You may scoff at the methods I use to improve my mental and physical health. Astrology, tarot, energy work, meditation, yoga, craniosacral therapy, angelic healing -- name a branch of new-agey goodness, and I've probably tried it. Roll your eyes all you want, because I am rolling them right back at you. I’ll just be thumping my meridian points while I do it.
I hear so many arguments from skeptics as to why New Age methods are wrong or crazy or ineffectual. Well, those people can suck it. Here’s why.
1. Astrology is a scam! Horoscopes don’t come true!
Astrology is an incredibly useful tool for self-exploration and understanding the bigger picture. Don't count it out because you read a horoscope that didn't "come true." If you've written off astrology based on the inaccuracy of a Life & Style horoscope you read in an airport one time, then put down the trashy magazine and get your goddamn chart read by a professional. Horoscopes are not fortune-tellers; they're clues into the great mysteries of life and the cyclical nature of everything. They help you to see things from a new perspective, to recognize and break out of patterns that don't serve you.
I also hear a lot of whining to the tune of "Each sign’s traits could describe anyone." Or "Well I know two Scorpios and they’re nothing alike.” First of all, no. Clearly not true. Second of all, every person’s chart is totally unique. Your sun sign is the tip of a very large iceberg. Astrology is insanely dense, complicated and full of nuance.
The basics -- your sun sign represents the core of who you are, your general disposition and your approach to life. Your ascendant (or rising) sign is the face you show the world, how others perceive you. Lastly, your moon sign governs your emotional landscape, how you react to things, your moods. Each sign can also be lumped into one of three modes: cardinal, fixed or mutable. Cardinal signs are good at initiating, fixed signs are good at sustaining, and mutable signs are highly adaptable.
My sun sign is Cancer, my rising sign is Virgo, and my moon is in Gemini. Cancer is a cardinal sign, Virgo and Gemini are both mutable. The gist is, I've got a hard stubborn shell covering sensitive insides (Crabby Cancer), I often come across as much more reserved and unemotional than I actually am (Virgo), and my emotions are extremely changeable (Gemini). I’m great at starting things with gusto (Cardinal) and I’m fairly adaptable to change (Mutable).
Case in point, I got really excited about the idea for this article, and immediately sat down to start writing it (Cardinal Cancer comes to play). I wrote two paragraphs, then got distracted by an email or something on Buzzfeed or the bag of trail mix sitting next to my computer (scattered Gemini strikes!).
A few weeks passed and the excitement returned, so I wrote some more. I will probably never be someone who sits down every day and writes 2,000 words. Astrology has helped me to accept this about myself. It frees me from the guilt of feeling that I should naturally have the discipline of a fixed sign. Instead of beating myself up and throwing in the towel, I approach my writing in a way that works for me.
Astrology becomes dangerous when people use it in a very literal, humorless way. It’s not meant to box you into stifling categories or predict what you’re going to eat tomorrow.
I don’t pretend to understand why or how astrology works. And I don’t take its interpretations as gospel. A lot of the aspects in my chart correlate very strongly with how I think, feel and act. But that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of altering my habits and behavior. It doesn’t mean I play no part in my own destiny. What it does do is help me to understand myself better, and feel more prepared for what’s to come. Astrologer Rob Brezsny explains it best:
“By cultivating a tender, cheerful skepticism, I inoculate myself against the virus of fanaticism. This ensures that astrology will be a supple tool in my hands, an adaptable art form, and not a rigid, explain-it-all dogma that over-literalizes and distorts the mysteries it seeks to illuminate.”
So quit hating and jump on the enlightenment bandwagon already.
2. Alternative medicine doesn’t work!
Blah blah placebo effect blah. That's all I hear from you people. Whether it's energy work, homeopathic remedies, or any other alternative form of healing, I always have someone smugly bring up the placebo effect and then ramble on about science this studies that. (No one is guiltier of this than the western medicine worshiping folks who contribute to Wikipedia. Have fun with your hasty cesareans and unsolicited rectal exams guys, I'll be over here doing some chanting and eating some snacks.)
I went to an angelic healer recently, for help with my anxiety and neck pain. He communes with angels, and then channels their positive healing energy into you. The angels also give you advice on stuff, which is fun. Thanks angels!
I don't necessarily believe in angels. I don't NOT believe in them either. I don't know! How could I? It doesn’t really matter to me either way. All I know is, after this healer dumped a boatload of angel energy on me, I felt amazing. Tension I'd held in my face for months melted away. The pinched nerve in my neck that's plagued me on and off for five years felt looser and more mobile than it had in years. I felt blissfully content and anxiety-free.
