Life in Retrograde

By Chitra Jagannathan

I was really depressed when I started getting tarot readings. Initially, I started doing them as therapy because for some reason every counselor in Boston either did not take my insurance or didn’t have an opening until the middle of July. It was March and I was seriously struggling. I had never really bought this stuff before. I had known that my parents consulted an astrologist before my sister’s engagement and that a lot of words like auspiciousness and planets being aligned fed into how the wedding proceeded – but I always thought that was some weirdly superstitious thing that somehow fell into tradition. But the first reading I had… was addictive. Hand to God, I told this reader nothing about myself, only just my name. But the things he started telling me? It was like the reader knew exactly what I was thinking about and verbalized how I had been feeling about experiences in my life without me even realizing that that’s how I’d been feeling. It was like a drug. He would tell me about interactions I would have with other people, career opportunities that were coming my way, gave me advice on how to handle specific situations in order to manipulate them in my favor. And each time, everything he said would come true. 

So I started doing them all the time. I was hooked. It felt like I had gained some kind of direction with my life. I loved the idea of being able to learn about my life. Where would I be in 10 years? What would happen with these people in my life? What will my career look like? It gave me a sense of security, like I wouldn’t have to live with an uncertain future. So I kept going back. I spent more money than I should have trying to get information about things that I didn’t need to be knowing. But it fed some kind of instant gratification that took away my anxiety for the future and my anxiety at the present. Yet when some of what was “predicted” for me didn’t turn out, I would fall deeper into the pit of confusion, hopelessness, and insecurity that landed me in the tarot reading hole to begin with. I had to take a break but I didn’t feel like what I was doing was all that damaging. After all, Vedic and Islamic astrological studies have existed for centuries. Isn’t this a part of the culture? A part of relearning spirituality?

My mom told me later that she had visited an astrologer in India. She sat there for over seven hours as he sifted through piles and piles of bamboo trying to find her chart, with only her full name to guide him. He went through the charts of over 300 Sudha’s, each of which had their whole life story mapped out on stalks of bamboo. It was taking so long that my mother started to get really fed up with the whole experience, thinking she was being scammed until finally, he pulled the right stalk. He began rattling off her full name, where and when she was born, the names of her parents and siblings, the names of her children, the status of her marriage, what her career was looking like and what her children’s careers would be. She sat there dumbfounded listening to a man who she had never met before reading off her life thus far on a leaf. 

However, she reminded me multiple times to not get sucked down a path of consulting astrology every time I was faced with a problem. “It’s nice to know why you might be the way that you are but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t solve anything.” she had said. 

I don’t know. Maybe I just enjoy being overly self-aware. The whole concept was fascinating to me. It took me months to really comprehend that astrology can really guide you and the path that you choose to follow in life but that it’s not a science (even though it really could be considering how the planets affect our environment and the ocean, etc) which means that none of it is set in stone. There are endless possibilities at the start of each day, but we all have free will to determine how that day will turn out. 

But falling into tarot readings was actually one of the best things I could do for my mental and physical health. It took a good year for me to heal from what I was going through and detach from tarot and astrology as a counseling source, to something that had a more guiding presence in my life. I really reconnected with meditation which was something that I used to do all the time during my years at Balavihar. Calm the mind, learn how to breathe deeply, and most importantly to take a few minutes out of the day to focus on yourself and your body. Daily affirmations became another great aspect that I adopted. It’s all about clearing your body of draining thoughts so that you are receptive to positive energies and open to receive opportunities that you’ve been wishing for.

Tarot readings opened up a world of opportunities for me. For one thing it was a fun thing to do. But it also really helped me reconnect with my spirituality and helped me learn a lot about my own identity. I’ve learned so much about interpersonal relationships and how to navigate them without judgement but also how to keep myself grounded and not anxious about what lies ahead of me. 

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