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Do You Really Do Yoga? The Mainstream Way VS. The Ancient Version – It’s More Than Just Physical Activity

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Yoga has become an immensely popular form of physical activity and relaxation in recent years. Those who practice it on a regular basis are constantly raving about its physical and mental benefits, and rightfully so. Regular practice can lead to increased strength, flexibility, and focus, and decrease one’s proneness to injury. It also enhances one’s ability to concentrate, among many other benefits.

What we don’t often consider, however, are the spiritual teachings which underpin this ancient practice. Yoga is much more than just physical exercise, though this rather reductive understanding makes up the dominant perception of Western society. There is nothing wrong with only engaging in the physical side of yoga, but it’s important to understand its roots and origins in order to not only reap its full benefits, but afford it the respect it deserves. Indeed, many would argue that one cannot claim to ‘do yoga’ if they are only practicing one aspect of it. This article will discuss a couple of topics that are closely associated with yoga, but have been largely forgotten today by the Western world.

The Western Perception of Yoga

The Western perception of yoga is not wrong by any means. As mentioned above, it mainly considers one component of yoga — the physical act of ‘doing yoga’ — without acknowledging the other, equally important aspects of this practice. The Western world was introduced to yoga in the late 1800s, when Swami Vivekananda, an Indian guru and yogic scholar, sparked a wave of Eastern Yogi’s setting up teaching centres in the West. Some of these gurus, like Vivekananda himself, attracted a lot of attention from prominent authors, scientists, and socialites.

For example, Nikola Tesla was well aware of ancient concepts and the correlation it had with the science he was working on, using sanskrit worlds like “akasha” and “prana” to describe the force and matter that exists all around us; these words come from the Upanishads (a collection of Vedic texts). Not many people know that Tesla had correlations with Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who was one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of the philosophies of Vedanta (one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, the term originally referred to the Upanishads, a collection of philosophical texts in Hinduism) and yoga. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He is a giant figure in the history of the Hindu reform movements.

Vivekananda wrote a letter to Tesla in the late 1800s, remarking:

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Mr. Tesla thinks he can demonstrate mathematically that force and matter are reducible to potential energy. I am to go and see him next week to get this new mathematical demonstration. In that case the Vedantic cosmology will be placed on the surest of foundations. I am working a good deal now upon the cosmology and eschatology of the Vedanta. I clearly see their perfect union with modern science, and the elucidation of the one will be followed by that of the other.

(From the Complete Works, VOL. V, Fifth Edition, 1347, p. 77.)

There was even a scholarly review of Vivekananda’s published lectures, which appeared in the American Journal of Theology in 1895.

Since the introduction of yoga to the Western world, its use has grown exponentially each year. In spite of this growth, however, is still mostly regarded as a physical practice, with its spiritual roots largely ignored or forgotten. Nevertheless, the true purpose of yoga is to achieve states of insightfulness. As I mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with  focusing on the physical side of yoga, but it is important to be aware that you are choosing to do so. Actually engaging in yoga in the traditional sense is a much different enterprise.

The True Nature Of Yoga

As mentioned above, the true nature of yoga is to achieve states of insightfulness, and this does not necessarily have to be done during the exercise part of it, although it helps and is part of the routine. There is some major energy work going on when practicing these poses, often comprising an opening up of major energy centres in your body, which improves energy flow. One who does not engage in the physical side of yoga can still be said to be practicing it and enjoy these energetic benefits.

For example, in the second book of the Yoga Sutras, written by the Indian sage Patanjali about two thousands years ago, 8 paths are described:

