My OPA Retreat Experience
As with any trip you wonder what it will be like, whom you will meet, awaiting magical moments to unfold. It starts so slow and ends so fast, you are left wondering if you were even there. When you have an amazing time and meet wonderful people, you are ultimately left wanting more. When it is over you will return home and wonder who will remember you? That is when all the smiles that touched your heart come rushing back and you smile and know you are remembered. You then are filled with great appreciation for all the special lives you have touched and shared moments with. You then vow to yourself to make a promise to never let these souls slip away. For the power of astrology has united us in karmic ways unexplainable to those that do not understand us and our ways. We will continue to unite and share in our astrological pursuits for many more lifetimes to come. This was the power of the OPA retreat at Asilomar 2009.
Each conference you go to you have expectations, and sometimes you are let down by the whole experience. Being at a conference with thousands of people is so much different from attending one with fifty people. You remember faces and names more with a smaller conference, and have more ease with connections. I believe that larger groups can be overwhelming and a bit confusing. When I am in attendance at a conference that is smaller I feel a sense of intimacy. Each conference has its benefits, they all have pro’s and con’s. With my experience at OPA I can honestly say size does not matter. It is the people who are present, it is their material and information they are sharing, and the mutual appreciation for Astrology that is truly important.
The conference is off to a rolling start, and everyone is bright eyed and perky sitting here in the chapel at Asilomar, except for the ones who attended Bob Mulligan’s room the night before. Wednesday was the day that we went over many different varieties of chart analysis and chart interpretation techniques. We had some of the best Astrologers from all over the country speaking, such as Chris McRae, Monica Dimino, and Bob Mulligan sharing their ways. I learned there is no one way to read a chart or consult with a client. Everyone has their own unique way of dissecting a chart and consulting with a client. I learned that only by practice you can come to know your own style and that it is ok to do things differently. It was a breath of fresh air to know that not one single person would judge you or your consulting skills. All of the Astrologers alike are very professional and wonderful teachers. I learned a mountain of material in such a short time. I found myself smiling on the inside, feeling so appreciative to have them pouring their hearts out teaching us their unique ways.
Thursday started out with a couple short talks with Benjamin Bernstein, Arlan Wise, and Rick Levine. Very informative material to absorb and I was taking notes. Benjamin Bernstein the genius at marketing and promoting had spoken with us about podcasting. Benjamin Bernstein has the number one Podcast on ITunes called “This Week in Astrology”. He has been very successful at bringing Astrology to the masses with his podcast. He is very knowledgeable of sound production from a past career which I think contributes to his podcast being one of the best. He provided us with the “how to” and the essential basics in getting a podcast up and running. When his talk was over I felt confident I could pursue the proper resources necessary to get started with my own podcast.
Arlan Wise spoke about being an astrologer living in a small rural community. She was able to help me understand the different elements you deal with in a small town verses being in a big city. We often forget that the place where you live and practice Astrology plays a major role within your community. I thought it was very interesting to learn about the intimacy you have with your community when everyone knows who you are, and how confidentiality plays a major role.
Rick Levine went next and he spoke to us about astrology and the price of tea in china. Seriously, he did. He made me realize that Astrology has to be connected to something. It has to be connected to something for you to make it yours. If it is not connected, then it becomes irrelevant. It becomes as irrelevant as the price of tea in china. I found his talk to be very interesting, as usual, and enjoyed all three Astrologers very much.
After lunch we joined our individual groups. I am in the writing track with Arlan Wise. The first day we had introductions, and got to know our group members and why they joined the writing track. I have two pieces of fiction I would like to bring to fruition, and thought that by joining the writing track it would give me the that extra push. Arlan has her sun conjunct Pluto conjuncting my Jupiter conjunct midheaven, who better to give me that push. We were given some basic astrological interpretations and were required to write about them. I thought it was hard at first being put on the spot, but felt I carried it out with satisfactory results. I surprised myself. I now know I chose the correct track for myself and am certain I will leave here a better writer.
