GO FIRST! 7 WAYS TO LEAP INTO FEARLESS VULNERABILITY

As Leo Season builds towards its fiery Eclipse finale, don’t wait another second to make an unapologetic leap into your power.  How?  Simply “Go first” says Mercedes Kiss … 

The author’s Leo season collage

You see those mid-summer waves rising high in the distance and crashing to the shore, tenaciously, without apology? That’s Leo energy standing tall, asking you to meet her height, to match her show-stopping power.

If we channel Leo energy into a real-life lady goddess running through the surf, she’d look strikingly similar to the muse for this article: 90s pro vollyball phenom Gabrielle Reece. Despite practicing this ethos for a long while, the actual term “Go First” was brought to my attention most recently by Reece in her interview on The Tim Ferriss podcast.

“Go First” is a mantra to offer kindness (courageously) by harnessing our power of vulnerability (fearlessly). 

Here are 7 ways to become lionesses of light, as we leap into fearless vulnerability and “Go First” …

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1// Smile because they’re there.
You see them coming from a block away … a person … walking their dog … towards you … on the same side of the street. The debate starts in your mind: Do I look away? Search my bag for a nonexistent chapstick?  Fake frantically typing a text?

If it were 3,000 years ago and you were in that exact same spot, chances are strong you’d be scavenging for berries or bugs, and the sight of another human would be HALLELUJAH-RAISE-YOUR-HANDS-TO-THE-SKY glorious!

Go first instead! While you certainly shouldn’t risk your safety and maniacally pounce on said dog walker, you should certainly honor your shared humanity with eye-contact and a genuine smile, simply because they’re there.

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2// Reach out and touch (somebody’s hand).
According to research led by Apple, Americans access their smartphones 80+ times per day. But our ability to PHYSICALLY connect is fundamental to our sanity. So listen to the wise words of Diana Ross and “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, and make this world a better place, if you can.”

Go first! At your next rooftop pool party, play a little game called “How Hard Can I Channel Miss Ross?” Stack on those sparkly bangles, slide into conversation like you’re on the Studio 54 dancefloor, and make your rounds. Reach your hand and yourself out there. Your moxie is what good parties are made of, and what people will remember.

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3// Be attracted.
Every morning we make a choice: put on the glasses with dark grey lenses that turn the world into a sad fog OR the glasses with rose-colored lenses that make the world look dayyyum fine (bonus points if they’re heart-shaped).

The latter turns us into love-machines: attracted to the spiraling Fibonacci pattern of a sunflower, the bursting-ripe tomatoes on a roadside stand, the sweat dripping down a frosty La Croix in the scorching sun, and certainly to the shy smirk of your cute waiter/waitress.

Go first! Whether you’re single (or not), extraverted (or not), share a heartfelt compliment by telling someone they have breathtaking eyes, wicked cool style, or a delightful aura. They will feel fantastic. You will feel fantastic. It’s a win-win-rocket to the karmic stratosphere!

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4// Boo boos and tattoos. 
Remember when you were born? Guess what you weren’t wearing?  Any makeup (much less clothing).  And everyone thought you were perfect. Then, somewhere along the journey, we discovered creams and colors to shield other people from seeing us. Honestly seeing us. Joys and triumphs and hellish heartbreaks- such are the things that a full life is made of. And they are often written on our skin.

Go first! Revel in the stories your body tells. Wear the bathing-suit glimpsing at that scar; sport the sandals showing off those nine toes.  Celebrate your patina in your own magical way.

Pick a day this week where you say into your mirror: “This is my face.  This is my gorgeous face.” Then honor your face with some SPF, leave the rest bare, and depart. If anyone at work has the gall to ask, “Where’s the mascara?,” you’re equipped with the most powerful, two-sentence response.

Kiss’ “face, her gorgeous face.”

5// Do I want to live in the arena?
In the words of Brené Brown, channeling Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech, “Dare greatly!”

This is no easy feat. We all feel the presence of critics in our lives- the loudest, of course, being our own internal judge. And we allow them the power to block us from our loftiest ambitions.  

Go first! See the critic as nothing more than a beefed-up bouncer standing outside of the disco dance arena of your dreams. He might seem big and scary, but he’s simply a veil of smoke between you and your hottest hustle.

Throw him a polite smile as you strut on past, because the arena awaits you! Who cares if you get messy while you’re in there; you’re living loud and proud and having too much fun to hear his nonsense.

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6// A lion-hearted love letter.
Often, our deepest and truest feelings are the hardest to utter face-to-face. If we let them slip through the safe grasp of our inner world and out into the air, they have to face being accepted or rejected by someone else.

But acceptance and rejection are bi-products beyond our control!  They shield us from granting our emotions full formation and clarity.  Our lion heart yearns for expression above all else, and it grows stronger not through validation, but by purely being set free.  

Go first!  Let the cat out of the bag and put your purrs to paper.  Write your truth in a lion-hearted love letter … let the pen roar without filter, suppression, or critique. It’s up to you, and not a measure of success, whether you sign, seal, and deliver this note to the object of your affection.

A Kiss collage

7// Pride #1 vs. Pride #2.
The lioness is queen of her kingdom- capable of tackling any Saharan obstacle with her singular strength. Yet she travels, hunts, and lives in prides. She knows that her greatest victories will be won with help from her fellow felines.

Go first! Ask for help. What are you struggling with at the moment (extra gold star if it’s something you thought you’d already mastered)?  Seek the guidance of friends and gurus (your Pride #1), stripped free of your armor (your Pride #2).

Vulnerability is often mistaken for weakness, but turn the tables and make it a catalyst for unleashing fiercer and fiercer layers of your self!

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Mercedes Kiss is a Boston-based designer, writer, and holistic health coach. After rocking her 20s as an architect of fancy buildings, she jumped tracks and became an architect of the soul. Follow her on Instagram and discover more about A STAND OUT, her sparkly biz devoted to serving a growing tribe of babes through high-vibe articles, personalized wellness coaching, and a line of hand-crafted organic skincare.  

USE THE NUMEROLOGY OF 2/2 TO SPREAD LOVE

The numerology of 2/2 is a launchpad for love—but it also asks that we be patient, and put what “we” need first, says Felicia BenderArtwork: Marietta Varga

Be careful what you wish for because the power resides in connection and there is no better time than now—the first few weeks of the Trump Presidency—to take advantage of the energy that 2/2 is throwing down for all of us.

The numerology of 2/2 can serve as an energetic launching pad for all things LOVE. On the microcosmic realm this includes friendships, partnerships, family love, and intimate partnerships. And on the macrocosmic realm this encompasses our relationship to each other on a Universal and soul level—through our connected consciousness and core desire to “love and be loved in return.”

As a repeating number, this holds particular resonance. On this day, if you choose (and often even if you don’t consciously choose!) to be open and receptive, the energy here supports the revealing, or establishment, of soul connections and/or “contracts” that are initiating and being played out.

This is also a message that we are supported by more than we can see or comprehend while here on terra firma. The numerology of 2/2 offers an opportunity to open the heart, discipline the emotions, and opt for diplomacy over a win-lose scenario.