  • Path 1 is Yama: Restraining from harmful behaviour, or cautions on what behaviour to avoid. This includes violence, injury, telling falsehoods, stealing, lasciviousness, greed. It means, in general, adopting ethical and virtuous behaviour.
  • Path 2 is Niyama: Developing beneficial behaviour, or guidelines on what behaviours to encourage. This includes cleanliness and austerity, along with cultivating an attitude of gratitude and contentment, and being engaged in a disciplined practice of focus, devotion, and self-study.
  • Path 3 is Asana: Developing of physical postures. These are designed to assist the mind and body in relaxing, through development of strength, steadiness, and flexibility. The purpose of the asanas is to prepare the body to comfortably withstand the rigors of long-term meditation.
  • Path 4 is Pranayama: Conscious breathing techniques. These further the mind’s ability to focus, and they energize the body
  • Path 5 is Pratyhara: Withdrawing from ordinary sensory perceptions and limiting focus to a single object of attention. Restricting one’s attention frees the mind to concentrate on internal objects of attention, fostering even more tranquility of mind.
  • Path 6 is Dharana: Developing a steady, sustained concentration. The root word for dhri in dharana means “to hold”; one holds attention on a single object of thought. This type of concentration is similar to that experienced during highly focused intellectual work.
  • Path 7 is Dhyana: Developing prolonged levels of concentration on an object, with deeper absorption and greater sustained alertness. This is sometimes referred to as meditation.
  • Path 8 is Samadhi: Unity or mystical absorption with an object of attention. In this state, distinctions between subject and object dissolve and one “becomes” the object of meditation. This awareness is frequently described as ecstatic. That is, it is a super-aware state accompanied by intense, nonsensual pleasure.

As you can see from the above list, ‘doing yoga’ involves many things, and only some of these paths are achieved through exercise. It’s also important to keep in mind that these are just a  few points out of many taken from the second Book of The Yoga Sutras. There is much more involved here, but in writing this article, I wished only to introduce readers to the complexity of yoga, and to highlight the fact that it involves much more than simply taking an exercise class. Just as one, today, practices an aspect of yoga through exercise and stretching, others may do the same by practicing mediation, or detachment from certain physical pleasures. The list of applications is no doubt long.

Sources used:

Radin, Dean. Supernormal: Science, Yoga and the Evidence For Exraordinary Psychic Abilities. New York, Deepak Chopra Books, 2013.

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Scorpio: Practical Thinking Versus Intense Feelings

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We are having a Full Moon in Scorpio on May 18th which will fall on the 19th for those in the Eastern part of the world. The energies of it are strongest in the days before and after, however, it will still be a part of the backdrop over the following two weeks. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle which began on May 4th/5th with a New Moon in Taurus.

This is a ‘Seasonal Blue Moon’ which is when we have 4 Full Moons in one season (instead of 3), with the 3rd one being the Blue Moon. This is the original definition of a Blue Moon with the term first being coined by the Farmer’s Almanac over 100 years ago.

We have been in Taurus season since April 20th and this Full Moon occurs in the last 2.5 days of it before the Sun enters Gemini. Taurus is about practicality, thoroughness, food, beauty, and nature. It enjoys sensual pleasures and is a grounded energy. As a ‘Fixed Earth’ sign, it is like a rock, and is the most invested in the physical/material world in comparison to the rest of the signs. It can also be slow, rigid, and lazy.

This Full Moon is in its opposite sign of Scorpio, triggering a push-pull or integration effect between both of these signs. Scorpio is deep, complex, passionate, intuitive, driven, powerful, calculated, observant, primal, regenerating, transformational, mysterious, intense, desiring, and sexual. It is associated with fears, shadows, death, secrets, and the extremes of Love and Hate. Scorpio energy can also be controlling, obsessive, jealous, aggressive, vengeful, and manipulative.

Both signs are associated with money, resources, values, and worth; with Taurus’ expression of these things being more ‘self-oriented’ and Scorpio being more ‘relationship/shared oriented.’ Scorpio is associated with taxes, debt, credit, investments, inheritance, which all include more then one party to be involved. Both signs also share qualities of being loyal, stubborn, and possessive.

Full Moon Opposite Sun and Mercury Aligned With Algol

This Moon opposes Mercury hours prior to peak of it being Full. We may feel a conflict or a push-pull between our thoughts and feelings, or between our minds and intuition. This can can also manifest in our relations with others in which one person or party is perceiving things mentally and the other emotionally.

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The potential intensity of the Scorpio moon can also reflect verbal conflicts with this configuration. Similarly, to the themes of Taurus-Scorpio opposition mentioned above, it’s wise to try to integrate or collaborate between these two sides of the mind and emotional instincts/needs.

