direction.

Even though we want this revolution, because we know it’s the fast track to that re-formation we’re craving, still we respond with fear and resistance.

It’s been going on for a while in fact. Since June 2012, the revolutionary forces have been stirring up the safety and security of position ‘normal’ (if there ever was such a thing).

Seven times they’re squaring off, over a span of years. Not that it’s been a non-stop ride since 2012 – there’ve been months of respite when we get to relax and take in the view.

Even to touch, for long moments, those potentials that we feel coming into form.

 

This week we’ve entered the 6th pass of Uranus square Pluto.

We approach the seventh and final gate in March 2015.

Seven is a curious and unruly number, a prime number (in other words, indivisible).

Not comforting like 6 or 8 which make perfect structures, complete unto themselves.

Apparently, when we’re asked to ‘pick a number between 1 and 10’, the majority of us choose the number 7.

The number has always seemed a little mystical to me. I once made a rather complicated contraption called the Gyromancer with seven rings, one inside the other, all about the revelatory qualities of the number 7.

Seven is the number of process.
The steps towards a goal, where each stage is a challenge that reveals a little more of what needs to be known by the seeker.

Seven is the number of initiation.
Salome removes her 7 veils of illusion, Ishtar passes through 7 gates on her descent into hell to rescue her son-lover.

(A quick aside: this holy incest is not some archaic paedophilic fantasy but rather a symbol of the mysterious and mystical union of creator and creation).

Lately, as the 6th gate approached I’ve been feeling the pressure rising again. Off kilter, out of balance, in my pushing to complete everything before I could start a new year…

While I’m in the thick of pushing to get things done, pushing through difficult moments, it just feels like I am up against an immense and resisting force. Rather like being under siege.

Until I sit back and realise that I am the resistance.

Out there fighting on the frontiers (of my own mind). Recognising that I have fallen back into old patterns. Of using work to feel deserving.
Of trying to control everything by working on it.

It’s the classic response – we cling to the old ways and habits, even if we actually can’t stand them anymore. Because at least they’re ‘comfortable’, and safe. We know them, and when we know something we can feel like we’re in control. Even if it makes us feel slightly ‘mangled’. That’s the funny thing about addictive habits.

Then this week the harmonic balancer in my car’s engine broke. Haha – how’s that for a cosmic joke – a serving of Jungian co-incidence?

The 6th gate was exact on the 15th when a crazed gunman trapped 17 people in a chocolate cafe, dubbed #SydneySiege.
A harrowing event that lead to the sudden deaths of two people in addition to the self-styled revolutionary with the shotgun.

Then days later in Cairns, eight children are inexplicably murdered – perhaps by the very woman who cared for them, in a Medea-like slaying of all that is dear to her.

The gate remains open until the Solstice on Monday the 22nd (AEDT), when there is a conflagration of cosmic events.

Uranus goes direct (the revolution goes full steam ahead).

The moon starts its new year cycle, in rare coincidence with the solstice.

And the sun basks a moment in its longest day (on our side of the world) before turning around and heading north again on its next cycle.

Hanukkah completes, Christmas looms.

All of these events are only significant from our earthly human point of view, of course.

The sun does not go round the earth, the retrograde motion of planets is only apparent to the human eye. Even the cycle of the moon is a symbolic construction.

Yet they’re also perceptible. We experience them.

We’ll notice our days getting shorter and the angle of the sun will change (my good washing days when the sun fills the whole of the back-yard are on the wan). The moon will slowly light up the night sky to it’s fullest over the next few weeks.

And the real power of any act of transformation or revolution occurs on both the perceptible and symbolic level.

Media whipped up a frenzy of fear post the Sydney Siege. Yet, people responded with so many flowers that florists sold out, and the tweet phenomena #IllRideWithYou went round the world.

It appears that still the revolution will not be televised. Only the fear of change gets air-time.

Each day we make a choice about the meaning we give to what we perceive.
To the information coming in, to the emotions we wake up with, to the events which carry us through the day.

Yesterday, I just happened to be listening to a podcast by Walter Makichen, a podcast so ancient it was from 2008 but I hadn’t heard til now. More Jungian coincidence.

I was musing on his theory of 4 levels of spiritual practice.

The first level is when we find a way to make sense and meaning from collapse and chaos – religion, or yoga (real yoga not that stretching at the gym), or meditation, etc – whatever your flavour.

Then it can become a tool for clearing out the karmic dross of psychological wounding; for calming the mind and heart.

After this we discover that spirit is in the creative act, and we begin to understand the power we have to generate our own reality, to bring things into being.

The trouble is that we can get stuck there, and forget that the source of creativity is that energy which is so much greater than ourselves.
We think we can control everything, we get caught up in hubris ( I love that word – the arrogance that challenges the Gods, to which the only antidote is humility).

Walter describes the 4th level as transcendence, the moment when we step out of trying to control everything and we just let it be.

I have an issue with the concept of transcendence – I’m sure we can still be on and of this planet without getting caught up in that particular human need to identify with what gets created, and destroyed.

Instead I prefer to think of this level as what Tosha Silver describes as ‘offering’.

It’s the handing over. It’s surrender.

Not a very appreciated quality in our culture. Suggesting loss and failure.