Overall, the message for us on February 2 (in 2017 and every year) is a reassurance that even though it may look at though we’re all going to Hell in a handcart, the chaos is necessary for whatever restructuring is taking place. It is hard. It is uncomfortable. Some might say it’s devastating and appalling. Yet the energy here is all about patience and right timing. Be patient and the timing will reveal itself.

3 Ways To Keep Use The Numerology of 2/2 To Be A Compassionate Rebel

  • Remember there’s power in numbers. (And I don’t mean just Numerology!) If this election has taught us anything—no matter how you voted—it has put us on the fast track to understanding that we can’t exist as “an island.” We need each other. We are imminently more powerful when we work together for a common cause, no matter what that cause might be. This isn’t the time for the “lone wolf.” When two or more people meet for a common goal, the influence and power rises exponentially.
  • LOVE is love is love is love. Lin-Manuel Miranda sets the tone and the theme for 2/2 and beyond.
  • Patience, like it or not, is a virtue. The energy of the number 2 is all about right timing. It’s emotionally         attuned. It’s far more concerned with what’s right for “us” versus “me.” Its energy supports mediation, diplomacy, and loving kindness. It allows and nurtures process. And while there is a certain “fire” burning politically throughout the world right now, the numerology of 2/2 reminds us there is much going on “behind the scenes,” so to speak.

The power resides in coming together and standing strong and peacefully in solidarity. The key is in taking concerted action in tandem with a diplomatic approach to formulating real solutions to the myriad issues at hand—with the clear understanding that these solutions and their implementation will take time, thought, diligence, and cooperation.

8 WAYS TO BE A SPIRITUAL ACTIVIST IN 2017

Want to make a difference in 2017? Numinous Founder Ruby Warrington shares 8 ways to be a spiritual activist…

“Are you going on the Women’s March?” It’s the question doing the rounds as we come around from the collective anesthesia of the holidays and it all comes flooding back. The Trump regime. This is happening. Time to get back to work. Considering a lot of what I talk about on this platform involves the words “spiritual activism,” it may come as a surprise to learn that the answer from me is “no.” At the time of writing this I do not have plans to join the 200,000 + protestors who will march on Washington Jan 21, the day after the inauguration.

And it’s not because I don’t think that it’s necessary to vocalize our anger with the incoming administration. It’s not because I believe that humans mobilizing en masse doesn’t have any impact—just look at Standing Rock. But just as each individual birth chart maps a unique life path—a unique dharma—it seems to me that vocal protest is but one of many, many, many small and different ways that each and every one of us is being called to be of service in 2017.

When I launched our #TuneInPeaceOut event in September last year, it was because I had identified my big message for the world as being: PLEASE CAN EVERYBODY JUST STOP FIGHTING! WE’RE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM, FFS! “I guess I’m a massive pacifist,” I told the life coach who helped me boil it down. So it makes sense that when I think about my personal contribution going forward, it’s less about fighting against the system, and more about putting all my energy and ingenuity into creating a new way of seeing and doing things. A way that works for everybody.

Read on for 8 ways to practice spiritual activism in 2017…

1. DON’T HATE, CREATE. I equate creativity with spirituality, and so for me the term “spiritual activism” speaks to action that is an expression of our desire to create—create new conversations, create conscious businesses, create works of art that shake up the status quo, create babies who will grow to be future spiritual activists!

2. COMPASSION INTO ACTION. It also means taking action from a place of compassion and empathy—knowing that we are all connected. Like I said, we’re all on the same team—meaning, as humans, we all have the exact same needs (love, material security, freedom, to be heard and understood), and the exact same fears (pain, hunger, abandonment). Yes—even the President elect. Knowing this, the more our actions are about giving each other what we need, the better.

3. TEAMWORK. So, we’re all connected. Which means that working with others who share our goals is way more impactful that going it alone—as this creates a cosmic domino effect. Marches and protests are one amazing example of this! But also look at the impact of the online group Pantsuit Nation. Who’s doing stuff you see making a positive difference? Ask how can get involved.

4. CONSCIOUS COMPUTING. The Age of Aquarius has given us this amazing tool called the internet, which means we are literally all connected. Sadly it didn’t come with any instructions for how to use it to get everybody to stop fighting. It really is on us to a) figure out ways to use this tool to create good stuff, to get educated, to learn compassion, and to give each other more of what we need, and b) not get sucked into the shadow side of online life (misinformation, fear-mongering, and comparison/separation).

5. CONSUME BETTER AND LESS. In relation to spiritual activism, the message of conscious consumption is two-fold. Firstly, yes, every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you believe in. Don’t believe in the objectification of women? Don’t buy fashion brands who objectify women in their ad campaigns! Obvious right? But we do it all the time without even thinking. Second, a lot of the times when we buy more stuff and eat and drink more stuff it’s a way to distract us from the stuff our soul came here to do. Consume less + feel more = get inspired to act (as uncomfortable as this can feel). Oh and all that money you spend on “stuff”? Could also be donated to causes and charities where it’s really needed.

6. SEE A SPIRIT FIRST. This is about seeing past what a person says and does, past what they believe, past what job they do, past what country or body they were born in, and looking for the human spirit underneath. And going from there. Also, making it your business to interact with people who are not “like you” on the outside, as a way to practice seeing the spirit on the inside.

7. RESPOND DON’T REACT. If the Donald has taught us anything, it’s how ridiculous and childish it is to go with your knee-jerk reaction to anything which could be perceived as a “threat” to you and / or your beliefs. Yoga and meditation are a physical way to build the spiritual resilience it takes to listen and digest first—making it possible to choose the right next course of action. The “right” action being the one that works for you, and for everybody else.

8. LISTEN. Everybody’s got an opinion. Everybody wants their opinion to be heard. And everybody says what they think will get the biggest reaction because everybody also wants their opinion to get liked on social media. But it can be the people with the quietest voices who need to be heard the most. Not to mention the least “likable” truths. So just be quiet and listen for a minute. Maybe ask a question, something along the lines of: what do you really need? This way, your next action can truly be of value to a fellow human spirit.

Read more about spiritual activism from our Moon Club founding members! We have curated a line-up of humans who are committed to creating good stuff for humanity, and who will be on hand to offer additional support and guidance to our members. Meet them here and read more about Moon Club and sign up here.

JOURNALING BY SIGN FOR THE CANCER NEW MOON

Deep, sweet healing is available under the July 4 Cancer New Moon—on a personal and a collective level, says Ruby Warrington. PLUS a New Moon journaling exercise by sign…

 

 

Buckle up, bust out the tissues, and get ready to feel some serious feelings under the cashmere blanket cover of the July 4 Cancer New Moon. But rather than a hair-raising roller-coaster of emotion, forming part of a tender, loving trine to Neptune in Pisces and a newly direct Mars in Scorpio, this feels more like a loving embrace of the most sensitive, idealistic aspects of our beings—both individually, and as a collective.

And MAN does the world need this all-enveloping, watery hug right now—which is not here to drown us, or invite us to get swept away on on a tide of sentimentality. Rather, here comes a clarion call to see past the drama, the blame, and the collective pain so many have been experiencing, and simply feel all that is ready to be healed.

