Vedic Astrology first entered my life when my family and I moved from the idyllic wine country of Sonoma County to a meditation commune in the Midwest. Rumblings in the trailer park and at the Maharishi School dropped bits and pieces of it, but it wasn’t until my mid-teens that I had my chart officially read. It was from a renowned astrologer from India who passed through town. The electric buzz radiated throughout the commune. Most meditators often spoke in annoyingly soft inflections, but weeks after the astrologer left our community, all that went to the wayside. Boastful parents confided loudly at the Saturday commissary, or in line at the health food store, about how little Billy just had his chart read and was most likely the Second Coming. It was part of the shadow patterning in the commune; ego-driven spirituality, and too much praise bestowed upon the young. But as I grew up, I continued to work with different astrologers, usually having my horoscope looked at once every couple years. Some were better than others, and a handful were profound.

Vedic Astrology, or Jyotisha (joe tish), is a complex predictive system that uses a person’s birthdate, time of birth, and the exact location of their birth to generate an individually specific horoscope. The horoscope is a symbolic representation of the Earth, planets, and stars at the exact moment one is born. As explained to me, the elaborate science uses different celestial and planetary positions to forecast a person’s life, as well as the circumstances that show up in specific time periods. Jyotisha has been purportedly used for thousands of years, and continues to be widely integrated into the lives of most Indians, dictating things like the profession they pursue, the spouse they marry, and other significant life decisions. Without going into a confusing explanation of its process, which is beyond my understanding, a professional astrologer offers much more than the overly generic, and ineffective predictions found on the back page of the Sunday paper.

In simple terms, Jyotisha assumes that each of us is born with a specific destiny. There is a reason that we are alive. One can think of their lifetime as being in school, with a curriculum customized just for them. The planets serve as teachers, bringing a multitude of diverse experiences that guide our soul’s evolution. Even tragic, and what we consider negative occurrences, are part of our journey. For instance, a parent with a special needs child may learn compassion and patience in profound ways that never would have been achieved had their child been born without these differences. A workaholic husband may be called away from his executive job to dutifully care for his terminally ill wife, finding deep humility and selflessness through caretaking. What appear on the surface as heartbreaking circumstances are actually teachable offerings from the Divine. Many of us know people who experience supremely challenging events, only to remark that it what one of the best things that ever happened to them. It woke them from a slumber. These wise souls speak of the underlying, and often disguised magic, of their curriculum.

In essence, astrology is a tool that stimulates intuition, self-understanding, and reflection. The content disclosed in a reading allow a person to tap into a dimension of the universe that is not typically available in our daily routines. Although Jyotisha provides a big picture of a person’s life, nothing is set in stone, and free will dances in step with divine will. I often explain Jyotisha to others as if we’re taking a road trip, and that there’s an interplay of both fate and free will. If we want to drive from California to New York for instance, Jyotisha can show us the direct routes (fate). However, our free will may prompt us to take certain back roads, or we may put the wrong kind of gas in the car, or we could meet someone and decide to ride down their road for a while. A person should never base their life on any predictive system, as they forfeit their own relationship to the Divine. However, the horoscope is like a map in which God communicates a person’s destiny. A wise person will use this information to exercise their free will; to optimize the good while offsetting the not so good. And most solid astrologers simply affirm what our intuition and inner voice already know and whisper to us.

A practical story. In early 2006, I was living with my first true love, and her son, though feeling trapped. She was ten years older than me, and I was struggling to make ends meet given the high cost of living just outside San Francisco. I had an hour long phone call with an astrologer I worked with for many years, and who eighteen months earlier predicted I would soon be involved in a significant relationship, possibly leading to marriage. I sat in my car on my lunch break, in my military uniform, underneath the Bay Bridge, surrounded by thick fog. Without knowing any details of my current life circumstances, our phone call went like this.

“Nick, I sense you’ve been dating and playing a lot since we last spoke,” he giggled. He explained the different planetary configurations that prompted his comment.

I confessed about my previous work as a bouncer in a biker bar and nightclub, and how I was living very much in the moment, enjoying adventures and sexual escapades. I then told him that I felt stuck in my life, though I didn’t disclose my girlfriend or living situation. I harped on my large student loan debt, and my desire to travel, to buy a property, and to eventually return to school to earn a doctorate.

“Are you living with someone?” he asked.

“Yes,” I confessed.

“And is she older?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, I see. She is wonderful, both beautiful and kind, yes? She very much has the attributes of a wonderful mate for you.”

Having enjoyed several readings from Mark over the years, I wasn’t surprised by his accuracy, though I could sense an ominous cloud approaching our conversation.

“I feel a but coming, Mark.”

“Well, you obviously have some karma to share together, but what the planets show is that this really isn’t the time for you to entertain marriage. As you know, your chart shows that you could have more than one marriage throughout your life, especially if you marry before thirty-six which is many years from now. I definitely do not advise you to break up with her, but my indication from your chart, especially Saturn, is that you will soon be going overseas for a while. Saturn is with Mars in your 12th house, so I suspect this could be with the military and related to war.”

“Overseas?” I asked, confused and a bit excited.

“Yes, overseas. It is connected to your work. I see some separation coming in your relationship, or time apart at least. It doesn’t mean a breakup, but there will be a period where you’ll be away from each other. Your relationship will be tested.”

“Okay, and do you have a timeframe when this will happen?” I asked.

“Most likely spring, but I see you going overseas in the fall. Because of Saturn’s influence here, it will be a faraway place and it could be for over a year.”

At the present time, I was on active duty in the military, in the Bay Area. My law enforcement job was like a traditional nine-to-five. I then asked Mark about money and finances.

“Yes, I can see that you are feeling a large weight around you because of your student loans. Interestingly, I don’t think you will have this debt too long.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

“In fact, it seems likely that over the next year or so, most of this debt will be paid off. It also seems likely you could purchase a property within eighteen months.”

In that moment, a spike of rage shot through me. There was no way that was possible unless I won the lottery. I was barely paying our bills, and the cost of a starter home in our zip code hovered just under a million dollars.

“I just don’t see it,” I lamented. “I feel trapped in my life. I don’t sense how I am going to get myself out of debt so quickly, let alone buy a home.”

I hung up the phone thinking about the Curse of Shiva. As it was explained to me by a different mystic, there is a legend that suggests Lord Shiva did not like humans putting it upon themselves to figure out how a person’s life would unfold. That was the responsibility of the gods, and not for mortals to mettle in. As a consequence, Shiva cursed all mystics and astrologers in that they would only be partially accurate, at best, in their prognostications.

A few months after the phone call with Mark, things degraded between my love and I, and I eventually moved out. It continues to pain me, the way I handled the situation. Ironically, it was shortly after I moved out that I was randomly approached by a senior military leader. He told me about an expeditionary warfare unit that was to begin training in spring for a nearly yearlong deployment to the Middle East. He thought I should apply for selection, and I took him up on his offer and tested for it. In early May, I relocated to San Diego and trained for nearly five months, before deploying overseas. Because of the money I was earning, and most of it tax free being in a combat zone, I paid off my student loans and purchased a home in the Midwest that my father and his wife were renting. At the end of the deployment, I also received an acceptance letter for a lucrative doctoral program at the University of California. This all happened within the eighteen month timeline.

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