female at edge of grand canyon

But what I've learned, I learned the way no one tells you about

Some Days - Ira Wolf

I’m here to tell you that everything will work out.

But at first, it won’t.

You’re made redundant (twice). You break up with the person you thought you were going to marry. Friendships end. New ones begin. Health problems arise. Anxiety, depression and panic attacks hit. Money is scarce. Then comes the near-death experiences. Family issues. Rollercoaster romances. Moving away. Moving back. Childhood pets dying. The feeling that you might also die any minute. Bloated, burnt out, and having a breakdown about almost everything and I AM JUST GETTING STARTED.

Do you feel like your whole world is falling apart? Welcome to your Saturn Return — it’s real.

So what is Saturn Return exactly? Saturn (the planet) was in your natal sign when you were born and it takes about 26 to 28 years (give or take) to circle back around into your chart. When Saturn returns to your sign, it brings with it a great reckoning.

I’ve been there.

One minute I was elated living la vida loca and the next my life was a mishmash of shattered dreams and hopeless prospects with no desirable future in sight or clue about what to do. I was sleep-deprived, highly anxious, lonely, sad, confused, frustrated, exhausted and frankly some days it felt like crawling on broken glass just to get through.

Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My god, do you learn. — C. S. Lewis

Saturn is said to be the great teacher and also the great destroyer — of paradigms, belief systems, addictions, habits, and patterns. In short: anything that doesn’t serve you. Yes, it sucks. We, humans, want to feel comfort and homoeostasis at any cost. If your life is not in alignment, Saturn will have no trouble showing you (sometimes quite harshly) what needs to change. It’s up to you to recognise the signs and take actions to transform or risk repeating the same lessons over and over.

The Saturn rollercoaster is real.

Let’s use my life as an example. I’m a Virgo but my Saturn is in Sagittarius or the ninth house (you can find out your Saturn sign and Saturn return here). This tells me that ‘Cross-cultural relationships will be your learning grounds and you may become “adopted” by a culture different than your own at some point in your life. If you haven’t travelled extensively, your Saturn Return would be an ideal time to live abroad’. Correct. I’m also told that Saturn came back around into my natal sign since birth from 23 December 2014. Correct again. Around age 26 is precisely the time when my life upheaval began.

Each Saturn Return is said to last between two to four years but for me, it was FIVE YEARS AND ONE MONTH (until I was 31) so rest assured that I know a thing or two about what it brings.

How do you know when your Saturn Return is over?

I met a Vedic astrologer and had a reading in Ubud, Bali in May 2019. He told me the exact date that my Saturn Return would end: 20 January 2020. HALLELUJAH, I rejoiced (also how’s the symmetry). Honestly, it felt like I was on a double Saturn Return bender that I thought I’d never come off. The Vedic astrologer also said that when Saturn leaves my birth chart in early 2020, there would still be “aftershocks” for the months following. This was again, very correct. 

Saturn as a planet is said to represent a father figure, and not in the physical male body sense but more in a protective, grounding, and looking-out-for-you kind of way. The energy of Saturn is asking you to be the ‘father’ of your own life and take responsibility for what you’re not learning. I knew it was time to be the Saturn of my own life when I was so sick of repeating old patterns, feeling stuck and caged, and had a feeling in my bones that the time was ripe for something new.

Growth is simply learning how to suffer gracefully, elegantly and not letting your pain completely tear you apart. — Nikita Gill

What we resist, persists.

This is a frequently repeated adage in spiritual communities and I can’t deny it. When I resist change and sidestep the “work”, I suffer more and whatever is causing me pain me persists. I get it: transformation isn’t easy. Many of us flag it in the “too hard” basket. But maintaining the status quo over following your truth (or just the plain facts on the table) is a way to be alive on the outside yet dead on the inside. I know this first hand. Everything seems easier than doing that one thing you know you really need to do. The true price we pay in suppressing our integrity and aliveness is not fulfilling our highest purpose in life.

You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign language. — Rainer Maria Rilke

My own Saturn Return was tumultuous, thrilling, and by the far the most painful yet transformative period yet. When I embraced Saturn Return for what it is — a great cleansing and levelling up — I noticed that my life started to change dramatically.

I started questioning everything, saying no more confidently, letting go of ideals that I didn’t agree with and reassessing values that didn’t resonate with me anymore. It’s also when I decided that there are a lot of expectations that I have no interest in living up to, so I don’t. A fun thing that came out of my Saturn Return was deciding to live each year by a word and this is when I learnt the true meaning of grace, flow, reverence, soften, and alignment.

Saturn will return again.

It will come back into your sign around your late 50s to early 60s. Ever heard of a mid-life crisis? Or a delayed call to adventure? It is said if you don’t learn the lessons in your first Saturn Return, you can bet they will show up in your second (or third). I consider doing the inner work the first time around a HUGE HELP to your future self. The work requires a lot of self-inquiry and reflection, as well as bravery in facing the unknown road ahead, but the reward is remarkable.

