True care

I was fortunate enough to attend a three day astrology conference over Memorial Day weekend, my first professional astrology gathering. Despite the last-minute switch to an online format, it was an enriching and nourishing experience. I remember professional conferences from my time as a corporate communicator as somewhat mercenary, focused entirely on various forms of selling – oneself, one’s company, even the profession itself. The Northwest Astrology Conference (NORWAC), was a breath of fresh air – and confirmation of the great depth, breadth and most important to me, the humanity of my new profession. 

Attending workshops and plenary sessions, even electronically, with hundreds of colleagues and astrology nerds helped me feel a sense of belonging I rarely had in my corporate days. The depth and diversity of the content exposed me to speakers and topics I might not otherwise hear. As someone who loves to learn through immersion, I felt as if I soaked up a semester’s worth of education in just a few days.

As a self-care teacher and consultant, one of the talks I found most thought-provoking was titled “Astrology as radical self-care”. The presenter, Diana Rose Harper, defined self-care on a significantly larger scale than I have commonly understood. More than physical and even emotional well-being, her conception of self-care encompasses a wide sense of self-acceptance, aimed specifically at the internalized beliefs that diminish self-worth in marginalized populations. The nagging, subconscious feeling of ‘not enough’ is challenging enough in my own white female experience, let alone in people who receive messages of ‘less than’ because of not only their sex but also skin color, religious beliefs, and more.

Diana Rose named a couple of specific examples of unconscious cultural stories which contribute to our de-valuing of ourselves, including the Christian myth of ‘original sin’. Among others, the story of Adam, Eve, a serpent, and an apple pervades our beliefs, thoughts and actions whether we realize it or not, coloring our assumptions about everything from our inherent worth as individuals, our relationships to each other (especially men and women), and to our place in the natural world – as in, separate.

Her talk went to the heart of why I practice astrology, what I love about Ayurveda, and the value I see in yoga when taught well. These disciplines encourage us to understand ourselves as unique and valuable individuals, each with our own talents, physical/emotional/mental/spiritual make-up – with great worth and value precisely because of this uniqueness. These disciplines, practiced in this manner, are practical tools supporting true diversity, of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual make-up.

Another gift of these systems of knowledge, based as they are in Nature, is their underlying assumption of our unity with each other and our innate belonging to the natural world: every plant, planet, animal, human, rock, tree, molecule, atom are each individual waves in one cosmic ocean. We relegate the term ‘ecosystem’ to discrete parts of the natural world around us, yet we are all integral elements within one great ecosystem. And none of us is more or less than any other.

In a recent newsletter, Sajah Popham, founder of the School of Evolutionary Herbalism, gave these eloquent words to this sentiment:

“We are all human. We all have a heart, a mind and soul, a unique gift that we were born onto this Mother Earth with. We are shaped from the same elements, breathe the same air, drink the same water, see the same sun, moon and stars. We are all an integral part of Nature, just like everything else.

When we look in Nature, does the Rose look at the Peony and think, “My petals are so much more beautiful than those, my perfume so much sweeter. I am better than the Peony”? Does the Eagle think itself as higher or better than the Hawk? Does the orange part of the rainbow think the purple part is lesser?

No. Nature does not judge. Nature does not criticize and put down. Nature does not discriminate.There is no such thing as higher and lower in Nature. Everything is what it is, its own unique form of a beauty and perfection. Each part necessary, integral, and creating the dazzling richness of diversity that we see in the natural world.”

It is our very sense of separateness from and superiority to Nature that gives rise to the sense of separateness and superiority of one race/culture/nation/sex over another. Separateness and superiority are not natural, regardless of what we may have been taught.

We are in desperate need of reclaiming the natural wisdom that comes from knowing we are each an inherent and valuable part of a greater natural whole. When we truly, deeply understand at the level of felt emotion and sensation, in our hearts, minds and bodies, that we are “all in this together”, then we might stand a chance of healing the divides that are conquering us: black/white; man/woman; Republican/Democrat; masks/no masks; vaccines/no vaccines; global warming/ no global warming; cold, unfeeling, mechanical universe separate from humans/living, intelligent cosmos of which all humans are an integral part.

It is never too soon to start, and no effort is ever wasted. Remembering ourselves as unique, valuable, integral to the Natural whole is radical care for ourselves, each other, and our planet.

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