by Joe Landwehr
I am deeply grateful for this experience. I know that much of the change is permanent, that my life is irrevocably altered – past, present, and future. – CT, 2018 workshop participant
For the past five years, I have taught an annual workshop based upon my second book entitled Tracking the Soul With an Astrology of Consciousness. The book integrates astrology and the chakra system of yogic philosophy and explores the way that the astrological birthchart can be a map, not just to personality or to the skillful navigation of life circumstances, but also to personal growth.
From the soul’s perspective, each of us is born into this life with unfinished business. Often, we experience this unfinished business as a wounding in childhood, which then gives rise to various issues, which generally cause problems throughout our lives, until we face them with a clear intention to address them, and ultimately to heal the underlying wounds at their core. When we do, this important decision becomes the moment we consciously step onto the path of our soul’s journey toward Wholeness, or from an ultimately spiritual perspective, the return journey back to our Source in Spirit.
For me, the moment of wounding came at age 3, when I was playing king of the mountain with the neighborhood kids on a pile of ashes in my grandfather’s backyard. I momentarily made it to the top of the mountain, only to have the other kids gang up on me, stuff ashes into my mouth and nose, and nearly kill me. If it hadn’t been for my grandfather’s rescue, I would not be writing these words now.
Instead, I was rushed to the hospital where I spent several months recuperating from pneumonia. This event set in motion several core issues, which in retrospect have served as the pivot point for a lifetime of growth: not just the obvious lung issues, which have waxed and waned; but also an inability to trust others; a fear of winning; and an explosive anger seeking some constructive outlet, to name just a few. Throughout a lifetime in which these issues have periodically come to the fore and caused problems and difficulties, I have learned a great deal. I won’t say I am completely healed, but I am most definitely a better, more conscious, more empowered person for having had to wrestle with them. This, in fact, is the essence of my soul’s journey back toward Wholeness, as I now understand it, looking back.
In my 20s, as part of my soul’s quest for the healing of my lungs, I started studying kundalini yoga, where breathwork is central. I eventually moved into an ashram in Connecticut, then moved across the country to join the newly formed Kundalini Research Institute in California. At the Institute, my job was to tape and transcribe Yogi Bhajan’s lectures, teach kundalini yoga, and after a while, help train teachers of kundalini yoga. Around the same time, I discovered astrology and started doing charts for everyone who came through the teacher’s training program.
While living in the ashram, it soon became apparent to me that raising kundalini also raised buried psychological issues, and ultimately brought core wounds to the surface. Because there didn’t seem to be sufficient support for this aspect of the spiritual practice, I felt the necessity for additional training in psychology. So I enrolled in graduate school and got my Master Degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling.
Through these formative years, I started weaving together the three threads that constitute the heart and soul of my work – astrology, yogic philosophy – particularly regarding the chakras, and western psychology – particularly the psychology of Carl Jung, and various humanistic and transpersonal schools of thought. There is no better methodology in my opinion than astrology for mapping core issues and determining the timing for the triggering – and attendant opportunity for healing – of these issues. A background in psychology adds depth of understanding to any astrological practice and is absolutely necessary for any astrologer working with core issues. Meanwhile, a yogic perspective and understanding of the chakras provide a spiritual context in which working with core issues can be understood as a matter of consciousness. Knowing how core issues are mapped to the chakra system in turn also gives the perspective necessary to devise strategies for more consciously addressing and transmuting these core issues, and ultimately to healing the core wounds that reverberate beneath the surface.
I could not have articulated this understanding back in my 20s, but one full Saturn cycle (about 30 years) later, I wrote the book – Tracking the Soul – on which this workshop is based, and started to put together the system that I now use to work with people in this way. The process has been refined over the course of the last 12 years or so since the book was written, and through the course of five workshops conducted over the past 6 years.
Since 2016, I have been working with another gifted astrologer – Julie Yeaman – who also owns and operates a retreat center called Spirit Matters in Almonte, Ontario, Canada – roughly halfway between Toronto and Montreal. This will be our third workshop together. Each one is a little different, custom designed to address the common themes that individual participants bring to the workshop. This keeps it interesting and fresh for everyone, and several participants have benefitted from returning for a second helping.
I used to teach the astrology behind my system as part of the workshop but gradually began to feel that this added layer of information was getting in the way of participants having an actual experience of shifting core issues and healing core wounds. So in 2014, I removed astrology from the program. It still provides the invisible scaffolding for the workshop, but the workshop itself is a carefully crafted opportunity for participants to become more conscious of their patterns, and if ready, shift them to a higher, more conscious, more creative, more empowered level of expression.
Prior to the workshop, Julie and I use our knowledge of astrology to work one-on-one with each participant in a series of 6 private 1-hour sessions – to identify patterns ready to be shifted, to track the stories of those patterns, and to begin to imagine what life might look and feel like at a higher turn of the evolutionary spiral.
At the workshop itself, the group energy field, charged with a shared intention to learn and grow creates a sacred space in which genuine soul growth becomes possible. After a day to share our stories, we work (and play) together through a series of exercises and experiences built around common themes to embody our insights so they can affect deep and lasting transformation.
At our last workshop, for example, we explored the roles our mothers have played in passing on lessons from the patriarchy about what it means to be a woman (or a man) and the ways in which these messages have limited use. With women composing the majority of participants at this particular workshop, in general, these messages revolved around becoming smaller and more invisible than we really are; suppressing our emotions – particular fiery emotions like anger and outrage; and orienting ourselves around service and caretaking, instead of self-actualization.
In our preparation for the workshop, Julie and I then designed exercises to address these themes. We had a “show and tell” about our mothers – sharing their favorite music, our favorite photographs, and stories about them, and the comfort food they prepared for us. We had a values “auction” bidding against each other with Monopoly money for the values we claim to hold dear. We raged at all the injustices in our lives and around the world and sought to transmute this raw energy with movement, art exercises, and Heart Math meditations. We practiced speaking hard truths to others in our lives, whom we felt needed to hear us. Lastly, we had a costume dance party that allowed each of us to step into an expanded identify and be seen and appreciated.
In short, we had fun – while exploring the possibility of living a larger life. In these troubled times, it is important for each of us to step up, do the healing we need to do, access and cultivate our creative resources, and dedicate ourselves to making a difference in the world. Our mutual desire to do this important work is what made it possible for everyone and an actual opportunity to make a quantum leap for some.
This year will be entirely different, depending on who shows up.
About the workshop, past participants have said:
“The concept is brilliant: working on your core issues in a beautiful and powerful setting. Eating vegetarian food. Bringing in exercise and meditation to complement it. It was the first time that I really sat down and thought of my life in that way and it was helpful.”
“The workshop was really, really something for me. It was wonderful, scary, fun, sacred, mind-jarring, a time of growth and peace and a whole lot more.”
“Thank you so much for the incredibly deep work that you guided us through and birthed us through during those few days. I feel different inside and more surefooted on the outside.”
“I would say that it was life-altering. I feel that strongly and I don’t say that lightly, perhaps because I’ve done some personal growth work before. I was ready to heal and I’m extremely grateful for this past weekend.”