The Sun and Mercury are close to the fixed star ‘Algol’ which has some similar themes as the sign of Scorpio such as passion and intensity. The most positive quality of Algol is that it is a highly creative star. It is also associated with rage, hysteria, and the expression of shadows. Throughout history there sometimes has been catastrophes and significant war related developments during major planetary alignments with Algol.

Mercury Superior Conjunction on May 21st

On May 21st Mercury makes its exact conjunction with Sun in what is called the ‘Superior Conjunction’. This is sort of like the peak of the Mercury cycle which has been building up since its last conjunction in March during the previous retrograde.

Mercury will be initiating its next phase in which it travels ahead of the Sun over the next month and a half. We are transitioning into a period where we can have greater clarity regarding certain issues that have been playing out or seeded since March.

In comparison to these last few months, our minds can be more aligned with our true needs and self-expression from May 21st onward. During this next phase, we can better implement our ideas and whatever we have been thinking about with greater confidence and direction. Some people may notice some significant developments during this day or the days surrounding it.

It is occurring right at the beginning of Gemini which could emphasize potential beginnings that it may bring to certain people. It may be connected to both Gemini and Pisces themes such as communication, writing, taking a multifaceted approach, learning, adaptability, creativity, spirituality, empathy, and compassion.

Mars in Cancer is Out Of Bounds, Sextile Uranus, and Square Chiron

Mars, the traditional ruler of Scorpio, has recently entered Cancer and will stay there until July 1st/2nd. Although this isn’t something that we may notice very strongly, Mars in Cancer (in comparison to other signs) can make our actions more fuelled by our emotions and sensitivity. We can be more protective, defensive, less directly assertive and more passive aggressive.

In late April, Mars went ‘Out of Bounds’. This is when a planet travels outside of the boundaries in which it usually orbits from our Earth based perspective. It will stay like that until mid-June. This energy is about doing things differently and taking an unusual approach outside of conventional norms. This is good for exploring new territory and tapping into originality.

Mars is moving towards a sextile with Uranus which is strongest from May 21st-23rd. Although this energy is short term, it has similarities to being ‘Out of Bounds’ and can trigger some of the themes mentioned above. This is great for trying new things. We may want to take an unconventional, innovative, liberating, or technological approach to something. It could be good for making positive changes and in some cases we may experience pleasant surprises.

Mars is also moving towards a square with Chiron which is strongest from May 22nd-24th and overlaps with the energy mentioned above. At best, this can be good for taking action towards healing and personal growth. It can support the Mars-Uranus and ‘Out of Bounds’ influence in helping us to do things in a different way. However, this energy can also trigger issues or wounds connected to anger, aggression, or sexuality.

Venus in Taurus Conjunct Uranus

Venus, the ruler of Taurus, recently entered its home sign of Taurus where it will stay until June 8th/9th. Just like Mars in Cancer, this isn’t something that we will notice strongly. Venus in Taurus (in comparison to other signs) can make us seek pleasure more so around stimulating the senses, material things, luxury, and food/substances. We may value quality and practicality more so than usual.

Venus makes an exact conjunction with Uranus hours before the Full Moon, however it may have even been a bit noticeable in the few days prior. This energy can be exciting, stimulating or surprising either socially or romantically or we may meet people who are interesting and unique.

We may be more drawn to, or participate in, unusual or fun experiences or do something that makes us feel free and liberated. We may want to make aesthetic changes to something and this can even be good for expressing creative energy in new ways.

There may be some surprising developments around money and resources which can be positive or negative. In some cases, there can also be a shift around certain values or how we value something. This energy can also reflect instability, disruption, rebellion, or a sudden change in our relations, financially, and can even happen in other ways not related to Venus.

Things To Consider At This Time

What are your feelings telling you at this time and do they conflict with your mind? How can you integrate deep or complex feelings with practical or rational consideration? Do you need to make any changes around values or finances? What are your true desires?

