Thursday, February 16, 2012

Astrological Intimidation and How to Avoid It

Be an Ambassador for Astrology: Reflections and a Quiz

© 2012 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

If “it takes a village” to raise a child; it takes a village to raise consciousness and our body of knowledge. This applies to every aspect and tool of enlightenment, including astrology. “No man is an island” for this reason.

Putting Our Heads Together

Astrology is both simple and complex, linear and intuitive. Its applications are endless. All the knowledge, skills, and esoteric art it takes to realize astrology’s enormous possibilities cannot possibly fit into one head. (Your head would explode.) It has become increasingly clear to me: we, as speakers of the star language, must put our heads together ongoing to apply astrological knowledge to better living. The wise words of Hermes and his Law of Correspondence have become a motto for describing the heaven-to-earth interface: “As Above, so Below.” This implies that cosmic patterns replicate patterns on the ground and in our lives. It also implies that astrology is meant to come out of the clouds (and our heads) into the most practical aspects of living.

We learn early on, if we’re lucky to have siblings, that sharing is essential part learning and having a happy life. I learn more from astrological community than all the books I have read on the subject put together. The information revolution has opened new doors for connecting in these conversations on blogs, websites, social networking groups, online classes, Skype and more.

Yet I still see a lot of astrological intimidation present in these gatherings. I am no exception to feeling it. It has taken a lot of work to overcome enough of my own Virgo self-doubt to become so public with my work. I know well that I don’t know everything. I am aware of the holes in my astrological education that need filling, but no longer think I have to be sidelined until I fill every one of them. I will likely die still having some cavities.

At some point, I had to recognize that there are many things I do know, some of them well. Often I have a unique perspective. The same is true of you.

I am saddened when I see bright people holding back in astrological conversations what they know for fear of being wrong, looking ignorant, not knowing enough or a whole host of other concerns that deprive us of their gifts—and deprive them of the joy of giving.

How do we create an atmosphere that turns this around?

Ambassadors for Astrology

Becoming an ambassador for astrology is a concept you’ll be hearing more about on these pages in the future. It’s the mission of my local astrological organization—I’m president—and one I take to heart.  

An ambassador is a diplomatic official representing his or her country in foreign lands. In this case, the “country” is the cosmos (astrology).

In most countries, ambassadors from an array of other countries have individual embassies in the host country. You are most likely to encounter an ambassador when you’re traveling and run into trouble. Example: You lose your passport. You’d go to the embassy of the country you come from to see your ambassador. The ambassador—or the ambassador’s representativeswould help you replace your passport or otherwise cut the red tape in any thorny situation in which you find yourself on foreign soil. Performing this role as astrologers is one way we can help those who feel lost in the foreign country of our astrological language and customs. It’s a matter of being welcoming and hospitable. That image of ambassadors and hospitality is reason why there is a worldwide hotel chain called The Embassy Suites.

Some people, in astrological conversations, feel like they’ve lost their passport.

Astrologers are most likely to seem foreign to newbies (and even olderbies) when we talk primarily in astrobabble, especially when we speak it like Erudites from the Planet Brainiac. There’s nothing wrong with being smart. We can use all the brains we can find, applied to our convoluted modern challenges. However, we can’t exempt ourselves from communicating what we know in an effective way that does not alienate others.

Not everyone is a scholar, and not all important astrological information comes from scholarship. Much of it comes from life experience and bright people who put two and two together and help come up with answers “four” us all. There are many routes to learning; not all of them are academic. Various paths accommodate the diversity of humankind.

I believe good astrological communication starts with telling us why we should care about a certain theory or technical issue in astrology, continues with explaining it in simple language, and then invites others to share their feedback and reactions based on their experiences.

Here’s the subtle part. Style and attitude make a difference in whether something is perceived as intimidating. When we know a lot, for some of us, there’s a danger that we may slip into acting patronizing or condescending. It’s important to assume anyone drawn to astrology is an intelligent colleague on an equal footing.

The challenge lies in how to communicate something you know to others who may not know yet.

Astrology is not exempt from the rules of good communication. Good communication requires speaking in terms simple enough that they are easy to understand by everyone in the conversation. It’s important to know your audience and adjust accordingly. If many are beginners to astrology, stop to define terms. Invite questions and take even the most basic ones with enthusiasm and support of the asker.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? In reality, it often takes hard work to nugget things down to their essence. Yet it’s worth the effort for the rewards.

