Melting into divine desire

But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin. Aldous Huxley

Somewhere along the line, I learned the idea that desire was a bad thing. As a child I was told I was being selfish and greedy to express my desire for things. “You’ll get what you’re given. Like it or lump it” was the general philosophy.

Like Oliver Twist asking for some extra gruel, some authorative voice boomed at my requests “More? Who dares to ask for more?”

I do. I dare. Having played the cards of meekness, detachment and acceptance for many years – and although all these qualities have their place – I realise that this desire is what fuels me. Desire, passion, yearning have been instrumental in my evolution. They stretch me beyond my safe zone.

The fear that was instilled in me is that desire and passion makes us reckless, makes us take risks. Yes, it does. And that’s exactly its power.

I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become. Carl Jung

When I began my experiential journey into the chakra system through Chakradance, there were three chakras that were obviously underactive. My base or root chakra, which reflected a belief the world was an unsafe place. My solar plexus chakra, which reflected a suppression of my own power, and my throat chakra, which reflected an inability to speak out, and to express myself.

This last year I have held the position of the knight on the druid ceremonial wheel. In the tarot the knight is the somewhat “young, dumb and full of cum” archetypal youthful male energy. He has much passion but sometimes lacks the forethought and planning that comes of experience.

So why would this archetypal energy be something I needed to embody this year? I think because I have generally played it too safe. After a somewhat disastrous rebellous streak that left me burnt out and washed up at 25, since then I have been too afraid of self-destruction to really live passionately. 

Often the wisdom of the body clarifies the despair of the spirit. Marion Woodman

It was time for that to change. Now in my forties I have plenty of insight and experience but I often lacked the conviction in my passion and the ability for wild abandon. There are some aspects of life that just aren’t meant to be played safe.

You’d think I wasn’t someone who played it safe. I spent years walking the razor’s edge of drug and alcohol addiction, last year despite being warned off continuously, even by total strangers, I made a solo trip to India. I do try to live by my heart’s passions, but that doesn’t mean I find it easy. 

Taking even a small risk often involves a great leap over a mountain of anxiety. Like most addicts, and contrary to popular belief, I am not a naturally hedonistic thrill-seeker, but rather someone who found ways to compensate for my fears and insecurity. Now stone cold sober I have to find other means to fuel my courage.

An addiction to anything we do to avoid hearing the message the body and soul are trying to send us. Marion Woodman

In love I see this polarity most obviously. I want to dive into love with an open heart and mind. But as soon as all my emotional baggage, from past hurts and rejection, starts to be triggered, I find myself in a somewhat schizoid state. One day easy-going and open-hearted, the next anxious, needy and suspicious. It’s no fun for my love interest, I’m sure. Even less for me as it’s completely beyond my control.

The trick seems to be allowing this emotional pendulum to swing with a degree of compassionate detachment, and without acting out on the extremes. And I am so not there yet…

I have written much about my first week in India, when I travelled solo to Rishikesh. The time was marked by a sense of being welcomed and supported by the divine, particularly in the form of my beloved Ganesha and the river goddess Ganga Ma.

I can tell you that it takes great strength to surrender. You have to know that you are not going to collapse. Instead, you are going to open to a power that you don’t even know, and it is going to come to meet you. In the process of healing, this is one of the huge things that I have discovered. People recognized the energy coming to meet them. When they opened to another energy, a love, a divine love, came through to meet them. That is what is known as grace. Marion Woodman

Surprisingly writing about the second half of my trip – travelling to Varanasi to connect with a large group of women led by Alana Fairchild in the Grace of the Golden Goddess retreat – has taken longer to percolate into a post.

I had been so excited about this week of moving meditations and rituals devoted to various Hindu deities, so I was surprised when on the first day I felt subsumed by a sense of unworthiness and shame. 

Alana had requested we bring something for the altar and I had brought my wedding ring. I wanted to hand over to the divine my lack of success in love. I also wanted to make some kind of atonement. I had made a solemn vow to God and another person in front of all my family and friends, twice, and twice had been unable to keep that promise. 

