As Mercury and Saturn are conjunct today, I’d like to take a moment to share the story of how I came to the practice of daily horoscope writing…thanks in no small part to RealitySandwich!
* The practice of daily writing began for me when I was sixteen years old. I carried a pad of paper with me to school and because I was a new kid, and typically Cancerian, I hid out in my shell longing to return to the town I grew up in. The Sun in Cancer is like this. The season of Cancer begins with the descent from the highest light, and just like the reflective light of the Moon, Cancerians move through the world with an invisible umbilical cord still reaching back to the memory of where it all begins and where it all ends.
* Unfortunately, when you’re sixteen it translates to some pretty existential and wistful poetry. The desire for a girlfriend, I now recognize, was the desire to return home. The desperate desire to be liked by others was also the desire to return home. The desire to return home to the town I grew up in was the living memory of the divine, but none of this was a part of my awareness. I spent a lot of time in chat rooms when the internet came out, bearing my soul to total “strangers,” I carried my notebook with me wherever I went, and outside of church youth group activities I spent a lot of time playing my guitar and writing. Always writing.
* I still have the notebooks full of my writing.
* This persisted throughout college. I left high school after the tenth grade to take courses full time at a community college nearby, and then after finishing high school went to a religious liberal arts school. I passed on studying creative writing and chose a degree in philosophy because I believed I would go to law school. There was no way creative writing would ever sustain me, and there was no way I was going to be a high school teacher. I never wanted to set foot in a high school again, if I could help it.
* Still, I wrote regularly. By the time I finished college, I wasn’t interested in law school and was instead considering going into the Christian ministry, like my father. I took a job as a youth minister in Chicago and at that same time, I began writing in an online “easy journal,” almost every day.
* At some time while studying philosophy and contemplative Christian mystics, I had identified the longing for God within my writing, though my writing wasn’t explicitly devotional.
* It was a strange time. I loved contemplative Christian mysticism, but I was confused by the conservative Christian lifestyle and political values. I smoked cannabis and drank and tried to party and have sex and socialize with my peers, all of which was intensely confusing for me.
* After a year of working in the church, I left my job and decided the ministry wasn’t for me, and neither was the impossible standard of pure, Christian living. It was a funny moment. I remember sitting in my office at the church and saying to myself, “I can’t be two different people any longer. It’s not honest.” And so rather than trying to reform myself away from drugs, sex, and blogging (which was becoming quite the thing for me, I had a somewhat large following on my easyjournal by that time), I chose drugs, sex, and blogging. I applied for a Masters degree in creative writing and pushed all my chips to the center of the table.
* Rather than hiding my cannabis habit, I embraced it. Rather than hiding my desire for sex, I embraced it.
* I moved into an apartment off campus and worked as a server at a local restaurant. School was about six months off.
* I hosted parties and read my writing aloud. Other writers shared their own work. People played guitar. There was a lot of money spent on drugs and alcohol. There was a lot of promiscuity. And I had never been happier.
* This lasted for a few months until one unforgettable night I recognized that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. One night, for no conscious reason, I chose to take a handful of mushrooms that someone offered me.
* Rather than having fun, I was thrust back into the world of contemplative Christian mysticism. But now it was different. It was tied into plants and earth, tribes and shamans, stars and star lore, and ancient peoples from all across a vast planet. The mushrooms somehow enhanced or amplified the deepest feelings of Christian devotion in my heart while also offering me a vision of the universe that I simply wasn’t capable of imagining prior to that point.
* Within a few weeks I had another psychedelic experience, this one much stronger, and afterward it became clear to me that I had a drug problem, and really a general lifestyle problem.
* I withdrew my application to graduate school in Illinois and applied to a University in Michigan, not far from where my parents had built a small retirement cottage on my Grandfather’s land. I moved into the house, by myself, and started a Masters degree in Creative Writing. I wrote almost every day while listening to people like Terence Mckenna, Daniel Pinchbeck, Alan Watts, and a host of post-modern fiction writers. I wrote bizarre short stories in an attempt to emulate the people I was reading, and though I was now fully committed to my interest in psychedelics and mysticism again, I was still struggling mightily with drugs, mostly opiates. Most of my writing still reflected the same basic, Cancerian idea: I am longing to return home.
* Toward the end of my very awkward first year of graduate school, a good friend suggested going to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca. We had found several places online, and one of them had recently been featured on national geographic. This was 2004. In order to make it financially feasible, I proposed an independent study in travel writing to my thesis director. At first, I was going to spend time at an orphanage in Africa, but that opportunity fell through just as my friend “happened” to suggest we go to Peru.
* So I went to Peru and drank ayahuasca. It shattered my mind and opened my heart more than I could ever describe.
* I finished my master’s thesis the next year by writing the first draft of a book about my ayahuasca experiences. The book called, “Claiming Sanctuary,” received a thesis of the year award, and I applied with sections of the book to an MFA program in creative writing. I was given a teaching fellowship and moved to Georgia.