The Moon is at its most potent in its home sign of Cancer, the nurturing care-taker of the Zodiac, where it is being charged by the life-force energy of the Sun. Joined here by PR planet Mercury, and Venus, planet of peace, love and beauty, not only is this stellium sending us a beam of pure hope; voicing our vulnerability and caring so much we cry won’t look weak during this Moon cycle—it will reveal us at our most beautiful.

Cosmos willing, we’ll see the same from our world leaders too—since the Cancer New Moon, along with her stellar backing singers, is opposite a retrograde Pluto in Capricorn, shining a light on just how ugly things get when it becomes all about the power plays, at the expense of truly empathetic, authentic leadership. A taste of which we’ve been getting already.

And so the bigger opportunity now is for us all to use whatever influence we wield—in our own lives, within our family constellations, and with whatever voice we put out in the world—to transmute anger and defensiveness to pure, unadulterated compassion. To an mother’s unconditional love. And from this place, to harness the fiery power of Mars direct in Scorpio to assist the downtrodden in rising, Phoenix-like, from the ashes.

Oh, and you know that expression about drinking your cares away…? Not even the most kamikaze-strength cocktails will be able to mask the outpouring of emotion (that which we care about) that must accompany this healing process. If anything, we can all expect to be crying into the guacamole way before Monday’s Cancer New Moon rises.

And so instead, we invite you to turn your back on the BBQs and the inevitable, albeit beautiful, public crying this July 4. To carve out a day for some Cancerian self-care, to retreat into your shell, and to engage in the below journaling exercise—which is designed to help each sign plumb the depths of what personal healing is available beneath the benevolent beam of this Cancer New Moon, and during the next two weeks of this Moon cycle.

If you find yourself stuck drop back into your gut—using the keyword as an anchor for your musings. And above all remember to feel it all, to keep feeling, and then to feel some more.

ARIES :: ARIES RISING
My deepest family or ancestral wound is… The personal power I have access to when I move beyond this is… So, what healing modality is my intuition guiding me towards this Moon cycle? What shift could this create in my career, and in my being a role model for others? Keyword: Mother

TAURUS :: TAURUS RISING
What am I most reluctant to voice right now? To whom? How might my connections and close relationships move forward this Moon cycle if I could just find the courage*? What wider impact could these honest conversations between me and my collective have on the world? Key word: Vision
*NB you can

GEMINI :: CANCER RISING
What do I value the most about myself? My greatest talent is… How can I bring more of this to my day-to-day during this Moon cycle? Of what service could this ultimately be to others? What new levels of depth would this bring to the legacy I am imprinting on the world? Keyword: Abundance

CANCER :: CANCER RISING
The creative project I am ready to invest in this Moon cycle is… What is the love note I need to receive from myself this week to get started? Why is it difficult to write? How does this shift when I see myself through the eyes of my dream lover? When I express my creative gives, how does this shift my relationships with others? Key word: Vitality

LEO :: LEO RISING
Where and with whom in my tribal system do I need to exercise more compassion this Moon cycle? This will also be healing for me because… What are the limiting beliefs I hold about my my personal power? Seeing beyond these, how am freed to be proactive in doing my dharma? Keyword: Integrity

VIRGO :: VIRGO RISING
My role in the group currently is… To what extent does this allow me to flourish as a creative being? And what part of myself is being stifled? The conversation needed this Moon cycle for me to express my true gifts begins with… In what ways might my relationships, in love and business, flourish as a result? Keyword: Innovation.

LIBRA :: LIBRA RISING
My greatest ambition for 2016 is… How can I expand on this vision to also be of service in the world? What limiting belief am I holding about my capacity for attracting financial abundance? Who in my family tree am I most inspired by career-wise? This moon cycle I will connect to their energy by… Keyword: Reputation.

SCORPIO :: SCORPIO RISING
Five new ways I can find creative inspiration this moon cycle are… My dream travel location would be… What does my highest self find so fascinating about this place, and its culture? What emotional need does this speak to in me? Speaking from this place, my message for the world is… Keyword: New horizons.

SAGITTARIUS :: SAGITTARIUS RISING
The great mystery I am being called to investigate this Moon cycle is… Five ways shining a light on this area will improve my family relationships are… What in my own life could be healed as a result? This will make me feel more confident in my ability to experience abundance because… Keyword: Obsession.

CAPRICORN :: CAPRICORN RISING
In my close relationships I am always the one who… How can I experiment with being more authentically myself this Moon cycle? Three things I would like people to know about the real me are… In what positive ways might this shift the way I am perceived by the people in my life? Keyword: Respect.

AQUARIUS :: AQUARIUS RISING
I have been neglecting my overall wellbeing lately by… How has this impacted on my ability to truly value myself? What ambitions have I achieved in the past as a result of instilling healthy habits and routines? What new way can I find to connect to my higher self this Moon cycle? Keyword: Efficiency.

PISCES :: PISCES RISING
When I am in my creative flow I feel… But the limiting beliefs I hold about my creative self are… What actions can I take this Moon cycle to challenge myself creatively? In an ideal world, in what ways would this transform the way others see me? Keyword: Play.

TEMPLE OF VENUS: BEAUTY IMAGE BEAUTIFUL

In her latest Temple of Venus column, Elyssa Jakim discovers that even among spiritual circles, body image issues persist…Images: Karis Wakeling-Farren 

Beauty. Isn’t that a gorgeous word? Look at how it sits on the page: regal with all those vowels. I’ve always adored words with lots of vowels: elegant, exquisite, gorgeous, pleasing. Beauty is such an angel word.

Recently in a meditation, I heard the message: “You are more beautiful than you think you are.” This message struck me—it brought a sad little pang to my heart. When I thought more about it, I realized I’ve been experiencing one of those periods where I look in the mirror and think I look weird. Where I’m breaking out more than usual, where I don’t feel particularly connected to my sensual side, where, I don’t know, I just don’t “feel beautiful,” you know?

And I know what it’s about, really, this denial of beauty. I’ve been dancing with body image issues since I was thirteen. There was something wrong with my belly! Why did it stick out from my body like that? Why was I the only one with a strange belly like this? At 17, when other stresses kicked in, I acted on these thoughts and began dieting. I struggled from compulsive dieting for the next eight years.

I had grown up wanting to be an actress, famously a profession of body image perfectionism. When I was 19, I spent my summer as an apprentice at a theatre festival. I recall hanging out in a circle of about 10 women, and the conversation turned to food and dieting. It became clear to me that all these young women who wanted to be actresses had struggled with or were struggling with eating disorder.

All these gorgeous women who I knew as gorgeous because of their insides, their passionate outlook and fearlessness on stage, were folding themselves in one way or another in order to feel included in an exclusive industry: in order to feel included in their own dreams. It was the first time I realized how much I wasn’t alone in this “bad body image” compulsion. And, of course, it’s not just actresses who go through this. It’s all of us.

As years have passed, I feel better about me. A lot. I’m no longer dieting, and I feel I can accept whatever it is I have chosen to eat. However, I now find myself in many other women’s circles that mirror the above one. Healing circle. Meditation Circle. Brunch table. And to tell you the truth, even though these are circles of loving, empowered people, I’m often still worrying about the size of my belly.

