Emma Firth trials CHANI, a new app said to combine the wisdom of the stars with mindfulness and meditation.
Has a propensity to distract others, shows little interest in science, enjoys making up stories, lacks enthusiasm to adhere to proper dress code. Another marker that seemed to continually pierce through my secondary school year reports: poor attendance. Through no fault of my own, it should be noted. My lateness for registration compounded by the fact that my mother – also my taxi driver – would insist on reciting, from start to finish, my lengthy horoscope (Jonathan Cainer) most mornings.
This early exposure to the Zodiac has incited both a scepticism and casual curiosity that a planetary map could somehow dictate my true purpose. Distinguish my true personhood. Of course, in 2021, it’s easy to embrace an Orlando Bloom attitude – “I’m a Capricorn, so I crave routine,” the actor shared recently in an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine (the least woo-woo thing he says in the article) – thanks to our instant access to the cosmos (from the cult of Co-Star astrology to a wealth of Instagram mystics on hand for those seeking celestial therapy). And, in an age of discontent and deepening uncertainty, perhaps embracing the clairvoyant life for a week is just the emotional tonic I need right now. To feel less lost; more grounded and purposeful; more me. Enter, CHANI, a new astrology and mindfulness app from Chani Nicholas, author of the New York Times bestselling book You Were Born for This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance.
First up, I have to input key details about myself. Crucially, the date and time of birth. I call mum. “Oh - it was in the morning. 8am.” Five minutes later, she calls back. “Actually, dad thinks it was 6am, so maybe just say 7am!” At this point, confidence in the accuracy of my birth chart is diluted, but I look anyway. It’s divided into three parts: the rising sign (“your motivation for living life”); the sun (“your identity and where you shine”); the moon (“your body and emotions.”) My rising sign is Gemini which means, apparently, I am a “trickster, mischief-maker, magician, salesperson, reporter and giver of information.” I get paid to write stories, hopefully interesting ones, so I guess not a bad summation. “Gemini has a story to tell everyone it meets. Ever inquisitive, you are motivated by the search for intellectual stimulation and social connection.” Two things I miss immeasurably – I wait patiently for your return.
My friend, who recommended this app to me, says his favourite part is its Astroweather functionality. Essentially, it’s like a collective weekly mood barometer (“not tailored to your specific astrology.”) Though, I am susceptible to reading into even the smallest details and ferociously examining how they might pertain to my lived experience. There are some synchronicities, albeit through the veil of skilfully vague phrasing. For instance, there’s a couple of days where I feel overwhelmed with emotion I feel like I might combust. I want to cry, to let it all out. Alas, nada. Not a droplet. Yesterday: “Aggressive passive”. Today: “Hold the tensions.”
I remembered I’d written something in the journal section. Considering I’ve kept a diary since I was eleven years old, this was appealing. Although, going back through some of them recently – emotionally tracking the awkwardness of teenagedom through to the disorderliness and trickery of my twenties – it’s all much the same. Mostly just stream of consciousness about being in love, being out of it, wanting it, fighting against it. Here, however, there are actual prompts. Questions to be carefully considered. “What hopes keep you striving in your professional life?” “What does your best-case scenario look like? Who is there with you? What are you doing?”
I’ll concede, memory is fickle and should be handled with care, but it really felt like I had a solid routine down in the first two lockdowns. That rarely wavered and meant I could, you know, get stuff done. Coffee, work, eat, work, walk, coffee (decaf), work, snacks / talk to mum, work, 5.30pm, the end. But this third act has seized my ability to concentrate on tasks for longer than, oof, ten minutes. A number of contributing factors here that I won’t bore you with, but likely you’ve experienced at least some of them over the course of this year and, as such, focus isn’t up to pre-pandemic scratch. Far from. Advice: give yourself a break. The curation of GOOP-style meditations – including Focus, De-Stress. Grounding, Protection, Breath and more – are properly calming (though some do veer into ‘too chatty’ territory, at times). This is the good kind of distraction, to alleviate the effects of the not-so-good daily distractions (starts with I, ends with M.)
And now, to the weekly horoscope. Which I guess I should have read at the start of the week but whatever – we’re all masters of reflections by this point, so let’s play a game of true or false. Muses, it says, “show up as friends offering the warmth you need,” or “the beauty of a perfectly timed, spontaneous connection.” Interesting. Some backstory: when I go into myself – and not necessarily in a way that is actually beneficial - I will really shut down. Go off grid. I won’t call, texts will go unanswered. When spirits are low, the mind manipulates, feeds you a narrative that your loved ones don’t want the woe is me version of you. They want the high. Though, that’s not the real take. Great friends are there to listen, to encourage you to see things from a slightly different perspective, to force you out of your hobbit hole. Which is exactly what a number of dear friends have done for me this week. On a walk with one of them, I ended up bumping into another friend I hadn’t seen since last summer. “It was a magical moment,” he WhatsApped me later. Or, according to the CHANI gospel, a spontaneous connection. True.
Do I believe in horoscopes? Like, the actual science part? Mm, I’m not so sure. That doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy them. Inhale the messages of hope and encouragement. Even if you don’t believe your personal footprints are written in the stars, or the sun, or the moon, you can still use the app as a virtual meditative toolkit in some way. At least, I did. And hey, it gave me the impetus to finish this article. And for that, I am eternally grateful.