New Light

Jennifer, Warrior Pose VariationAs the end of 2010 approached, I decided to attend a 5-day, “Astrology for Yoga” Intensive with Andrew Mournehis. Classes began each day at 6:30 am and since the studio is about a 20 minute walk from my apartment, that meant rising with the sun at around 5:30. I have actually always really liked rising early (even though I don’t always remember that when I am summoning the will to get out of bed!). But I love the light at daybreak. And our apartment has floor to ceiling windows that look out over the city and the bay so I can see the skyscrapers of Melbourne bathed in a beautiful yellow-orange glow and the sunshine glinting off the smooth surface of Albert Park Lake and all the expansive promise of the sea. So, when I awoke, I would first allow a few moments to drink in the view and then prepare to go from the heights of the 17th floor to the street below for my walk to the studio.

At several points in my life, I have committed to morning exercise – either early morning runs or walking to yoga or martial arts classes at sunrise. It really is a time of day that, for me, feels sacred. I grew up in Washington D.C. and now live in Melbourne and I’ve noticed that even big, intense cities like these feel totally different at dawn. Everything feels fresh and new and possible. Radiant light softens all the hard edges. There is time to notice details. As I walked to the workshop each morning, I breathed in the faint scent of flowers that hang over the fenced gardens of the old houses on Union St. By the time I arrived at the studio each morning, I was awake and ready to receive the day’s teaching.

This weeklong course was both an introduction to astrology for people like me and an opportunity to dive a little deeper for those with more astrology experience. Each day began with a lecture and discussion. The first 4 days we covered the earth, fire, air, and water signs and on the fifth day we looked at North Nodes and discussed how we might use the knowledge about our sun, moon, and ascendent signs gained during the week as part of our daily lives. Lecture and discussion was followed by a yoga asana practice inspired by the signs we covered that day.

I had little previous experience with astrology and went in knowing only my sun sign, Taurus. I really didn’t even know that there were other aspects to a person’s astrology chart or that moon signs, ascendent signs, and north nodes could exert powerful influences. I had also never really stepped back to consider whether there were any patterns in the astrological signs of the people I have been repeatedly drawn to (or repelled by) and why that might be.

One of the things I kept coming back to during the course of the week was the connection between astrology, yoga, and karma. In one of his lectures, Andrew gave us this beautiful image of being born into the world and, as the crown of our head emerges, being bathed in the energies of the stars and planets, sun and moon, as they are positioned at that exact moment. In answer to some of my questions about reincarnation and karma, Andrew explained that as souls we “choose” to be born at that exact moment and with those specific planetary, solar, and lunar alignments. And we choose for a reason. We need those energies, those qualities, in order to work out something in our past lives, and to evolve in this present one.

I confess that I have sometimes dismissed astrology as sort of providing an easy way out or an excuse for behaving in a certain way ( I’m a Taurus, so I cannot help being stubborn) or allowing us to avoid responsibility (I was fated to see those cute red shoes and buy them). I didn’t really see the value in calculating auspicious days or times and when some of my more astrologically-inclined friends would say things like “Well, Mercury is retrograde so communication is really difficult right now”, I would smile indulgently and think, “Nonsense. You just want an excuse for that really insensitive thing you just said.” In short, there was something about astrology that seemed either a little disempowering or a little disingenuous. But, the idea Andrew presented of being born at a specific time and to specific people as being a “soul’s choice” did intrigue me and I pondered it during the workshop and in the days after, especially as my husband and I discuss starting a family of our own. One thing that emerged from my musings is that this “soul’s choice” world view is actually empowering. Rather than being randomly born of two people and simply receiving their genetic traits (Damn, I’m short-sighted just like my mom or short-tempered just like my dad) we chose to be born at this precise moment and to these precise people. We emerge and greet our new parents because they have something to teach us or we have something to teach them. We have known them before. And we have entered each other’s lives again now with a purpose that we may not understand initially but, if we are courageous, persistent, and open to grace, we will come to understand. It made me reflect on my relationship with my parents and siblings in a totally new way. And like the way the morning light transforms the sky and the sea and even softens the rough edges of the city, this “soul’s choice” idea cast motherhood in a new light, adding a beautiful new dimension.