Do you need to take a different approach or shake things up in your social relationships or love life? Do you feel like you need to take a chance and apply yourself in a new or unconventional way? Is there anything that you can be doing that can potentially help you to feel more liberated? Does anything need to be purged or transformed?

These are just some examples of themes that could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well.  If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up at this Full Moon, it is best to do so anytime over the two weeks following, when it is waning. The exact moment of this Full Moon is on the night of May 18th at 9:11pm Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Consciousness

Scientists Find That Six In Ten Grieving People ‘See or Hear Dead Loved Ones’

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    University of Milan found that there is a "very high prevalence" of people who have experience with receiving messages from their deceased loved ones, like seeing or hearing them.

  • Reflect On:

    Does consciousness exist outside of the body? Is biology necessary for for consciousness to thrive?

What happens when we ‘die?’ We can’t quite answer that question, but we can perhaps say that something indeed does happen. The evidence for reincarnation, for example, is quite unbelievable. There have been a number of cases of children who clearly remember their past lives, describing in detail their previous family members as well as how they died and other factors that have been confirmed by their supposed past families. This is precisely why Carl Sagan said that reincarnation is worthy of “serious scientific study.” Other near death studies have suggested that consciousness does not depend on our biology, as those who are close to death or pronounced dead and then come back to life have told tales and described details about their surroundings at the time that would have been impossible had they not been ‘outside’ of their bodies. This information was presented to the United Nations, and you can read more about that here and watch the full video presentation.  

There could be multiple things that happen when one passes away. Perhaps their soul can go multiple routes, as if it has a choice? Perhaps consciousness is something separate from the soul? Perhaps bits and pieces of our consciousness stick around while our soul goes off to a new experience? Who knows, but again, the evidence suggesting something does indeed happen is pretty interesting to say the least.

A study conducted a couple of years ago added to the mystery, as researchers from the University of Milan found that there is a “very high prevalence” of people who have experience with receiving messages from their deceased loves one, like seeing or hearing them. The study, however, labels these as “post-bereavement hallucinatory experiences,” and the researchers don’t seem to be open to the idea that these experiences could actually be real.

Through their work, they believe that 30 to 60 percent of people experience this type of thing, or at least widowed subjects.

They published their findings in the Journal of Affective Disorders. 

Jacqueline Hayes, an academic at the University of Roehampton, has studied the phenomenon for a long time. She’s been interviewing people from across the UK who have lost spouses, parents, children, siblings and friends. She told the Daily Mail: “People report visions, voices, tactile sensations, smells, and something that we call a sense of presence that is not necessarily related to any of the five senses. I found that these experiences could at times be healing and transformative, for example hearing your loved one apologise to you for something that happened – and at other times foreground the loss and grief in a painful way.”

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The report follows research from the University of Southampton, which suggested there might be such thing as life after death. That study, published in 2014, found evidence that awareness can continue for at least several minutes after clinical death, which was previously thought impossible.

Russel Targ, a renowned physicist and co-founder of the US government/Stanford remote viewing STARGATE project also shared an interesting experience he had with his deceased daughter. During a formal meeting with other people that he was not involved in, his daughter asked one of those people to give a message to her father, Russel. This is one experience he had that convinced him that consciousness does indeed survive after death. He expressed this in an interview with UFO researcher Richard Dolan. You can watch that here in its entirety.

The scientific investigation of mediumship actually started approximately 150 years ago. Members of the British and American Societies for Psychical Research studied it heavily, which involved many prominent physiologists, psychologists and scientists.

Over the past few years, scientific research on mediumship has gained more popularity too. This could be due to the fact that recent research has confirmed that mediumship is not associated with conventional dissociated experiences, psychosis, dysfunction, pathology or over-active imaginations. (source)  In fact, a large percentage of mediums have been found to be high functioning individuals. (source)

“Most prior research on this phenomenon has focused on whether mediums can genuinely report accurate information under blinded conditions, and whether their personalities deviate in significant ways from population norms. But little is known about their physiological and electrocortical processes. Scientists have long proposed and used electroencephalography to study mediums in trance (deeply dissociated) states (Prince, 1968Mesulan, 1981Hughes and Melville, 1990Oohashi et al., 2002Hageman et al., 2010), but to our knowledge mental mediums who do not experience trance states have not been studied using these techniques.”