The tendency toward self-blame is always there lingering in the background—and I’d like to posit that it is for many of us. It’s an elephant in our yoga studios and sound baths. We’ve had so much programming about how we’re supposed to look for our whole lives, that body anxiety just feels like a channel many of us have been set to. Especially if you live in a trendy city, and the street suggests fashion putting your body on show.

In groups and even just among friends, I’ve started paying attention to when my body image insecurity comes up. I get in touch with my inner knowing and I ask, “Is this mine?” Often, I hear “no.” It belongs to a peer. It belongs to a friend. Doing this has helped me understand, once again, that I am truly not alone in my insecurity. That it is SO MANY OF US who feel not right in ourselves.

Everyone, everyone has that something: “I’ve got a great body, but my skin sucks.” “I love my hips but my eyes kind of cross sometimes and I think I look messed up.” “My face is weird.” “I should look more masculine.” “I should look more feminine.” We compartmentalize ourselves and obsess over our “wrong” thing. So of course, even if the thought is usually not mine, it IS mine too. It’s all of ours. And we “empath” it back and forth to one another.

At this point, I’d like to bring up that this is the ego’s favorite myth, that: “There is something wrong with me.” Psychologist Tara Brach brilliantly describes this concept in her book Radical Acceptance:

[T]he universal sense that “something is wrong” easily solidifies into “something is wrong with me.” When I look into my own feelings of unworthiness, sometimes I can’t point to any significant way I’m actually falling short. Yet just this feeling of being a self, separate from others, brings up a fundamental assumption that I am not okay…Believing that we are separate, incomplete, and therefore at risk, is not some malfunction of nature. Rather, this perception is an intrinsic part of our human experience—indeed of all life.

Brach makes it clear: it’s our sense of alone-ness that makes us feel wrong. The great irony of course is that we’re all together in feeling separate. And there is nothing wrong with you or me or us. There may, however, be something wrong with the society we live in (“The universal sense that something is wrong…”). There may be something wrong with the messages that we ingest and unknowingly propagate.

The author today

But what is the gift of these insane societal standards? What is the gift of the insecurity?

Disagreeing with the ego’s unloving ideas strengthens the mind and soul. When you choose to say “no” to this habit of self-attack, when you choose love in favor of compulsion, you are growing. You are claiming your worth. You are getting stronger each time. Whenever we actively proclaim the Truth to the unloving self, we are paving the way for freedom.

Choose an affirmation today for your unloving habit and resolve to challenge it in order to gain freedom. Mine is: “I know that these fears about my body are untrue. I know I am so much more than this body. I surrender these fears to love.” This can, of course, be applied to any flavor of compulsion, not just body perfectionism. And of course, whenever we free ourselves, we free our sisters and brothers, too. The grip of group insecurity relaxes, we’re all getting spiritually lighter together. Which, in my humble opinion, is way more important than physical lightness. This is a spiritual workout!

These hurts also build empathy and compassion. How could I, Elyssa, help others love their bodies if I hadn’t run the whole gamut of fear and love in my own thinking? Thus our misfortunes become our miracles.

I told a friend about my meditation, the one in which I heard, “You are more beautiful than you think you are.”

“What do you mean by that?” He asked. “Physically?”

“Yes, physically.”

“Go to your heart,” he said. “Go to your heart. That’s where beauty lives. Focus on the feelings inside your heart and you will know you’re beautiful. Then your whole self responds.”

I love this. And, it is true. And when I talked to Venus, Venus told me: “You are all beautiful. You are all divine. You are all so much more radiant than you know.” Go to your heart. Find the beauty and resilience there. “Heart.” That’s got a nice vowel assortment too.

PS: This post marks my one-year anniversary of writing for the Numinous! From Spring to Spring, I am grateful for all of the gifts.

Need more Venus inspiration? Check out Elyssa’s last Temple of Venus column on the practice of receiving.

SKIN DEEP: DO TATTOOS MAKE ME LESS SPIRITUAL?

Calling all spiritual truth seekers: it’s time we cut the judgement and accept all who don’t fit into our preconceived ideas about what spirituality looks like Chris Grosso Artwork: Alessandra De Cristofaro

It’s not only racists, sexists, and homophobes who have closed minds. I find it very interesting to watch just how much some “spiritual” people get bent out of shape over other people who don’t fit their image of what spirituality is supposed to look like.

I have lots of tattoos. I honestly don’t care if you’re tattooed or not; I just happen to like them, and so I get them. As a result of said tattoos, however, I’ve heard comments like: “Anyone who desecrates their bodies couldn’t know the first thing about spirituality, compassion, loving-kindness, or well-being.”

I’m not singling anyone out here, because I’ve caught it from Christians, Buddhists, yogis, nondenominational spiritualists, and more.

But it’s not just those of us with tats who are on the receiving end of this. The stereotypes often carry over to include people whose lifestyle and appearance deviate from what’s traditionally considered “acceptable” as either a spiritual or cultural norm.

This can include dyed hair, piercings, nontraditional attire, and a plethora of other choices that “don’t fit the spiritual mold.” And, sadly, it pretty much goes without saying that to be “different” is to subject yourself to occasional mockery by those who fear the unfamiliar, which is never a good time.

But as happens with every generation, younger people immersed in counterculture are speaking out. Like those who came before us, the 1960s hippies for example, we know our hearts are dedicated to the revolution, to changing humanity for the better – no matter how we choose to present our physical form to the world.

And sure, some of us may look funny to others – but isn’t life’s diversity something to be celebrated rather than scoffed at, especially when the “funny”-looking people are also working hard at making this world a better place?

I’m grateful to no longer feel the need to judge others whose outsides don’t match mine – though it certainly wasn’t always like that for me. Relinquishing superficial judgments is something I’ve worked on diligently. Through years of practice, today I can honestly say that I’ve made sincere progress.

I don’t give a shit about your style of dress or haircut or whatever other external things seemingly make us different. I’m much more interested in what’s happening on the inside—what does your heart have to say?

When my first book, Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spiritualitywas published, I received criticism from some “spiritual” people, based solely on my outer appearance. What surprised me was that some of it occurred when two spiritual teachers I deeply respect, Ram Dass and Tara Brach were kind enough to share the endorsements they’d written for it on their Facebook pages, in support of the book’s release.

Chris Grosso: a.k.a. The Indie Spiritualist

Both Ram Dass’s and Tara’s work have been extremely important in my life, so I was touched that they took the time to spread the word about mine. Their Facebook posts included a picture of me, clearly showing my heavily tattooed arms. In all fairness, the majority of the comments from people were very nice and supportive, but there were still those who felt the need to leave shitty remarks based on nothing more than my appearance.

An example from Tara’s page is: “I’m at a loss on how true wisdom can exist simultaneously with the obsession to tattoo your body. It would seem that seeing through the maya of social conditioning would include seeing the silliness of tattoos, especially many, many, many tattoos.”

