Symbolic Living has recently interviewed Nadiya Shah with questions about Astrology and developments in her professional career.
We began our interview conversation with Nadiya in November, but have waited to share the discussion until now because Nadiya has just embarked on an exciting new journey and we wanted our interview to coincide with this Exciting News! Find out what the big news is at then end of our Interview.
Symbolic Living: Nadiya we’re glad to have the opportunity to talk to you about your love of Astrology, what it means to you and the people you share it with and how you’ve developed your career. Naturally, we’d like to get some insight into how it all started. When and where were you first introduced to Astrology?
Nadiya: If I had to go way back to the beginning, I remember as a very young girl, I loved looking at the stars. I would feel them in my heart. They felt meaningful to me. I think this is an indication that I am doing what I am meant to be doing. More than that, I think it is that feeling that has stayed with me. That feeling that there is purpose and grandness in the world, that the world is bigger than we know, that we are connected to all of it and each other, and that there is a lot of love in every movement.
I think of astrology as divination, so I will start there. For decades in Toronto, my city, there is a big fair called CNE that marks the last 3 weeks of the summer. It is tradition among local students to go to the job fair there each year in hopes of employment. I went to the massive job fair. I got there late and so there were not a lot of jobs left. I took a card off the board of postings and went to see a potential employer. They looked at me and after 2 minutes of conversation hired me on the spot. They gave me a sheet of paper with the drawing of a hand with the meanings of several lines demonstrated. The next day I was working full time, 8-12 hours a day, everyday for the entire 21-day stint reading palms. I was 14 years old at the time.
I remember everyday I would hear people tell me I was good. I would not just stick to the interpretations that were on that sheet, but would allow my intuition to make sense of what I saw. The time would go by quickly. I loved that experience.
Shortly after that, my mother, throughout my teen years, would give me astrology books. She is not an astrologer, but is a very spiritual person. I always would ask her questions and we would talk about the nature of the Universe and other esoteric questions. She would tell me stories about the various esoteric people, the Sufi’s, in my family tree, and the things that they practiced, whatever she knew.
So, even though I think I have always been an astrologer, I was officially introduced to it as a diviner via my mother and the books she kept giving me.
SL: Was there something particular about Astrology that significantly caught your interest that made you want to explore it further?
Nadiya: It was not until I was 20 that my aunt, Shireen, gave me a gift of a computer print out of my astrological birth chart. I read it and could not believe it; it was like reading myself, my story, my feelings, and my thoughts, in a computer-generated report. That’s when I got serious about it, or better said, passionate about astrology. It has remained an important part of my life since then.
SL: Do you continue to do other forms of divination such as palm reading, or has Astrology become your main focus?
Nadiya: The same aunt I mentioned earlier, Shireen, gave me a Tarot deck when I was 20 and said, “Here, you are good at this” and had me doing readings that night for her friends. Since then, Tarot has been a part of my divination practice. I love Tarot cards. I use a deck with a lot of astrological symbols and incorporate my love of astrology into the reading.
I love astrology so much and does provide the main focus of my work and is an important spiritual practice. Astrology affirms the patterns and purpose of all things, and our deep interconnection to each other. Astrology means that every movement of our external environment is infused with spiritual energy. It means that the cosmos are alive and sacred, if the planets are sacred, then the earth must be sacred, and if the earth is sacred, then we must be also. I love affirming that for my clients. This belief guides my worldview and also gives me deep humility for the mystery, its grandness that I can only glimpse for moments. Those glimpses come in the midst of a reading or when writing my horoscopes.
Astrology gave me a direct way to pray experientially, meaning, a form of understanding who my creator is that is all my own. It taught me to honor my intuition, my inner voice of authority that knows what is best for me outside of the noise of other people’s expectations and pressures, outside of my fears or habits. It taught me to trust the cycles of my life, especially when they are hard, because they are designed to make me better. Astrology has provided me with so many opportunities, from a higher education, my own practice, a useful life, building a legacy, sharing all I am, past, present, and who I am growing into. Astrology gave me self –respect and it gave me a voice. It gave me the deep conviction that the universe is loving. It gave me myself. It has taught me that my perceptions and intuitions are worth being trusted, and therefore, I can trust myself and trust what brings me happiness. Self-trust is everything.