Living by principles is not living your own life. It is easier to try to be better than you are than to be who you are. Marion Woodman

It had seemed like such a grand idea to seek this ritual of completion in Varanasi, the sacred Hindu cremation ground. As such I had worn the ring in India as a kind of deterrent to men – which admittedly didn’t work! But it did stir something in me, a desire to experience a committed loving relationship again. 

As I sat in this room preparing to place the symbol of my failure in love on the altar, I felt wretched. I could have happily got on the next train back to Rishikesh. 

Instead I took a big breath and during a short break I faced Alana and told her how I was feeling. I didn’t know her then, I didn’t know what a deeply caring and compassionate woman she is. I just saw a glamazon in a fabulous silk kaftan. It felt like a risk to admit my vulnerabilities to such a powerhouse.

But she was calm and smiled and told me that of course, as I was preparing to open myself to divine grace and blessings of abundance, that all my doubts and insecurities would bubble up. She said “That’s good. The work has begun.” It was all part of the process.

At the very point of vulnerability is where the surrender takes place – that is where the god enters. The God comes through the wound. Marion Woodman

As she said this I knew she was right, although the the feelings were still overwhelming, I was able to stay and participate in the ritual. Later something dropped for me, one of those head-to-heart moments, something I had known but not really understood the profound implications of. That whatever I open myself up to in life, love, success, joy, the very blocks inside of me to all those things will instantly rise up. That booming voice “who are you to ask for more!”

Dance is a powerful way to move and shift our energy, allowing blocks to surface and be healed. Moving meditations combines the power of the shamanic dance journey with guided meditation to create a space for our subtle energy to move, for blocks to release, for spontaneous soul healing to occur. Like with Chakradance, in a sacred space with intention and resonant sound, the soul will find its healing, it’s equilibrium.

The drop excavates the stone, not by force but by falling often. Ovid

In the moving meditation that followed, I made my offering to the altar and was ritually blessed by Shiva’s trident. The ritual involved offering and opening ourselves upon Shiva’s sacred ground, in readiness to be purified to receive the grace of the golden goddess, Lakshmi.

There were many tears, so much grief, as I released my flawed attempts at love. In the dance I saw all my failures in love, my first boyfriend, my marriages, my last – still deeply held – love, at first with sadness, shame, grief, but then as I moved, it shifted to compassion for them and for myself. 

I began to see that in the face of many obstacles, youth, immaturity, inexperience, addictions, dysfunctional and abusive childhoods, the valiant attempts we had all made to love each other as best we could in spite of our respective wounds. I saw the lessons we had learned, the healing that had happened in amongst the pain. 

The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings. Carl Jung

When I reached the review of my last love, the tears were pouring down my face. I saw the immensity of our love, the sheer capacity of my heart for love and passion. It was exquisitely beautiful.

The feeling of shame and failure left me, replaced by a sense that everything had happened as it needed to, for me and for them. It was time to let go and create space for the beautiful energies Alana was calling in for us.

This emptying out was necessary to receive the divine gifts that Lakshmi, and the other deities would offer across our week of dancing rituals. Lakshmi brought the golden light of choice, receptivity and grace. Letting go of what has completed knowing there is new energy waiting to come in.

For many of us being dragged towards wholeness happens precisely through the mysterious process of wishing: through the gaps it exposes, the new edges it drives us towards, the deeper layers of longing it reveals. Marion Woodman 

After many years of profound religious experiences in Chakradance, in nature, and in sacred ritual, I know better than to try to capture the experience in words. During the week working with Alana, I felt direct and powerful connections with the deities we invoked. I had profound realisations, releases, and shifts. And yet like many other experiences I have had, I know there is a long period of integration. A time where these shifts that happen at the spiritual and energetic level slowly manifest into my physical reality. This work of the soul is not magic. Although it certainly feels like magic at the time. 

