Welcome to the Mountain AstrologerSubscribe to the Mountain AstrologerRead the beginner's series from the Mountain AstrologerGet back issues of the Mountain AstrologerRead highlighted articles from the Mountain AstrologerUse our article index from you library of the Mountain AstrologerContact us at the Mountain AstrologerSee our special offer from the Mountain Astrologer
  EDITOR'S CHOICE ARTICLES Oct/Nov 1999 Issue  
       
 

Care of the Astrologer
by Gretchen Lawlor

Astrology is more of a calling than a profession. Why would anyone choose this field? It is unlikely your guidance counselor pointed it out as a promising occupation, nor were you likely to enter the field through the inspiration of a favorite astrology professor. Its job security is nonexistent, there are no health benefits or retirement, no comfortable seniority after you've put in your time. No HMO will reimburse you for your services, as you are unlikely to be a respected member of any medical team. It pays erratically, gives you a questionable and uncertain reputation, and may legally categorize you with the fortunetellers at the edge of town.

But here you are, and through some divine plan or extraordinary set of circumstances, you have acquired the knowledge and are an astrologer. Most astrologers' stories of their call to this field reveal a high level of magical intervention. The stories frequently tell of accidents or chance encounters that dramatically effected a profound shift in perception and direction - in other words, a calling. You feel blessed to have found - or to have been found by - this work that gives you the opportunity to use your gifts; you feel thankful to be doing something you truly love and believe in.

And it truly is a calling; the gods have marked you for one of their own. You speak a language that predates and underlies all that psychology has yet to discover. You swim with a truly imaginative and colorful company. You have glimpses of the future that alternately fascinate and terrify you.

Astrology definitely has its positive sides: There are no designated limits to where you can go in the field, no ceiling beyond your own endurance. The older you get, the more mystique you acquire. Eccentricity is tolerated, even expected. You are your own boss, you set your own schedule. You can specialize in finance or relationships or crisis; anything you have a passion for likely has its own niche in astrology. You can wear anything you want, and the fact that you use math and a computer does add a tone of high-tech respectability.

If you want to endure and make your mark in this field, you will have to take particularly good care of yourself, because no one else is going to. For every astrologer still standing after the first year, there are hundreds who have decided it was too stressful, too uncertain, or too much work. You will have to keep mentally alert and physically well cared-for long after your friends have had their retirement parties and are collecting benefits.

There is a lot you can do to survive and thrive as an astrologer. There are specific herbal medications and supplements as well as dietary advice particularly supportive to the challenges of this work. From my experience as an astrologer of 28 years, and a survivor of burnout and reentry to the field, as well as my training as a naturopathic doctor, care of the practitioner has become my passion.

In my practice I see many health care professionals, not only astrologers but also psychotherapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, body workers, psychics, and even a few doctors. There are specific health issues that come up over and over in these fields. Hypersensitivity is almost a prerequisite to enter any of these fields, and yet proves to be the undoing of so many.

What are the recurring health issues I come across? I see a lot of sugar addictions and eating disorders. I see more than an average amount of alcoholism, diabetes, and heart problems. I see plenty of addictive behavior and all possible manifestations of rampant and underlying stress. The mental gymnastics and the sedentary nature of the work, especially the long hours of sitting, conspire to exhaust the mind and atrophy the body. Tense muscles, neck and back problems, and circulatory stagnation are common.

As astrologers, we need to be like lightning rods, forever alert to the celestial currents and their impact upon us here below. A good astrologer needs a finely tuned nervous system and, like any smoothly functioning electrical system, an effective means of grounding. With a good means of grounding and discharging, excess electrical energy can flow through our nervous systems to Earth. Ungrounded electricity tends to hurtle around the nervous system, eventually overheating or short-circuiting even the best astrologer's valuable, finely tuned nerves. Take a look at the questionnaire below and grade yourself on your own burnout profile:

Care of the Astrologer QUESTIONNAIRE (or, How do you fare in the burnout department?)

For each question, please indicate N = never, O = occasionally, F = frequently.

