Friday, September 30, 2011

Cash and the Cosmos: Your Astro Guide to Money

OK, so maybe you can't tell the IRS that you lost your tax records because you're a Pisces...

Where does all your money go, anyway? No other area of modern life causes more stress in than keeping up adequate cash flow. Perhaps you, too, have had sleepless nights, lying awake and wondering, "How can I ever pay off this mounting debt, pay the bills, and make rent, let alone save for retirement?"

Knowing the spending habits of your Sun Sign may not instantly bring a bushel of bucks to your bank account. But a little financial self-awareness goes a long way in increasing your bottom line. Here's what motivates you when it comes to your money.

ASTROLOGER ERIN notes: This is just for fun, folks! Don't forget to read your Rising Sign, and your Moon Sign, too - if you know them. For a fully personalized astrological consultation based on your birth chart, contact me directly.

Impulsive, rash, and a bit careless with the cash – that's you, Aries. When you want something, you want it now. If that red Porsche or bungee-jumping seminar appeals to you, you won't bat an eyelash about plunking down the payment. Rein it in just a bit, so you won't see that Visa bill skyrocketing higher than your lofty ambition.

Comfort-loving Taurus, you consistently cultivate cash, so you can lounge about on the weekends. You keep plenty in the coffers for the good life. For entertainment, you track the stock market daily (they don't call a strong Dow average a "bull" market for nothing!). While couch surfing, you watch financial planning gurus on TV, taking notes on mutual funds and retirement strategies.

How many ATM withdrawals did you make this week and fail to get a receipt? You're so busy you forget money exists. Waiters holler after you while you're tearing down the street to your next appointment. Get a little more grounded with your money, Gem. Remember: the bank's not going to buy it when you tell them your evil Twin has been bouncing checks again.

Cautious Crab, you're a whizbang with your wallet and the best saver in the Zodiac! You want to be a stay-at-home mom or dad, so find a partner to work while you're at home with the kids. You love home cooking, and scrimping on the dining out will save some dough. Your spending weak spots: home remodeling, new furnishings, and groovy garden equipment.

For you, regal Leo, cash is king. Your sense of entitlement and "I Deserve It All" nature ensure you never miss out on the good life. A jaunt to Paris, a sexy bauble, a bottle of Dom Perignon - nothing is too fine for you, a luxury-lover with champagne taste. Make sure your employer knows you're the master, too, or Mastercard will topple you from your throne.

OK, Virgo, stop worrying whether you'll save another dollar on Post-Its at the warehouse outlet. Surely, you have other details to lose sleep over. You've got your numbers organized to a "T," with years of records on Quicken, backed up on a spreadsheet, and filed away in hard copy, right at your fingertips. A bonus when dining with friends: when the check comes, you'll doubly ensure it's properly divided with tax and tip, to the penny.

Fashion tickles your fancy, Libra, and your closet holds more designer pieces than New York's Fashion Week. And, as the Zodiac's socialite extraordinaire, you're known for hosting fabulous, catered parties that your friends rave about for months. You lovely Libras never want your work life to interfere with your social life, so find yourself a nice benefactor so you can spend your days shopping and sampling caviar.

Just like everything, Scorpio, when it comes to money, your keyword is possession. You control your cash just like your emotions. When you invest, you make sure it's only the best. No cheap, throwaway goodies for you; whatever you buy has quality written all over it. Purchases must be built-to-last and durable, just like you. Watch that your secret sentimental streak doesn't get the best of you when your favorite charity asks you to cough it up. You're a softie under all that toughness.


Yes, Sag, we know you must travel. It's not just a luxury for the adventure-loving Archer; it's a necessity. You're happy living off rice and beans so that you can take off and climb Kilimanjaro. Your 401(k) needs a little lift, however, since you've spent the last of it on yet another round-the-world ticket. Get a job that combines your freedom-loving nature with a stable paycheck. Otherwise you'll be stuck surfing the 'Net instead of sailing the seven seas.


Ambition is your middle name, Cap, and your savings account is likely just as solid as your rung on the corporate ladder. You hold the keys to Fort Knox, you're so darn strict with your cash. But goodness, guarded Goat, will you loosen up on the greenbacks? We know you're saving for the empire you're building, but a little fun and frolic could do you right. Stop and smell the flowers on your way up the mountain - and pick some up on the way home from work, too.

