Journeying through the unseen

In his second article on astroshamanism Franco Santoro tells how the zodiac can be used for more tha

Astroshamanism provides a map and tools for journeying through the path of life in search of Truth. This is acted out by using a strategic cosmology based on 12 sectors. The sectors are associated with the astrological signs when used as representations of the fragmented parts of our nature.

The 12 sectors portray the entire range of human potentials and possibilities that the astroshamanic seeker accepts to acknowledge, explore and integrate in their original unity. They are pathways of deep understanding about all the features in life. They include the highest and the lowest forms, and their aim is to teach us how to express them at their best.

In astroshamanism the zodiac is not used for horoscope readings or other forms of interpretation, but is explored through pragmatic healing actions and spiritual practices aimed at providing a direct experience and tangible results.

Astrology is probably the oldest form of symbolic language and shamanism is the most ancient method of healing. The distinctive feature of shamans is represented by their familiarity with states of consciousness that allows them to explore the spiritual dimension of reality and to help their community, themselves and their planet. To face these journeys, shamans connect with healing guides, spirits, angels and ultimately God. The relationship with this unseen world is the chief distinctive feature of shamanic cultures and constitutes one of the main tasks of astroshamanism.

The connection with the unseen realms, far from being an evasion from everyday reality, is aimed at healing our visible world. I cannot see God or spirits with my physical eyes, but I can see them through other human beings and the environment, when I decide to lay my prejudices aside and meet them as they truly are. By unveiling their nature, God will be embodied in them and I will uncover their essence.

As I learn to acknowledge God through them, I will also learn to become aware of how God operates in me. In exploring the mystery of the unseen realms and God, or whatever name, we use to describe That.

What this work basically underlines is the healing function of forgiveness. Forgiveness is learning to perceive all relationships as a proof of our sacred original nature, rather than as sources of grievances. It is about letting go of the garbage I have projected on others, which in the end is the same garbage I have projected on myself.

To forgive means to move beyond our limited perception and eventually even correct the whole idea that somebody did harm me or something went wrong. It is forgiveness for something that the other never did or that never happened, not for what occurred or was done. It is an ongoing scanning of our life aimed at releasing the blocks to our true perception, ultimately unveiling the authentic vision that abides beyond.

Franco Santoro is a shamanic facilitator and a member of the "Findhorn Foundation". He is the author of Astroshamanism: A Journey Into the Inner Universe and Astroshamanism: The Voyage Through the Zodiac. He lives in Findhorn and runs astroshamanism workshops in Scotland and other parts of the world.
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Stability is essential to solve the pension problem

The new chancellor must ensure we have a period of stability for pension policymaking in order for everyone to acclimatise to a new era of personal responsibility in retirement, says 

There was a time when retirement seemed to take care of itself. It was normal to work, retire and then receive the state pension plus a company final salary pension, often a fairly generous figure, which also paid out to a spouse or partner on death.

That normality simply doesn’t exist for most people in 2016. There is much less certainty on what retirement looks like. The genesis of these experiences also starts much earlier. As final salary schemes fall out of favour, the UK is reaching a tipping point where savings in ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes become the most prevalent form of traditional retirement saving.

Saving for a ‘pension’ can mean a multitude of different things and the way your savings are organised can make a big difference to whether or not you are able to do what you planned in your later life – and also how your money is treated once you die.

George Osborne established a place for himself in the canon of personal savings policy through the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ in pensions in 2015. This changed the rules dramatically, and gave pension income a level of public interest it had never seen before. Effectively the policymakers changed the rules, left the ring and took the ropes with them as we entered a new era of personal responsibility in retirement.

But what difference has that made? Have people changed their plans as a result, and what does 'normal' for retirement income look like now?

Old Mutual Wealth has just released. with YouGov, its third detailed survey of how people in the UK are planning their income needs in retirement. What is becoming clear is that 'normal' looks nothing like it did before. People have adjusted and are operating according to a new normal.

In the new normal, people are reliant on multiple sources of income in retirement, including actively using their home, as more people anticipate downsizing to provide some income. 24 per cent of future retirees have said they would consider releasing value from their home in one way or another.

In the new normal, working beyond your state pension age is no longer seen as drudgery. With increasing longevity, the appeal of keeping busy with work has grown. Almost one-third of future retirees are expecting work to provide some of their income in retirement, with just under half suggesting one of the reasons for doing so would be to maintain social interaction.

The new normal means less binary decision-making. Each choice an individual makes along the way becomes critical, and the answers themselves are less obvious. How do you best invest your savings? Where is the best place for a rainy day fund? How do you want to take income in the future and what happens to your assets when you die?

 An abundance of choices to provide answers to the above questions is good, but too much choice can paralyse decision-making. The new normal requires a plan earlier in life.

All the while, policymakers have continued to give people plenty of things to think about. In the past 12 months alone, the previous chancellor deliberated over whether – and how – to cut pension tax relief for higher earners. The ‘pensions-ISA’ system was mooted as the culmination of a project to hand savers complete control over their retirement savings, while also providing a welcome boost to Treasury coffers in the short term.

During her time as pensions minister, Baroness Altmann voiced her support for the current system of taxing pension income, rather than contributions, indicating a split between the DWP and HM Treasury on the matter. Baroness Altmann’s replacement at the DWP is Richard Harrington. It remains to be seen how much influence he will have and on what side of the camp he sits regarding taxing pensions.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has entered the Treasury while our new Prime Minister calls for greater unity. Following a tumultuous time for pensions, a change in tone towards greater unity and cross-department collaboration would be very welcome.

In order for everyone to acclimatise properly to the new normal, the new chancellor should commit to a return to a longer-term, strategic approach to pensions policymaking, enabling all parties, from regulators and providers to customers, to make decisions with confidence that the landscape will not continue to shift as fundamentally as it has in recent times.

Steven Levin is CEO of investment platforms at Old Mutual Wealth.

To view all of Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement reports, visit: products-and-investments/ pensions/pensions2015/