1. Extreme exhaustion or irritability, especially after work?
2. Deteriorating ability to relate to family and friends - social withdrawal?
3. Aversion to or resentment toward clients?
4. Cravings, especially after sessions, for sugar, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, sex?
5. Low energy levels; need for coffee, tea, or other stimulants to get through the day?
6. Eating disorders or erratic eating habits?
7. Use of alcohol or recreational drugs to wind down after work?
8. Anxiety or panic attacks?
9. Returning from holiday with anger, resentment, or anxiety toward your work?
10. Difficulty sleeping or the need for herbs or medication to sleep?
11. No time for exercise?
12. Low-grade or occasional depression?
13. Lack of pleasure/satisfaction in your work?
14. No time for or pleasure in hobbies?
15. Recurring colds or flu?
16. Weight extremes or fluctuations (very overweight/underweight)?
17. Serious health problems since becoming an astrologer?
18. Sense of hopelessness -"I don't make a difference anyway"?
19. Taking on obligations, then being unable to fulfill them?
20. Avoiding ordinary contact with the world outside your work?

For each Never answer, give yourself 0 points; each Occasionally answer, 2 points; each Frequently answer, 5 points.

Scoring: Total points of 2-12 = average stress levels 13-30 = serious concerns, consider some significant changes over 30 = acute burnout, get help

If you have more than six "occasionally," or more than two "frequently" answers on the burnout questionnaire, heed these warning signs. They are like the red light on your car's dashboard signaling to you there is something wrong in the system. It's no help to sedate the red light, or tear it out of the dashboard. Rather, you should see it as a signpost, a clue that there is a need to look further and deeper.

A cornerstone of medical astrology may be particularly helpful to you in this process. Consider your own astrological chart. You can find a very important clue in the elemental breakdown of fire, earth, air, and water. No matter how balanced your chart, there will be one weakest element. This is your Achilles' heel, your own fragile link that will need extra support and attention when you are stressed.

The weak element is a simple, primary indicator of where and how to rebalance your system. In natural medicine, the first job is to strengthen the basic constitution of the client. In rebalancing through strengthening the weak areas, you restore a healthy equilibrium, and the client's system may naturally effect its own cure with little further effort.

If you have one element entirely lacking, you are likely to be more instinctively driven to importing this element into your life through involvement with people or situations that embody that lacking element. However, this element will still be the one that fails you under stress.

FIRE IMBALANCE

If you are weak in the fire element, you are particularly prone to burnout because you don't have a steady internal source of energy to fuel your efforts in the outer world. You tend to be passionately overenthusiastic, to use your will to charge up your clients, but you are unable to sustain your own efforts.

From a medical standpoint, low fire makes it hard to digest and to burn off toxins. You are being constantly exposed to toxic emotions through your clients. If you are low in fire, you don't instinctively digest, assimilate, or burn yourself clean of these toxins.

To add fire, especially when under crisis (or better yet - to prevent it), find and commit to a steady and consistent regime of physical exercise. Low fire tends to initiate with enthusiasm but finds it difficult to keep an activity going. A gradually increasing program, where you build up to a desired level, will gently support and restore equilibrium. Pick a regime that you feel enthusiasm for, something aerobic but not fanatical, with a bit of flair so you will stick with it. Low fire needs muscle, which adds confidence and courage to the low-fire constitution.

In terms of diet, supplementation, and nutrition, use digestive stimulants or bitters such as gentian or Oregon grape root. Use circulatory stimulants such as cayenne, cinnamon, garlic, or nettles. Eat spicy foods and use immune system tonics to support low fire. In addition, orange and red clothing and stones such as tiger's eye, coral, carnelian, or ruby will gently add fire. (If you are interested, Vedic Astrology offers much valuable information about gems and colors.)

EARTH IMBALANCE

There are lots of astrologers with low earth. Being sensitive and unbound by practicalities can be a profound asset. You have the ability to be open to any and all possibilities, unfettered by the status quo. You're able to entertain anything a client can come up with, unconstrained by culture and convention. However, living exclusively in free fall does not help your endurance, nor your finances, nor the fortunes of your clients.

The very nature of astrological work aggravates a lack of earth. The sedentary daily circumstances and high-level mental activity keep energy high in the body, often stuck in the head. Most astrologers benefit from incorporating more earth in their lives.

