Routines & Rituals (an ode to and reflection on all things Virgo within me)

I recall the early signs of what pop-culture astrology deems as my south node Virgo tendencies—being particular, detail-focused, critical, and loving all things “routine”. From not wanting my towel to be in the same bathroom as everyone else’s–bringing it to and from my room to spread out over a clothes hanger beside the window, so that it thoroughly dried without touching theirs, to placing my journals into storage containers ordered by date, to soaking my feet in a tub of warm apple cider vinegar water after my shifts at McDonalds, to rituals of nail-painting and clay masks, to planning my weeks out using my self-made calendars.

My mother frequently brought home her findings from thrift shops, yard sales and antique shops–boxes of books, stacks of gossip and travel magazines, furniture to refurbish, a chunk of orange-brown ambergris (it’s from the intestines of a sperm whale), a box of frames, an antique sewing machine, a gigantic 3D puzzle of a woman’s head, and they all congregated in the hallways and living room telling one another stories of who they’ve danced with in their prime. As soon as I got my own room and didn’t have to share it with my sister, I put a padlock on the door, hung my vision board collage above my bed, and kept my toiletries in a travel-sack nobody could touch. Once a week I dusted under my alarm clock, washed the curtains and the bedding, and wiped the crease between the baseboard and the walls. I borrowed young adult self-help books from the public library, ripped “advice for teen girls” columns out of magazines to glue in my diaries, and obsessed over the book and documentary “The Secret”, (then fanatically ranted on and on to my bewildered friends about the power of our thoughts and how we are magically creating our realities–*insert Pepe Silvia conspiracy string-room meme*). I began listing everything I was grateful for every single morning, along with jotting down my goals for that day. Then every evening I wrote a quick or novel-length letter to myself and God, reflecting on my progress and what I was struggling with. Talk about VIRGO vibes, (a reference unbeknownst to me at the time)!

***Side-note, this chapter in my teens of embracing Virgo energy was a dramatic 180 after a chapter of sneaking away to smoke weed in the middle of the school day, being a “run-away” and needing to do community service, and getting banned from the mall and arrested for stealing, so really THANK GOD for the Virgo energy that suddenly consumed me my junior and senior year of high school.

It is only last year I even learned of south and north nodes, and of course astrology is one of infinite tools we have available to us which provide more insight and depth to what this *gestures to all of existence* is all about. Since learning that Virgo, (a sign I used to deem as one I clashed with and was in opposition to), is very much a part of who I am, I find myself noticing, and coming to embrace all of the “Virgo tendencies” within myself every day.

Between my teaching career being turned upside down within my psyche, and then played out in the external (because that’s how that works isn’t it?), then also questioning and adjusting all of the relationships in my life, I had vilified and resented the Virgo in me for the last several years. Routines suddenly had no meaning, and served purposes no longer valid or founded on principles that are conducive to the health and well-being of those involved, much less those served. Then rules were being abided by that, from my perspective, are draining the life-force and spirit of everyone participating, so even though I tried not to, I rebelled against the framework and clashed with authority. The subconscious had her way, as she is prone to have, and since I wasn’t listening to the inner pleading and wise voice within, she took over and The Tower did what The Tower does. I flat-out did whatever I wanted to, seeing the needs that I saw, which differed from the boxes needing to be checked by the system. Then at the end of the covid school year, as a teacher of seniors who weren’t given the best ends of the sticks, I bull-dozed through pleasantries in order for them to be able to graduate despite the STAAR assessment rigidities, and protocols with empty “this is just how we do it” justifications. I became passive aggressive. I lost the ability to meet deadlines, but really I lost the desire to meet them, because I no longer believed in their usefulness, and furthermore saw many of the “boxes needing checked off” as destructive to humanity. Seeing that my justification of “we will change things from the inside out” was leaving me depleted, I cashed in my chips and removed myself from the public school system of Texas to become reacquainted with myself, and as it turns out, become reacquainted with the Virgo in me.

Virgo Constellation

The “goddess of wheat and agriculture”, Virgo is ruled by Greek goddess Astraea, representing purity, precision, and justice. Working on earth tangibly–teaching, assisting and healing by means of medicine, service, touch, voice–a very on-the-battle-ground kind of energy, and doing the work needed in small and large ways is what Virgo embodies. As the myth goes, Astraea was the last immortal living with humanity, then she left to be a part of the cosmos after not being able to handle the chaos on earth anymore. Her chosen cosmic place of retreat is what we know as the constellation of Virgo.

“Retreat” has been the most major theme for me for quite a few seasons now, and I see there is a certain kind of action and progress in being still, observing, listening, asking questions, reflecting. Looking at the world around me, I know I am not the only one realizing the power and importance of laying low, breaking away, and finding solace within yourself. It is just as, if not more necessary than the outward expression of all things “service”–we in fact do a disservice to those we are serving when we ignore the rituals that give us this solace.

