We’ve reached the last stages of our journey on the Rainbow Bridge—aka the Chakra System—and I hope you’re as excited as I am, peaceful dumplings. Entering into the uppermost chakras, which govern our spiritual and intellectual identities, means that we’ve mastered or confronted many key aspects of our physical and emotional selves. This is no small feat, especially since many people never achieve such self-awareness or even recognize its necessity to a balanced life.
This also means, however, that the last steps require the deepest levels of introspection and a willingness to let go of the connections we’ve worked hard to forge with ourselves. In the sixth and seventh chakras—light and thought—our individuality flows into a more universal state of existence. It means realizing that each of us is worthy not only in and of ourselves but also because we’re part of something larger. And for some—including me—this can be a daunting concept. Over time and practice, though, transitioning between the self and the universal can become more fluid and natural; and, as Judith points out in her final chapters, having such dynamic energy and focus is the very goal of chakra work.
Chakra Six: Ajna
In the last set of chakras, we discovered emotional and creative balance, the areas where we begin to branch out into relationships with others and experience our emotional and intellectual contributions to a greater cause. In the ajna chakra, represented by the color indigo and the element of light, we transcend those boundaries even further by turning more inward. Also called the “third eye,” this chakra is anchored in the forehead and gives us the ability to self-reflect, visualize, dream, and imagine. From this place, energy can flow downward and manifest itself into action in chakras five and three. But it also thrives on its own terms as the defining “vision” of what we can and wish to do in the world.
As was true with chakra five, the developmental stages of the higher chakras are less rigidly bound by age than the lower chakras are. This is because deeper self-awareness can occur at all points in life and to differing degrees depending on life events. Ajna generally forms in adolescence, when we begin to establish our originality by identifying with archetypal figures. These can be spiritually-based, like the Great Mother or the Hero, or versions of these figures we know from our own lives, like athletes or musicians. Each chakra also has an archetype associated with it; if you’ve found, as I have, that you identify with or have more trouble in certain of the chakras, that might be your archetypal self waiting to be unblocked. Indeed, often times these archetypes reflect a part of ourselves that is immersed in shadow; chakra two allows us to confront our shadow selves emotionally, but now the confrontation occurs at a more conscious level. The light eradicates the darkness.
Identification with social archetypes can be helpful in discovering hidden or repressed parts of ourselves, but it can also result in illusions—the false visions that are the demon of the sixth chakra. In Western culture, we are bombarded with images of unrealistic body types and lifestyles, and when we take these in too much they can cloud the third eye. When an illusion is given too much energy, it can result in obsession, focusing on one issue, or a delusion, which creates unreal scenarios around one theme; both of these cause us to lose connection with chakra one. Indeed, as noted previously sending too much energy into the upper chakras can cause and overall imbalance that prevents us from being able to physically manifest parts of our conscious minds. These dreamers or clairvoyants are overwhelmed by their visions, but live primarily in a world that no one else can see.
These traits are generally associated with an excessive sixth chakra, where visions have no basis in experience and fantasy blends seamlessly with reality. One of the primary means of accessing the sixth chakra, dreams, bleeds into waking life and blocks the connection with emotions, needs, and desires. But a deficient sixth chakra also results in a kind of blocked vision. This is a more literal blindness, as it may involve an impaired memory that defends against past abuses, general vision troubles, and difficulty realizing possibilities and potentialities beyond their existing reality. There is little to no capacity for dreaming or for knowing one’s place in the world. Shame throughout one’s life can lead to this kind of blindness, as it teaches us to rely on denial or avoidance in order to feel more secure.
When ajna is healthy and balanced, much can be achieved within and without of the boundaries of the self. Vision allows us to look into the past, present, and future and ascribe our actions with motivation to achieve change, going beyond needs and instincts that fuel action from the lower chakras. We can identify patterns in our lives and behaviors good and bad , and this kind of recognition can help us foresee an outcome and decide to act in certain way. This can also happen on an unconscious level via intuition. When we let go of the restraints of the conscious mind, we can surrender into a more imaginative state that is necessary to infiltrate the cosmic world. Social norms often hinder this letting go of logic and reason, which can lead to deficiencies in chakra six. But through visual exercises, including visual-based meditation, visual art, and simply being exposed to enough natural light, the ajna can become a streak-free window to the soul.
