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Astrology Apps & Digital Tarot Pulls: The Rise Of Spiritual Tech

Emma Loewe
February 9, 2018
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Photo by Marko Milovanović
February 9, 2018

For centuries, spiritual practices meant downward dogs, seated meditations, and steady, controlled breaths: rituals that help us withdraw from the outside and look within. But now, in a tech-crazed age, we can access a sense of spirit using small icons on our smartphones.

How is spirituality changing with the times?

Nearly 1,000 meditation apps are now available, with big players like Headspace ushering in 16 million downloads as of last year and raising nearly $100 million in investments. Others like Calm, Insight Timer, and Aura are also supporting millions of people through every phase of their meditation journeys. This rise of meditation apps, and app culture in general (as of last month, 2.2 million mobile apps were available for iOS download), has made way from more niche spiritual offerings to appear on our screens too. Golden Thread Tarot lets users "mirror the digital experience with the physical" by programming their tarot decks into a mobile version that they can call on at any moment. iLuna lets downloaders track the moon through its phases and gives advice on how to live in greater communion with this natural cycle. Most recently came Co-Star, a sleek astrology app that allows users to access their natal charts and compare them with their friends'. When it first launched late last year, it repeatedly crashed due to demand—over 1,000 downloads an hour at times. The app, which uses NASA data to generate personalized daily horoscopes, continues to appeal to millennials craving a new wave of astrology: one that is easily accessible, stylish, and shareable.

Banu Guler, one of the app's co-creators, says that, unlike other forms of social media that can spur feelings of jealousy and insecurity, Co-Star can help people relate to one another from a more authentic, stripped-down place. "These days, people are using astrology to talk about who they are and how they're different from others in a super-nonthreatening way," she tells mbg.

When asked how she felt about the increasing digitization of age-old practices like astrology, Guler said that she thought it was only the beginning. "When people are getting their iPhones fixed, they almost look like broken humans. Technology is touching every aspect of our lives; it's only a matter of time before everything becomes a sort of technological version of itself."

Can technology and spirituality actually coexist?

Technology can overwhelm us; that much has been proved. A constant ping of emails, texts, and notifications is not conducive to any kind of mindfulness. There's certainly irony in the idea that the very thing that is stressing us out is also becoming a means of reprieve and reconnection. But maybe it's not always a bad thing.

After downloading Co-Star a few weeks ago, I found value in it immediately, but not in the way I was expecting. While reading through my daily horoscope in the morning was an entertaining way to start the day, it started to make me anxious for the hours that lay ahead. When I saw "challenges" pop up in my astrology forecast, it was like a roadblock had appeared before I'd even left my apartment. However, reading my horoscope at night provided a kind of framework for reflection. It pushed me to think about what had transpired across my home, social, and work life more than I probably would have otherwise. In this way, it's become a little bit like a journal or gratitude practice—slowly winding down to analyze what had happened, then release it.

When used like this—judiciously and in tandem with other, IRL soulful practices—spiritual apps can add 21st-century convenience to some of our most beloved and powerful practices. However, technology still holds an inherent risk (which mbg discussed at length in our 2018 wellness forecast), and apps can easily strip down a spiritual practice into something unrecognizable. Like all other tech, they need to be used mindfully, as a backup but not a crutch. So go forth and use your phone to pull a tarot spread or check out your date's rising sign, but maybe think about turning it on airplane mode afterward.

Reached the point where you feel overwhelmed by tech? We've all been there. Here are nine strategies to help you disconnect and recharge.

Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.