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Has Spirituality Become Another Ego Identity?

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Spirituality in the West has been severely distorted; being a marketplace of trinkets, self-help gurus, healers, a huge variety of spiritual practices, substances and so on.

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Somehow this culture has taken something very pure and simple and turned it in to something commercial, something competitive and into that which it is not. Our western mind is moulded into wanting to attain something and some people on the spiritual path have spent their entire lives trying to attain, only to be as stuck and bound as they ever were.

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It’s this very desire to attain something, this wanting to reach a ‘higher state of consciousness’, which is what keeps people bound and seeking. By definition, to be a seeker, you have not yet sought, and therefore those who are always seeking do not find. One of the great Tibetan Buddhists Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who played a crucial role in bringing Buddhist teachings to the West during the Chinese occupation has this summary to say about awakening/meditation/enlightenment in Meditation in Action:

“Meditation is based on three fundamental factors: first, not centralising inward; second, not having any longing to become higher; and third, becoming completely identified with here and now.”

So in context with the rest of the chapter this is in, he is referring to our ego, or our idea of who we are, the “me”, the “I”, has no solidity to it, and not to uphold the belief that it exists. He denounces the striving to become better or higher – as pure consciousness cannot be increased or diminished. Nothing about healing, nothing about crystals or chakras or ascension or needing to strive or to take certain substances… just to be.

Enlightenment

It’s a funny word this one, and has so many connotations and ideas surrounding it. In western culture it’s usually thought to be something that one attains after maybe 3 or 4 decades meditating in a cave, but the more I read and the more I journey, the less it seems this word is about reaching higher states or personal attainment.

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“Strictly speaking, there are no enlightened people, only enlightened activity.”

This was said by the great Zen master Shunryu Suzuki and I can see how this fits in exactly with what Ram Dass’s Hindi guru Maharaji said to him when asked how to become enlightened. He replied “Love everyone, feed everyone, serve everyone.” How very simple hey? But in today’s mad world, do you know anyone who truly does this?

It seems that enlightenment refers to realising our true being – what it is that we really are. This is why all the spiritual teachers I’ve come across – from Tibetan Buddhism to Zen to Advaita Vedanta to the Upanishads, usually refer to it as “Self Realisation” rather than enlightenment. Finding out that we are not our thinking mind, we are not our body, we are not our emotions, feelings, desires or aversions; that we are aware of all these things, not intrinsically them. They use words like awareness, consciousness, God, the Buddha nature, emptiness and so on. It’s essentially awareness being aware of itself, and seeing as each and every one of us are already this awareness, we are all already “there”, but we have identified ourselves with the things we are aware of (body and mind) and have limited ourselves by doing so, making this the cause of all the suffering in the world. We are used to focusing on external appearances; our body, our intellect, our differences, our beliefs, but the more we turn our attention inward to our own inner workings and that awareness that is always there, we find a depth to our being that is almost scarily profound.

So this is not something that we can attain – which is hard for the western mind to comprehend, because it is so conditioned to attain. It always wants to one-up others, to be on a pedestal, to be seen, to be higher, but it is this very egocentric behavior that keeps people bound. This is why anyone who refers to themselves as being enlightened, you can rest assured that they are not; and usually when the great spiritual teachers are asked whether they are, they will dodge the question.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said in one of his talks “So you’re enlightened… what now?” He was poking fun at the western worlds way of wanting to attain and become a higher or better person, but practically in everyday life what does that mean for us? Do we shut ourselves away in a dark room meditating all day? Do we walk around with our chest puffed out, our groupies and our inflated ego? This is where for me, it comes back to what Maharaji said. If we act from the place of that realisation that we are all the same essence just with our different masks on, then we will treat others as our self, making differences irrelevant and the notion of “other” as inevitably irrelevant too.

“Everywhere I go, I meet myself”

Shunryu Suzuki

Surrender

The underlying current of most sages and mystics on spirituality is that of surrender; in giving yourself over completely to the whole, to help and heal those in need, and relinquish all desire in furthering our own career/bank account/self-image. We can help so many people, if we just step out of the social norm of progress and work, and stop caring so much as to what others think of us. There are most likely people living on our own street that struggle with bills, food, money, TLC and there are the seniors who could benefit from our youth, the poor who could benefit from our generosity, the lonely who could benefit from our warmth. Do any of these struggling people truly care about how well one can meditate?