There were quite a few talks on Thursday, Chris McRae going over the nuts and bolts of her practice, Glenn Perry talking about running his multi-layered practice, but I would have to say the most memorable for me was the talk by Henry Seltzer on Eris. Henry Seltzer is the writer of Time Passages Astrology Software. He has been working on and researching the planet Eris. Eris is a planet outside of Pluto’s orbit. It has an orbit of 556 years. Its orbit is irregular and is not symmetrical. The planet Eris is in Aries currently at 21 degrees. Eris is a violent planet. She is the sister of Mars and would often go to war with Mars. She is much like the Hindu Goddess Durga. She is violent and goes after her desires with great perseverance. He had showed us how Eris played a role in the lives of famous people’s charts, and proved the planets validity. It was very informative and I will enjoy hearing more about Eris in the future.
After a couple of nights of hanging out in Bob Mulligan’s room, I finally got some much needed sleep. It was Friday morning and I felt good. We as a group got to a late start but didn’t waste time getting enlightened by Monica Dimino and her talk on Chinese Astrology. This proved to be very interesting and she was able to elaborate on every animal in the Chinese Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac starts with the Rat at the 4th house cusp (IC) and moves clockwise. After the Rat is the Ox, Tiger, then Rabbit(also known as Cat) at sunrise, Dragon, Snake, then the Horse at noon, Goat(also known as Sheep) ,Monkey, Rooster at sunset, Dog, Pig, and finally back to Rat at the Midnight. It was interesting to see that the more exotic animals that fell to the East side of the zodiac were considered independent. The more domesticated animals that fell to the West of the zodiac were considered team players. The signs are assigned according to the year you were born. The time of day you were born would give you your rising sign. I happen to be born in 1978 which makes me a horse and my rising sign is a dragon. I found it to be very accurate in its descriptions. I was even envisioning my relatives’ signs. It was very informative and I appreciated everything Monica had to tell us. I only wish she had at least another hour or two to devote to Chinese Astrology. I was definitely wanting more by the time she had finished.
Next we had one of the best geeks around, Rick Levine, giving his talk about running a web based practice. This is a talk I found to be very relative to our internet based society. I realized that there are specific programs I was not using, such as Outlook. Outlook happens to be an email program which enables you many possibilities. Signature emails grabbed my attention, what a time saver. Signature emails enable you to send a pre-formatted email which you can alter by just simply adding a new name every time you send one out. These are invaluable if you need to save time in responding to emails. He also went over some of the major networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to name a few. He discussed how it is important to get yourself out their let others know who you are, what you do, and most important make yourself available to them. Most people are computer savvy but even if you are not, his discussion would have enlightened you and inspired you.
After all of the lectures at around 1 o’clock we meet with our individual groups. I looked forward to this everyday because it meant I would be able to work on my writing. Arlan was very prepared and had a couple of passages from the book “Stephen King, the memoir of the craft of writing”. It was very interesting to see the dos and don’ts from a real professional writer such as Stephen King. I was so happy to have Arlan guiding and helping us to be better writers. She is so professional and is excellent at giving us constructive criticism and praise. As we typed away at our assignments, I couldn’t help thinking I wish we had more time. I enjoyed the feedback from my group members and will look forward to their continued support.
Later that evening Robert Corre spoke about the business side of astrology, back side of astrology. He has an interesting approach to teaching astrology which he had learned from Zoltan Mason. He now is a full time astrologer and full time astrology teacher. He also has many different techniques of getting his astrology lessons to you. If you are not able to attend classes as most are not now days due to this economy, he broadcasts them over the internet. He makes himself readily available to his clientele, and even sees or takes calls up to midnight. His talk was informative and showed me that yet again you be completely unique in your approach of using, teaching, and working with astrology.