Meaningful routines, as well as life-giving rituals are what keep us protected, present and at ease with ourselves in our ever-changing environments. It is when I gave up the militaristic and monotonous rules that I did not create myself that I became reacquainted with the disciplined and consistent part of who I am. My professional self-esteem took a blow because I was suddenly not performing as the optimistic and goal-setting teacher (aka Virgo-esque teacher) I was at the beginning of my career. I was in a completely different community and place at the beginning of my career, and was given leadership roles that I handled with eagerness, joy and confidence. Looking back now I see that I was given freedom within those roles, within a framework that had no rigid exams keeping the students I worked with from reaching their goals and staying safe in the dignity of who they were. It was easy for me to practice routine and establish grounding practices with myself and others, because I believed in what we were doing and how we were doing it, and there is where the core of Virgo rests: in righteousness, truth, and justice. If there is going to be madness (and tell me what place of learning lacks occasional and/or general chaos) I want to stand firm in and believe in the method. When there is a belief in the vision and the paths en route, there is a joy in tending to details, and working out the nuts and bolts it takes to get there–the entire process is a devotion done in love, because of belief in the vision.

Associated with Virgo, and the goddess Astraea who rules the Virgo constellation, are the Major Arcana cards Justice, and The Hermit. Astraea concerns herself not with the laws of man and what is in accordance with rules created on earth by human beings, but with the laws of nature and what is in alignment with the gravitational pulls of the universe. Above the rigidities of “right and wrong”and “good and bad”, and higher than the perceptions placed upon holy texts, exams and systems used to govern our judgments of ourselves and others, are the laws of nature and what only the nonverbal can feel to be true. The truth is, we don’t need someone to tell us when something is wrong, because we can feel it going against our natural state of being, whether even we ourselves are able to explain that knowing or not. The Hermit feels his way through and listens more than he speaks, which is why when he does speak, people have something to listen to. The action of his retreat is more important than the expression he chooses, and it is the retreat that gives his expression meaning. In contrast to The Hierophant, who abides by, maneuvers through and interprets doctrine written by the laws of man, The Hermit regards doctrine as a useful basis, but ultimately feels his way through and relies on his intuition as his primary guide.

The school year has begun all around me, and my respect for educators grows. Many of my friends who are still teaching feel the same way that I do about the structure of education, and they use their voices to make injustices and outdated rules known to leaders. I hear so many saying that “this might be my last year” or “sometimes I think about leaving to go do…” and really there is no one right way or thing to do–whether you stay, or go, or burn everything to the ground (okay, probably unnecessary, but maybe a fun piñata-like demolition finale, or turn the buildings into gigantic art studios, or a museum of Institutions Gone Wrong) you’re a GOOD human, and your heart is where it needs to be, wherever it is. You can change your mind, then go back again, then change your mind AGAIN, then open your own school, or maybe you become a social worker or sell peaches and pistachios by the roadside–your role where you are just needs to align with YOU, and it is nobody else’s business. My role stopped aligning with me–I thought I became lackadaisical, and I blamed myself for not being able to “keep it together” when in actuality I didn’t align with what I was being told needed to be kept together.

Without a schedule laid out in front of me, or someone else giving me instructions as to how to spend my time, (or someone giving me instructions on what instructions to give to others for how they should spend their time) I had to re-learn and reestablish my own structure. It has been a rediscovery of my love for precision, routine, schedules, rules–because they are my rules and my chosen tasks-to-complete, by my own timeline, all in accordance with what rings true for my spirit. I take the time to tend to my morning and evening rituals, actually use the calendar in my room, utilize the time I have to learn and practice new skills, and have the mental space to be more mindful about the choices I make. I am able to naturally be of service to others when I am given the space to check in with myself, be a hermit, then choose where I want my energy to go into. And according to my north node in Pisces (we will save that for another post) that means a lot of leaving the chatter of the earth to sing and paint and write poetry. Using Virgo skills as leverage, I am able to surrender to this desire more and more every day. I am able to say thank-you to routines and rituals, thank-you to being particular about how to spend my time, thank-you to this picky, picky heart that will only give to what allows it to sing into the sky.

Authenticity & Identity Lesson

In my ELL classes we have been talking about words nationality and culture, exploring what they mean to us, having discussions in and outside of class, interweaving stories and perceptions from other people around the world by way of clips, Ted Talks, and reading about perspectives outside of Hawaii. Today’s discussions were exceptionally meaningful. Maybe because we have already been discussing these matters, so the kids have been warming up? I have been learning to ease into projects, and expose them to as much as possible before dropping the project rubric on them.  We watched Ted Talk by Hetain Patel entitled Who am I? Think Again. In his talk he has dancer Yuyu Rau translate for him until he finally joins her in speaking something other than the repeated Mandarin paragraph he “learned by heart” during his visit to China He proceeds by using various accents, emphasizing his many experiences and suits of culture he has tried on for himself, bringing him closer to his own authenticity. Throughout the lesson we looked at the transcript, discussing words like assume, assumption, authentic and authenticity. Other words were gone over and of course each class was differentiated in our explorations, according to who was in class and what questions they had. (I had little to no input in discussions). Here are the highlights:

  • One boy, who is Vietnamese, said he is assumed to be Chinese when he goes to Chinatown with his aunty, and sometimes he will be spoken to in Chinese. He also said in a different part of class that he thinks more people in younger generations have a harder time answering questions about where they’re from or what their culture is.
  • One girl expressed how she wishes she did know more about her culture, often feeling left out in one group, then not completely a part of any single group. Springing from this we talked about what it feels like to not belong, and how there must be so many people in the world who feel this way.
  • In all classes, speaking about the word “assume” surprisingly brought on discussions about what we assume when we meet people, and why we construct those assumptions. The classes came up with clothes, skin color and then of course accent and language being main causes for our assumptions. We started to then go into why these assumptions are made and why they are different for each of us.

I split the class into groups of 3, having one person as recorder, one artist, and one leader. They had a blank white sheet of paper, a computer, and markers. Going through the transcript on the Ted Talk, (which also can be translated, and which was helpful for my Chinese, Korean and Japanese students) they had to record and illustrate all of the things they found that make Hetain who he is, authentically. Collections of visuals, quotes and words were written and drawn on the sheet such as “Born and Raised in England” “Bruce Lee philosophy” and “Indian clothes not COOL” and they each had to share their creations with the class.

Overall this was an interactive way to explore components of culture and discuss ways we’re authentic because of experiences, as well as the small and large pieces that make up our culture and identity.

hetain patel

Educating with Mindfulness in Hawai’i

I no longer say “Micronesian” when referring to any group in anyway; I list Chuukese, Marshallese, Kosraean, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Palauan, Woleaian, and there are probably more I’m missing. These are different languages, customs, traditions, and even dialects within the languages that sometimes don’t understand one another. As educators in Hawai’i we need to be more mindful and aware of the way we talk to, refer to, and handle decisions which affect students from these islands. We have to be careful we are not putting them al into the same “box”. We have to be careful about how we are making them feel about themselves. These kids are hurting for various reasons, from being separated from family members, being homesick and feeling suddenly deprived of all familiarity, then being mistaken for an identity they don’t understand. Some say they’d rather be referred to and thought of as “Polynesian” than openly share they are anything “Micronesian”. We have to take the time to learn about their thoughts. There are students who were raised here and speak English perfectly fine, yet they’re assumed to speak no English and are not called upon in class, or even challenged to rise to the occasion. I have had students tell me that upon arriving to their schools, their counselors immediately placed them into ESL classes without talking to them to find out if that was even needed. Students have shared that counselors question whether they passed classes in previous schools, and gave lower levels of math and science based on assumptions. Most students just let these kinds of things slide, eager to get by and not bring any attention to themselves. We have to take time to connect and get to know people we are handling and working amongst, despite the deadlines and procedures that surround us. The connection is what we are here for. When some first arrive, they are the kind of pure spirit that smiles and dances upon impulse, without shame or hesitation. They often love fishing, dancing and singing, and if you tell them to sit and work on something, it won’t be long before they’re looking out the window into the beautiful trees and at the birds. When they learn how to study for something, or understand a math concept for the first time, you’d be surprised at how they take that new understanding and run with it, excelling farther than you imagined. The structure of school does not allow them to show you everything they’ve got. Let’s change the way we lift them up and help them in a world they’re unfamiliar, (yet sometimes very familiar) with. Let’s let them be themselves and let them be proud of where they’re from. Let’s say their names right and over-applaud every small and big thing they accomplish. Let’s let them teach us. Let’s be real with them. Let’s simply love them and allow their innate desire to learn, express and excel simply be, without testing them with empty standards within a system which have no sincere meaning.

The above text was written after a particularly challenging week, and with a heavy heart about the way my students viewed themselves, and how many are being treated in and out of school. The following are links to articles with more information and depth into the issues they are facing in Hawaii.

This first link is from an article written in 2014 on Marshallese activist and poet, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, expressing views of being from these many islands of Micronesia, and growing up in Hawaii. 

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

The second link is one I shared with my students, because I feel she is an excellent role model and example. It is her WordPress site, which includes her reciting her poem for environmental justice at the United Nations Climate Summit.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner at UN Climate Change Summit

The third link is an article written by Civil Beat on the history, and complexity of their situations for leaving their homes and coming to Hawaii. 

Civil Beat on Civil Rights of Micronesian Immigration in Hawaii

This fourth and final link is revealing just how open the public seems to be about their disapproval and racist remarks, to where at one point it was openly shared on the radio. I still hear comments and jokes made like this today, sometimes in the fun way we joke about ourselves here in Hawaii, but sometimes with intentions of being vicious, whether conscious or subconscious… It just needs to stop. 

Racism in HI