Astrology: Life-Long Learning

We’re taught in school that we can master a subject. We also hear that the older we get and the more we learn, the more we know we don’t know. You could never know everything there is to know about astrology. This discipline we love, half art and half science, has endless permutations, applications, and new principles being discovered, not to mention new planetary bodies (centaurs, dwarf planets). Astrology is not for the feint of heart when it comes to education. To love astrology is to commit to a life-long learning process in order to understand the continuous, vast gifts it gives for understanding people, life and living it to the fullest.

In this set-up, we’re all teachers and learners. There’s no room for I/Thou, if you want to continue to learn and grow. An attitude of inclusion and curiosity about what the “next guy” thinks or knows will enlighten everyone in astrological conversations. It will eradicate astrological intimidation, enhance dialogue, and help us all learn more. I am often pleasantly surprised by how new people to astrology have fresh perspectives or insights that often elude the most seasoned stargazers. Maybe it’s beginner’s mind. In any case, you won’t hear some of these amazing insights without speaking the language in a way that it is understood across many levels of current knowledge.

Be an Assertive Learner

I’ve talked about how an astrologers or astrology students can be intimidating to others. However, in human dynamics, as my malaproppin’ mama used to say, “It takes two to tangle.” It’s also important to make a decision not to be intimidated. Don’t remain lost and let feelings of apprehension creep up and take hold. When you start feeling your brain fogging and your eyes glazing over in an astrological conversation, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’m not following that. Could you try it another way? If you don’t know a term or concept, be willing to ask. Can you remind me what x means? Or remind me how y works and fits into this. (There are diplomatic ways to ask questions where the asker doesn’t feel small and the asked doesn’t feel “questioned” in a negative way.) Let the question mark be your passport. Willingness to admit you don’t know everything goes for the newest kid on the block to seasoned astrologers. Back to the beginning of this article, we cannot know everything. Astrology is meant to be a dialogue, not a monologue.

If you’re too uncomfortable to do this in the moment at first, stay after the presentation and talk to the speaker or catch the individual one-on-one in some way. (In an online forum, follow up with a private e-mail.) Ask for clarification. You'll be doing him or her a great favor, because the best information on earth will not be useful until it is well communicated to a diverse audience. We gain information in astrology according to how many minds join the party for continued planetary explorations.

Your Report Card – Astrological Ambassador Quiz

How are you doing on creating an atmosphere that’s a welcome mat in your astrological life? Like many things I write, this is meant to be a think piece for self-evaluation.

Here’s a short test on being an astrological ambassador. Grade yourself from A (Excellent) to F (Failed) on each item. Put numbers to the letters to get your total score at the end: A = 5, B = 4, C = 3, D = 2, F = 1.

1. __ I interact regularly with people at various levels of astrological knowledge.

2. __ I welcome the simplest questions about astrology and respond to them with enthusiasm, even when it’s difficult to synthesize what I know into something uncomplicated.

3. __ I let people know with positive feedback when their astrological ideas are unique, well thought, and helpful. (Encourages the practice.)

4. __ I am willing to admit openly that I don’t know everything about astrology.

5. __ I don’t refer to myself as an expert. (Can be very intimidating for dialogue. I prefer “specialist” in a particular topic or area of astrology.)

6. __ I refrain from astrobabble as much as possible, unless I know everyone present speaks astrology at virtually the same level of knowledge as I do.

7. __ I refrain from name-dropping about well-known astrologers. While giving them due respect for their advanced skills, I do not act as if they were gods and goddesses. (Imagine how hard that makes it to approach them. Putting them on a pedestal also rubs off on others.)

8. __ I avoid making assumptions that everyone at the presentation or in the conversation knows the topic as well as I do or the background involved. This is especially true if it involves topics that may be related to astrology, but are not “astrology” per se, such as history, mythology, mathematics, and astronomy. Most people do not have expertise on all these subjects.

9. __ When I speak or help bring in speakers to a group, I avoid using the word lecture in favor of words like presentation. (Who wants to be lectured to? It has a ring of talking down to others.)

10. __ I ask questions when I get lost in an astrological conversation.

