How To Use Astrology To Understand Your Purpose In Life
One of the most common questions I receive as an astrologer is, "Can you help me find my purpose?" Fortunately, the answer is yes—this is one of astrology's best uses. For the past 10 years, I have been researching purpose-related aspects and placements in charts, compiling a system to help people find—and embrace—their paths in the world.
What is dharma mapping?
Dharma mapping is the name of my method of identifying someone's unique karmic plans for this lifetime. Dharma is a Sanskrit word that can be translated as "divine service" or "life purpose."
Many people assume their purpose relates to something professional. This, however, is not always the case. Most individuals do have planetary placements related to their career in their astrology charts, but dharma can relate to any—or multiple—area(s) of life.
Dharma and karma.
I see everything in a birth chart as karmic: reflective of the complete plans of a soul. Karma is another Sanskrit word that classically refers to the "results of actions," and this definition applies here, as well. Karma includes accumulated energies from our past that are continuously informing the present.
I believe that if we've done something of lower integrity in a past life, we may have present-life challenges intended to help us understand the impact of our previous behavior. Difficult astrological placements, for example, can help us become more considerate, humble, and compassionate. Favorable astrological placements, in contrast, may reflect previously developed skills or charitable actions.
With dharma mapping, I help people find suitable careers, but I also help them understand their soul's other objectives, such as healing wounds, contributing to their communities, and transforming family patterns.
Key astrological elements for finding your purpose.
The north node is the primary factor that reveals someone's dharma or destiny. The north node relates to the moon's orbit, and it is a point, not a planetary body. The moon is connected to our past; it is a keeper of memories and serves as a timer in astrology—bringing things into and out of focus.
The north node relates to where we are going in this life. The south node, 180 degrees opposite the north node, relates to where we've come from—in past lives and earlier in this life. The south node reflects the mastery we've achieved. It can also reveal weaknesses. If there are planets next to your south node, you came into this life with the talents (and challenges) suggested by those planets.
The sign of the south node expresses your "default" mode, and the north node shows the way you are evolving. By the time you are 18.5 (the age of your first nodal return, when the north node in the sky returns to its birth position), you will be tapping into the energy of your north node. You begin waking up to your potential, separate from who you were as a child (and in a past life).
An important thing to understand about the nodes is that they stay in the same sign for 1.5 years. Everyone born within a 1.5-year period has the same nodes. These individuals form a soul cohort, working on similar themes.
Because the north node is not highly specific, the location of the node is important. It indicates how someone's destiny manifests, so you'll want to locate which house your north node falls in. (Here's a refresher on how to find out.)
- North node in the first house: Your destiny or dharma relates to self-development and self-expression.
- North node in the second house: Your dharma involves money, security, and the material world.
- North node in the third house: Your destiny includes writing, teaching, and communicating. There will usually also be an important relationship with a sibling.
- North node in the fourth house: Indicates a destiny to be a mother or work through important lessons with the family of origin.
- North node in the fifth house: Focuses on love, children, recreation, and creative expression.
- North node in the sixth house: Your dharma relates to health, pets, and service. These people have a clear work-related destiny.
- North node in the seventh house: Indicates relationship-focused, soul-mate-oriented dharma.
- North node in the eighth house: Associated with deep psychological work and healing. There may be an important death that happens in the lives of these individuals. This is hard, but it is a planned part of their growth.
- North node in the ninth house: Relates to a destiny to be a literal or figurative "explorer," including the possibility of living in or working with other cultures.
- North node in the 10th house: Signifies important career/leadership dharma. These individuals are meant to be public figures, CEOs/COOs, and/or famous. This placement indicates a (most likely) preplanned career that is important to the soul's goals.
- North node in the 11th house: Reflects a socially minded individual whose dharma involves affecting the community or working with groups.
- North node in the 12th house: You have a spiritual or highly humanitarian destiny. Intuitive gifts are possible, as is a desire to foster unity and love on the planet.
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Sun, moon, rising, and ruler.
I believe our soul uses astrology to plan and communicate multiple details about our intended lives. While the north node shows a key area of focus, the sun, moon, and rising signs reveal additional gifts (and challenges) relevant to our paths.