It’s very easy to get caught up with the spiritual tag, and use it as a concept, an identity, instead of as a way of being. It’s really easy to get attached to the idea of being spiritual and to identify as one of the many labels out there from “indigo child” to “lightworker”, which really only separates us in another form from our fellow humans, as it’s a way of raising our self to be of supposed higher moral ground and special.

Being spiritual doesn’t mean continuously working on our self in meditation and yoga. That’s the whole point; service to others, ending the suffering and separateness in other beings. Giving and sharing without the need for reciprocation or acknowledgement. If a hand feeds a mouth, does it matter to whom they belong to? The best way it seems to attenuate the ego, to surrender and release ourselves of attraction and aversion is to serve others. Not to worry about gaining all these amazing experiences, communing with angels, seeing in different dimensions or raising ourselves on the meditation pedestal. Surrender ourselves and serve others.

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Consciousness

Manifesting Your Vision Through “The Law of Attraction”

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The Law of Attraction is based on the principle that all matter is made up of pure energy, which is in a constant state of vibration and spin.

The LOA implies that thoughts and emotions are also energy, each having a unique energy signature. Every energetic frequency is in a constant state of attraction or repulsion with all others. With the recent emergence of quantum mechanics, this notion has been largely supported at a micro level.

The Law of Attraction states that “like attracts like,” and we are in a constant state of creating our reality through the energy we emit in the form of thoughts and emotion. We continuously interact with the fabric of reality (or quantum field), through thought and emotional energy, and whatever we focus on is likely to manifest. We are each creators of our own reality, and what we put out is what we will attract.

3 Things You Need to Know First

1. A key factor missing from the LOA is that we are creating on both a conscious and subconscious level. This accounts for the seeming contradiction between “opposites attract” and the major principle of LOA, “like attracts like.”

We are still attracting the part of the whole that has been splintered and repressed into the subconscious mind. Basically, the actively repressed traits within ourselves are still charged, and this suppressed energy is also a point of attraction. Until we acknowledge and integrate it, it will still play a role in the creation of our external reality.

2. Our belief systems alter our manifestation process. If you want to manifest $10,000 in one week, but your underlying beliefs are largely identified with a state of lack, you will only manifest more lack.

This is because Law of Attraction works with both thought and emotion, and if you try to think your way into something that you don’t believe, your emotional reaction will support your unconscious beliefs more than your conscious thoughts.

If you try to affirm, “I will be abundant,” but don’t believe it, those beliefs will surface via an emotional response that insinuates the opposite feeling. At that point, you are literally putting the gas and the breaks on at the same time, making manifestation very difficult.

One great tip to overcome this, as stated by Abraham Hicks, is to “start general, and then get specific” with your manifestation process. Start with what you can believe, and continue to expand as you see evidence of your manifestations taking place. This allows your thoughts and emotions to be in resonance rather than dissonance.

3. We are always manifesting according to our highest values. Renowned behavioural development specialist Dr. DeMartini (who was also featured in The Secret) discovered that we all have an inherent set of values that is largely governing our behaviour. DeMartini is quoted as saying, “All of our actions are strategies to align with our values as efficiently as possible,” along with, “all of our positive and negative emotions are feedback as to whether or not we are living in our highest values.” Essentially, the things we value the most filter our perception at a subconscious level. They are governing the way that we manifest, and the reasons we do.

This is why, for example, someone might set a new year’s resolution to lose weight and never achieve their goal. If one of their highest values is social connection, their unconscious will perceive that taking the time to exercise and eat right actually conflicts with the time they would rather be spending at social events with others.

The trick, then, is to change your perception by tying in how exercise and diet actually support your high value on social connection. For example, you might feel more confident meeting new people when you are healthy and strong. Or you can approach it from the other end by tying your value into your goal. In this case, you could try to engage your value of social connection by going to the gym or to nutrition classes with your close friends.

What You Need to Know During Active Manifestation

These are some useful tips if you are meditating on your vision, or practicing visualization.

Clear your mind. To speed up the process of manifestation, presence and focus are key. If your attention is scattered, your manifestation will be too. Write down on paper whatever is bothering you, and vow to leave it outside of your visualization. This will help you stay present.

Open your heart for the process. Connect with the feeling of gratitude as you begin. This can be done by writing a short gratitude list, or by thinking of people/events that you are truly grateful for.

According to the HeartMath Institute, “The heart generates an electromagnetic field roughly 60 times greater in amplitude than brainwaves do.” This field is measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG), and brainwaves were measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG) during these findings. The heart is a major point of attraction.

