The Vision Behind The Astropoetic School
The Buddha said, “Life is suffering”.
What he didn’t say is that suffering is the first step
on the road to self-knowledge and a better life.
I began my own astrological journey in a moment of suffering - reaching for answers that weren't readily apparent or obvious to questions that seemed over my head, above my pay grade, beyond the reach of known resources. Of course, the road to astrological knowledge was hard and long and didn't provide immediate relief, but once I had gotten a certain distance down that road, I began to realize that a working knowledge of astrology could provide a point of entry into my own inner knowing, and relieved me of the need to look outside myself for answers. This is not to say that I have not benefited from time to time, as have we all, from outside input, or feedback, or perspective. But being able to start with an ever-evolving relationship to my own birthchart empowered me with a level of self-reliance I had not previously experienced.
As I ventured out into the world of professional astrology, I naturally started doing readings for others. Although individual clients brought an endlessly fascinating variety of issues to their sessions, most questions and concerns tended to revolve around three primary areas:
Career and financial well-being.
Relationships, mostly with spouse and/or children
All of three areas tended to entail a certain amount of pain and suffering. Either something was not working as a client wanted it to, or as it did before; or something was breaking down; or something was painful enough to motivate the client to seek help, support and guidance. Few people tended to book readings when things were going well. Not all clients were in crisis, but the vast majority were poised on the edges of impending changes that made them feel vulnerable, uncertain about what might come next, or just caught in that awkward liminal space between one reality and another.
At the time I started my astrological practice, I was just beginning to discover the trailhead to my own spiritual journey, living in an ashram where the focus was on withdrawing from the world in order to meditate, raise my kundalini, and reach toward enlightenment. I wasn't quite sure what enlightenment actually meant, but it somehow seemed a more worthy goal to me than success climbing the corporate ladder, or living an ordinary life attempting to meet societal expectations of material wealth and social status.
Because of this orientation, I was at first, a bit annoyed with the endless litany of mundane problems and issues that my clients brought to their sessions, wondering when I was going to begin to attract "more serious" clients, whose goals and interests matched my own. That never happened. Even among my fellow ashramites, everyone universally wanted to know how they could advance in the world, meet the love of their life or get along with the partner they had, and occasionally - since most of us were young and invincible - how to deal with this or that health issue, which was generally viewed as but a speed bump on the road to a better life.
Since the ashram where I lived and worked was a spiritual beehive of endless classes, trainings, and other opportunities for spiritual seekers from around the world, I had a very busy practice for the time I was there, doing hundreds of readings per year, and learning a great deal "on the job." As I got more deeply into my practice, I had a profound realization:
The mundane issues that clients brought to their sessions
were the portal to their spiritual evolution,
not a distraction from it.
Questions about career were often, at heart, really about self-actualization, making best use of talents, abilities, skills, and past experience. Questions about financial well-being were often rooted in deeper psychological issues revolving around self-worth. Questions about relationship brought up a wealth of deeper material - issues around self-love often originating in parental denigration or neglect, sometimes in religious indoctrination; Issues around trust, rooted in prior wounding by betrayal or abandonment; internalized judgments projected onto them by parents, teachers, religious authorities; unmet needs, wants and desires and familial and/or societal taboos around them; power struggles, born of insecurities and vulnerabilities; dysfunctional coping mechanisms that once served a useful purpose, but that now got in the way of authentic self-expression; shadow dances in which unacknowledged, repressed and/or rejected parts of the self were played out by one's partner or one's children; and so on. Health issues were often merely the psychosomatic expression of deeper chronic life patterns that could not be resolved, or that were ignored or held in denial for too long.
In each case, the presenting issue was essentially a call to attention, to greater awareness, and the path toward resolution was invariably one of personal growth, requiring the client to address psychological issues, integrate life lessons, and reach toward a more integrated level of wholeness. This was, I began to realize, the essence of spiritual work. The mediation and yoga I was doing encompassed an important set of techniques and tools for aligning mind, body and spirit, But this outer spiritual practice did not excuse me from having to do my inner work as well: address and heal my core wounds, address the underlying psychological issues at the root of my problems, and gradually, by trial and error, reach toward ever more functional levels of self-acceptance, self-knowledge, compassion and personal wisdom. The same was true for all my clients. Regardless of how diligent they might be with their spiritual practice, they still had to enter the temple of their own psyche, face their inner demons, and undergoing the harder internal alchemy of personal transformation.