And so we struggle to find a way to win the revolution, not realising that we’re buying into the very mindset that we are fighting to bring down.
And, ironically, the fate of most revolutions is to replace the ousted oppressor with another form of oppression.

This morning I realised that when I surrender, the revolution is truly underway because the struggle, the resistance is over.
Blockages fall away. The wheel turns.

So this solstice I’m ready to drop another veil, to burn what needs to be burnt, to open up to the future.

I’m asking myself: what revolutionary act, or thought, or feeling, do I want to make a reality, today?

And you, what is your solstice act of release? How are you answering the challenges of the 6th gatekeeper?

Why you don’t want to be right

Saturn is currently marching through Scorpio [that’s if you’re reading this before October 2015!]– and all you Scorps with birthdays in mid-November are you feeling the pressure?

Scorpio is always about lessons in power. Both clean and dirty. And Saturn can be so righteous.

I’ve been getting lots of little messages about rightness and righteousness (bad for the heart – but more on that another day) – and the fine line between them.

About being the one who’s right, or who has the right to do stuff (unimpeded).

We are, of course, in this society, finely attuned to looking out for the congruence between power and rightness. You know the drill – we see it enough in the overblown verbiage of politicians. Even the most reasonable of people can be prone to respect rightness and give in to its domineering nature.

I want to call rightness out for the tyrant it is.

Even while I know it’s a slave master (I’m a recovering perfectionist), like everyone, I love the easy currency of it. We are sucked into it’s simple promises.

We say: “You’re right about that” and “I have the right to do it”.

When everything’s alright we can breathe a sigh of relief and settle down securely.

And what about being present, is it really about being ‘right here, right now’?

I say that if we are to break the spell we need to find new ways to express what we really want to be saying.

And yet how else can we talk about these things and still communicate our assured sense that there is something here that works, that is appropriate, that fits, that is in every way what we describe as ‘right’?

being all right

I’m constantly looking for alternative ways to talk about getting stuff ‘right’. And its damned tough call. Sometimes I just give in and say ‘right’, after all, its easier to talk about it like that and everyone understands what I mean. My nearest and dearest are always getting frustrated by my need to pull words apart to examine the bones of how we think.

I reckon that if we recognise how much words shape our thinking we are halfway to changing the world.

I’m not just talking NLP here. I’m talking about fundamental structures in Western thought that are never challenged.

Like the fact that white people do not exist. (Sorry, but if you’re someone who’s been labeling yourself that way, go put on a white shirt and take a good look in the mirror. What colour are you, really?) Hey, I’m not saying White Privilege does not exist – it does. But it’s because we invented the idea that there is such a thing as White people. Really we’re all shades of browns, and if our language actually recognised that this means our society would know it, and we probably wouldn’t be in this mess we’re in about Rights and righteousness.

Then again, human nature seems to like getting caught up in rightness, so we probably would have created others ways to divide and categorise and privilege.

English is a pretty amazing language. Evocative, dextrous, adaptive.

This makes sense because it’s a fairly recent advance in the technology that is language. It’s a hybrid language, a mongrel with too many bloodlines. Which is why we have such silly spelling conundrums, like threw and through, and rough and though, and, how do you even say ‘slough’? …. Well, you get the picture.

So back to rightness.
Sometime ago, in the early days of my philosophical journey, I learnt that there was even a bias in left and right. To be left-handed is not only to struggle with scissors and power tools. It’s to be left behind, and to never be right.

When we head on back to Latin it’s the difference between the sinister and the dextrous. Lefties are not to be trusted. The righteousness of one’s position gives authority, especially for those on the right-hand side of God.

I realised that being right, and doing right is part of this tyranny of perfection.

Because of course, nothing is ever all right, or it’s decidedly out of balance.
So why do we keep wanting to be alright? Can’t we just talk about this in another way and make things easier for everybody?

I propose we think a bit more like Spanish speakers about this matter. When it comes to being in the present moment, Spanish has a much more precise description – ahora mismo literally says ‘now the same’. This same ‘now’ is the ever-present moment.

No need for ‘right now’, or ‘left behind’.

Aaaaah, is the sound of my sigh of relief, no-one being judged right or wrong for being out of time!

Instead of declaring ‘you’re right’ when someone utters a thought that we feel the correctness of, in Spanish you can say ‘de acuerdo’ – meaning ‘I’m in accord with you’. A synching of minds. How much sweeter and more easeful that sounds than ‘you’re right’, or ‘that’s right!’

Of course it relates to our expression ‘I agree’, and yet it’s subtly different.
Maybe because in saying ‘de acuerdo’ you don’t need this dominant capital “I”, centre of the individual universe. (However, the dominance of the “I” in English is, like righteous indignation, another story for another day).

‘Accord’ stems from the Latin root cor & cordis meaning heart.
In accord is the in-synch of a heartbeat. Harmony and coherence.

When de acuerdo we are simply in synch with another.
No-one has to be right, we simply have to be in accord, in balance. To fit together.

This is as fine a balancing act as maintaining the space between left and right, to be sure, but the subtle undertones of constant judgement are no longer hanging around like a bad smell.

I don’t want things to be ‘alright with the world’.
I want to be in accord, in harmony and coherence. It’s a much more relaxing way to think about how I’m going through my day. And how I’m feeling ahora mismo.

Who else wants to join me in a world where everything doesn’t have to be all right?