Be clear. The law of attraction is described as a law. This means it responds to everything, without exception. If you are mixed in your emotions or vision, it will slow the process. The clearer and more detailed you are, the faster your vision will come to life.

Engage your senses. Did you know that the brain can’t actually tell the difference between experience and visualization? This is why visualization is so useful for athletes. This principle applies directly to the LOA. What do you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel when you have arrived at your vision? Feel each sense distinctly, and don’t be afraid to sit with each one individually.

Engage emotion. This is how to charge your vision. Emotions are the driving force behind manifestation.

Align your intention with your values. Tie what you want to manifest into your highest values. More simply put, make sure you can see how your goals support the things that matter most to you in life. This will help you manifest congruently from both the conscious and subconscious mind.

Don’t be desperate. Try to imagine that you are gently requesting. If you are being needy or desperate in your request, you are coming directly from an emotional space of lack. The emotional feeling of lack will counteract your thought-energy, and you are more likely to stagnate.

What You Need to Know After

Take action. Taking action will create momentum, while also building evidence toward creating the belief that your manifestation is unfolding.

Act as if it has already happened. “I AM” is a creative, powerful phrase. If you conduct your behaviour as the person you have already become, you are more energetically aligned with your goal.

Be aware of your internal dialogue. Remember, you are in a constant state of attracting or repulsing what it is that you want to achieve. Your internal dialogue is always creating a point of attraction, along with the emotional reactions it produces. Be congruent!

Allow! You must fully release your vision in order for it to manifest. If you are too attached to it, your need for control can actually stunt the process. Faith and belief in the process are key. It can be helpful to think in terms of being at a restaurant. Once you’ve placed your order, you have to give it time to be cooked up and served to you!

We are all creators, and we all deserve to live an inspired life. The Law of Attraction is a beautiful tool that enables us to consciously put our creative powers to use! In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”

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Consciousness

My Thoughts On “Spiritual Narcissism”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Is this happening to many in spiritual trends?

  • Reflect On:

    There is authentic being, and then there is self-absorption which pretending to be authenticity, are we aware of the difference?

We humans often have a hard time finding middle ground. We may be drowning in lack of self-worth one moment, and trampling over other’s with our own self indulgence the next as we struggle to find balance. Narcissism is not simply about enjoying selfies in our social media-saturated world, it goes deeper than that.

It appears as liberation but is a trap that can ruin relationships, increase personal suffering, and keep a person from their true spiritual aspirations. Not surprisingly, increased mindfulness and compassion for this tricky human quirk is the best way to heal it.

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us, and it becomes increasingly dangerous when we confuse it with spirituality. In many ways it is easy to see that all of humanity is dealing with a certain degree of self-absorption while we desecrate forests and oceans, causing plants and animals to go extinct on our material quests. In his famous book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chogyam Trungpa gave a good foundation for westerners to navigate the pitfalls of our materialistic abundance.

Alt text here
The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us

We do not have to be ashamed of what we are. As sentient beings we have wonderful backgrounds. These backgrounds may not be particularly enlightened or peaceful or intelligent. Nevertheless, we have soil good enough to cultivate; we can plant anything in it. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us, differentiating the two is important. Sadly, we have spiritual philosophies and religions that have been constructed to feed the ego, inflate self-righteousness, and create division while giving justification for all manner of activities including killing, exploitation, and oppression. Ethical conduct, regardless of spirituality, requires honoring the other and the self as one with each deserving to be respected, heard, and seen with compassion.

No matter what the practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its own survival and gain. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

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There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us

Finding the Antidote to Self-absorption

Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Ego is an important aspect of our selves, it is part of self-preservation but when it becomes out of balance it actually has the ability to destroy us and harm relationships.

Many spiritual practices seek to increase our ability to witness and bring mindful awareness to ego drives which allow us to master, instead of being enslaved by our ego. When ego gets too big it can be hard to swallow, yet spiritual liberation invites us to expand our sense of self beyond the ego, beyond time and space.

The goal is to find a balance between the inner experience and the outer reality. How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac and hurting personal relationships? Meanwhile, self-loathing, and low self-esteem are also manifestations of ego out of balance. Selflessness can often be quite selfish, over-engagement can be as problematic as disengagement socially. Luckily we are here to find this balance through living fully, from making mistakes, and evolving our sense of self-awareness. Healthy self-awareness is the only antidote to self-absorption.

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How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac?

