What does Astrology have to do with Yoga?
I had no idea! Here I was at World Yoga Festival in 2017, looking at Astrology on the schedule. Why? This is where my learning about Yoga, thanks to the Festival, began. Yoga is not just about ‘Yoga’. Who knew? I certainly didn’t! I know that statement sounds silly, but Yoga for me (like many others) has always referred to the physical exercise, asana. At the World Yoga Festival, I was presented with this, and so much more! I was provided with the realisation that Yoga is not just physical exercise, or breathing techniques, or meditation, but a whole system of sciences, practices, methods and techniques. To do what? To help me get to know myself, help me live my life and love my life, help me to be the best version of myself that I can be, not just for me, but for those around me too. Okay, I know that I am sounding a little like a self-help book, but really, I was astounded. There are so many facets to Yoga, all of which help us learn, develop and ultimately, live in the world more happily. These things are freely offered and handed down through generations of extremely wise and learned, kind-hearted people who simply want to share this knowledge and help us. Learning this was like opening a box of magic and at the Festival I had direct access to it all!
One of these sciences is Astrology, but again, a bit like Yoga, not Astrology as I knew it.
Is it really written in the stars?
I have both heard, and used expressions such as ‘You were born to do this’; ‘It is in your nature’; ‘It’s just the way you are’; and ‘It is your destiny’ regularly and have never honestly given them much consideration. Random statements often used as excuses for behaviour and life choices. I am acutely aware of my own personality traits and life choices that fall into these categories. Common themes and patterns of behaviour that have continued throughout my life and, in spite of my best efforts to do otherwise, continued. In addition, there have been many subjects and areas that have repeatedly come up over and over again until I pay them some attention. Don’t get me wrong. Not all of these are bad things. Many of them have been blessings (sometimes in disguise, granted!), but it has often felt that there are certain things that I am being continuously and repeatedly nagged by, in spite of my best and most determined effort to ignore them!
I am cynical and practical. I am also a great believer in the fact that I am the master of my own destiny. You will not catch me reading my horoscope on a Sunday morning over a cup of coffee to predict my week ahead. It has NEVER made any sense to me how one person can write a few lines, once a week that apply to EVERYONE in the world who was born during the same period of the calendar year as me for their week ahead too. I’m not knocking it, it works for some, but it has just never made much sense to me.
At World Yoga Festival, through Sri Swami Svatmananda, I was introduced to the subject of ‘Vedic Astrology’, or to use the correct term, Jyotish. The whole concept of someone being able to predict my life was pretty much beyond ridiculous to me, but at the same time, I was curious to find out if there was anything in it, so I explored, keeping my mind open, and here is what I discovered.
To be very clear, this is not ‘Astrology’ in the context that I have always understood it. You are born on X-date and therefore your sign is Y. Y-people are determined, happy, sad, and therefore, you are those things also. No. This is completely different, and here’s how it was explained to me.
As human beings we live in time and space. As a result, we need to manage that time and space. Jyotish is a tool that has been handed down from the ancient Rishis of India to do just that, measure time and space. This is not ‘Astrology’; this is an ancient wisdom and science that is truly beautiful. We accept that we need a means to live ‘in sync’ with other people and the world, which is why we have time-zones, watches and clocks. I am not referring to time in that sense when I refer to time in the context of this practice; I am talking about the ebb and flow of the universe. In the same way that a sailor needs to understand the tides before going sailing, we need to understand the tides of time as these are what we are navigating our way through in this lifetime.
There are many, many practices that come under the heading Jyotish which are used for divination – (I generally don’t like that word as it makes me think of crazy fortune tellers!) Divination, however, in this context was again explained differently to me. When looking at the future, we are not talking about what will happen, what won’t happen and whether we have free will or not. It was explained very clearly that it is a form of divination, but we have to understand what this form of divination takes and where we put it, how do we place it in terms of our lives.
This form of divination is, simply put, about what is effective, and what is not effective. It refers to the journey of a person’s life. That made sense to me.
Why do I need to know?
I then considered whether I needed to know, or even wanted to know, and the explanation given in response to this was, quite frankly, brilliant!
We need to know for the same reason we need a GPS. Jyotish helps you get from point A to point B most effectively and efficiently, without getting lost along the way, like GPS. Prior to having GPS we relied on directions from others. If we were lucky, we found someone who knew the correct directions, but more often than not, we didn’t. We travelled for miles, off route, got hit by a storm and got stuck. Very often, this is how we live our lives. Therefore, Jyotish is like a GPS for your life. Your very own personal charter. Not only does it consider the most efficient route, it considers exactly what the journey is; what the journey is based on; which directions to take and which obstacles may occur. Not only that, Jyotish also considers WHEN we should make the journey.
This made perfect sense to me. How many times I have come up with, what I thought was a brilliant plan, gone full steam ahead, only to fall flat on my face and either fail or give up. What if my plan was brilliant and I had just timed it wrong?