We live in a world where to admit anything negative about yourself is seen as a weakness, when it’s actually a strength. — Jon Hamm

I wish I could console my late twenties self and say ‘it will all work out, even better than you expected’ but she wouldn’t have listened. She was too busy trying to hold her public life together (career, relationships, family, self-care, identity, the future) while privately wondering why the questions of her soul’s deepest yearnings wouldn’t go away. Ultimately my heart won, but not without a lot of heartache.

And while you’re in the clusterfuck of Saturn.

It bears repeating, everything will be okay. Maybe not right now, or tomorrow, but eventually. I know that might be hard to believe, so I’ll believe it for you.

Here are thirty one bits of advice from someone who made it to the other side:

1. The lotus needs the mud to grow. The Buddhist observation: No mud, no lotus. I didn’t believe this until I saw a lotus pond myself. You are the lotus and the “mud” is your Saturn Return. Fertile, yes. Unforgiving, gosh yes. But benevolent and rewarding for anyone willing to grow.

2. You are being remade. This is how it works. You are returning to your true essence through a baptism of fire and fierce unravelling. The lessons you learn now will take you to the next rung on the ladder of ‘you’.

3. No one actually has any clue what they are doing either. Anyone with a ‘plan’ is just trying to control a future that is inherently uncontrollable. Do your best with what you’ve got at hand. Be a kind person. Look after yourself. Do the next right thing. The future will happen and you’ll be ready for whatever that is.

4. The universe has a sense of humour. Get ready for the curveballs, WTF moments, ARE YOU FRIKKIN SERIOUS wails to the sky where you throw your hands up in total defeat. Don’t lose your sense of humour in all of this, it’s your secret weapon.

5. Own your shit. Your indecisiveness, your anxieties, your triggers, your shadows, your ego, your humanness. Embrace all the parts of you, and evolve the parts that you can change for the better.

6. Be a friend to yourself first. Enjoying your own company makes you infinitely more interesting. Make spending time by yourself sacred. There were times alone that my heart felt so open that a truck could have driven in. Befriend your beautiful aloneness.

7. A yes is a no to yourself. Stop doing things to please others. Here’s a trick: take a minute to check in with yourself first and decide what you actually want, then proceed. Whenever you say ‘yes’ to please someone, you’re actually saying ‘no’ to yourself.

8. Solitude is sexy. Never stop dating yourself. Being alone can bring up fear and loneliness and sometimes just be plain boring, but as Elizabeth Gilbert says — WELCOME TO THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE. Grab a mug of tea, put your favourite playlist on and watch the rain coming in. That’s what solitude feels like.

9. Stop waiting. Don’t abandon yourself waiting for something or someone to happen to you. Happen to yourself.

10. For every high there is a low, and for every low there is a high. The hair-raising ride of Saturn Return saves a seat for everyone, even if you didn’t buy a ticket! Remember: the pendulum swings both ways. The lows will be followed by highs, and vice versa. I am aiming for much more equanimity in my thirties.

11. Health is paramount. I made wellness my #1 priority and never looked back. If you are not healthy (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually), you cannot be of true help and service to others. You’ll be needed, so be strong.

12. Sadness is part of the parcel. Sorry to break it to you but there will be plenty of tears, heartbreak, and a smattering of fuuuuucckkkkk this days. The hurt hurts for a reason — it’s pain leaving the body. It’s actually quite cathartic to put on a sad song in the car (Ed Sheeran for me) and cry, let your emotions ‘move on’ (what the Latin root of the word means) instead of holding them in.

13. Whatever is meant for you will be sent for you. Flow don’t force, my friend. This is one of the biggest lessons from my Saturn Return. Trust that you will never miss the magic that is meant for you. If you want something to happen, do nothing. Or do it intentionally. A big gift of my Saturn Return was finding the way of tea.

14. Reading is tonic for the soul. Read Letters to a Young Poet. Read Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway. Read Anam Cara. Read, read, read — anything that makes you feel even one inch closer to the truth of it all.

15. Love is friendship on fire. At least it is in my experience. It can start as a hardly noticeable simmer, then a slow burn, and then it’s boiling over into a veritable kitchen fire. Friendship is a worthy foundation for any intimate relationship, so start there. Sex at its most basic is mechanical and at its highest is transcendental. The mind is actually the ultimate arousal organ.

16. Learn to love the silence. In mornings, in nature, in conversations, in relationships, in yourself. I’ve made seven days of silence a practice ever year.

17. The moment is always before the moment. I always say this when I am about to take someone’s picture. We are most ourselves when we think no one is taking notice. You best capture a person fully before they know it’s a moment being taken.