The Story of Narcissus and Echo

One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo, an Oread (mountain nymph) saw him, fell deeply in love, and followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?”. Echo repeated “Who’s there?”. She eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learned of this story and decided to punish Narcissus. She lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection. He didn’t realize it was only an image and fell in love with it. He eventually recognized that his love could not be reciprocated and committed suicide. -Wikipedia

Since intention is subjective, a person is often understood within their community by their actions or image. This becomes extra tricky in our age of social media and the materialism that has found it’s way into yoga, meditation, and spirituality. It is possible to put on a good act, to fool those around us and ourselves (temporarily).

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Narcissus mesmerized by his own reflection

We can have the latest yoga clothes, read the right books and hang out with all the “cool” people, but if our actions are not grounded in a deeper spiritual practice, basic consideration for others, and respect, it is still hollow. A common analogy is the guy who everyone likes but then goes home kicks his dog, or is rude and unaccountable to his wife.

Deep spirituality makes us more sensitive to the feeling of others, encouraging an open stance of courage where we can drop our protective shields and accept the vulnerability to be seen as we are. Narcissistic sensitivity, however, is focused solely on the subtle nuances one’s own internality, and resists looking at hard, uncomfortable truths that may upset the self image. One who is narcissistically sensitive is easily offended by the “coarseness” of others, seeks to make his environment change to align with the contours of his needs, and gets angry or offended when this does not happen. -The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality, Huffington Post

How to Identify Narcissistic Behavior

The ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it. It is not your job to diagnose others or tell them they are narcissistic if they are not interested in hearing it or healing it. However, if you draw appropriate boundaries for them you will protect yourself and encourage them to become more mindful. This is a loving and compassionate way to handle narcissism.

Alt text hereThe ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it

It is always healthy to make boundaries and speak your truth in a loving and compassionate way. Whether the narcissist hears it or not is out of your control. Common responses from narcissists will include belittling your feelings, a hollow apology without effort to modify behavior, or ignoring you altogether. Basically, they will use any excuse they can in order to not look at it, or to make the situation your fault. This is your cue to make appropriate boundaries for yourself.

Within yourself be open and receptive when others tell you that you have been inconsiderate of them. Accepting constructive feedback from loved ones is a great way to keep a balance between internal needs and external relationships. This is also how we grow as individuals.

Common traits of narcissism courtesy of BPD Central.

  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Alt text hereLearning to stop keeping all the love for ourselves

Evolving Unhealthy Patterns

Hopefully, this will help you navigate tough interpersonal relationships and also better yourself. It is a beautiful thing that psychology is allowing us to have terms to identify and evolve unhealthy patterns emotionally. As we learn to live in community, we learn many aspects of love. This is how we help ourselves and those around us grow!

I’m republishing,  for the CE audience, this piece I wrote for Uplift Connect.

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Consciousness

New Moon In Libra: Seeking Balance

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We are having a New Moon in Libra on October 16th throughout most of the world and in the morning of the 17th in the East. This is initiating a 29.5 day lunar cycle and new wave of energy for the coming month; however, the astrological configurations mentioned in this article will be more prominent over the following two weeks. This cycle will include a Full Moon in Taurus on October 31st/November 1st.

This New Moon occurs days after we have reached the halfway point of Mars’ retrograde in Aries which concludes mid-November. It is also days after Mercury began its retrograde which is currently in Scorpio and moving backwards into Libra before it moves forward again post November 3rd. Both of these planets being retrograde at the same time reflects a period of significant adjustments pertaining to how we express these planets, the signs they are in, and how they are configured to our individual astrological blueprints (natal chart).

Generally Mars retrogrades are a period in which the circumstances, developments, and our inner guidance is helping to facilitate a shift in how we apply ourselves and take action in specific areas of our lives. This is something that happens approximately every two years, which is less frequent and usually more significant than Mercury’s retrogrades. I wrote separate articles for each of them, you can read more about Mars Retrograde here and Mercury Retrograde here.

Libra season began on September 22nd/23rd, just over three weeks prior to this Lunation, and will end on October 22nd/23rd when Scorpio season begins. However, this New Moon (along with other planets) will still carry some of its Libra themes into the first week of Scorpio season prior to the Full Moon.

This is a good period of working with and co-creating with the energies of this sign. As an Air sign, Libra is socially and mentally oriented. Ruled by Venus, it is associated with relating, relationships, charm, harmony, compromising, art, creativity, and aesthetics. There is a big focus on others. Libra is also diplomatic as it seeks to find balance, equality, fairness, and common ground.