SL: On the subject of trust, many people have different opinions on astrology based on their limited exposure mainly to sun signs read in the papers. Some feel the sun sign horoscopes are spot on and accurate for them, and they find the advice useful whereas others feel sun signs are too general and don’t really apply to them. What advice do you give to people with general exposure to astrology to help them make sense of what astrology really is all about?
Nadiya: People like myself who write horoscopes each have our own way of communicating what we see, and that will resonate with our own audience. Different people like different things, some love poetic and psychological interpretations, while other people want to read astrology with a more literal interpretive communication style. Astrology, being such a direct, applied, tactile and intimate spiritual practice with such sacred roots, there are also unique ways of understanding the symbols, and stressing the importance of one aspect over another. It will depend on the astrologer, what they bring to their practice, and that in turn determines their audience.
The most important thing for me is not so much what astrologers do as what we represent.
Astrology is the only ancient practice that is a widespread part of popular, mass culture today. It has survived because on some level it affirms our connection with our immediate and larger environment. We are no longer just alienated, random creatures existing in the “iron cage of post modernism” (to borrow Max Weber’s term) but part of a larger rhythm and cycle that has significance and purpose to it.
As articulated by Patrick Curry, with astrology, even when only considered entertainment, the understanding of ecology, as in the belief that the world is alive and therefore worthy of our respect, is further reinforced. That little horoscope, those 2 sentences that seem mindless, read in the back of a magazine, have that deep a philosophical root that is reaffirmed in a very quiet, unassuming way.
For me, that is important. I love being a part of that. I love reminding people that they are part of a larger mystery, and that all lives are meaningful and magical. Everyone is loved exactly where they are, right now, in this moment, going through whatever challenge or blessing that is visiting for the time. In moments that can seem so random that those deemed the most sane seem to chase the most meaningless things, astrology is a gentle reminder that there is a bigger unknown that everyone and everything is a part of, and that choosing to live in alignment with the patterns and progressions of life is one very powerful way of making one’s life truly their own.
SL: As an Astrologer how do you understand fate and free will according to Astrology?
Nadiya: Just the other day I was watching a documentary on the Greek Gods and Goddesses. They were telling the myths that illustrated what a mixed relationship the Greeks had with this very question. I also know that there are planets that speak strongly to fated events, and others that speak to an awakening of personal power. This question comes up again and again in my practice. I feel that I try and walk that line. For example, I know that no matter how empowering terms I put it in, the fact that I am correlating personal emotion with the movement of the planets has a philosophical assertion of fatalism.
Astrologers have tried to address this. Dane Rudhyar has stated that the way we understand the planets has evolved in relation to the way we understand our free will. The planets are, in contemporary astrology, interpreted in much more psychological terms. I think that the more aware you are of energy, the more things can resolve themselves on that level and things do not have to manifest in life to get your attention.
Do I believe in fate- to a certain extent, yes. I believe that we all have a divine, amazing plan for our individual lives and our astrology chart can give us clues as to what that full potential may be. It can also reveal the lessons in the midst of difficulties. But we do have a very strong power to shape our lives and make them what we want. The trick is to trust a greater plan and pay attention to the clues. Astrology is a clue, an insight, into the magic and the mystery. It also provides a symbolic understanding of the lessons that are presenting themselves so that we can learn, grow, and become the people who can manifest that higher plan.
SL: You are officially the first Canadian to have your Masters in Cosmology and Divination. How has becoming a leader in your profession influenced your practice as an Astrologer and a Consultant in the field?
Nadiya: Astrology has recently begun to move back into western universities in this decade since the 18th century, with the advent of 2 MA/ PhD programs in the UK and 2 graduate programs in American Universities. So, for about 300 years, the subject of astrology in the academic world has been largely ignored or, dare I say it, vilified. The situation is different in India, which has continuously offered astrological education at the graduate level, but I am speaking about the western tradition here, which is the system I practice. This has left a huge gap in the number of people who understand astrology from beyond the strictly technical. My MA was taught with the Faculty of Religious Studies at the University of Kent in the UK, and as such, we took a largely historical and philosophical approach to it. In our non-formal time, we were able to discuss the more practical and technical stuff. It was an amazing experience, to be able to learn from people who’s work I had respected for so many years, to be immersed in a subject I love, and to just understand what I do from various perspectives granted me so much more respect for the reach and impact of this practice.