A team of researchers, including scientists from the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), published the very first paper on mediumship in the Journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2013. (source)

Paul Mills at the University of California, San Diego, Julie Beischel and Mark Boccuzzi at the Windbridge Institute, and Arnaud Delorme, Dean Radin and Leena Michel from IONS teamed up to design and conduct a study to collect psychometric and brain electrophysiology data from six individuals. They had all previously reported accurate information about deceased individuals under double-blind conditions, and did so again in this study. Correlations between the accuracy of mediums’ statements and their brain electrical activity were examined, and the differences in brain activity were studied when they intentionally evoked four subjective states: perception, recollection, fabrication, and communication.

Each participant performed two tasks with their eyes closed. In the first one, the participant was given only the first name of a deceased person, and was then asked 25 questions about them. After each question, the participant was asked to quietly perceive information that was relevant to the question for 20 seconds and then respond verbally. Each response was recorded and then scored for accuracy by individuals who knew the deceased people.

Out of the 4 mediums, the accuracy of 3 of them was significantly above chance, and the correlation between accuracy and brain activity during the 20 seconds of supposed communication with the dead was outstanding. Researchers discovered that brain activity during the 20 seconds of silent mediumship communication was significant in the frontal theta for one participant.

These results (and researchers) don’t point to this as definitive proof of mental communication with the deceased, but the accuracy ratings in the tasks and the unique brain activity measured in the second activity certainly call for further scientific inquiry into this under-studied phenomenon.

The Takeaway

The idea that consciousness exists beyond the physical realm is still greeted with harsh skepticism, but with all of the interesting evidence out there, this shouldn’t be the case. It should actually be studied further with an open mind, but the fact remains that no matter how strong and plausible the evidence is for something, if it upsets and disrupts the current accepted framework of knowledge, it will often be greeted with harsh opposition and ridicule. Countless amounts of ‘sane’ people have had experiences that suggest to them that their loved ones aren’t really ‘gone,’ but are simply in another place, so why do we assume that these are only hallucinations? Why do we instantly jump to that conclusion instead of actually entertaining the idea that there is indeed some sort of life after death, regardless of the fact that we may not be able to fully understand it yet?

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Consciousness

New Moon In Taurus: Being Innovative and Practical

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We are having a New Moon in Taurus on May 4th and 5th, depending on where you are located in the world. This is initiating a 29.5-day Lunar cycle and a new wave of energy for the coming month, however, its energy will be strongest over the following 2 weeks. This cycle will peak at the Full Moon in Scorpio on May 18th.

This New Moon occurs during Beltane which is the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It has been traditionally celebrated by the Celtic people and has been adopted by Pagans and others over the years. It is more widely celebrated on May 1st, however the actual halfway point of Spring occurs on May 4th-5th when the Sun is at 14-15 degrees of Taurus.

Beltane is a celebration of the peak of Spring season, the increasing light of the Sun, and a potently fertile period ushering in new life. The Celtics perceived it as the beginning of Summer when dividing the year into two halves instead of four quarters. Since it originates in the Northern Hemisphere, it does not make sense for those in the South to observe it in the same way due to the seasons being reversed.

New Moon In Taurus With Uranus In The Same Sign

Taurus season began on April 20th, however, this New Moon helps to kickstart it even more so. This sign is about values, worth, the material world, sensuality, money, food/substances, security, beauty, and nature.

As an Earth sign, it is physical, practical, and realistic. Taurus is thorough and also likes stability and routine. It is short like a rock; slow, grounded, and solid. Negatively, Taurus can be too rigid, lazy, habitual, greedy, possessive, stubborn, materialistic, and very slow.

This is the first New Moon in Taurus with Uranus in the same sign as the Moon made a conjunction with it prior to the new cycle beginning. Last year’s New Moon in Taurus occurred hours before Uranus entered this sign.

