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Poverty, Privilege, and Possibility: Talking Access in the Spiritual and Astrological Communities

Earlier today I posted on Instagram about some of the things I did to work with the full moon, and I said I had a longer blog post coming with more information. But as I sit to write this, I find what's coming up for me is a conversation about poverty, privilege, and possibility instead.

As I read my IG post, I was transported back in time to nearly twenty-five years ago. Circa 1999 found me twenty-three years old, suddenly a single parent to a three-year old and one year shy of finishing nursing school. I had no job when my daughter's father walked out on us to join another family, but fortunately, because I was in nursing school, I was hired on as a nurse's aide at a local hospital. I made just above minimum wage. Between 12-hour shifts at work and 12-hours clinical days in school, my daughter and I spent 6 days a week at that hospital (it was also the hospital affiliated with my nursing program). I was fortunate in that the hospital had a great daycare for the children of employees, but that quality care came at the cost of nearly half my monthly salary. I was literally working for daycare.

Some of those days were excruciating. I look back, and I honestly don't know how we made it. Financially. Logistically. I learned how to rotate which bills I paid each month. We lived off of a lot of generic boxed macaroni and cheese mixed with a can of tuna and a can of peas (because I wanted my daughter to eat something green). I ran on fumes, never pausing to take a breath (you can't in those situations).

I graduated with my two-year nursing degree in May of 2000, and I spent the next two years rebuilding my and my daughter's life together. Today, as I reread my IG post, I thought about that young mother–that young exhausted mother–and wondered what my post might mean to her. She would probably roll her eyes at it and think, who the fuck has time for that? She might feel inadequate because she's never even heard of bergamot or essential oils in general, let alone have the disposable income to buy it. Fresh flowers would seem exotic and indulgent to her, and she might wonder after the women who actually receive them. And most of all–and saddest of all to me–she might feel like cosmic magic isn't for her. And not just because it would feel inaccessible for the reasons I just listed. Because of her current circumstances, and because she was raised in a climate of severe poverty, she might not understand that working with the energy of the stars is a possibility for someone like her. It might not even be on her radar as a thing that exists in her world. That's the trauma of poverty.

From the time I was nine-years old, my family received state welfare benefits. There's a whole story involved there, and I'll tell it at some point. For now, though, it's enough to know that I was raised in a scarcity climate–not a mindset, an actual climate. Food security was an issue. Stable housing was an issue. And what people who weren't raised in poverty don't understand, is that it doesn't just color what the world looks like to you, it determines what the world looks like. If you're a fish and all the components of your life are the water around you, poverty determines your water. So kids raised in poverty aren't the ones who complain about not getting the newest fashion sneakers, because fashion sneakers aren't for them. They're not in their water as a possibility that exists for them.

I had plenty of wealthy friends in high school who had all the cars and trinkets and clothes, and I was never jealous or envious of them. Truly. Never. Because the things they had and the way they lived didn't register as a possibility for me. They had different water than me. It's like if you take a fish out of one bag of water and you plummet it into a tank of new water. The fish will shock and die. That's how different the possibilities for my life seemed from my friends, accept this all happens on an unconscious level. It's not like at fourteen I had a talk with myself and said, "well, Cyn, it's just not your water." No. It simply never occurred to me that that reality was possible for me. And that's the point I want to address about my IG post from today.

I want to make clear that learning and practicing working with cosmic energies is available to everyone. Sure, some people will go deeper with it. Yes, there's a wide spectrum of what it means to practice, but it is available to everyone on whatever scale you're able to meet it. Thinking back to my single-mother, struggling self, I wondered what components of my current full moon practices would feel accessible to her. How might I advise her to bring these energies into her awareness? Here's some things I thought of:

  1. Meditation is available to anyone, and it can be done from anywhere.

  2. Journaling is an option. You don't have to have some fancy notebook or designer journal. Write on a napkin if you have to. Write what you want to release and then throw it away or burn it.

  3. Getting a free birth chart online and using the myriad of free astrology resources to learn about herself through her chart is a possibility. Now, that might be more time intensive and she might not have the emotional energy for that one, but it is available (now. I obviously didn't have those resources back then).

  4. Taking an intentional bath–even without the oils and the flowers–is an extremely catharic experience at the full moon.

  5. Washing her sheets or just changing her bedding if she's short on time. Cleansing at least the space she sleeps in from stagnant or heavy energy does wonders for the body and the soul.

  6. She could pick up any old rock from anywhere and charge it with the energy of the moonlight. Then she could, using meditation if nothing else, infuse it with an intention specific to her dreams and wishes.

I could go on. There's a multitude of basic ways to begin an intentional, energetic practice with spending no money and having no special ingredients or tools. BUT she has to believe that these practices are available to her or she won't ever even engage. It won't occur to her that engagement is a possibility. I think within the spiritual, astrological, and even personal development communities, we need to get better at talking about privilege and access. And we need to get better at saying to people who might not otherwise engage, that they're welcome here. That there is space for them. That no one has a monopoly on the stars. That their bodies are made of celestial energy, and so these practices are divinely for them. I need to do better.

I am filled with gratitude on a daily basis for how my life has developed over these last years. I have healed my money wounds, but I am still not immune to the shadows of poverty. I felt a little guilty making that IG post this morning, like who do you think you are? I felt it come up. An imposter syndrome. Who are you kidding? We need to talk about poverty, about how it marks us and about what it means to do the constant work of healing from it.

Maybe this post has rambled, that's okay. Maybe I needed to ramble. Maybe you needed to read it.

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