A hypothetical example was given that answered this question perfectly for me too. A farmer in the US had had a particularly brilliant year and had invited his friend, a less successful farmer over for Thanksgiving Dinner. The less successful farmer was so impressed with the other farmers achievements he asked him, ‘how did you do it?’ As they were friends, he shared all of his secrets, where to get the best seeds, how to sow them, how to care for them, how to harvest them. Leaving and feeling inspired, the less successful farmer went home, spent a fortune on all of the ingredients and set about re-creating his friend’s success for himself. After spending lot of money, putting in a lot of hard work, one month passed and nothing happened. He didn’t understand. He had done everything right, all the correct ingredients, followed all the instructions, what had gone wrong? He returned to his friend, explained the situation and asked him what had happened. His friend looked at him and simply replied, ‘You should have waited until spring’. Having lost his money, wasted his time, he gave up.
I immediately identified with this story and recognised that this is how I and many of my friends lead our lives. I know many people who look back on their lives and their dreams and realise that they got stuck somewhere along the way. Therefore, it made perfect sense to me that it would certainly be very helpful have someone to guide me a little, to move towards my ambitions, make some progress, be happier and fulfil some of the things that I would like to do. To help me navigate my way through life and to avoid the drama!
What happened next?
Having been convinced that this was not some random person sitting in an office with a computer generating one line predictions based on my ‘star-sign’ I decided to give it a go and had a reading given by Sri Swami Svatmananda. It is appropriate to give a bit of information about him here. Please do not be deterred by the fact that he is a Swami in orange robes. Swamiji is one of the coolest, most relatable people I have ever met! Yes, he has incredible wisdom, depth of knowledge and authenticity but he also has an ability to communicate and share all of this in real world modern day terms. That is very special and incredibly rare. Before becoming a Swami, Swamiji earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees in electronic engineering and computer science, then shortly after, a master’s degree in global business administration and international management. Early in his career he was a renowned expert in the field of data communication. He was, like me, incredibly cynical about astrology at that time too, and yet now, here he was a professional astrologer! He opened with this information and I immediately warmed to him. If he was convinced by it, then there must be something in it, right?
The results of my reading were, quite frankly astonishing, and incredibly transformative. Now, I don’t want to sound evangelical about this at all, particularly having been such a cynic previously, but it was remarkable. Without wishing to spoil the experience for those of you who are going to have readings done for yourself, what I received was a very personal, one to one consultation with someone who almost knew me better than I know myself. He knew ALL of my ‘It is in your nature’ and ‘It’s just the way you are’ personality and behaviour traits as well as my ‘It is your destiny’ and ‘You were born to do this’ stuff simply by me providing my date, time and place of birth. I was provided with a serious amount of information, not directions, not instructions, but knowledge, about myself. In addition, I was given advice and guidance on how to manage the potential problem areas, practical advice and things that I can do to make my journey a little smoother for myself and dodge the usual pitfalls. Things that I can do to make my life easier.
In short I was given indisputable facts, information, knowledge and practical advice about me and my life. Now, what I choose to do with that is up to me! How completely refreshing! I was not told what to do, I was not instructed, I was simply given information and guided in the kindest possible way, with the ultimate responsibility handed back to me at the end of the process.
Why would someone do that for someone else? The only motivation is a genuine and heartfelt desire to use this amazing ancient science that has been handed down from the Rishis, to help people living in the modern world be happier, healthier, more peaceful and more content in life. How rare and how beautiful is that? No donation I could ever make as a display of gratitude would ever be enough. I am so pleased that I took the plunge and had the experience. It has been invaluable for me in so many ways.
If you are curious and want to have a reading I would encourage you to explore it, however, please, choose the person to do it VERY carefully. Just because it is labelled as ‘spiritual’ it doesn’t mean that it is better, or purer than another thing. Discretion is SO important when choosing to follow the advice of a mentor / teacher / guru or astrologer. Check their lineage, check their motivations and if you aren’t comfortable, don’t do it. I have kissed many frogs over the years before finding my Prince! The beauty that I found at the World Yoga Festival is that they do all of these checks in advance, very thoroughly, and therefore, anyone associated with them is pretty much a safe bet. They take care of that whole process and manage the risks for you.
There is a very big difference between teaching and preaching in my view. Teaching is providing wisdom, knowledge, information and guidance. Preaching is telling someone what to do and what not to do. Teaching is about empowering the individual to stand on their own two feet. Preaching generally creates a dependence on the person doing the preaching. Aside from the fact that it was scarily accurate, this is another reason why my astrology experience with Sri Swami Svatmananda was so powerful for me. There was no preaching; only teaching. Sharing of information, knowledge and positive encouragement. The rest is up to me, and so far, the results have been pretty remarkable. I guess like anything, it will continue to work, if I continue to work it!