I went home and watched about five hours of TV in one sitting. Not an unusual occurrence, but this time it was without any guilt, or any feeling that I should be doing something else (namely: figuring out my whole life). I was able to gleefully watch season two of "The Killing," totally in the moment.
"Placebo effect, placebo effect!" you shout angrily, unable to put stock in something as hard to define as energy work. Okay, let's say angels don't exist, and I felt amazing because my mind somehow "tricked" me into it. So worst case scenario, you're telling me that MY MIND HAS THE POWER TO HEAL??? It's a win-win situation. Meanwhile you're hobbling through life without angel buddies and badass mind magic. Joke’s on you!
People also insinuate that embracing alternative medicine means leaving Western medicine behind. It doesn’t have to be an either/or thing. I'm allowed to put stock in whatever methods I deem best for the situation. Western medicine certainly has its place. I'm exceedingly grateful that life-saving surgeries exist. And I will be the first to extoll the benefits of anti-depressants when you’re in a black pit of misery that you can’t pull yourself out of no matter how hard you try. Additionally, I'm glad I don't have to worry about smallpox, which does not sound like fun at all. Thanks, Edward Jenner. See, I like science!
However, and there’s a big however here, Western medicine can be dangerously narrow in its approach. Your toe hurts? Let’s x-ray that one toe. You’ve just suffered a trauma? Here are some pills. You're sick and we're not sure what's wrong with you? Well here are some antibiotics, maybe they'll do something, and if not well whatever, I don't care that I just ruined your immune system for the foreseeable future! Why look for an underlying cause when I can treat a symptom and move on to the next patient, am I right?
On a very basic level, this approach does not seem logical to me. The body and mind are so complicated and interconnected. Doesn’t it make the most sense to take a more holistic approach? To look at how all the systems work together, rather than separate everything into specialties and pretend they have little relation to each other?
Alternative medicine is not a solution for everything. But taking a less traditional approach to my health has made a huge difference. In the past, I've been to a whole slew of chiropractors who have crunched my bones back into place. Then one or two or three days later, everything pops out of alignment and I'm back where I started.
In pain, anxious about being in pain, which tenses me up and leads to more pain, an endless loop of pain-anxiety-pain-anxiety-pain. So if having a very earnest 50-year-old man wave his hands back and forth above my body for 20 minutes makes more of a difference than five years of traditional chiropractic, then you're goddamn right I choose angel energy guy to treat me! It's just common sense.
3. New Age stuff is a bunch of nonsense!
New Age philosophies are not actually new. The movement as we know it gained popularity in the 1970s, so yes in that respect it is relatively new. But the concepts it encompasses are, for the most part, ancient. These are concepts that have evolved over hundreds or in some cases thousands of years. They weren't just plucked out of the ether by some silkscreen-shirt-making hippy in Big Sur. It's a bunch of different ideas culled from all over the world, from all different time periods, with the goal of making your life better. And exploring these concepts is tapping into ancient wisdom from people who didn't have The Daily Puppy and therefore had a lot more time to think about this shit.
The New Age movement encourages us to look outside of the materialistic values we’ve been conditioned to worship. It aims to push you out of the self-centered, narrow view of your life where you have no responsibility to the world at large, where you are a slave to your own ambition no matter the cost (you’re killing adorable polar bear cubs, you jerks!).
As Reality Sandwich’s Daniel Pinchbeck puts it, “We are discovering that the web of life on earth is an intricate mesh, and we are tearing it to shreds.” The only way out of this mess is to live in a much more integrated, harmonious way.
It’s not just a coincidence that things have been feeling more and more out of control recently, like we’re all on the brink of something major. This is thanks to Pluto and Uranus, who haven’t been configured like this since the 1960s, a time of revolution and big shifts in thinking. So take your blinders off and let the planets do their job! This ain’t their first time at the rodeo. They’re going to barrel through and enact their change no matter how much you protest, so you may as well prepare yourself.
No McDonald’s breakfast after 11am is a bunch of nonsense. “Fun-sized” candy is a bunch of nonsense. But trying to unite humanity and be a catalyst for positive change in order to avoid living in a Judge Dredd-type dystopia? Not nonsensical at all.
And to those closeted New Agers out there -- stop being so damn apologetic. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. Have the courage to say "Fuck you, I love my Himalayan Salt Lamp and yes it does make me sleep better thank you very much!" Reiki the shit out of your arthritic beagle at the dog park. Down that Rescue Remedy like a boss. Stand tall and proud and let those unenlightened chumps know that we are New Agers, and we are not to be trifled with.