If you truly consider yourself to be invested in spirituality for the betterment of all humanity, please take a moment to contemplate whether those who live differently from you or practice differently from you are affecting your life’s well-being – spiritual or otherwise. If they’re not, then why not continue to explore why you care?

I’m offering you these questions from a sincere place, a place where we can attempt to find some reconciliation rather than create more separation.

Accepting one another for exactly who we are as we step foot onto the spiritual path is of paramount importance because—regardless of the differences in our personal tastes, styles, or beliefs—bettering ourselves through conscious, intentional living is always for the greater collective good, which includes all of us.  

Each moment any of us (and I mean any of us) sits in meditation, says a prayer, practices yoga, counts a mala or rosary bead, or takes a mindful breath while skateboarding, hiking, making love, or rocking out at a concert, we truly benefit all beings.

And if your spiritual practice doesn’t help you practice kindness, compassion, and acceptance, and include everyone, then what’s the point?

***

About the Author: Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist (Beyond Words, 2014) andEverything Mind (Sounds True, October 2015). He writes for ORIGIN, Mantra Yoga & Health Magazine, and The Huffington Post, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, and more. A self-taught musician, Chris has been writing, recording, and touring since the mid-90s. Visit The Indie Spiritualist

COMFORTABLY NUMB: AN AMNESTY ON COOL

Enough with the hiding your real self behind your artfully composed selfies. It’s time to call an amnesty on cool, says Comfortably Numb columnist Kate Atkinson.

 

I want to declare an amnesty on modern cool – realizing this is one of the most uncool statements I could write, and more than aware that several people will probably be cringing reading this. If you are, call me anti-millennial and grind away. But if you’d have hoped we’d left it behind in high school, it seems like “cool” is an extremely contagious epidemic no thanks to the digital revolution.

What exactly is cool anyway? It’s an intangible phenomena that you can’t really touch, a state of being that defines the way you walk and talk, what you wear, the music you listen to, where you’re eating, and whether something is on trend – that is, worthy of likes on Instagram. It’s visceral. You can just feel it. And when it comes to true self-expression, I have to say, the modern version is a straight-jacket.

I also want to preface this story with the fact that while, yes, I do have tattoos, by no means am I an expert on cool. I was on the debating team at school – enough said. But I have got up close and personal enough with this insidious contagion to know how it works, and the more I examine its motives, it’s beginning to feel like cool is the root of an identity crisis that’s plaguing our generation.

A girlfriend put it perfectly when I asked what it means to be cool: “it’s the desire to be accepted, the need for validation, the urge to seem radical, despite longing to fit in.” And so it goes. Oh, the dichotomy of being human. Our narcissistic tendencies AND our insecurities are fuelled by cool, especially at a time when platforms for inclusion and exclusion are at an all time high.

Are you aspiring to be an “influencer?” This breed is all about being seen and accepted, “liked” on the interweb. For them, Instagram is basically a digi-friendly version of the high school cheerleading team. Things are sold to us now by “seeding” them with cool people. Brands, celebrities, and destinations are made by their manufactured “cool factor.” What I want to know is, what happened to under-the-radar cool of yesteryear?

In his 2013 book “The Cool School”Glenn O’Brien talks about the new tastemakers. But his cool  “squad” were, put simply, incredibly creative weirdos. Homeless Jazz beatniks, bohos and roaming beat poets. Anyone who made people uncomfortable basically. Something tells me that they wouldn’t be invited to Kim and Kanye’s dinner party.

We live in an age of such style over substance that it’s incredibly hard to rage against the machine and do your own thing. In fact, a study commissioned by smartphone maker HTC late last year revealed that 52% of the approximately 1000 Brits surveyed admitted to posting images of possessions and items with an intention of making their “friends” jealous. What the hey?

Wasn’t this cool thing supposed to be people going against the grain? Rather than just sticking up photo-shopped images captioned: “I ate, I pooped, I wore Celine!” Now pardon my French, but WTF? If this isn’t numbing what’s going on in our down and dirty daily human reality, I don’t know what is.

Because cool these days is about hiding the “sad” half of your life and projecting the best bits. Ambivalence is also key – pretending not to care, even (especially) if you do. Which is basically saying to your soul that your true hopes and aspirations count for nothing unless they fit with whatever’s trending this month. And yet, as the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character puts it in cult classic Almost Famous: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

A moment please to consider this: when the cool castles in the sky come crashing down around you and you’re left with the reality of your life, who out of your carefully curated online “tribe” will actually be there to help cushion the fall? Because what you’re really doing when you shield the real you with a glossy veneer of cool, is construct a bulletproof force field that deflects true intimacy.

So beside a total social media detox and cancelling our memberships to Soho House, how can we wake up from this aspirational bullshit existence that we’re creating for ourselves? By taking the time to get conscious to how we while away our days, and creating meaning in every interaction. By walking our talk, with our roots firmly entrenched in reality.

It sounds so obvious, but social media is the great distractor when it comes to following your own expressive intuition….and it’s there for seeking approval when you do actually create something. The old greats weren’t preoccupied with showcasing their creativity, they just did it.

It’s a mythic delusion and a safety net to communicate and earn accolades in this way – as well as a way to mask what’s actually going on. Surely giving away change on the subway is also worth a few “likes” – so why aren’t we posting on Instagram about that? “Saw a nice guy dish out change today on the subway – what a dude!” Shouldn’t he be the real “influencer?”

These stories DO come up on social media – and when they do it’s meaningful, the positive slant on modern technology. But too often, they’re engulfed in a stream of exclusivity: “I ate this, my bae wears that” – with resulting countless digital high fives and @s to follow.

I know my feed rarely delves beyond the aesthetics. And yes, fashion week happens, and friends stay in epic mansions. There are days at the beach with the clearest water ever. Again, I am not counting myself out of ANY of this malarchy, I am as partial to a well-posed selfie as the rest of us. But the lack of reality is what’s wrong with this whole picture, and it’s beginning to be all I can see.

Can’t somebody invent “Unstagram” for the days you’re feeling a bit off? For when you get dumped, you spent the last two days in tracksuit from Target, or you have an embarrassing medical problem?

Because you know what’s really cool? Being real. Not some projection of me me, me, me, I’m so fabulous, watch me eat, watch me sleep! Watch me break my arm! Look at me tagging historical references to show how tapped in and culturally aware I am.

Are we really this dumb? Is there no end to our ridiculous need for validation? This is the worst kind of cool that there is, and what’s more, this culture of exclusion is not social by any means. It’s actually scientifically proven to be making people chronically depressed.

So in a recent discussion with a friend on a rather significant life choice that involved making a potentially un-cool move, when she advised me to: “Fuck cool” – I decided I whole-heartedly concur.

NOT by Ernest Hemmingway

You are not your age,

Nor the size of clothes you wear,

You are not a weight,

Or the color of your hair.

You are not your name,

Or the dimples in your cheeks,

You are all the books you read,

And all the words you speak,

You are your croaky morning voice,

And the smiles you try to hide,

You’re the sweetness in your laughter,

And every tear you’ve cried,

You’re the songs you sing so loudly,

When you know you’re all alone,

You’re the places that you’ve been to,

And the one that you call home,

You’re the things that you believe in,

And the people that you love,

You’re the photos in your bedroom,

And the future you dream of,

You’re made of so much beauty,

But it seems that you forgot,

When you decided that you were defined,

By all the things you’re not.

