Starting (Or Restarting) A Spiritual Practice
Let’s talk again about Saturn and Neptune, who will be hanging out together for about 5 years, starting in March of 2023. Saturn is “the reality principle.” It can describe things like discernment; rigor; discipline; humility and practicality; and the time it takes to get things right. On the flip side, Saturn can describe the withering and decay that comes when things have reached the end of their useful life. Neptune is the principle of illusion and dissolution. It can speak to things like the way our separateness is an illusion and the true interconnectedness of all sentient beings, that’s why Neptune often invokes talk of spirituality. It can also describe illusions and dissolutions we don’t necessarily want, like fantasies and lies. This way in which symbols can be spun either way is what makes astrology so darn useful! It gives each of us the opportunity to choose our response. And it also means that we have work to do. It’s on each of us to decide how we are going to respond to life, and enact that. Regularly.
Saturn and Neptune hanging out together for about five years starting in March 2023 and ending in 2028 could lead to persistent doubt and confusion about reality, or even the dissolution of truth. It’s also a very supportive environment for deepening and increasing rigor around an existing spiritual practice. I am a big fan of the latter, and feel that we already have more than enough of the former! I also enjoy the way that deepening spiritual practice is a good way to inoculate against doubt and confusion. That is often the way astrology works! And it’s one thing many astrologers can reliably help you with. A good astrologer can help you figure out how to work productively with whatever is happening.
To this end, I want as many people as possible settled into a spiritual routine that nourishes the spirit and challenges the ego before this transit starts. It is a long and important one! And it has the potential to meaningfully deepen and increase discernment about spiritual practice, which is a very good thing. But I don’t think it’s a particularly good time to start a spiritual practice. It’s a good idea to get started now, before things get wiggly.
The most important thing you can do is just get started. Maybe you have a languishing practice that you need to jump start, or you might have never really considered the importance of doing regular spiritual work. Either way, here is a basic plan that you can use to get a spiritual practice up and running.
Realistically Assess Your Assets and What You’re Working On
I think figuring out a workable spiritual practice is a great topic for a reading. Your natal chart can help you honestly assess discipline and energy levels, what drives you, your relationship to routines, how this new habit might fit into the rest of the year ahead, and any specific karmic homework you might be working through. But if that’s not feasible right now, you can also do a little journaling about these questions:
What do I already believe? If you are already aligned with a religion, then finding that religion’s contemplative practice is easier than starting from scratch. Similarly, if you have a hard time saying the word God, there’s no need to go there.
What’s my track record starting and keeping new habits? What strategies have tended to work? Most people do best with an incremental approach to meditation or new movement, but there’s a sizeable minority that needs to get obsessed.
What am I already committed to doing every day? To take one example, if you know you are someone who needs exercise, maybe your spiritual practice should be embodied, like yoga or a martial art. If you already walk in nature, or journal, anchor your practice in that existing habit.
What kind of relationships am I looking for in a spiritual practice? I believe that it’s important not to go it alone in this work, but you can structure these relationships your way. If you are an extrovert or need peer pressure, center practices that have a strong social component. If you are processing trauma, physical touch can be healing, threatening, or both. Think through that. If you really cringe at the idea of a spiritual community, you might want to seek out a more singular relationship with a teacher.
What is my growth edge? If you are in the process of learning how to love yourself more, you can go in the direction of metta meditation or some zen circles. If you are way too easy on yourself or have issues with authority, a tradition known for discipline and hierarchy might be just the thing. If you are trying to be more trusting, do something that requires trust. It’s a good idea to do something that makes you feel a little uncomfortable.
Assess What’s Around You
There are three ways to take this advice. First, think about what is close, what you drive by all the time, what is next door to your office, what can be done in your office. These options should be weighted heavily because habits are built by doing them!
But you also want to get a sense of what is happening around you that is truly exceptional or exciting. If you live in the South of France or Rochester, NY, you’re close to real destinations for Zen practitioners. Richard Rohr is doing amazing work bringing contemplative Christians together in New Mexico across denominations. Nosing around your own community you might find that there’s a particularly excellent kung fu, or that someone actually teaches Sufi dancing and you have always wanted to do that, or that a Christian church that is doing groundbreaking reform is down the street.
Lastly, you want to go do a vibe check, and stay in vibe check mode for a while when you begin practicing. Working with other people on your karmic homework is vulnerable. There are teachers who take advantage of this, and communities that don’t deal with this well. And beyond the basic vulnerability of entering any community of practice… there are other real considerations, like equity and inclusion. Many spiritual spaces are resistant to diversity and inclusion work, and many traditions, including my beloved aikido, are overwhelmingly white and male. Ask yourself regularly as you visit and begin whether or not you see yourself in this community, feel welcome, whether you are being asked to behave in ways that you could not explain outside the space, who you could talk to if you had a problem, and whether or not you can be as vulnerable as you will need to be.
Just Do It
Once you’ve found a place or your people or your regular thing, and you’re reasonably sure that you’re safe, it’s important to just go, and keep going, even when you don’t feel like it, for longer than you think you need to. The popular idea that it takes 21 days to start a new habit is not supported by evidence–think two to three months.
Going back to the astrology, which suggests that you are likely to be supported in deepening or finding more meaning in an existing spiritual practice starting March 2023, you might decide that this October is a good time to do a little research and journaling, and try some things out. November and December are good months to test the waters, start going, make sure what you choose is truly supportive, and make any adjustments necessary. And by January 1, 2023, I would set a goal that is about regular practice. Then stick to it, because by March, everything will have changed and you’ll want a supportive habit in place.