What the MA granted me, and how it has influenced my interpretations, goes beyond just the new techniques I learned. Cosmology means “world view” and Divination means “to divine one’s self”. I came to articulate what it is I am doing when I practice astrology, what I need to put myself in the right mind set to do an effective reading, and also, to take what I do really seriously, to respect it, and maintain its integrity. I am giving a person another worldview, a way to see their lives from a more symbolic and “higher” perspective. I also see my role as helping the client or reader of my horoscopes to move closer to some type of divine understanding of themselves and their place in the cosmos. I share much of what I learned in the MA with every single reading I do. Like any good educational process, it is not about the degree, it is about who you become in the process. My education changed me, and I feel fortunate that I get to share some of that with people who trust me.
SL: As an Astrology Consultant you must give readings and advice to a wide variety of people. Have you found some people to be challenging to advise due to their preconceptions or possible skepticism?
Nadiya: I honestly feel that when I am comfortable with what I believe, and myself I could care less. I think that is one of the greatest things of my education, that I understand what I do historically, religiously from a variety of traditions, and philosophically. At the end of the day, every one of us is just trying to find what is right for us, what allows us to feel comfortable with our selves. I have found something that works for me and it is really ok that other people have their own path. I think part of this stance comes from growing up in Toronto, a city with a lot of diversity and acceptance in religion, thought, culture, and spirituality. Therefore, it does not matter if someone does not believe. On the occasions where a viewpoint is expressed I can usually identify its source, in my own mind. Like, most arguments against astrology come from people like Cicero or Augustine, depending on the stance (Another benefit of my MA! Understanding what I do from various perspectives, including the critical). If they have a question than I can engage in a conversation, and I respect the various perspectives, I have researched them and studied them. I know for myself, the times in my life when I have felt weak is when I have been the most self-righteous. It is ultimately a form of insecurity. Sometimes people are critical because they want to be right, they need that at the point of life they are in. That has nothing to do with me. The more kind, accepting, and happy I am the better I can give that space to others and wish for them to experience the same. Practicing astrology gives me a personal relationship to my creator and allows me to connect to every religion, every culture. It is an act of solidarity and unity experienced in the moment. It is a powerful thing, as is any religious practice when approached with an honest heart. It is an important practice that allows me to honor my intellectual and spiritual ancestors. It is a loving thing and a good thing. I love being a part of that. I am proud of that.
Having said that, if someone comes to a reading and they have a lot of internal walls up due to their scepticism, then it becomes very hard to tap into their energy and give a meaningful reading because what I do is ultimately divination, it is a relisious and spiritual practice. It is esoteric. When people are open, they do not have to say anything, it is just a feeling, and the reading becomes more meaningful to them. I always try to deliver the message.
SL: What does your job as a consultant consist of? Do you find a large part of your job includes educating your clients on a variety of relevant subjects Astrology touches on such as psychology, mythology, and sociology?
Nadiya: I am always mindful of the balance between empowering people with a greater sense of their own power, especially their power of choice, and understanding the inherent assumption that astrology represents, which is a fate based world view. Therefore, I try to be mindful of that balance because I take what I do seriously, and want it to be as loving as possible. I also try and bring about greater awareness to people by saying things like “ok, this vibration is coming up, and you can choose to have it go down this way if you take this stance, but if you fight it or do not understand the lesson, this is what could possibly happen.” I do this because this is what the integrity of my practice calls for, and it would be less than honest not to point out the difficulties. Its like if you see a storm coming, or someone is in the midst of a storm, you want to prepare them, but I also don’t want to scare them into thinking there is going to be a massive storm, because that can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. I understand life is not Pollyanna, but again, it is about how we interpret events that matters most. If I am going to facilitate a self-fulfilling prophesy in someone, I would hope it would be something positive. I do believe that, as many people have said before me, that we are all here to do something special with our lives, we are created to do something special that only we can do in our own way. I would like to impart that. However, I know sometimes clients, especially those with a different frame of reference, might say, “just tell me what is going to happen!” I try and gently guide them to their choices, but I have to honor their frame of reference and answer their questions. For some people, the largely psychological explorations are most meaningful. For others, they want the more literal interpretations from older techniques. I use them all and find the balance as my intuition guides me is best for the client and also whatever they ask for. I always draw on various aspects of my education and my life in a consultation, so if the situation calls for it, I will share psychological, philosophical, even political theories, mythological tales, or antedotes from popular culture or my own life. I am aiming to make the reading relveant to the client and trusting the information that comes forth.