Low earth is inclined to ignore the needs of the body. Lack of attention to the basics leaves the astrologer without roots or any foundation to support her/his lofty ideas. Earth is needed to stabilize and provide grounding for the dreamy idealism often found with low earth. Marcilio Ficino, the Renaissance astrologer and philosopher, felt that the art was innately melancholic and required an ample application of wine and lusty activity to counter its effects and keep the astrologer healthy.

How to add earth? Have a steady schedule that encourages regular and pleasurable meals, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep. Develop a hobby that lures you into your senses. Get out in nature often; this is where wisdom and renewal are most present for you. Eat heavy, nutritional foods, including root vegetables, grains, and dairy. (Of all the elemental pictures, low earth is most likely to need meat in the diet.)

Low earth benefits from massage and from the rich scents of aromatherapy. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend sesame oil applications to head and feet as an excellent method of anchoring spirit to body. Low earth should take a good natural mineral supplement as well as vitamins, and plenty of rich leafy greens.

Low earth should wear clothing with shades of rich brown, golds, and greens. Jewelry and stones, particularly topaz, smoky quartz, emerald, or malachite, will have a steadying effect.

AIR IMBALANCE

Low air is not as common amongst astrologers, probably because a very quick and hungry mind - the territory of air - is a prerequisite for finding the training and acquiring the skills of the trade. However, as the mind and brain are an astrologer's most valuable tools, the tonics needed for low air are useful for the worn-out astrologer.

Low air indicates a difficulty with the flow of energy through the body, and a tendency toward shallow breathing and a weak nervous system. Low air often has slow, erratic, or uncoordinated movements. To strengthen, use healing modalities that are light, fluid, and stimulating, such as dance, yoga (especially the pranayamas, the breath work), or the playing of an instrument.

Low air needs to make an effort to connect with people, as you are often quite introverted. You may need to sign up for classes or study groups - anything that encourages regular interaction. You need this "breath of fresh air" coming into your system.

I feel that most astrologers would benefit from a basic knowledge of nervines (nervous-system tonics), not only for themselves, but as suggestions to stressed clients. Nervines not only calm the system under stress, but also ultimately strengthen it. Many nervines are considered to be "stress adaptogens," adding resilience and an increased ability to cope with stress.

Oats, California poppy, Siberian ginseng, and skullcap are all excellent nervines. Most commonly used in tincture form, they tonify the weak air nervous system, and soothe the over-stressed nerves of the hard-working practicing astrologer.

Low air responds to circulatory stimulants such as ginger, cayenne, and spicy foods, as well as to strong smells through incense or essential oil applications. Rosemary oil applied to the head improves circulation to the brain, strengthening memory and reasoning capacity. Blue and turquoise are the colors that strengthen low air, as are stones like lapis, sapphire, and aquamarine.

WATER IMBALANCE

Low water is just that: dry, lacking moisture, and lacking the ability to flush the system. There is a tendency toward stiffness and dehydration. Tissues may be hard and joints may lack adequate lubrication.

Low water also tends toward sleeping disorders, and may find it hard to recognize or express emotions.

The establishment of a home base is critical to low water, as is exposure to any circumstances that support positive experiences of emotional interaction. Low water is soothed by music and art and can benefit from developing an artistic skill.

Any exposure to water helps this condition. Water is probably the oldest of healing tools. It is easily available and can be used in many forms to balance the low water constitution: by ice and steam, in oceans and baths, sprays and compresses, and, of course, by drinking plenty of fresh, clean water. Cold water warms up and increases circulation, thereby improving metabolism and eliminating bodily waste. Hot water applications and therapies relax the muscles and allow tension to flow out of the system. It also increases perspiration and surface circulation, which releases congestion in deeper internal organs.

Low water needs external support to help flush the system. Like low fire, low water benefits from liver tonics such as milk thistle, an excellent detoxifier. The low water diet should be soothing and cooling. Melons, grapes, and most fruits are helpful, as are vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, celery, and lettuce. Salt and spices should be kept to a minimum. Wear pearls and opals and soft, iridescent pastel colors.

The weakest element in your chart highlights a potential for genius because it is not found within you in any ordinary way. By tending to that fragile element, you interact with and integrate it free of existing paradigms.

For weak fire, this may mean connecting to a raw and pure source of inspiration. By adding fire to the system, you may discover an enthusiasm for something that acts as a catalyst for some unexpected breakthrough that sets the world "on fire."

