Tenderly, A New Me


Last you heard from me about me, I was hyperactively moving at a frantic nonstop pace—and enjoying every moment of it—thanks to Jupiter in Aquarius.

I really haven't stop moving yet. Nor have I stopped enjoying the ride. I can barely express the heaps of gratitude I feel for making it through a dark night and into the brightness of a new tomorrow.

Dare I claim to have 'changed my life'? Is it too soon to declare myself 'a new me', tender as this sapling of fresh springy growth is, barely shooting up beyond the topsoil?

While in the midst of January-and-February's travels, during which I wondered if I was doing too much and spending too much time away from home, I heard from a powerful intuitive voice. The instructions were specific: I was to go to a certain retreat center in the southern California desert for a set amount of time in March, and it would change my life. Forget that I was already a bit spent from a busy travel schedule—not to mention the money I would have to spend to make this trip, the clients I would need to put off, and the loved ones back home who I'd inconvenience by leaving them to tend to tasks in my absence—but wasn't this a pretty crazy thing to do on a seeming lark, with no direct information about what this place was like or what I was supposed to do there, other than a voice in my head (loud, direct and detailed) telling me to do it?

Needless to say, I didn't decide to obey the intuition right away. My ego-mind instead tried bargaining with the voice. 'Does it have to be this place? Do I have to go for that long? Does it have to be now?' In each instance of me trying to wriggle away from the clear instructions I'd received, I heard the voice kindly but firmly redirecting me to what it had said. I couldn't help but conclude this could be some sort of test (from the universe? from… who, what and where?), to see if I was faithful enough (in who? what?) to follow this other sort of wisdom. In the end, I chose to go.

Now, we could try to dissect what exactly this 'powerful intuitive voice' was. It spoke in an impersonal authoritative tone, in notable contrast to the usual 'voice' with which my mind speaks to me (a much more manic, pushy, desperate reciter of constant things I simply must attend to and areas where I'm clearly falling short)—the sort of voice some frameworks might deem as coming from elsewhere, a divine presence or otherworldly being. And, to be honest, I have heard such voices before. But, on the other hand, we are surely not to publicly discuss 'voices in our heads' that tell us to do things our conscious mind may find a bit risky. Aren't such disclosures an invitation to a padded room with a locked door?

It is also always possible the 'voice'—any voice—we hear inside ourselves is merely our subconscious speaking up more loudly than usual, in order to override the shoulds and should-nots that contaminate most thinking beings' conscious minds, to allow us access to deeper desires we ordinarily wouldn't seek to satisfy, for wholly 'rational' reasons. We may create alternate personae, full-on personalities based here or in alternate realities in far-off galaxies, just so we might dialogue with these subconscious messages from a safer distance… or for other psychological purposes beyond our understanding. Who knows?

Does it necessarily matter whether the voice is ours or belongs to a non-embodied entity who possesses insightful guidance for us?

The point is that, however or whyever it happens, a voice from within (or from without, but as translated from within) tells us to do something—for our own edification and/or enjoyment—and, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone, we do it. Or at least, in this case, I did.

So I spent two-and-a-half weeks in March at a retreat center in the desert. Oh, by the way, it was a fasting retreat center… which meant that, for 15 days, I consumed no solid food whatsoever. I subsisted on teas, juices, and one mug of single-vegetable-puree soup a day. All the while, I sat in on nutrition classes and participated in other group activities, I walked the desert, I read (a lot!), I conducted healing rituals for myself and, most centrally, I communed with my physical body, with a major focus on detoxing.

I also reached a point of relaxation I hadn't experienced in quite a while… if ever as an adult. But said relaxation did not come without first having to battle against my ceaselessly need-to-be-productive, achievement-driven ego. As part as of its sly game to tempt me into taking this trip to the desert, the 'voice' offered me this addendum while I was trying to squirm out: 'You could even write a whole book while you're there, if you want.' As many of you know, a major life goal of mine is to write books, and I consistently entertain many ripe ideas for novels, memoirs, poetry and essay collections, what-not. And if there's one sure avenue from which to address my needy desire-to-achieve, it's via dangling the lusted-after book in front of my face. So that's how the 'voice' sought to hook me.

But about three days into my retreat, as I began to poke and prod and torment myself for not writing (though I'd just finished one batch of horoscopes and articles before departing, and had more to complete while there), I realized I could only do so much—and during a retreat no less, which, correct me if I'm wrong, is supposed to involve retreating from the usual level of responsibility—and perhaps focusing on bodily detox was enough. After all, didn't I need to give my body a break precisely because I'd been driving myself so hard over the prior two years, growing my astrology practice and opening a retail store?

Upon reflection, I discovered the keywords in this intuitive addendum turned out to be 'if you want'. Perhaps I could have written an entire book, while sequestered away in the desert with no food for two-plus weeks—if I had wanted. Turns out, I didn't want to. I wanted to chill out instead. I wanted to release the built-up toxins which were beginning to dull my ability to function as effectively as I wanted… and those toxins weren't just physical either. I wanted to become better able to actually rejoice in the amazing life I've already built for myself, rather than remain perpetually involved with engineering the 'next big thing'. Without appreciation or gratitude, why should I bother continuing to try and 'top' myself?

I even confronted a scary question—would I be okay if what I was already doing, as a successful astrologer and shop owner, creative writer, friend and partner and loving dog-parent, was all I would ever 'accomplish'?—and bravely answered it to my satisfaction. Yes, it would be okay (for now, I guess)… and so, to the task of enjoying my hard-earned efforts.

Tenderly, a new me is emerging: lighter both physically and emotionally, more deeply conscious of the immediate effects of how I treat my body, less consumed with proving my worth to the world through external productivity or impressive deeds, and optimistically wide-eyed like I haven't been in quite awhile (thanks again, Jupiter!). Alas, such strides are more about awareness than achievement (damn that word again!), since optimal health and its delicious side-effects are not a goal you attain once, put on your curriculum vitae, and then cruise by on forever as another accolade for public celebration. It is a daily practice, complete with inevitable lows (a necessary contrast to highs) I am challenged to interpret as 'lessons' and respond to with minor adjustments, rather than melodramatically chalk up as disastrous 'failures' and beat myself up for, which ultimately creates an internal pressure making it that much likelier I'll 'rebel' with more overindulgences leading to more lows leading to more self-beatings.

I know that cycle all too well. And you can imagine how acutely its qualities show back up following a protracted fast, when I arrive home totally clean and clear and pure as the driven snow… only to face the need to reintegrate myself back into 'normal' life, complete with food and drink and coffee and friends. Needless to say, that part is even harder for me than not eating for two weeks, though those details are different stories for other days.