SL: What do you see Astrology developing into in the next 10 to 20 years? Will it grow in popularity and credibility, or will it face challenges that hinder it’s growth?
Nadiya: I think astrology will always have a part of our culture because it serves such an important function. It makes the cosmos meaningful, and in a world that can feel more and more isolating and alienating, I think we yearn for that feeling of purpose and connection. Astrology has lasted for all these milenia for exactly that reason. It affirms a meaningful world infused with spiritual energy, and therefore, we are also infused with it also. It affirms a truth that is so deep that many of us feel it to be true before we can even articulate it. That the world is not randomn and empty, but truly deliberate in every breath, every movement, every wind.
As for credibility, that is hard to say. While I do think there will be a shift of consciousness that has already started but will accelrate after the winter solstice in 2012 that will bring many people towards esoteric practices and subjects. At the same time, as I often states in talks, astrology is a religious practice. It cannot be empirically validated anymore than prayer or any other religious practice. Its strength lies in the meaning it grants our lives and that is deeply subjective and personal.
SL: We all have heard of 2012 and the Age of Aquarius being transformational during our lives. What does Western Astrology teach us about who we are becoming and how the world is evolving in the near future relative to the Ages?
Nadiya: Well, a couple of things come up in your question. The first, 2012. As I stated earlier, there are many astrological signs that indicate a shift of consciousness at that time. Not a lightening type of thing, I think, more like the energy will shift and we will see movement in the direction of the esoteric. The mayan calendar ends and indicates the culmination of one cycle. But remember, their whole spiritual frame of reference was based on cycles, which means nothing ends, but is only repeated. At that time, with Neptune having newly come home to its ruling sign of Pisces, we will see a return to more mystical topics.
The second thing your question raises has to do with the ages. Jung wrote about this in his book “Aeon”. I think we are placing a lot of hope in the “Age of Aquarius”, but remember, Aquarius is a sign with a strong duality. It is a sign that represents the collective and new-age spirituality, but it is also a highly individualistic sign that is very scientific. The duality we have seen in our current age of Pisces has been about reality and mysticism. With Aquarius, there are changes, but the trend of opposing thoughts continues. Is that bad? Of course not. I think it makes life more interesting and keeps us growing. I think diversity is awesome in all aspects of life, not only in cultures, but in opinion and ideas as well.
SL: We’re starting a new decade already, it’ll be 2010 before we know it. 2009 seemed to have flown by while having it’s series of ups and downs. What do the stars have to say about the transition from 2009 into 2010 on a more global level… will we see more of the same or will things be improving overall or something else?
Nadiya: There is always a lot happening in the sky! What is interesting is that Saturn recently moved into Libra and began a interesting conversation with Pluto. This indicates changes in our social structures are being asked for but there is a strong desire to maintain things. The other really amazing thing to take place in 2010 is the Jupiter Uranus conjunction. If you think about it, historically this indicates a huge inspiring breakthrough, particularly scientific but also on the human rights front. A person walked the Moon for the first time during a transit like this! The Jupiter Uranus conjunction is taking place in the sign of Pisces, which rules medicine, faith healing, and universal understanding. Additionally, the continuation of the Saturn Uranus conversation happens in 2010. This conversation began in 2008 on the day of the USA presidential election, so we can expect some inspiring progress and change that indicates a break from tradition and in the direction of equal rights.