For low earth, it may be an original relationship with nature that you discover as you reach outside yourself to effect your own personal healing.

Low air types may struggle with expressing inspirations, but are capable of making truly remarkable leaps of association, creative connections between systems the rest of the world just doesn't consider. Low air can help introduce that "breath of fresh air" to a stagnant field.

For low water, the necessary work of alchemically importing and integrating water into a parched system may require the development of some original container for feelings - through unique artistic or musical expression, or through a gifted rapport with a healing medium.

Not only astrologers but practitioners in all the human service professions acknowledge that it is difficult to stay indefinitely in the field. Amongst my clients I have noticed recurring patterns of seven, and sometimes 14 years in a field. Many good healers will choose to take a sabbatical, or to significantly change the form and focus of their work, under the influence of the seven-year transiting cycles of Saturn or Uranus. Those who do honor the need to withdraw and recuperate will often return to the field newly invigorated and inspired. The ones who soldier on are often those who battle with the chronic illnesses and the nervous disorders.

Saturn transits force you to be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. This is particularly noticeable every seven years, when, by phase and aspect relationship to itself, Saturn provides a crisis that tests your effectiveness in the world. It requires you to pare away anything that wastes time, energy, or money as you focus your efforts upon stabilizing and being productive.

Uranus is the change maker, disrupting and breaking up all existing forms to allow for greater innovation and inspiration. A transit of Uranus wakens you to what has become habitual, pointing out that it is time to reinvent yourself. If you don't heed this unsettling cyclic call, you may face either stagnation and tiredness, or disruption, and possibly disaster, until you are forced to change.

Saturn and Uranus can actually work well in the burnout and reconstruction process. Uranus, on its own, brings erratic waves of chaotic devastation and rebellious outbursts. In fact, the energetic upsurge of a Uranus transit can be experienced at first as anxiety or panic attacks until you get accustomed to resonating at the higher frequency. But when the summons of Uranus is tempered with the influence of Saturn, and you allow yourself the time (Saturn) to adjust to its increased energetic frequency, you can eventually master that extraordinary state of "disciplined wildness" (a la Caroline Casey).1

Within this context, burnout may be absolutely necessary in the development of a gifted healer. The art lies in tending to the signs of burnout and responding to the call to change.

Here are some tangible things you can do to support your system in the cyclic development of your gift. All of the herbs and supplements are available from a good health food store. (If you have serious health problems, consult a health practitioner first.)

LIFESTYLE AND BEHAVIORAL ADJUSTMENTS

* Nourish your weakest element: fire, earth, air, or water.
* Pursue a significant pleasurable interest or activity other than work.
* Walk or exercise at least 30 minutes, three times a week.
* Use a protection ritual before client sessions and a cleansing ritual upon closure.
* Use Epsom-salt baths 2-3 times a week to clear emotional toxins absorbed from clients and to soothe muscle tension and relax overworked nerves.
* Witness client's process rather than trying to rescue them.
* Be attentive about maintaining an even and relaxed breathing pattern during client consultations.

DIET AND NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION

* Eat regular meals of fresh, unprocessed foods, especially fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, and fish.
* Monitor and modify cravings, substituting complex carbohydrates (crackers, nuts, and grains), especially between consultations.
* Take calcium/magnesium supplements for calming and relaxing.
* Temper use of stimulants: coffee, tea, cola, sugar, and over-the-counter stimulants. (Support transition from dependency with Siberian ginseng, gotu kola, ginkgo.)

BRAIN FOODS

* Vitamin C improves cognitive function (1000 mg. three times a day).
* B-complex vitamins for brain fuel, circulation, and nervous system (use a balanced complex from a reputable company, with 50 mg. of the main B vitamins).
* Ginkgo increases circulation in the brain (90-120 mg. daily).
* Phosphatidyl serine significantly improves cognitive function (100-300 mg. daily).
* CoQ10 is a powerful brain antioxidant, and helps mental lethargy and depression (100 mg. 3-5 times a week).