Negatively, Libra can be overly codependent, passive aggressive, superficial, insincere,  indecisive, vain, and judgemental. Although this sign is about politeness and harmony, retaliation can be triggered when imbalance and unfairness is perceived. Libra is also associated with people-pleasing which can have either positive or negative implications.

New Moon Aligned With Spica, In A Hard T-Square Pattern

This New Moon has an interesting mix of energies. It is tightly aligned with the fixed star Spica which is known to be the most benefic and fortunate star. However, it can be tricky to interpret how a star’s energy can manifest, especially in this case considering other astrological factors that are quite different.

Like Libra, Spica is connected to art and creativity, but also has spiritual, scientific, and inventive qualities. It is associated with harvest season and represents the ‘gifts of harvest’, both metaphorically and literally. However, it can also reflect unfruitfulness (depending on other variables) and injustice to innocence according to legendary astrologer Vivian Robson.

This New Moon is opposite Mars Retrograde in Aries which are both in a T-square with Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn in Capricorn. The Sun has been in an opposition with Mars in the week before this New Moon (peaking on the 13th/14th) which has been a significant part of the Mars retrograde process in influencing how we assert ourselves.

However, this energy is also configured into this New Moon and can play out as conflicts (internally or externally with others), impulsiveness, aggression, anger, competitiveness, or sexual tension. Mars in Aries wants to assert individuality, ego, personal needs, and self identity while the New Moon in Libra is looking for consideration, common ground, diplomacy, equality, and fairness.

This opposition in a square to Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn in Capricorn can reflect power struggles, obstacles, and issues pertaining to beliefs, opinions, and perspectives. Saturn has the most power as it is strongly placed in its home sign (ruling Jupiter and Pluto) as the Sun and Moon are also moving towards a square (strong on the 18th/19th) with it while separating from the aspects to the other planets in this configuration. This calls for a need to be realistic, cautious, practical, disciplined, structured, or orderly. The combination of this and all the retrograde energy can call for some sort of refinement.

Venus Opposing Neptune, Trine Planets In Capricorn, and Square The Lunar Nodes

The ruler of this New Moon, Venus, has been in Virgo in the previous two weeks and will be there until October 27th/28th. Venus ruled areas of values, love, relationships, friends, social life, pleasures, money, aesthetics, beauty, art, taste, sensuality, desires, and attractiveness can be expressed in ways that are practical, conscientious, discerning, picky, detailed, organized, analytical, health oriented, productive, efficient, adaptable, or fault finding/surfacing.

At the time of this New Moon, Venus is moving towards an opposition to Neptune and trine to Jupiter which have been in a sextile over the previous weeks. This energy is strong from October 18th-19th and can be good for creative or artistic efforts as well as social interactions that have spiritual, compassionate, broad, or philosophical themes. It can also reflect expansiveness, growth, morals, optimism, idealism, along with confusion, deception, escapism, and delusion affecting Venus areas of life (as mentioned in above paragraph).

Mars retrograde will also be in a square with Jupiter at that time which could also reflect conflicts around beliefs, opinions, and judgements. Excessiveness, overconfidence, and spreading ourselves out too much can also play out. Mercury retrograde will be moving towards an opposition to Uranus (peaks 19th/20th) which can make it harder to focus and can bring disruption, changes to plans, and perhaps communication problems.

Venus approaches a square to the Lunar Nodes on October 20th/21st. We may be reflecting on the past and future, or perhaps at a crossroads, when it comes to relationships and values. Venus is then in a trine with Pluto (October 21st/22nd) which can bring an empowering, deep, intense, or insightful energy to things associated with Venus. Following this, it moves to a trine with Saturn (October 24th/25th) which can have a committing, strengthening, supportive, responsible, practical, or stabilizing effect on these areas.

Making Intentions & Things To Consider

What can you do to improve how you relate with others? Is there a need to compromise, find common ground, or achieve fairness and equality? What has come up for you in the week leading up to this New Moon? Should you change the way you assert your needs or individuality? Are circumstances in your life pushing you to think differently about something? What can you learn from any obstacles that have been coming up in your life? Is there anything that needs to be restrained?

These are just some examples of what to consider or focus your intentions on at this time. However, it is good to reflect on anything else that is coming up for you. It is generally best to make any intentions within the first 24 hours following a New Moon. The exact moment it will occur is 7:31pm Universal Time on October 16th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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