SL: Recently you’ve been published in Fitness Fanatik Magazine which coincides with part of your personal self transformation. Can you tell us a little about the significance of that and anything else you’ll be working on in 2010?
Nadiya: I recently began writing horoscopes for Fitness Fanatik Magazine, which also featured my personal fitness transformation story. 3 years ago I started to exercise as a spiritual practice and transformed my body by losing about 100 lbs. as a by-product of the journey. I used astrology to tap into my motivations and power to change. After I lost weight, my friends started coming to me for insights into their chart, so that they could understand their body as a symbol of spiritual expression. I created work out plans for them that worked with who they are. I thought “wouldn’t it be great to share this with others?” so I wrote a manuscript for my first book.
The working title is “Sweat the Truth”. My book presents a new way to consider weight loss, exercise, and new age spirituality as a holistic, integrated whole. Weight loss and exercise are important practices to utilize on the journey of self-knowledge and allows the immediate experiences of acceptance, embodiment, and truth. There are no menus or diet schedules. Rather, personal reflection, spiritual self-help, astrological philosophy, and mythology are drawn on to enlighten and inspire.
There has been an idea perpetuated of losing weight as a formula of mathematics, and our bodies boil down to being a machine. However, we are not machines. We are complex in every way. There are aspects of our physiology that are still a mystery, that scientists are still researching, exploring, and desiring to know more about. Add to that the layers of complexity that involve the way our mind works, the depth of our emotion, and the way spirit infuses and influences matter. All these aspects of us are intricately tied to what happens to us on a physical level. This means that weight loss cannot be a matter summed up in a math formula. It also means that weight loss and a stronger physique does not happen according to a precise timetable, but that we become lighter physically in direct proportion to becoming lighter in all areas of our life, and these changes happen only when we are ready, in perfect time, and not a moment sooner. Exercise is done for its own sake and, in the words of Socrates, for the self-knowledge it grants in the moment of activity.
It is very near and dear to my heart, of course. I think to write a book involves the heart. In “Sweat the Truth”, I utilize personal reflection and adapt philosophical ideas to my own life, considering I have lost and maintained a weight loss of 100 pounds. It is not directly related to astrology and prediction. It is a symbolic exploration, so it utilizes my formal education. It is in line with my personal mission of being a voice of hope in people’s lives.
I was finishing my MA dissertation when the desire to start writing these understandings down came on pretty strong. I put it to the side and literally, the day I handed my dissertation in, I started to write. So now, I have what feels like a completed manuscript and have begun submitting it to agents and publishers, as well as my contacts. The response so far has been amazing. I trust that the book came to me for a reason, and when it is supposed to be out there, it will be. So far, everything in my life, where it comes to my spirituality and sharing that part of myself, has said that I am on the right path. I trust this is part of that vision.
Then I thought “wouldn’t it be great if I could work with people and share this knowledge one on one, empower them with the self-knowledge they need to change and share exercise as a spiritual practice?” So now I am in the process of becoming a certified personal trainer and I plan to launch a sister business where I get to work with people, continuing to share who I am and what I am passionate about. I plan to launch that early next year, and this new business will focus on astrological personal training. Just like I did for my friends, I start with looking at a person’s chart and having a conversation with them. From that, I treat the body as a symbol and create work outs that are meant to help that individual grow stronger physically and spiritually.
SL: One final thing Nadiya, what’s the exciting news for your career you’d like to share with everyone?
Nadiya: I recently signed a deal with a major syndication company that will bring horoscopes written by me to newspapers. Starting Sunday December 13, 2009 you will be able to read your daily and weekly horoscopes written by me in newspapers around Canada and on my website here:
My intention has always been to say something that reminds people that they are part of a larger, beautiful, mysterious plan that we can only glimpse. I know there is hope in that. I love affirming that the world is meaningful with every horoscope I write. My intention is now being realized. I feel so grateful to have been brought so far, and for the opportunity to be a part of people’s lives each day.
We hope you have enjoyed our conversation with Nadiya Shah. It was a pleasure to learn more about her love of Astrology and her Career. We will be conducting further interviews with Nadiya in the future.
Nadiya also teaches an online astrology course at the Esoteric Arcanum. You can find out more by visiting her course page here