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For the next seven years, we are going through a period of revolutionizing values and this lunar cycle could trigger that energy. Uranus’ energy can also manifest in other ways as well this month. We may want to try new things, express ourselves differently, be innovative, experience surprises, liberate ourselves from something, embrace technological developments, or potentially be rebellious.

New Moon Trine Saturn and Pluto Near The South Node, Sextile Neptune

Saturn recently went retrograde 5 days prior while aligned with the South Node in Capricorn and Pluto close by. Over the last month, we could of felt a need to purge, release, or end certain things in our lives that could be holding us back. It can be connected to our social lives, physical possessions, detoxification, career/ambitions, desires, jealousy, issues around power dynamics, or in other ways as well.

In recent weeks, Saturnian themes have been strong. We can be dealing with limitations, obstacles, restrictions, or perhaps issues around boundaries. We may feel a need to make changes around the responsibilities, commitments, and structures in our lives. Things that were initiated in the past could come up that may require our attention.

Ultimately this process is also about bringing endings to these things which can be connected to some of the other themes mentioned. Saturn will be traveling near the South Node until early October which is when this energy concludes.  However its themes will also be strong during early Summer. ⁣⠀

This New Moon is making a trine to this energy and therefore it should be less heavy and more harmonious towards making constructive change to some of these themes mentioned. It can be easier to fix or somehow deal with issues, dynamics, or behaviors connected to the past that are not serving us. Alternatively, we can also see projects, ambitions, commitments, or responsibilities surface (or resurface) now to help us with the process of making necessary changes over the coming months.

This New Moon is in a sextile with Neptune in Pisces in which for some people may be tied in to the energy mentioned above. This can be great for spirituality, creativity, healing, or relaxing and sensual activities oriented around self care. It can be inspiring, selfless, and compassionate. alternatively, it can also be about grounding our dreams, ideals, or imagination into reality.

Venus Square Saturn, Pluto, The Nodes and Trine Jupiter

The ruler of Taurus, Venus, is in Aries forming a hard aspect to Saturn and the Lunar Nodes which is strongest from May 6th-7th. We may need to shift something or get realistic around issues pertaining to Venus themes such as love, friendships, social circles, values, aesthetics, pleasures, or money. We can experience some complications that ultimately push us to make necessary changes and we can potentially experience some sort of turning point around these issues.

On May 9th, Venus will square Pluto and Trine Jupiter in Sagittarius. This can have some similar themes as May 6th-7th, however, it can be easier and have an expansive tone when it comes to the Venus themes mentioned.

It can be good for learning, understanding others, relationship growth, making new social connections, travel, creative marketing, and perhaps positive developments around money, possessions, or values. In some cases, there can also be power struggles. You may start to notice this energy build up in the days leading up to it.

Mars Opposite Jupiter, Mercury Conjunct Uranus

Mars in Gemini is opposing Jupiter in Sagittarius which is strongest from May 4th-6th. We can easily overextend ourselves, try to take on more than we can handle, and be scattered with our physical energy. Our efforts can cover a large or broad area but we can lack addressing the details.

This can also manifest as conflicts around beliefs, opinions, perspectives, and judgements. Alternatively, this energy can also be good for applying ourselves towards our visions or anything explorative.

Mercury will enter Taurus and form a conjunction with Uranus which is strongest from May 7th-8th. We can be more inventive, innovative, and intuitive at this time. Information, thoughts, or communications can be stimulating, exciting, progressive, and potentially change the way we think about something. In some cases their can also be some sort of liberation, sudden change, or disruption. It can also be harder to focus during this time.

Making Intentions and Things To Consider

What can you do to be more practical? What areas of your life are calling for a realistic, disciplined, grounded, or thorough  approach? Where can you make constructive change? What limitations in your life do you need to address? What do you need to let go of? What aspects of your past do you need to sort out? What are your true values? What do you need to change when it comes to matters of love, social dynamics, or finances? How can you grow in your relationships?

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 of it will be occurring between 10:45-10:46pm Universal Time on May 4th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

Follow me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and YOUTUBE for more astrology related content.

astrology, astrology readings, carmen di luccio

Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. 

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