Photography provided by Chani Nicholas

I’ve been a fair-weather fan of woo-woo most of my life, with fluctuating enthusiasm about astrology. But my interest has grown in recent years (particularly after enduring my first Saturn return), which lumps me in with the majority of millennials, who are apparently all about it, according to the Atlantic.

So it was an apt birthday present when my sister-in-law gifted me A Workshop for Eclipse Season and the Astrology of July 2–30 courtesy of acclaimed astrology counselor Chani Nicholas. She is the media’s go-to gal when it comes to reading the stars and imparts her wisdom and wit upon the world via her clever and cheeky Instagram account. And if Oprah trusts her to be the resident astrologer for OprahMag.com, I can trust her to guide me through my birth month.

Turns out it’s been an astrologically significant month, what with two eclipses (one on July 2 and one on July 16, my birthday), a whopping 24 days dealing with Mercury retrograde, and of course Cancer season all intertwined. Nicholas explains that eclipse season is a highly transformative time of beginnings and endings, “urging us to cut the fat, honor our limits and let go of what is taking up too much space in our psyche.”

The July 2 eclipse was a total solar eclipse that helped “point out the places where we have let our loneliness, shame, pain or guilt remain unconscious,” she notes. “Covering up hard-to-feel feelings is a very important survival strategy at certain stages of our life, but one that mostly fails us as we journey through these shadowlands. Right now we are asked to understand in greater depth what we generally push into the closets of our unconscious.”

And then there was the eclipse last Tuesday, July 16 (again, in case you’ve forgotten, my birthday), which was a partial lunar eclipse that encouraged us to “purge what has invaded our systems and clarify any of the more unhelpful emotional patterns we have let steer our ways of working.” In other words, cleaning up all that we uncovered during the first eclipse.

But these aren’t just brief moments in time. “While the astronomy of an eclipse happens in a couple of hours, the astrology of it happens slowly over time,” Nicholas explains. “Important events tend to constellate around eclipses, but their meaning unfolds over the months and years in which they take place.”

Meanwhile, we have Mercury retrograde complicating matters, although Nicholas suggests we take it all in stride: “Though it is indeed known for its ability to jumble communications, get us lost and cause key components of our projects to go missing, Mercury retrograde isn’t to be feared.” In fact, it’s a great time to reflect, edit, clean and clear out what’s cluttering our path, she explains.

So what does it all mean? Well, as Nicholas puts it, “the entire month of July might feel like a sleight-of-hand trick that reveals what we are generally too busy to take note of — but when things go a little awry, we are forced to understand.” It just might be the perfect time for us to hear what the universe is telling us, trust in what’s written in the stars and do some of this challenging yet oh so important introspective work.