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In May, Keep Going!

Image: Paintings by Peter Dreher, who painted the same water glass every day

Most of April was pretty big and impactful. In contrast, May is nice! Beautiful. Steady. There should be some good energy to get things done, and a lot of openness and grace around new ways to feel grounded, without a lot of jarring events that take us out of our routines. You could just enjoy it! But since you’re reading advice about making the most of the month ahead, I can offer that May presents an opportunity to reset our relationship to the creative, spiritual, and physical practices that can give meaningful structure to our lives. 

A strong, regular practice of any kind takes us out of simply enacting our karma with no awareness and puts us into a conscious, participatory relationship with some small part of life. It asks us to be uncomfortable, trains us out of habits, and gives us perspective. There’s nothing more sustaining during the biggest, most impactful moments of our lives than a regular practice! And it’s interesting. My practice is aikido, a Japanese martial art, and I am both a teacher and a student. As an astrologer-slash-sensei, I can’t help but notice that my dojo becomes a ghost town whenever the astrological weather gets difficult, and starts filling up again as the astrological weather gets easier. This has been a noticeable pattern as long as I have trained and looked at the sky… and it’s happening right now, as folks are coming out from under an eclipse season that had something huge for everybody, and slowly but surely getting back on the mat. 

Just as I am starting to see my students more, you might find yourself dusting off your journal, zafu, or running shoes yourself. And as you run, do yoga, sit zazen, write, paint, or whatever it is you do, the invitation in May is to deepen how you define this practice, its purpose, and the role it has in your life. So many people only make time for this activity that will provide them stability and constancy in the most difficult times… during easy times! And then they abandon their practices at the times when they need them the most. In doing this, most people have the nature of practice exactly backwards. They see it as a treat, and not as the engine that makes the rest of their lives function better. 

If you recognize yourself in this description, give yourself some grace. Maybe you’re just not being pushed enough by life to make your practice central, which in the moment is probably a good thing. The people who are still tending to their practice during challenging astrological weather are the ones who are already under a ton of pressure. At my dojo, the parents with little kids, the people with intense jobs, and the people working through an entire childhood of abuse or a substantial adult trauma never really left the mat in April. If your practice is saving your life, you will figure out how to do it! But I have a feeling that most of us would benefit from a little blue-sky preparation for this day, which eventually comes for all of us, when we need our practice. We all get old, struggle with work, make huge life transitions, and deal with unfortunate events. One day, your practice may very well save your life, especially if you are practicing with this eventuality in mind now. In a community of practice like a church or a dojo, this is obvious. There are often people who have been doing this longer than you, or who are going through more, or who just care more, who teach you both why you might want to practice as if your life will one day depend on it, and how. But most of us don’t practice in community. If you are just lacing up your shoes, rolling out your mat, or setting a meditation timer by yourself, how does this insight come to you? 

You can read astrology content about what will happen in your life, or ask astrologers for detailed descriptions of what is coming until the cows come home, and it will provide no such insight unless you are also doing something that gives you the tools to poke at life, see through that information, and really participate. Astrology can describe moments when you are going to be uncomfortable or challenged with shocking accuracy, but beyond letting you know when the challenge will end and how bad it will subjectively feel, it gives very little grounding or security. You’re in charge of building the life practices that keep you strong, curious, and resilient in the face of whatever the astrology is describing. 

This month, things are nice. There is time and space to nourish yourself. There’s the potential for new ways to feel grounded and constant to emerge out of last month’s grind. And there’s a productive tension between going hard and doing what you love that I want you to harness. Under these unique conditions, I have two questions for you, no matter what your practice is and how important it is in your life right now. 

Are you pushing yourself? Or to be more specific, are you collapsing into “self care” in this practice, or are you building some kind of strength and resiliency? 

And can you imagine this practice saving your life one day? What would you need to do differently to make this practice into a life raft? 

Your practice doesn’t have to save your life if you don’t need it to, obviously! But it’s a good month to throw yourself into this passion or habit you have and pretend that you need it. Because one day, you very well might. And on that day when your health, or your sanity, or your time, or some external validation like a job title changes, you will find out who you really are, as long as you put some effort in ahead of time. If you build a good life raft of a practice–whether it’s going to church, doing a sport or martial art, or even painting the same water glass in your studio every day–you will be accustomed to getting pushed. You’ll have experience dealing with things you don’t like, such as boredom, tiredness, or physical discomfort. You’ll be used to being shown the parts of yourself that are uncomfortable or hard to see. You will find it easier to experience flow and wonder, even when you’re stressed. 

You will have a regular experience of getting out of yourself. 

All of this is a powerful antidote to difficult astrological weather, which of course is coming, because it always does. In August and September, things will heat up again. Instead of waiting for that shoe to drop, or getting caught in a cycle of devouring astrological content that promises to tell you what’s coming for you…  see if you can invest in a really solid practice. The kind of practice that you don't abandon come fall. The kind that makes you one of the people who just keeps going, no matter the weather.  

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