YUMI SAKUGAWA: HOW TO BECOME ONE WITH THE UNIVERSE

Yumi Sakugawa’s cute illustrated books bring life’s big questions down to earth. But mastering them herself will always be a work in progress, she tells Gabriela Herstik.

If there’s one thing Yumi Sakugawa thinks you should every day, it’s meditate. And with her sweetly illustrated books, the Los Angeles based comic book artist and illustrator is on a mission – to teach the world that there’s no right way to meditate, and you should do it anyway. In fact, Yumi is leading a shift in how we approach our relationship to our consciousness – and her childlike curiosity on her everlasting search of ways to connect to the cosmos is creating some truly spectacular magic.

The Numinous: There’s an almost childlike innocence in the way you present very important spiritual and Universal truths. How do you think this helps get your message across?
Yumi Sakugawa: I want to believe that core spiritual and universal truths can be distilled to simple and profound messages that can be easily understood by everybody regardless of religious background, spiritual training or level of education / life experience. Also, I don’t think illustrated books should be limited to just children.

TN: One of the points you emphasize is that we ARE one – with each other and the Universe. How do you think living in this truth can change your life, and how has it impacted your own?
YS: This is a principle I illustrate a lot, but one I have the hardest time practicing for myself. I want to believe that in embodying this truth, we collectively awaken to the idea that other people’s suffering is our own suffering, to help remind us of our innate nature to take care of our communities and the planet as a whole.

I do feel ready, more than I’ve ever been, to really ask myself what cosmic interconnectedness means and how I can embody this more in my life and my work. Self-care and self-love must come first before extending that love to the community at large. Meditating on this truth gives me a greater sense of responsibility and purpose in the art I create and share with the world.

TN: How and why did you decide to tackle such a heavy (and worthy!) concept like oneness? 
YS: Again, I think I am drawn to this principle of oneness because I have the hardest time fully practicing it – even though I know on some primal, deep level that this is something the survival of our humanity and goodness depends upon. I spend a lot of time alone working on my artwork, which makes it easy for me to have an isolated and self-centered worldview. I am in awe of friends and colleagues who are really out there in the world interacting with more people from all walks of life every single day in very difficult, challenging situations – whether they are teachers, doctors, community activists, or work in the non-profit sector.

But at the same time I feel very lucky that my artwork has found an audience out there, and it’s so humbling to know that the work I create to ease my own mental health issues and insecurities can also help complete strangers from all walks of life, in all parts of the world. That, to me, brings a beautiful and profound sense of interconnectedness, that so many people may be experiencing the same shades of suffering, but can also experience the same spiritual relief by unshackling their minds from their own self-inflicted and self-limiting beliefs. I am reminded often that my artwork cannot exist in a vacuum and it must be seen by other people in order for the process of creation to be complete.

TN: What’s on the horizon for you in the upcoming Year of the Monkey?
YS:
I do hope to further extend my involvement with the world in 2016, though I am not sure yet what that would look like. In addition to continuing to create more artwork and comics relating to mindfulness, perhaps I will be doing more workshops and guided meditations IRL? To be continued! (Ed. Let’s talk Yumi, we’d love to create a Numinous Presents event with you!)

TN: What’s your process like for creating your art? Is there a special space that you tune into?
YS: Especially with my books about meditation and mindfulness, it’s important for me to be in an intuitive flow state where I am feeling clearheaded and not overthinking things. This is why it is so important for me to meditate first thing in the morning. Having meditated for seven years now, I cannot imagine doing my creative work without a daily meditation practice, which creates the best mental space for me to pay attention to my inner guide – the voice that tells me when something is authentic or not. It is in this space where the best creative decisions are made, and the artwork that needs to be created unfolds with the ease of a flower opening its petals to the sun.

TN: What is the one message you hope to get across to all humans who read your books?
YS: Pay attention, listen and celebrate.

Discover more about Yumi Sakugawa and her work at Yumisakugawa.com

TURNED ON: MY LOVER, MY ALTAR

In this month’s column on sex and spirituality, I’m showing my lover the same reverence as my altar says Ellie Burrows.

I have altared the way I see my partner.

A couple of weeks ago, Business Insider published an article titled Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down to Two Basic Traits. Numerous people posted it on their Facebook pages and at least ten people, men and women, forwarded the article to me. In it, the journalist showed how from The Gottman’s 1986 and 1990 studies of relationship “Masters” and “Disasters” to Shelly Gable’s 2006 study on the importance of the “active constructive response,” kindness and generosity emerge as the two most important components in a successful relationship.

If you’re a living, breathing human being, then this finding should make complete sense to you. But you also know that living, breathing human beings screw those two up all the time.

Every day I see couples treat each other poorly. They desecrate and decimate, creating a cloud of dysfunction. They drop the f-bomb when the other one fails to flag an available cab, hate on each other’s families, roll their eyes when their lover orders the wrong dish, or stomp their feet when they forget a simple task. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to lean over to the table next to me and tell the arguing couple to cut their losses, walk away, and start over again.

In relationships, I’ve also been guilty of some of the above (especially the f-bomb part). I can be cruel just like anyone else. There have been moments where I’ve brought out the worst in my partner and vice versa. But I don’t grow in a hostile environment and neither do my partners, so over the last couple of years, I’ve made a conscious effort to weed out my bad behavior. And when I read that article, I found myself nodding and agreeing as if I had done the research and written it myself.

Science and spirituality have a complicated relationship (some say no relationship at all). But to me, loving someone is a spiritual practice – and now it seems the science just proves my point. In practice I’ve made it simple: I approach my beloved as if they are an altar.

These days, I choose to see my partner as a symbol, an emblem of love, opposed to love itself. My partner is a physical representation of love in the same way a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is a physical representation of enlightenment. Love itself is infinite and eternal and cannot be contained by a physical body. But the way I treat that symbol or body, that somebody, is indicative of my level of reverence for the love between us. And like any devoted believer, I try to always approach my man altar, that constant reminder of the love consciousness, with humility, generosity and respect.

Altars are traditionally a place for sacrifice, and offerings used to be kind of messy – a slaughtered goat, perhaps. With this in mind, I’ve always found it particularly funny that we say we’re “leading someone to the altar” when talking about marriage. But dead animals and divorce rates aside, contemporary offerings come in the form of candles, money, incense, or prayer.

Ellie’s altar: “An act of devotion to the consciousness I’m seeking”

I have a beautiful altar in my house where Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, resides among treasures from my different spiritual journeys: a stick I picked up from the Tor in Glastonbury, mala beads from Bhutan, an ancient fertility Goddess necklace from my Auntie, a hamsa from Israel, and minerals ranging from clear quartz to emerald. When I’m having trouble writing or sorting through something, I often sit in front of it. I light some incense, quiet my thoughts, and deepen my breath. I concentrate on these meaningful symbols and connect to them as an act of devotion to the consciousness I’m seeking.