The journey I had with Lakshmi and Vishnu where I offered myself for a marriage, a true partnership with the divine, was as elaborate, joyful and decadent as a Bollywood grand finale. But the grand vision is not the point. The point is that in this sacred space I made a vow to live in divine partnership, to make my life out of a constant prayer to the divine of “show me.”

What I have come to understand, or think I understand, is that these shifts, these experiences are real and profound but subtle. That is, they occur at the level of our subtle energy. In order for real change, over the weeks and months that followed, I was repeatedly tested. Would I fall back into old ways, or deepen these new subtle energies into lasting change.

What this often means is that when faced with a choice, I have one foot in either crossroad, and I have to ask myself which is my true, courageous choice, my true heart’s desire. Not always easy when old neural pathways of fear and unworthiness run so deep. But oh how I long to embody this fearlessness of heart.

There’s a point at which one must start caring where one fixes one’s vision on high. Don a mantle of vision and daring. Tis where the water meets the sky. David Whalen

Longing, ah, that’s what drives me. A desire, a yearning for some deeper and more satisfying experience of life. 

I used to think this tendency for yearning was, at best, a quirk of my Irish DNA, and at worst, a serious design flaw, that never allowed for true contentment or satisfaction.

“You’re never happy.” My mother would say to me as a child, and now I realise she recognised that because it mirrored her own stifled yearnings, she felt it too.

In one of Alana’s sessions, we went around the room and gave a word to describe how we were feeling, I said “longing, yearning.” It was true, the work thus far had shifted much grief and sadness, but left me with a great hunger for something to fill the gap. It was a deep desire from my heart. We were about to embark on a ritual to call in the divine masculine, and as much as I quake at times in the presence of the masculine, I longed for it.

Alana validated this yearning of mine for the first time. She said the divine is drawn to our longing for it. Like a person who greets you with open arms and great excitement, the divine is drawn to those who truly desire it. 

In the dance I tapped into this great yearning, this desire to be truly seen in all my passion with the multitude of love I have inside me, that I have held back because it always seemed like too much for people. I was never happy because I was never truly seen, valued, held. How could I be loved when I was invisible? Or just a blank screen for others to project their shadow or desires onto?

When I show my desire to the divine, it matches it with love, grace and power. 

In your body is the garden of flowers. Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the infinite beauty. Kabir

During this somewhat magical week in Varanasi, where we alternated between deeply profound rituals and raucous bus trips to explore the city, I really connected with shakti, the power or energy that is the attribute of the goddess. Shakti is the strong life force that animates all action, or as Diane Eck describes it the “can-do capacity for any activity.” 

Primarily through Lakshmi, but also the myriad of other expressions of divine shakti – Radha, Kali, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Ganga – I finally tapped into the full expression of my power. 

Shakti is what we harness in Chakradance, and even prior to going to India, I had increasingly had visions of Hindu goddesses, especially around the energy of my throat chakra, Vissudha, or purification. 

Now I am not talking here of boundless passion so unchecked that it bypasses all reason and respect for real limitations. Instead this is the desire that produces creativity. This is the spark and the subsequent electricity that propels thought into movement and action. 

Even the gods are powerless without the kinetic energy of shakti. Diane Eck

Shakti begins as the kundalini energy coiled up at the base chakra, once she is activated she moves up the energetic column along the spine, connecting with the shiva energy at the crown chakra. Shiva represents consciousness and shakti the activating force that brings consciousness into action. Once activated these energies continue to flow up and down the spine, activating and enlivening our chakras and our subtle energy body.

Fear is the great block of the base chakra, feeling unsafe, insecure in the world. For me, this fear had very much stifled my shakti. By continuing to work with my base chakra, through yoga, chanting, grounding practices and moving meditations like Chakradance, gradually this energy has begun to move and become vital once more.