18. Loneliness is a universal experience. “People can’t fall in love unless they know they are lonely and are separate individuals… You can’t feel the warmth of the house unless it’s cold outside. The colder it is outside, the cozier it is at home.” — Trungpa Rinpoche

19. Seek spiritual teachers. Learn from people who have traversed harder, more treacherous ground than you and can help you navigate it. Spiritual experiences have opened up portals to larger universes and huge internal shifts.

20. The right soundtrack can make almost anything bearable. Spotify is my saviour. I have made over 140 playlists to get through all manners of life moods and mainly to nourish my soul. Here’s Saturn Return Clusterfuck just for you.

21. Don’t miss the magic. More bluntly: PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. You don’t want to miss the Canadian Rockies in peak fall. You don’t want to miss the family getaway that happens once in five years. You don’t want to miss this conversation, this experience, this collision of time and place and person. You don’t want to miss a second of anything that you will never get back. Don’t miss what’s right in front of you for something on a screen.

22. Things take the time they take. A hard one to learn because we all want it now… or yesterday. Make friends with synchronicity, believe in coincidences, and know that something will only come to you when you are ready to receive it.

23. Kindness begets kindness. It’s pretty simple: always wave when someone lets you into traffic. Or let someone in front of you in line when you can. An extra minute of thoughtfulness can really make someone’s day (or year). You never know who needs a bit of kindness in their life. The ultimate antidepressant is to do something nice for another.

24. Being a turbo will get you terribly sick. Tired but heading out? Then going to another thing and another? Booked up back-to-back ALL WEEKEND/YEAR? I call this being Turbo Teresa. Sometimes when you’re trying not to let others down, it’s you who pays the cost. Exhaustion will catch up to you. You get sick so your body can enforce a break. Honour your rest and FORGET THE REST.

25. Drop the drama. If you get excitement and life fulfilment from drama, consider getting a hobby or find a better use of your energy, efforts, and livelihood.

26. Never marry your first love. This is what my Baba used to say to me. I don’t know if it’s a Serbian proverb or she just made it up, but it stuck. Although, something she didn’t tell me was that you will never forget your first love either.

27. Your spirit is who you are. The imprint you leave on others, the way you make people feel heard and appreciated, and the unseen moments of grace are what makes up the matter of you. Your spirit is more impactful than any words you can say.

28. Find comfort in dark nights of the soul. You will lose yourself, find yourself and lose yourself all over again. There will be nights of unbearable loneliness, despair and helplessness. You might think you won’t wake up tomorrow. You will. This is an often hidden truism: your freedom, aliveness, and exhilaration live on the other side of breaking through whatever is keeping you up at night.

29. Figure out your values and live by them. Do you know what’s sexy? Talk to me about your core values. Find out what yours are first and make them the non-negotiable bedrock of your life.

30. Rejection is protection. Definitely stole this from an Instagram evangelist, but it’s so true. Courage is a profound act of self-love. The minute I expect (or ahem, force) something to turn out one way, it ends up being the opposite. When I have flexible intentions rather than hard expectations, I end up getting exactly what I wanted, or better.

31. TRAVEL. Frank Sinatra was right — there’s such a lot of world to see. I know I’ve painted Saturn Return to be quite doom and gloom, but it also brings a lot of pleasure and peak experiences! Travel is a core part of who I am and I travelled the world solo for a large part of those five years. I lived in New York, I lived in Toronto, I lived in the high desert of New Mexico and I nearly moved to Ubud. I embraced Couchsurfing and travelled on two 6 month adventures in North America, five life-changing trips to Bali, a journey around Japan, two multi-country travels in Europe including my thirtieth birthday in Tuscany, and sixty (!) plus flights within Australia and I even got across to New Zealand twice. Truth be told, I’ve been on a continuous quest since I was a child and as it turns out, it has no destination.

You are still young, free. Do yourself a favor. Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late. — Jhumpa Lahiri

Any advice I’ve given to you above, I’ve given to myself time and again.

If you aren’t in some kind of crisis in your twenties, you’re not doing it right.

Saturn will test your boundaries and your limits. Saturn asks you to take responsibility for you.

You’ll be called on to change in unthinkable ways, do wildly uncomfortable things, and have many ‘felix culpa’ (a Latin phrase meaning ‘fortunate fault’ or ‘happy fail’).

Ride the waves, let them carry you.

Follow the questions, wherever they may lead.

It takes endurance, audacity and a whole lot of spirit; but the payoffs are worth it.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods. — Lord Byron

Have compassion for everything you have survived.

Trusting in things being as they are is one of the secrets of it all.

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. — Rainer Maria Rilke

Be open to the unimaginable. And wild possibilities will open up to you.

I figured it out. I had to. 

You’ll figure it out, we’ll figure it out, it will all work out.

I doubted, I trusted, I went with it, I crumbled, I persisted, and I rose. Repeat. 

It was really hard, but I did it anyway.

And I know you can too.

It’s ok to feel alone.
Usually you are.
That’s what poetry’s for. — Kate Tempest

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