HERBS

* Siberian ginseng - adrenal support, stress adaptogen.
* Skullcap - tonic for nerves, relaxant, mildly sedating.
* KavaKava - stress adaptogen, muscle relaxant, helps calm anxiety.
* Hypericum (St. John's wort) - mood elevator, antidepressant, nerve nourishment.
* Oats - relieves depression and exhaustion, adds emotional resilience.
* Valerian - strong herbal tranquilizer, assists sleep.
* Lavender oil (aromatherapy) - relaxes tense nerves.
* California poppy - gentle sedative and anti-anxiety, has sleep-enhancing properties.
* Gotu Kola - improves brain function and endurance.

HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES
There are many homeopathic remedies for burnout; here are a few:

* Argentum nitricum - confused, nervous agitation (helps stage fright).
* Nux vomica - mental strain with digestive symptoms, overwork, irritability.
* Kali phosphoricum - mentally sluggish, overwhelmed with information (good for conferences).
* Natrum carbonicum - exhaustion with depression and melancholia.

FLOWER ESSENCES

* Rescue Remedy/Five Flower Remedy - restores emotional balance and self-control. (For more information on Bach Flower Remedies, see Shellie Enteen's article in the printed version of this issue of TMA.)
* Aloe Vera - practitioner burnout, too involved (especially with heart symptoms, sugar cravings).
* Morning Glory - overreliance upon stimulants, helps to shift addictions.
* Olive - restorative after complete physical and emotional exhaustion.
* Yarrow or Pink Yarrow - helps restore good boundaries with clients and workload.
* Crab Apple, Garlic, or Chaparral - clears toxins absorbed from client exposure.

"If you're so good at your work, why do you have problems?" Clients may not say it so bluntly, but the implication is often there. What a curse to think we should have to be totally on top of the very forces that wreak such havoc in everybody else's lives!

The natural wisdom we witness in the skies - in the changing faces of the Moon and the cycles of the planets - provides models for our own lives. After all, we astrologers are agents of change. We earn our livelihoods diagnosing, managing, and justifying the cycles of change for our clients. It is critical in this astrological calling that we, not just our clients, be willing to continue to change and to grow, that we allow life to mark us and move us forward.

This art of astrology, this calling from the gods, overseen by and dedicated to Uranus, does not let us settle into comfortable rhythms and routines. If not heeded, the call to change often surfaces in the body as the signs and symptoms of burnout.

Uranus, the awakener, breaks up established rhythms to make space for creativity and inspiration. When the influence of transiting Uranus is strong in your chart, the patterns of your life break open. There is incredible potential within such unsettled, highly energized times. Body, mind, and spirit are open to being reconfigured into a more healthy state.

However, the stresses placed upon your entire system during Uranus transits can be excruciating - particularly upon the fragile link, your weakest element. By making contact with and tending to this element, especially during times of high stress, you can restore healthy balance to your system.

Signs of burnout are not meant to be suppressed by the recommendations I have presented above. Burnout often happens as a way of confronting you with the need for change when you are not responding to the signs. As Ram Dass says in his excellent book on service, How Can I Help: "... burnout need not always be an enemy. If not a best friend, it can at least be a catalyst, even a guide for the inner work and the work on ourselves."2

If you are to stay vital and effective in your calling, you must be committed to tending, with vigilance, your body, mind, and spirit. Use these natural tools to heal yourself, to keep yourself functioning and resonating, and you will not simply survive, but flourish.

1. Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You, New York: Random House, 1998, p. 137.

2. Ram Dass, How Can I Help, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990, p. 211.

Charles Boer (translator), Marcilio Ficino's Book of Life, Woodstock, CT: Spring Publications, 1980.
Donna Cunningham, Astrology and Vibrational Healing, San Rafael, CA: Cassandra Press, 1988.
Christopher Hobbs, Stress and Natural Healing, Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1997.
Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998.
Jane Ridder-Patrick, A Handbook of Medical Astrology, London: Arkana, 1990.

© 1999 Gretchen Lawlor - all rights reserved

Gretchen Lawlor has been an astrologer for 28 years and several cycles of burnout and reinspiration. She teaches natural approaches to common health problems to hospital groups and alternative medical practitioners in the U.S., the U.K., and New Zealand. She has a practice in the Seattle area, where she specializes in medical astrology and the professional calling. She is available for consultations in person or by phone at (360) 221-4341, P.O. Box 753, Langley, WA 98260, e-mail Gretchen.

 

 
  TOP  
© 2007 The Mountain Astrologer. All rights reserved.