A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth. Marion Woodman

When I danced in the energies of my past loves in Varanasi last year, I felt a deep sorrow when I reconnected with the depth and intensity of the love I felt for the man I have loved for the last seven years. Having gone our separate ways for a year I truly believed our time together had gone, and I mourned it deeply. 

But spirit had other ideas. As the power of the rituals and my time in India percolated within me, as my intense longing grew, so within him a great healing began. And in the New Year, tentatively, we reunited.

I would like to say it has a fairytale ending, but we all know fairy tales never ended that way until Disney got a hold on them. And like a traditional folk tale, our union is one that challenges us both. For me, this has been a true test of my ability to let desire guide me, to melt into it. Becoming vulnerable to this love has raised all my demons, my insecurity, my fear of betrayal and abandonment. And yet we stumble on, blinded by the light of this great electric pull of our desire.

Given our story, and the ways in which we have reconnected after our many times apart. I cannot help but believe this is a divine desire. 

So I let myself melt.

This is the point where love becomes possible. We see the other with the eye of the heart, an eye not clouded by fear manifesting as need, jealousy, possessiveness, or manipulation. With the unclouded eye of the heart, we can see the other as other. We can rejoice in the other, challenge the other, and embrace the other without losing our own center or taking anything away from the other. We are always other to each other — soul meeting soul, the body awakened with joy. To love unconditionally requires no contracts, bargains, or agreements. Love exists in the moment-to-moment flux of life. Marion Woodman

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Try Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul

If your interest is piqued in attending one of Alana Fairchild’s transformative sessions, you can find her here alanafairchild.com/

The places that scare you

When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armour, like armour that imprisons the softness of the heart. Pema Chodron

I wake early and sit on the verandah of my little Balinese bungalow. The ocean roars below. Dawn is breaking. A pair of small bats flap around and through the rafters of the row of huts. They pelt past me, ducking and weaving through wooden pillars and trees. I watch in awe.

Blind as a bat, that’s how the saying goes and yet they navigate with apparent ease. I’m pulled between feelings of admiration and a mild fear that one will come crashing into my head.

This torque between awe and fear captures my experience in Bali. Quite possibly it epitomises my reaction to life in general.

There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. Alan Watts

This place is beautiful but a little unsafe. No, not really unsafe. Unfamiliar. There are imagined disasters at every turn. Can I leave my son in the bungalow for an hour to go to yoga? What if something happens to him? What if I get hit by a scooter? What if we get sick? What if I lose all our money? What if there’s a tsunami? A volcanic ash cloud? What if we get stuck here and I run out of money? What if I chose the wrong place to stay? What if we are too isolated here? What if…?

These thoughts have plagued the early hours of the morning. Waking me from a blissful tropical sleep into heart-pounding anxiety. It is said that the body doesn’t differentiate between a real or an imagined experience. And here I lie in paradise traumatising myself with imagined disaster scenarios.

The human ego prefers anything, just about anything, to falling, or changing, or dying. The ego is that part of you that loves the status quo – even when it’s not working. It attaches to past and present and fears the future. Richard Rohr

This same torque exists within me, a strong need for security coupled with an adventurous and inquisitive spirit. There is absolutely no way to quell these needs simultaneously, there are always choices that serve one but not the other. And I feel ever pulled in different directions. 

Anxiety is a strange beast. It’s been with me forever and yet I am only just starting to see its pervasiveness. I think in the past I had a host of coping mechanisms – not good ones it has to be said, but temporarily effective. 

These strategies seemed to mask and divert my anxiety into manageable, material things. I felt anxious but I had a solution, I just needed a drink, a drug, a man, a family sized tub of Haagen Dazs…

The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet. Alan Watts

Then there is the strategy of control and micromanaging. It goes like this, if I keep my life small, contained and manageable, if I stick to the list of things I can’t do because they scare me, then I keep anxiety at bay. Well, that’s the theory.

Except I discovered none of these things actually works in the long term. Like a hyper-resistant virus, anxiety soon finds a way through all my defences. “Ha ha it says. You can’t beat me!” It’s like the ever confident poker player always willing to raise me one more until I fold.