11. __ I thank other astrologers who deliver astrological information in presentations or articles with exceptional clarity. (This helps encourage the practice.)

12. __ I am willing to explain astrology to people who don’t know a thing about it, thereby being an ambassador who encourages new people to visit the Country of the Stars.

____ TOTAL


48 – 60: Bravo! Keep up the good work!

36-48: Keep these questions handy with a goal toward more 4’s and 5’s in the future.

Under 35: Take this article to heart and consider how you can become a better ambassador for astrology.

Let me know your ideas for making astrological conversations more welcoming, less intimidating, and a positive think tank for everyone involved.


Photo Credit: © Greg Blomberg

Postscript: I learned something from my own article! I’d like to encourage readers at any time to e-mail me privately in response to any article on The Radical Virgo. Not everyone feels comfortable posting on the public wall in Comments. In my experience, some of the best ideas often come from those who prefer personal communications. The welcome mat is out! Come on in.

Don't forget the Comment Contest for a Free Mini-Reading or $50 off a Full Reading This Month. E-Book Sale extended thru end of February. See Sidebar.


Mads Elung-Jensen said...

Hello Joyce, reading this I was instantly reminded of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard's quote on helping:

If One Is Truly to Succeed in Leading a person to a Specific Place, One must First and Foremost Take Care to Find Him Where He Is and Begin There.

This is the secret in the entire art of helping.

Anyone who cannot do this is himself under a delusion if he thinks he is able to help someone else.

In order truly to help someone else, I must understand more than he—but certainly first and foremost understand what he understands.

If I do not do that, then my greater understanding does not help him at all.

If I nevertheless want to assert my greater understanding, then it is because I am vain or proud, then basically instead of benefiting him I really want to be admired by him.

But all true helping begins with a humbling. The helper must first humble himself under the person he wants to help and thereby understand that to to help is not to dominate but to serve, that to help is not to be the most dominating but the most patient, that to help is a willingness for the time being to put up with being in the wrong and not understanding what the other understands.'

I think you'll agree with good old Søren. All the best, Mads

Joyce Mason said...

What a great share, Mads. You remind me once more why Kierkegaard has always been one of my favorite philosophers. This quote, too, reminds me of why we admire the great when they are also humble. Thank you!

The Natural Sage said...

Your quiz is equally helpful by substituting any other topic, and still obtaining objectivity!
While getting a great score is the goal for some; it's a greater opportunity to take the test being completely honest with oneself.
Thanks for the article.

Joyce Mason said...

Dear Natural Sage,

What an unexpected surprise that you find generic potential in the quiz. I'll remember that and come back and try it some time on another topic. Glad the opportunity for self-reflection came through as most important to you. Where we stand with this issue is likely to fluctuate. Keeping the astrological atmosphere warm and welcoming is one I plan to revisit often--and retake my own quiz. :) Thanks for your feedback.


Mandi said...

Couldn't agree more Joyce, what a great article. I still feel intimidated in astrological circles at times. The rule seems to be that unless you've been at it for at least three decades you can't call yourself an astrologer. One 'friend' said to me a couple of years ago that in about 20 years time I might become a good astrologer if I keep at it. :)

Joyce Mason said...

Holy Moly, Mandy! Knowing your talents and abilities, I can barely believe anyone would say that to you. I think you just won the prize, so far, for most blatant astrological intimidation. (I don't know if this is only an American expression or if you use it in the UK, too, but it would be the booby prize or prize for the worst.)

Often, those who intimidate with their sense self-importance are insecure in their own abilities or they wouldn't have to boast in fact or by implication. Taking it a step further, since most of these folks teach, we all want to learn from someone who knows more than us, or we wouldn't need their classes. However, if they think we're not as smart as they are, there would also be no point if we're incapable of "getting" it. As well as being unkind, it's bad for business.

No one would argue; it takes knowledge and experience to become a good astrologer, but how much varies with the individual in terms of their readiness to go public. The proof is with our clients. When they refer others to us or give appreciative feedback, that's the measure I care about. It's easy to get caught up in letting other astrologers define our abilities or success. We don't work for them; we work for our clients.

There are all kinds of people who need all different kinds of astrologers. The universe is often better than most dating services at making the right matches!

Thanks for sharing. I always value your input.