The new moon this past Saturday coincided with the Sun’s entry into the sign of Virgo in the Sidereal Zodiac used by Jyotish Astrology. In Sanskrit Virgo is known as Kanya, “the maiden,” symbolizing the female power of “Shakti”in its manifestation as “Prakrti”, or Nature. Kanya is the embodiment of nature’s finer forces that need to be uncovered, developed, and put to use in the journey of Self Realization. Under the influence of Kanya, the physical body becomes particularly sensitive, especially to energy blockage that can result in some form of dis-ease. Thirty-six years ago, almost to this day, I moved to Encinitas and immediately became very ill with hepatitis. Hepatitis is a disease of the liver that causes the skin and the eyes to become yellow, the urine a dark orange, and the feces a pale white. The liver is very important in the digestive process and when it’s not working it is difficult to break down fats and proteins in particular. My body became very sensitive to food when I had hepatitis and greatly limited my food choices—mostly I ate carbohydrates, since that was what I could digest. For one month I had just enough energy to walk down to Stone Steps Beach, lie in the sun and read, then walk back up the steps to go home. By the end of a month I was doing much better –my digestion had improved and I was feeling stronger. I was also broke and I needed to get a job. My roommate worked as a nurse at San Luis Rey Psychiatric Hospital in Encinitas and told me they needed someone to work the night shift as a “Mental Health Worker.” The pay was bad and the hours were brutal, but it was a job. Eventually I worked my way onto the day shift and started working forty hours a week at a pretty stressful job. My life style was atrocious—I smoked and drank a lot and had a horrible diet. My liver was in a constant state of distress, tender and swollen. It wasn’t until I discovered Ashtanga Yoga and began practicing the Primary Series over a year later that I was able to fully heal my liver and adopt a healthy lifestyle and diet.
Based on this history of my arrival in Encinitas, I always associate this time of year with healing. Kanya/Virgo specifically represents consciousness in bondage in the physical body. Patanjali, in Sutra II. 17 says, “Drastr drysyayoh samyogah heya hetuh”—the confusion between the seer and the seen causes the suffering we should avoid. The seer and the seen are a reference to Purusa and Prakrti. Patanjali goes on to say in Sutra II. 24—“Tasya hetuh avidya”—the cause of this confusion is ignorance, and then in Sutra II. 25—“Tad ahavat samyoga abhava hanam tad drseh kaivalyam “—by the removal of ignorance, confusion disappears and the seer is free. This is the fundamental goal of Yoga, to remove the confusion between Purusa and Prakrti so consciousness is no longer bound by matter. The dominant theme of the Sun’s annual transit of Virgo/Kanya from September 16th through October 16th is much the same. It’s a great time to practice yoga—much insight leading to great progress in one’s Sadhana can be gleaned at this time. It’s also a wonderful time to let go of unhealthy habits that have been holding us back. This past Sunday evening was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah leading to the culminating event of Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement” on Wednesday September 26th. In the Jewish tradition God inscribes each person’s fate in the “Book of Life” on Rosh Hashanah and then waits until Yom Kippur to seal the verdict. During the ten “Days of Awe” a person has the opportunity to amend his/her behavior and seek forgiveness for any wrongs done to God or to other human beings (including oneself, I would hope). There is no better time for Swadhyaya (self study) than this, when we have the opportunity to take a critical look at ourselves, admit whatever imperfections and defects of character we observe, make a sincere attempt to improve, and move forward.