And echoing this practice, concentrating on your partner, regularly connecting to the way you treat them is act of devotion to the kind of love you are seeking. I cannot imagine anything more generous in a partnership than offering up your best self. An act of generosity, that also shows your appreciation. The writer of the Business Insider piece states that successful couples: “are scanning the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.”

Respect. Purpose. I like those words. They are words of reverence. Of course, sometimes shit gets hard and we say and do things we don’t mean. And just last night (the night before this article was due), I slipped. I found myself in a heated conversation in which I said something I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t respectful, and I didn’t do it on purpose. I was totally offering up my worst self. But the misstep was perfectly timed, as was the dream I just woke up from. I was kneeling at the feet of a beloved, heart full of love, repeating an important three-word mantra that we all know well.

And this morning, knowing I need to be generous, I also know exactly what I’m going to offer up to my altar:

“I. AM. SORRY.”

Read more from Ellie Burrows at Ellieburrows.com

I CAN SEE CLEARLY: NEPTUNE RETROGRADE FOR YOUR SIGN

King Neptune, planet of intuition, imagination and illusions, has begun its annual backward spin of the Zodiac. Ruby Warrington gets to grips with this elusive but powerful entity, and asks what this retro period will ask each sign to confront.

Neptune is the planet I find it hardest to get my head around – but then, that’s to be expected. Ruler of Pisces, Neptune is the dreamer and the empath of the cosmos, the planet ruling our imagination, our intuition and our ideals. One of the slower-moving celestial bodies (or “collective,” as their influence extends over generations), in the natal chart of anybody born between November 1970 to January 1984, and again briefly between June and November 1984, Neptune will be in Sagittarius, a sign where this deep-sea diver feels quite at home.

Sagittarius appreciates high ethics, prophetic thinking and spiritual seeking too, and has been working hand-in-hand with King Neptune to wire today’s thirty-something generation to idealize a broadening of our collective worldview. Welcome to the global village, baby, where the lure of escape into foreign cultures and spiritual codes is felt like the pull of the poles, altruism is aspirational and even the yoga or meditation practice we idolize is often seen as a gateway to a higher state of consciousness.

For Neptune the escapist and the mystic, mind-altering substances are another portal to the other dimensions that are always there in our peripheral vision. And with expansive, optimistic Sag on hand to pour or roll us another one, “go on, why not, it’ll be fun!”, it’s not surprising we found a stairway to heaven through ecstasy culture and invented binge drinking in the 1990’s. Or that addiction is the symptom of so many Neptune-in-Sagittarius casualties. Lucky we’ve learned to embrace the Neptunian notions of self-help and self-love too.

With Sagittarius rising, I have also have Neptune in my first house. Enter the body dysmorphia that led to an eating disorder in my teenage years, compounded by my controlling Scorpio North Node return – but also, Sag, for granting me the compassion to love myself out of it, allowing me to learn from it and refusing to let me take it too seriously. Neptune in the first house can also mean an effortless slide into the deeper reaches of the imagination, an alluring shape-shifter and a storefront displaying the mysteries of the Universe. So go figure, Numis…

Why all the Neptune research this week? On June 9, he began his annual retrograde cycle. Of all the outer planets, Neptune spends the most time treading water in retrograde motion – 158 days every 12.07 months – a fitting pattern for the planet that also governs subconscious memories of distant childhood and even past lives. In a Neptune retrograde cycle, the mysteries he usually conceals are brought to the surface for us to examine in real time. Our intuition is given more currency. Dreams demand to be interpreted. Illusions, and delusions, are exposed, and creative ideas that have been gestating come forth and begin to take shape in the material world.

Currently in Pisces, Neptune’s cosmic castle, I was curious to explore what this might mean for me in the coming months (he resumes direct motion November 16) and what subtly sensed waves his backward strokes will send across the Zodiac at large.

* For a truly accurate reading, get your birth chart for free here. As an Aries with Sag rising, I will feel ripples of Neptune retro in Pisces in both the twelfth and fourth houses. But as Pisces actually rules the third house in my natal chart, I’ll look here for the most meaningful and relevant insights.

Aries / Aries rising (twelfth house)
Here is your chance to dive deep and rise to the surface of your subconscious with that most highly valued prize: the truth. Pay close attention to the neuroses that occupy your thinking now, and be bold in seizing the opportunity for healing that comes with smoking them out. Avoid indulging in mind-altering substances. Be honest with yourself and embrace clarity as a tool for lasting personal development.

Taurus / Taurus rising (eleventh house)
Choose not to ignore your paranoia about issues affecting any area of your life where group dynamics rule. Demand to know the details of the political dealings you rightly sense are going on behind the scenes. Then, think not what your friends can do for you, but what you can do for your friends. Fall into compassion and fire up your humanitarian efforts. Meditate on the germ of a revolutionary idea, and watch it flourish.

Gemini / Gemini rising (tenth house)
Duties or responsibilities you’ve been avoiding can no longer be ignored. It’s time to take the reins and begin to steer your ship into deeper waters, however intimidating this might feel. Don’t be afraid to tap into your inner ball-breaker. Act “as if” you’re the boss. When the limelight beckons, don’t hide away in the shadows. Get real about the sacrifices you need to make if you want your career to take off the way you envision.

Cancer / Cancer rising (ninth house)
Come out of your cave and give in to your wanderlust. A spiritual awakening could be in store for you when you open your mind and put paid to fears you can now see are completely unfounded. Dive into your studies in the University of Life, and embark on a vision quest or spiritual pilgrimage. To achieve enlightenment, deal only in what you know in your soul to be the truth, and demand the same of others.

Leo / Leo rising (eighth house)
Like a butterfly, you are on a journey of transformation and rebirth. But now you’re being asked to come clean about wherever wallowing in your comfort zone is stunting your personal growth. Escape into obsession and control will only compound your sense of being stuck. Ignore your intuition at your peril, and pick up creative projects with Leonine gusto. A mystery about an inheritance or money owed could also be resolved.

Virgo / Virgo rising (seventh house)
Expect a breakthrough in your couple’s therapy sessions, as deep-seated fractures in your closest relationships come up for air and healing. Embrace situations that show your creative and business collaborators’ true colors, and resolve to accept what you see. Give in to the notion of compromise. See past your ego for ways for justice to be served. Accept that the skeletons in your closet could actually be good PR.

Libra / Libra rising (sixth house)
Any flaws in your logic will be exposed now, so arm yourself with a backup plan. Details you’d prefer to gloss over will demand your attention. Tackling mundane-seeming tasks could actually lead to the breakthroughs you’ve been looking for. Knuckle down. And no more excuses about your emotional over or under-eating. Your health and wellbeing is at risk if you continue to delude yourself about your diet. Be ready to redraft a creative project to perfection.

Scorpio / Scorpio rising (fifth house)
A clandestine affair or flirtation could come to light, or maybe you’ll be asked to play your hand in matters of the heart. Your secret vice won’t stay a secret for long. A creative project you’re personally invested in could come to fruition now, and this fertile creative phase could also see your parental urges kick in. Be wary of situations that allow you to escape into over-indulgence. A hidden talent for the performing arts could also be revealed.