* Over the next two years I traveled back and forth to Peru several more times, drinking in numerous ceremonies and crafting the next draft of my book, now called “Fishers of Men,” after a powerful ceremonial vision of Jesus. I struggled deeply to maintain any kind of healthy social life, mostly due to not being able to share myself or my experiences with others in a healthy or meaningful way.
* As my MFA program wound down, I caught wind of a project that was being launched on the internet by Daniel Pinchbeck called “RealitySandwich.” He and his crew were looking for bloggers. My blog was still going strong, and I was still writing almost every day. Daniel’s book, “Breaking Open the Head” had played an integral role in my trip to Peru, and so I submitted some of my writing and was invited to join the team of bloggers at RealitySandwich as the site was launched.
* Within a year I was invited to give a talk at a storytelling night in NYC, hosted by RealitySandwich, called “The Ayahuasca Monologues.” I shared an ayahuasca story from my book, and it was well received. An agent approached me afterward and asked to see a copy of my book. Not long after, some of the folks at RealitySandwich told me that they were also hoping to eventually publish some of their authors and to start an imprint of their own, called “Evolver Books.” They suggested I might submit the book I was working on.
* My MFA program was concluding, and I faced an important decision: apply to teach composition at community colleges, or perhaps go and get a Ph.D., or move to New York City to be closer to RealitySandwich and whatever the fates might bring.
* I went to Peru again to drink ayahuasca right before I graduated, and one night during a ceremony one of the guests I had befriended, a psychiatrist from NYC, turned to me and said he had an idea about a job in New York. He ended up getting me a job as an art and activities therapist at a Franciscan residence home in Manhattan, working with adult schizophrenics.
* So I left the academic writing world behind, deeply in debt from all my traveling, and moved to NYC, without the slightest expectation of what would happen.
* About a year after moving to NYC I was drinking very regularly in local, underground ceremonies, I had become deeply immersed in yoga, and wrote a final draft of my book. I gave it to RealitySandwich and within a few months, I was offered a book deal from Tarcher/Penguin and Evolver to publish my book, which had started as my travel-memoir/independent study project almost six years prior.
* Just as my book tour was about to launch, I drank in a ceremony that basically commanded me (no joke) to leave my job and start taking my intense love of astrology more seriously. Astrology had developed inside of me right out of the jungle medicine and straight up into the stars. The medicine impressed upon me that I would do nothing but suffer if I didn’t come out of the closet about my love for astrology. It was only rivaled by my love of writing.
* The day my book was published was the day I ended up launching Nightlight Astrology, in July of 2010.
* In one ceremony I remember asking the question, “What do astrology and my writing have in common? I don’t see it.” The medicine told me that I would write about astrology, but to give it some time.
* I began seeing astrology clients fresh off my book tour and have been a full-time practicing astrologer ever since. In the first few months, while I began my practice, I started keeping a daily Moon journal. I was inspired by Henry Seltzer’s column at Astrograph, where I had purchased my first advanced software program, called “Time Passages.”
* During this time, I met my wife, Ashley Litecky Elenbaas, moved to DC, and we started Sky House Yoga. I look back and think, my God, how completely stupid and impulsive was that…but apparently not. 🙂
* I started sharing my daily Moon journal online in 2012, and by 2013 it was a daily practice. In 2014, just after my wife and I were married and relocated our yoga studio from out of the home were living in and into a small retail location, I launched my first daily horoscope kickstarter.
* Over the past few years the practice has evolved and continues to grow, and I now recognize it as my primary calling to share astrological writing with the world. It is also my primary spiritual practice. It is my daily sadhana.
* Most mornings I practice the same routine…I rise early before sunrise. I meditate and practice yoga, and then I study sacred scriptures. Then, I contemplate the daily transits and write this column. Having our daughter has made the practice less rhythmic than I’d like, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 🙂
* We all want to go home, and we CAN go home, each and every day when we learn to see eternity in our midst. For whatever reason, the heavenly reading and writing of the stars is how I’ve come to keep that memory alive and well inside of me every day, no matter where I am, and no matter what is happening or what I’m struggling with.
I know this was long. But for those of you who read this entire post, hopefully now you know me a little more and you know more of the journey I’ve taken to create these daily horoscopes. I was born with the Sun in Cancer in the 3rd house of writers and messengers, the temple of the Moon. When I was born the Full Moon was in the opposite 9th house of foreign lands, religion, higher education, and mysticism, the temple of the Sun. When I was born the Moon was in its exile, in Capricorn. But really, I think we all live with the experience of feeling far from home. It’s amazing that the stars say otherwise, if we only have ears to listen.
Prayer: Thank you for this practice. Thank you for guiding my life. Thank you for the people you place in our lives. Thank you for the stars and the planets. Thank you for your heavenly writing. Inscribe it in our hearts, so that we might feel at home in your love.
**Today we are about $1500 away from our first tier fundraising goal. If you enjoy my work, consider supporting my horoscopes in the year ahead through my annual kickstarter! Link here.