As a meditation instructor, I often reference the lower and higher minds. In astrology, this can be seen in the 3rd and 9th houses, respectively. The 3rd house governs daily communications, grammar school, knowledge for knowledge’s sake, siblings, short trips and one’s community. It’s our everyday reality. Opposite the 3rd lays the 9th, where we step back and look at the bigger picture, connect to a religion or philosophy, explore foreign culture and find meaning and purpose. It’s where we open up to something larger than ourselves.
Growing up, I hid away in books. Eternally curious (and born with a 3rd house Sun, sandwiched between Jupiter, the preacher and Saturn, the teacher), I would cycle through one obsession after another, forever seeking that thing that would define me and make me whole. I defined myself by my opinions, espousing them to anyone who would listen (belated apologies to those who endured this). But as I matured and these cycles continued, something gnawed at me. These so-called passions became less and less fulfilling. I was yearning for something deeper, though at the time I had no idea what that something was.
And so, at 29 years old, I applied for a Masters in Spiritual Psychology. Academia had come easily to me, so of course I thought I would sail through, keeping myself at a safe distance while I completed my studies. Ha! The joke was on me. I emerged humbled and transformed. The same way, I imagine, any person on any kind of spiritual quest does.
Every day, in every way we’re presented with opportunities to grow and to evolve. Sometimes these lessons are material and earthly. We’re asked to get our finances in order, for example, or to tackle some previously unlearned task. And sometimes they’re factual or academic, opening our minds and broadening our view. But of all the lessons I’ve been presented with, none has been more powerful than those presented through relationships.
And so, I’ve learned it is the people in our lives who have the most to teach us. I remember, for example, when I was 19 and moved down to the East Village to study at NYU. Shortly after settling in my tenement apartment, I found myself immersed in a coffee shop called Ciao For Now on East 12th, between Avenues A and B. The education I received at NYU was stellar, but it paled in comparison to what I learned at Ciao. I was fairly young and hadn’t ventured out much on my own beyond the pristine sidewalks of uptown and the theatre-lined streets of midtown. The East Village was a revelation and still, at that point, a haven for artists and creatives. Everything I had learned up until that point had been, in a way, moot. What mattered at Ciao was a willingness to stand out, to be oneself, to shine radically and authentically, regardless of the thoughts and opinions of others. I was surrounded by people who made their life an art. And so the philosophy that I took with me, and still hold to this day, is the power of acceptance—acceptance of where we come from and most importantly, who we are. Everything else seems to flow from that.
Through my experiences, I’ve come to realize that every community is like a tribe, replete with its own morale and currency. I began in the 1980s version of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where I experienced wealth, status and education reigned supreme and then found myself in high school at a college prep school where sports and athletic prowess were paramount to success (we had our own ice hockey rink). From there, I made a pit stop in DC and then traveled to the East Village, where creativity was the chosen cache and then to Hollywood, which, ironically, led me to the University of Santa Monica and now Venice, CA where consciousness, self-awareness, health and a certain kind of aesthetic are emblematic of inclusion.
Wherever you come from, wherever you are and wherever you are going, know that there are like-minded and like-hearted souls to be found. It’s the takeaway that matters. A piece of me still exists in each one of these places. They’re all part of me. It’s the narrative we construct that matters—the story we tell ourselves. We can think of it this way: Earth is a school and every experience is a lesson. The question is: what are we here to learn?