It is Saturday and it is the last day unless you have signed up with Richard Smoot for a class on AstroDataBank Workshop which is on Sunday. It is a beautiful day and the sun is shining. We start off with Sandra-Leigh Serio speaking to us about astrology and non-verbal cues during a session. She had great enthusiasm and I felt she was very passionate. I learned that you need to be very observant of the client’s non-verbal cues such as repeating comments, emotional behavior, and just knowing when to address these issues. She made us understand that your professional appearance can have an effect on your client and their comfort. I believe some people needed to be reminded of this, because it is so easy to be casual when you are seeing clients from your own home. I understood most of it to be common sense, but remembered not everyone has common sense. Her talk was to the point, and I also appreciated her directness.
Jacqueline Janes spoke about astrology and psychotherapy. She started out with what I believe to be the most important thing she said in her talk, she said “I wake up every morning happy doing what I do”. This is true; if are not happy to do your work you probably won’t make very much money at it. Jacqueline not only is an astrologer she is a certified psychotherapist. What I found interesting is that Jacqueline is able to take insurance. She is able to do this because of the psychotherapy she offers her clients. She also is a member of OPA, ISAR and NCGR, and continues to pay dues for a couple of other organizations. Her charisma was most memorable. I must remind you of her words in the beginning of her talk, she said” I wake up every morning happy doing what I do”. I feel this is very important and was glad she reminded us to be happy in what we do. Are you happy doing what you do?
Bob Mulligan’s talk was about astrology and karma. Bob is a follower of his spiritual master Meher Baba. He talked about being able to see his master in other people, instead of seeing their flaws. He said those flaws are really a reflection of your own, and that by seeing his master in the other person enables him to have love and compassion for them. He said that Mars in your natal chart is the reason you reincarnate, it is your desire. Saturn in your chart is your karma in this life. Karma is what you must do in order to be released from your karmic bonds. The Moon is your habits, and Jupiter is your consolidated knowledge. Together they give you the larger picture of what your dharma is. Bob helped us see that everyone and everything you come into contact with is karma. You must see the lessons in everything you do to advance yourself, and by understanding your karma it gives you the key to your destiny.
We met in our specialty groups again. This time it was to finalize or initialize our projects, depending on where you were. Alexandra Karacostas and Laurie Twilight Jetter were working on their career astrologers articles, Arlan was just starting her book, and I was finishing up my blog. There was so much to write about and so little time. It was our last day together and it was a little depressing. We really wished we had about 5 more days to write. We had been such an inspiration to each other. It was easier to be motivated to write when we were together. I knew that after we went our separate ways we would still keep in touch. I have a wonderful support group now, writers alike. We exchanged emails, numbers, and said some last words of encouragement. I owe our group success to Arlan Wise, one of the best group leaders I have ever had the privilege of working with. She was direct, inspiring, and articulate. I hope she continues to have the writing track in the future.
After group we went back to the chapel for the closing ceremony and the celebration of OPA’s 20th year anniversary. Each group was called up to the stage and everyone was given a chance to say a few words. Some people cried, some laughed, and altogether it was an emotional event. I know now that it was not just my group who connected, it was everyone’s. This is another reason I feel smaller conferences are much better than the larger ones; it allows us to connect in ways you would be unable to otherwise. This conference is so unique, and I feel it has so much to offer. The groups are so intimate; we open up and really try to help one another further ourselves and our careers. We do it with the most sincere hearts, and this is why I will be going to the next OPA retreat and the next one after that. I can only say to those that missed this year’s conference, you better sign up for next year. How can you miss out on another opportunity to learn from the best?
Experiencing the connectedness, the love, and the harmonious relationships was the best part of this conference. This I feel was the best OPA conference to date, and I believe everyone else would agree with me. Thanks to all who attended for making it so special. Thanks to those who made it happen. I hope I was able to keep the spirit alive by putting my experience in this blog. I hope I have inspired others to want to attend next year. Until we meet again, the planets just keep on moving. Happy transits.