[This essay won the first place prize for our 2020 holiday essay contest.]
“What even is time?” a friend asks me over the phone. This question has
become like a catch phrase for us. At the end of 2020, a year unlike any we’ve
experienced before, we barely know what day it is from one moment to the next.
While we’ve seen many structures we may have taken for granted—our hospital
systems, public trust in science, leadership, the economy, the postal service, social
safety nets, physical and mental health, basic collective agreements about reality--
buckling under the stress test of this year, there have been some “givens” breaking
down that reveal treasures in the rubble. Perhaps our relationships to time are in
this latter category.
2020 has only deepened my questions about time and how it works in and
through my life, and in this way it has deepened my relationship with Jyotisha. In a
year that both heightened the pitch of change and uncertainty in the world while
also introducing new levels of monotony to my days, I’ve leaned on the intricate
assurances of this field of knowledge. The practice of Jyotisha not only prepared me for this strange season, but it has also helped me cope and make sense of it from within.
It’s been many years since my life had any illusion of “stability.” By the time I
reached my mid twenties, I’d watched in horror as my major plans crumbled around me...several times. I looked back and realized I had seen every demise coming but had thought I could fight it. In a wicked quarter life crisis, exhausted and bereft of dreams, I wondered if I had been weak or just stupid.
I had the distinct sense that some larger force was moving me around with
all the other little pieces, and I became obsessed with trying to understand the
mechanics of fate. With no grounding or support in this endeavor, though, I felt like
someone flailing about in unknown waters.
I followed a nudge into a yoga teacher training and attempted to chart an
extra curricular course of study for myself that might reconnect me to a sense of
trust and intuition. Deep down, though, I just wanted someone or something to tell
me what I was supposed to do with my life. I kept trying to put myself in places
where I thought a bolt of “aha!” lightning might strike me with the epiphany of my
true purpose and authentic self. Then I could be an adult. Then I would know what
to do next.
One day, a woman in my yoga teacher training announced she was pregnant.
This was a surprise to her, but, she said, it shouldn’t have been; her Vedic astrologer
had told her a year ago it would happen when it did. Other classmates reported
similar revelations from their consultations, and I wondered if Jyotisha might be my “aha!” lightning rod.
It was, but of course not in the way I expected. As I entered the dance with this ancient way of knowing, my understanding of time, rhythm, and movement would slowly stretch in all directions. The “aha!” I previously looked for as a sudden exclamation would turn out to be a longer, sustained song—a note sighed from a full breath, spiraling around to overlap and harmonize with itself, then breathing in and out again for more.
Five years later, I still refer back to that first astrology consultation and find
support in the framework it offered me. The laws of cause and effect are vast—some too large or too small to be noticed by the naked eye of the moment—but here I was offered a musical score of how those energies had been set into motion around my individual experience. With this notation (and a skilled interpreter), I could learn to dance with the music of my life instead of against it. And as this helped me to relax my anxious planning mind, I could also learn to better listen to the symphony of the present.
These calculations brought the subtle poetry of my life into relief so that it
could be read, uttered, and understood—whether it is deeply felt inner friction from childhood, twinges of sadness in the themes of my art, or rumbling premonitions of what would come. While sometimes surprising, more often than not, my yearly astrology readings would validate my own intuition about what was ahead (or behind), helping me to develop my own knowing. I began to incorporate this wisdom into everyday life; especially as a way to remember that just because I’m experiencing something now doesn’t mean it will always be this way. In the meantime, I can weave these personal timelines together with complementary practices of asana, mantra, and Ayurvedic diet.
At first I thought I would be engaging in all this alone. I made that first phone
call in secret because I didn’t think I wanted my friends or partner to know I was
investing in something so many people underestimate and dismiss. The revelations
of Jyotisha were too profound to keep to myself, though. My partner was open
minded, but he was truly converted when, after a rocky year and a half of jokingly
hoping the astrology was right in predicting our luck would change on a certain
date, it did. Dramatically. He now gets regular readings as well, as do many of my friends. I often give them as gifts so we can remind each other and reflect back what may be happening as time unfurls around us. So my best friend could help me recognize when the “fruits” of my labor “didn’t taste good” at the job I needed to leave at the end of 2019. So my husband could remind me that even when all my work got cancelled in March of 2020, I was slated to have good professional work again in a few months. I couldn’t see how, but engaging with Jyotisha has taught me that I’m not responsible for making everything happen. I turned my worries over to the Divine in meditation one day, and the next day I received an email with news of a huge contract—right on time. In similar fashion, we were able to feel prepared for the pandemic to last as long as it has; we knew we were in for election confusion in November; and we had a sense of how we needed to manage our resources—energetic and material—through it all.
Meanwhile, we’ve used the increasing dreamlike quality of the days and nights to explore the archetypes available to us as mentioned in our readings. What career lies in the “basement of the castle” that my husband may have metaphorically visited when he was 24? What mountaintop is mine to stand on, and what of the stars seen there can I bring back to share with others? And, more domestically, but no less importantly, can I feel and soothe my inner samurai when my husband is feeling blue and I want so badly to swoop in and fix it?
My modest foundation in Jyotisha has helped me understand more about the learning process of this life, which helps me make sense of upheavals like the ones we’ve experienced in this challenging year. Whatever this is, it will pass, so I’d better relax into it and attend to the lessons alive in the now. Time is a magnificent
teacher—too complex and colorful for the linear rows of tick-marked boxes our society tries to squeeze it into. It runs deeper than our attempts at control. Our lives
might be enriched by allowing those boxes to get broken down—to let the long, slow “aha!” seep through the moments elegantly strung together for us to experience in our souls’ becoming.