One of the most revelatory aspects of this chakra for me was the connection to dreams. I always considered myself a visual person—in my memory and sense of creativity—but while reading Judith’s chapter I realized that I rarely remember my dreams when I wake up in the morning. This might be a deficiency or, paradoxically, the result of over-using my sixth chakra during waking hours (it needs to rest, too, apparently!). Either way, I’ve resolved before going to bed each night this week to remember my dreams and be present in them, and I’m amazed by all that happens in my mind when I’m asleep. Opening this pathway to my unconscious has helped me be more intuitive with myself and with others, and continue to work on my weak sense of grounding.
Chakra Seven: Sahasrara
The most difficult to reach and describe, chakra seven is the ultimate goal of our energetic journey. Emanating from the crown of the head in violet hues, it is the seat of self-knowledge and divinity. Here, we let go completely of our attachment to the physical self and sprout outward into the thousand-petal lotus that is its symbol, one that as it reaches toward the heavens is also firmly rooted in the ground and nourished by the soil and water, air and light. Integrating all the chakras thusly, it allows for a complete cycle of energy that is the keystone of an open and balanced chakra system.
A discussion of consciousness is perhaps deeper than the space this article allows for, but Judith does an admirable job in distilling its many facets into a digestible form. It may seem fairly obvious what consciousness is given its ubiquity in conversation and culture, but it’s more than just “thoughts.” Rather, it is what creates thoughts: as Judith calls it, a “unified field in which all of existence is embedded.” Even the most balance sixth chakra might have trouble visualizing this, and this is okay: sahasrara isn’t meant to be dwelt in full-time. Surprisingly, it also doesn’t necessarily require a lot of focused attention. Simply witnessing, in a nonjudgmental yet penetrating way, is enough. By embracing the Witness self inside us, we achieve a kind of divinity that sits just outside of attachment, emotion, and intuitions. One common manifestation of the seventh chakra is belief systems, such as religion, that allow us to focus energy on a divine figure and seek transcendence through faith in that figure. Judith criticizes quite forcefully the failings of organized religion in achieving “true” divinity, since throughout history various churches and religions have exacted punishment and extreme behaviors toward non-believers—the exact opposite means to achieving a universal wholeness free of judgment. Nonetheless, finding a personal relationship to a divinity within in any capacity nourishes the seventh chakra.
Whenever knowledge is withheld or beliefs are invalidated—something often occurs to children—the seventh chakra suffers. Such doubts can cause either closed-mindedness and an inability to compromise or learn new things—a deficiency—or an over-stimulation of the mind as a means of defense against confronting reality and needs that may be denied by others. In either case, clearing sahasrara can be achieved by simply letting go of these attachments. This is, I know, easier said than done. The yoga instructor who recommended this book to me advocates weekly for meditation, a practice that I find difficult and frustrating. But in making a conscious effort to integrate meditation into my routine, as I’ve tried with my dreaming, I’ve found that it does come more naturally over time. Judith also recommends other strategies that involve seeking information in activities like reading, which all help to expand our ability to know, including knowing ourselves. This knowledge is the only truth we need to live fully integrated and balanced lives.
Over the course of the past several weeks, Eastern Body, Western Mind has brought to my attention perhaps even more areas in which I can improve myself and well being than I was aware of. There were several times when the prospect of achieving balance in all seven areas seemed impossible: everything was either excessive or deficient, or even sometimes both. I have much more going on than a pulled muscle, as I partially suspected.
But stepping away from the book, I realize that what may be too much or too little now may not be the same things tomorrow, next week, or in ten years. My life will always be changing, but when I know as I do now what my tendencies and the core issues driving them are I can more easily adapt to those changes. I understand and appreciate my own dynamic existence, and all the beautiful colors that I comprise.
One of my favorite yoga mantras translates to “may all beings everywhere be happy and free,” and the chakras seem to promote that idea of unconditional acceptance and self worth. And with these powerful wheels of energy newly activated in me, each time I chant those words on my mat I’ll include myself in that benediction for all life, and take greater comfort in the fact that my striving for inner peace is ultimately contributing to that of the entire world.
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Photo: blueathena via Flickr