You navigate your money like you're in outer space. The best bet for you, Aquarius, is to get yourself a financial manager, so you don't have to think about the material realm any more than necessary. You'll whip out your wallet to help a homeless person. Problem is, how to afford it? Come down to earth and give your fellow humans the pleasure of your company, and you might be able to save enough cash to pay the bills.


Pisces, you'd prefer to never have to think about money again. Come on, admit it: you'd rather spend your days meditating, taking a bubble bath, sipping cocktails - all at once. Enjoy now, pay later - that's your financial motto. But even the daydreaming Fish has to wake up and smell the coffee, so keep your day job and save your seashells. Pisces are suckers for new shoes, being ruled by their feet. Put down that extra pair of Manolo Blahniks and walk away.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Grief, Love and Loss (Part One - The Guru Dies)

Two years ago today, on September 27, 2009 at 9 a.m. on the ninth day of the Navratri festival of the Goddess, my beloved teacher, guru, and spiritual friend Ramesh Balsekar took mahasamadhi at his home in Bombay. Mahasamadhi is when a realized master finally and intentionally leaves the body to merge with the infinite. Since there is no ego identification, it is said that a sage enters the ultimate (maha) non-dual consciousness (samadhi).

When I got the call, I was an overnight train ride away – working on my Bindi Girl book along the seaside in south India – and knew I couldn’t get north in time for the cremation pyre. When I got the news, my world stopped. There was only silence, and that silence was deafening. Never again would I behold the great spirit and force of Nature that was my guru as embodied Consciousness, in the flesh known as Ramesh.

Even now, two years later, I am only beginning to understand the indescribable union between teacher and student that occurs in a guru-disciple relationship; there is a fusion of hearts and minds that makes it possible for the soul to surrender identification with the ego. It seems to be a combination of the power of defeat and the power of love.

In the days and months that followed my teacher’s passing, my soul experienced an overpowering transformation: intense grief at the loss of a part of my self (like an amputation), combined with a quickening. It was as if this body-mind known as Erin had been placed into a sort of quantum microwave. In a microwave, all the particles are scattered about, vibrating faster than the speed of light, disembodied from the original matter even though things still appear cohesive. Amazingly, such a vibrating mass of consciousness appears to be a whole substance, but there is really only empty space between particles, and empty space within those same particles. Finally, there is only empty space.

And my own ‘empty space’ was getting cooked. My soul wanted to leave the body and dissolve into Consciousness to join my teacher. I couldn’t ground. I fell down a flight of stairs in a monsoon downpour and could have broke my neck. I slipped and smashed my tailbone on a moss-covered bathing platform while stepping into the Ganges to offer flowers during puja. Twice (once in Varanasi and once in Rishikesh) I thought someone dosed me by putting an illicit substance into my chai, I was so high. The phenomenal world grew increasingly permeable and my spirit was lighter than a kite; my soul wanted to fly, far away into another dimension.

The grief rattled me to the core. The hardest part was the fact that hardly anyone could relate or offer meaningful condolences. So-called “spiritual people” would try to tell me I had no reason to be sad, that my guru would always be with me. That didn’t help at all – I was still human, for crying out loud. I still felt feelings! I peered into spiritual texts to see if any sages or students had written or spoke of what happens when a guru dies. I found a couple passages, and I clung to those with all my might: The first was in the classic Autobiography of a Yogi, when Paramhansa Yogananda loses his master, Sri Yukteshwar. He cries the entire river Ganges that he’ll never behold his beloved teacher in person again. The second comfort was the story of Ananda, most devoted servant of the Buddha, who felt his sorrow so deeply the night Gautama the Buddha took mahasamadhi, that he became enlightened through the sheer force of grief piercing his very heart.

A few friends urged me to discuss Ramesh’s death with other disciples, that surely the sangha (spiritual fellowship) would lend support, surely they would understand. I found talking to fellow students, in my case, less than comforting. Whether others were deferring their grief or processing it differently (likely), there seemed to be a rationalizing of the process, such that because one intellectually knows that nothing is born and nothing dies, particularly the mind of an enlightened being, that there should be nothing to cry about.