The sun sign shows the primary energetic themes an individual is working with and through. At the elemental level, fire signs are learning about action, earth signs are learning about stability, air signs are learning about thought, and water signs are learning about emotions.
The moon, like the south node, suggests probable past-life abilities and experiences. Rising signs indicate talents and traits we effortlessly display. The ruler of the ascendant reveals associated characteristics and themes that often describe how (and where) your purpose manifests. If the concept of planetary rulerships is new to you, here's a quick summary:
Creating the map.
For most people, dharma is revealed through a synthesis of multiple chart features that come together to create a multilayered map for the soul. Here's how to create yours:
- Find your north node. Its sign and house location reveal a central orienting purpose for your life.
- Look at your sun, moon, and rising signs. Your dharma includes themes represented by these signs. For example, I am a Scorpio with Cancer rising and a Virgo moon. My purpose involves divine service (Virgo) helping people transform (Scorpio) with compassion (Cancer). The sun, moon, and rising come together to summarize the key objectives of a soul.
- Study the ruler of your rising sign to understand subtle details of how your purpose manifests. The ruler's house, sign, and aspects reveal useful nuances about the intended execution of your karmic assignments.
- Notice the location of your sun. The sun's house and aspects reveal ways your natural gifts can be expressed. Challenging aspects to your sun show obstacles your soul must overcome. The planetary ruler of your sun and its location show an additional soul assignment, as well as a locus of power. If it is in the fourth house, for example, you have karma related to working through family issues. You will also source significant energy from your home environment.
- The sixth and 10th houses reveal how your work expresses your dharma. This is often what people want to know when they come to an astrologer regarding their purpose. It is helpful, however, to understand that purpose can include many things, from a challenging sibling relationship to a humbling health issue. For some people, "growth work" takes a dominant role. Others are more clearly "serving."
To understand the part of your dharma related to career:
Look at the signs on your sixth and 10th house cusps. The career will ideally incorporate both of those energies. Additionally, the second house cusp reveals something about how money is made.
Find the rulers of the signs on the sixth and 10th house cusps. The ruler of the sixth house's location (and sign) shows where and how we can be of notable karmic service. The ruler of the 10th house's location (and sign) shows where and how we can be of notable public impact. If either ruler lands in the other house (10th house ruler in sixth or sixth house ruler in 10th), career is doubly emphasized.
Examine the north node. If it is in the sixth or 10th house, career is essential to the purpose of your soul. For all other locations, the information conveyed by the north node's sign and house can be incorporated into the career for maximum contentment.
Check for planets in your sixth and 10th houses. These show energies the soul is intending to use in its career. If these gifts are not given, the soul will feel a sense of lack or frustration.
Finally, observe the remaining planets scattered around your chart. These represent parts of your purpose that may be incorporated into your career, especially if they form aspects to planets in your sixth or 10th houses, or the MC line (10th house cusp). Alternatively, they reflect elements of your purpose to be expressed in other areas of your life.
Most people move in the direction of their talents, abilities, and purpose, even without astrology's guidance. Astrology can, however, help us use our time more efficiently.
If what you are doing, personally or professionally, is not fulfilling, you have possibly gotten off track or are working through a wound. If this is your situation, look within your chart. Every astrologic detail reveals your soul's intentions, with clues to orient you to your path.
One of the greatest gifts of astrology is that it encourages us to live consciously. Rejecting our lives is unlikely to create healing. Compassionately embracing and working through challenges lays the foundation for transformation. Mapping your dharma can help you find purpose, and walking your path with love can help you find peace.
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Kayse Budd, M.D., aka The Astro Muse, is a holistic psychiatrist, astrologer, artist, and yogi. Based in SoCal, she is presently a digital nomad. Budd worked at the Chopra Center from 2017-2019 as an intuitive astrologer and integrative psychiatrist. Before Chopra, she taught for Andrew Weil’s Center for Integrative Medicine for 8 years.
She is a co-author of the Handbook of Wellness Medicine, has published multiple articles as a staff writer for Chopra, and has been featured in Vogue. She loves using astrology to help individuals find their paths, and families understand their children. She calls herself The Astro Muse because her primary goal is to inspire you.