Astrology, I had already recognized, was the perfect set of tools with which to do this work. With the proper mindset, astrology allows us to explore not just the mundane issues that grace every life - career, relationship and health - but also the psychological patterns underlying those issues, and the possibilities for healing, self-actualization, and deepening spiritual maturity that mark the end goal of any path to wholeness. All of this was layered within the symbolism of a birthchart, and ready to be perceived on multiple levels of possibility. By reading a birthchart, one could not only gain practical insight into how to live a life in accordance with one's nature, but also how certain lessons were intrinsic to that life, and how the mastery of those lessons could ultimately lead to spiritual realization. I suddenly felt as though I had a great deal more to offer my clients than I had before, and my readings became a multilevel exploration of these layered possibilities.
Catch someone a fish and you feed them for a day.
Teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.
I had a second epiphany about twenty years into my career as an astrologer, which was that reading a birthchart for someone else, however astute I might convince myself or them I was, was at least one step removed from providing a client with the information necessary to turn their ordinary life into a path toward mastery. I could often easily see the potential as well as the pitfalls on their journey, as reflected by their chart. But the really important thing was that they see it. I could have one "aha" moment after another in preparing and reading their chart to them, but unless they had one or more genuine "aha" moments of their own, the reading would ultimately mean very little.
In the wake of that epiphany, I began to shift my focus from reading birthcharts for clients to teaching them, or those that wanted a deeper experience, to read their own birthcharts. I was not interested in training astrologers, so much as I was in guiding students of life in the lost art of self-reflection, using astrology as a multi-layered language with which to explore the questions that made their lives a spiritual quest.
We all have moments when everything we thought we knew proves wrong, or when life itself breaks down, and our emotional vulnerability leaves us stranded in a place we don't recognize and can't find our way out of. In such moments, most of us are not well-prepared to self-reflect and search for answers within. Our production-oriented culture encourages us to suck it up and keep on going, providing pharmaceuticals, entertainment, and endless distraction to numb the pain. None of these quick fixes really solve the problem, however, and many only serve to make us dependent, confused, angry, or quietly resigned to a life of despair.
Those who are a bit more aware, may seek the help of a professional - a psychotherapist, a mentor, a spiritual teacher, or an astrologer. I myself have been blessed with a number of guides at various points in my own journey, and would be the last person to denigrate such an important service. For the first twenty years of my career as an astrologer, I was such a guide. But beyond my second epiphany, I wanted to do more. I began to conceive of the idea of a school where students would study astrology under my tutelage, but rather than simply memorize the rules, would learn to think and feel astrologically, as they learned to see the reflection of their own lives in their birthcharts.
Far more effective in the long run than having someone tell you who you are and what is what, is knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and then being yourself without unnecessary compromise. This was what I wanted to teach. Using a poetic form of astrology as a language, and a point of departure, I wanted to help my students know themselves, learn from their own experience, and find organic solutions to their problems that grew naturally out of self-acceptance and self-knowledge. I also wanted to guide them in reaching toward a larger context of meaning and purpose within which their problems became portals to spiritual growth.
Through a long and winding road, and several incarnations, these desires have evolved into The Astropoetic School of Soul Discovery, which now offers several courses, workshops, intensives and apprenticeships for those who are ready to dive into the deep end of the astrological pool.
Although no two students have had same experience at The School, those who have applied themselves have gained helpful tools with which to turn their suffering into a more satisfying life. One student was able to more effectively parent her teenage son, after exploring similarities between their charts. Another student was able to better cope with seasonal affect disorder by correlating its onset with the annual movement of the Sun around his chart. A third student was able to gain insight into his financial difficulties by free-associating to key planetary placements. And so the stories go for nearly everyone who has entered The School.
By engaging The Astropoetic School’s multi-layered curriculum, you will begin an immediate dialogue with your own deepest source of inner knowing, facilitated by an experienced teacher, and supported by the work of other students. The School is not just about learning astrology. It is about learning how to be a better, more conscious, more empowered, more loving, wiser you, by learning to understand and ultimately more fully embody the endlessly fascinating signature for your life in a way that only you can do.
As our byline suggests, at the Astropoetic School, your life is the classroom. All the courses, the workshops and other offerings of The School are merely an elaborate guided invitation for you to study the most fascinating subject you will ever encounter: yourself in all of your multi-faceted, multi-dimensional glory, as an apprentice to your own greatness.
Where to Go From Here
To read about the history of the School, go here.
To read about my approach to teaching at The School, go here.
To view courses available to students of the School, go here.
To read about more in-depth apprenticeships available to practicing astrologers, go here.
To learn more about workshops available to non-astrologers, go here.