NOTHING could be further from the truth.

The force of our emotions IS the VERY STUFF OF LIFE, whether grief, joy, ecstasy, laughter, or even anger. My quaking sobs affirmed that I was ALIVE, damn it, I could feel. I have a vital, awakened HEART that can be penetrated and touched, affected to the core.

Intellectualizing or bypassing the emotions, which live in our BODIES where we can FEEL them, is a missed opportunity to experience the rapture of pure existence, which can only be experienced in duality, directly, in the physical body, in the here and now.

It is through our grief that we realize how much we LOVE.

To be continued.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grin and Bear It

We never know when we’re going to have a spiritual epiphany. It can happen anytime, anywhere. Take last week, for instance. I got one of those Unmistakable Insights while held hostage for two hours in the dentist’s chair.

If that doesn’t make you already go “Ohhhhhh,” add that it was during a root canal.

Oh, that most fun of procedures. It was my first time. I was quaking with fear. Friends warned me. “You’re going to have your mouth torqued open for two hours straight,” they said. “Like a trapped snake.”

Another well-meaning friend advised me to wear an iPod during the procedure. The music would drown out the horrid drill driving down into my root like a jackhammer from hygiene hell. I thought that sounded like a great idea. Since my iPod is on the fritz, the dentist gave me a radio to listen to. I cranked up the rock and roll station, thinking that the Rolling Stones’ bump ‘n grind should do well to compete with the endodontist’s grinding down through my enamel into my pulpy nerve.

I was quaking in fear when the drill bit started to whirr and chip away. I couldn’t feel anything due to the four shots of novocaine. But it didn’t matter. I wanted to go unconscious. I turned up the music louder.

“YOU’RE GOING TO HEAR A POP,” shouted the surgeon, for he knew I was hard of hearing at that point. “THAT’S THE MOMENT WHEN THE DRILL GOES THROUGH YOUR CROWN.”

Good lord, I cringed. That sounds horrid! What the hell does he mean, a pop?! What if he hits my nerve directly, my raw pulpy nerve that is about to be plucked out for all eternity. It’s gonna be like that movie 127 Hours, when he cuts off his own arm and slices through the nerve. I am going to die.

Observing myself, I realized I was visibly shaking and my knees were practically knocking on the reclined chair. The twanging guitars and frenetic vocals on the radio headset were disorienting. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. As the next buzz and drone of the drill made contact with my sick tooth, I carefully reached up and yanked the earbuds out of my ears.

“Something wrong?” asked the dentist behind his mouth mask. He reminded me of some necessary-evil Doctor Death; I’d never before seen a dentist wearing all-black scrubs. I told myself it was because he was a karate black belt healer, not the grim reaper. Besides, I knew I was in the very best hands, being a reputed professor of dentistry at UCSF.

“No, it’s OK. I don’t need the headphones.” I had suddenly realized that it was a million times better to face one’s root canal directly. With the music spinning through my brain, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the procedure. I realized: I NEED TO BE CONSCIOUS in order to understand what is happening.

Without the music, I could hear the surgeon and his nurse communicating back and forth as they passed their tools, filling material and epoxy to each other. “B17,” the doctor would say, and she’d plop another drill bit on my chest for him to use next. “2BCF,” he’d say, and she’d prepare the next layer of sealant. I was sitting there in the middle of my very own Dental Bingo, and my mouth was the playing card. And I felt so much better.

“Very good,” I heard him say every now and again, when he’d bore deeper into my gums. I paid close attention when those pliers came out and he ripped up that root, albeit slowly and gently. Who’d have thought a nerve would be so damned big and mighty?

All the while, I paid attention, and stopped shivering in fear.

Not only was I being healed, the tooth fairies left an added bonus: The truth of AWARENESS. Awareness and attention reduce 99.9% of the agony. It is far better to be conscious, awake, undistracted when facing a painful procedure or even a terrifying life situation. We instantly become more peaceful when we are present to what is happening. Part of us calms down. We are witness, not victim, to the process. No matter how hellish the scenario, everything is instantly more bearable.

And besides, even with those headphones stuffed in your ears, you can still hear the damn drill.