Sagittarius / Sagittarius rising (fourth house)
Expect the unexpected from a family situation, as whatever’s been going on behind the scenes is unveiled. Family constellations therapy could prove especially insightful. In all other areas, embark on a Dream Quest to get to the heart of the matter, and let your subconscious be your guide. Now examine your daily habits. What nourishes you and what is holding you back will be clearer to you now.

Capricorn / Capricorn rising (third house)
Be ruthless in speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Allow yourself to hear the same in what others are saying. A hidden affinity with writing or speaking may come to light, embrace opportunities to explore this. Allow your logical mind to be infiltrated by your intuition. Journal about your dream life. False advertising won’t be tolerated. A sibling’s or neighbor’s secret may be revealed.

Aquarius / Aquarius rising (second house)
Get real about your finances and banish your credit cards to the back drawer. No more hiding your head in the sand and spending beyond your means, especially if shopping is a means of escape for you. Ask yourself; who am I without my luxuries and creature comforts? A creative way to add to your income may be unlocked. Look out for it, leave no stone unturned. Then act.

Pisces / Pisces rising (first house)
You’ll see past what’s in the mirror and view body image issues for what they really are: nothing but a figment of your insecurities. Now is the time for honest self-observation. Get real as you analyze your actions. In what ways do you allow your emotions to sabotage your personal vitality? Clean up your act. Insist on clarity of self-expression, no lying to yourself or your inner child.

INNER VISIONS: A LESSON IN LUCID DREAMING

If turning on to your spiritual journey is often described as the process of “waking up”, lucid dream coach and Hay House author Charlie Morley explains that actually we can reach the same higher state of being by…going to sleep. He explains all to Lisa Luxx.

Lucid dreaming is the coveted state of being able to navigate your way around your dreams, like playing in the virtual reality of your own esoteric landscape. Which can be shed loads of fun. For example, Charlie Morley got seriously into lucid dreaming when he was 16, and revelled in the opportunity to have loads of sex and be awesome at skateboarding. But alongside the obvious kicks, lucid dreaming can be used as a technique for enlightenment and even as a preparation for death, while he says one of its key side effects is increased kindness in your waking life.

I sat down with Charlie at the Hay House Ignite event in London for a lesson in the hows and whys of lucid dreaming.

So how do we begin training ourselves for lucid dreams?
There’s no quick way to learn lucid dreaming, but there are ways to help your mind move towards the lucid dreaming state. The first is to start remembering your dreams. Keep dream diaries to work on your dream recall and start to get to know the territory of your dreams. Eventually you’ll begin to recognize that territory when you’re in it, and go “aha, I’m in a dream right now.”

What if you’re one of those people who never seem to dream?
Our dream world is behind a sliding door, not a brick wall. Those people who don’t remember their dreams simply need to ask for a dream before they go to sleep. Try repeating this; “I remember my dreams and I have excellent dream recall.” Present tense affirmative works like any good hypnotic suggestion, so say that right before you go to sleep and you’re going to have much more vivid dreams that night.

But the work we do to train ourselves is done during the day?
There are more difficult practices such as falling asleep consciously, and a lot of people try going straight to that but they miss the lazy man’s option. That is to train your mind in the waking state so that the mindfulness muscles are so strong and so flexed that when you go to sleep at night lucidity will dawn naturally.

Image: Karolina Daria Flora

How does working our mindfulness muscle translate in our unconscious mind?
It’s all about awareness and recognition. If you spend your whole day walking around going “could this be a dream right now? Can I see anything dreamlike right now?” you’ll do the same thing when you’re asleep.  In a dream you might ask yourself; “can I see anything dreamlike right now? Oh, there’s a pig flying through the sky! I’m in a dream!” And boom. You become lucid.

What is the relationship between lucid dreaming and dying?
Within Tibetan Buddhism, lucid dreaming is used as preparation for death and dying. It’s because of a concept called “the bardo”. A Sanskrit word meaning “in-between,” the idea is that don’t just die and are instantly reborn, rather you enter this in-between state, which occurs when the mind stream separates from the physical body at the point of death. The mind stream then flips inward on itself and experiences its own projection. Which is not dissimilar to what happens when we dream.

If you can train yourself to recognize the dream world consistently by having lucid dreams, then at the point of death you might be able to recognize the death process. So rather than going “aha I’m dreaming, great I can fly!” you can go “aha, I’m dead.” If you can have the presence of mind to realize you’re dead, you’re experiencing the mind beyond the limitation of the physical body, and as separated from the Self. So you’re experiencing the raw nature of mind. This opens up the potential for full spiritual enlightenment at the point of death.

Wow. So, what changes should we expect to manifest in our waking life through lucid dreaming?
It makes you aware of your own projection. So in a lucid dream you literally recognize that what you thought was real is in fact a projection of your own mind. Lets say that you’re having a dream that you’re the Queen of Egypt – you totally believe you’re the Queen of Egypt, right? In a lucid dream you recognize that you’re not the Queen of Egypt; you’ve woken up to the fact that what you believed was real is in fact the projection of your own mind. So you’ve trained your mind to see the difference between physiological projection and the reality of the situation. In the daytime state you might be projecting onto someone you’re in conversation with, arrogance for example, and then you’ll get this moment of lucidity. It’ll taste like a lucid dream – it’ll be a sudden realization.

Which makes you a more compassionate person I guess?
I spoke to my teacher about this and he said; “Soon you’ll get to the point where you’ll recognize a projection before you do it. This is when you really start to open up to compassion.” 99% of the times we’re mean to each other is because we’re projecting onto each other. It’s very rare to meet someone who is actually a nasty person. Usually it’s the fact that we’re so unaware of our projections that we project our darkness on to others without seeing it in ourselves. If we can start to see it in ourselves before we project, we start to open up to more feelings of kindness.

Is there a way to bring that clarity of the bardo into our daily life?
You’re talking about is that which isn’t constrained within this contained vehicle of me. And yes it is in us at all times. In a lucid dream you see that you’re everything. If I dream about you tonight, I know it’s not you, it’s my projection of you. So I realize that whatever you represent to me has come into my dream to communicate. If we can apply those same contemplations to our waking state we can enter that numinous space while we’re awake, while we’re doing the washing or going to work, or sitting next to the guy on the bus with BO. We can realize that this is available at all times, if we could only step out of the self and into something bigger.

If you can do whatever you want in a lucid dream and reach a higher state of being, surely waking life becomes dull in comparison…
Lucid dreaming helped me wake up to my potential and see how much more I could be doing with life. In lucid dreams you can fly through the sky, walk through walls and hug your demons. The next day is different. Because you think; “maybe I can fly through my own limitations, maybe I can walk through the wall of my own arrogance, maybe I could embrace the demons of my phobias or my relationship issues in the waking state.” The lucid dream becomes a rehearsal for waking life. It’s not that you want to stay asleep all day. After a lucid dream you can’t wait to wake up and put it into practice.

Dreams of Awakening: Lucid Dreaming and Mindfulness of Dreams and Sleep by Charlie Morley is out now on Hay House. 
Charliemorley.com

Lisa Luxx is the editor-in-chief of Prowl magazine.
@ProwlHouse