So what to do then?

Nothing goes away until it teaches you what you need to know. Pema Chodron

So what does my anxiety have to teach me? Paradoxically I think it teaches me to be brave. I know that sounds crazy but bear with me here.

When every day, all day, every little decision, every action scares you, it means you are constantly overcoming fear. Unlike someone who lives in the illusion of security, an anxious person is only too aware of the unstable nature of life, inherent is suffering, misfortune and ultimately death. 

The trick is to be at peace with this awareness. It is how we react to the anxiety that makes the difference, not trying to get rid of the anxiety itself.

What lies beneath this anxiety about seemingly trivial things is the fear of no control, and ultimately the fear of suffering and death. Anxiety is borne of a lie that if things were a certain way, then I’d be okay. But in reality things are in constant flux and mostly out of my control.

The places that really scare us are within and not outside of ourselves. That’s the ruse. Anxiety makes us feel that the threat is out there, that there is safety and security to be found if only we manage well. 

Coming to Bali, leaving my son to go to yoga, all involves acting in face of these fears. The fear turns out to be an illusion. This acting in spite of my fear strengthens me for the next bout of fear. It teaches me to be present in the fear and act with integrity and courage anyway. It teaches me that although I have no control, I do have choice. 

The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. Pema Chodron 

Here I have none of my defences. I wear little clothes, no make-up. I have no job, no profession, no role. There is no schedule, no timelines. I am without my armoury. Without my anchors of familiarity and routine. In this free flowing unfolding of life my anxiety runs around like a headless chicken. “What if… What if… What if…”

After centering myself, reminding myself gently that I came to Bali to revisit my spirit of adventure, I say “Wouldn’t it be lovely to walk to yoga in my favourite studio in the whole world, knowing my son is completely safe and so am I.”

And that’s exactly how it goes.

Now I’m not saying bad things don’t happen. That’s not the point. The point is worrying and anxiety are not going to stop bad things from happening. And mostly those things are the ones we never see coming anyway. Like the coconut that fell from a tree missing my head by inches as my son and I walked to the pool. Didn’t see that coming! I didn’t wake at 5am worrying about having my skull caved in by a falling coconut…

The point is not to let fear poison and dominate my life’s experiences and choices. To as Pema Chodron says go to the places that scare you. Be present there, and live heart-fully in spite of fear. To accept my vulnerability in a world where quite possibly anything could happen. To be invigorated rather than petrified by this.

When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation, and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment. Pema Chodron 

All this has emerged as I feel the shift into my heart chakra. This year I have been allowing myself to flow through my chakras very slowly and intuitively. Last month I was enjoying the fiery energy of Manipura. And even as I finished writing my last post I could feel the shift into the heart centre.

The alchemy of surrender is a term used by astrologer Sarah Varcas. She uses it to describe the power that comes from embracing the state of unknowing. She talks about the shift that happens when we stop trying to think our way through uncertainty and begin to feel into it.

Over the past ten days I have remained present through my varying states from mild panic to complete calm and peace. Having just been attuned to reiki, I practiced this on myself and tuned into where the nervous energy was stuck in my body.

Anxiety is awareness without presence, just as fear is excitement without breathing. Russ Hudson

Anxiety is just energy. When you think about it, there’s very little difference between anxiety and excitement except the story the mind tells itself.

In yoga class, the teacher led us through pranayama breathing exercises. He reminded us that without proper breathing the energy cannot flow. Yoga asanas, or any energy raising practice for that matter, without breathing will raise energy but not move it, creating blocks and imbalances.

Anxiety is an energetic charge created by our mental perception. Breathing into the anxiety. Focusing on where it is being trapped in the body – both subtle and physical – allowing a compassionate observation of our thoughts and sensations, creating space for them, is a powerful way to transform anxiety into a mindfulness practice.

This is not something we do once or twice. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening the heart is the work of a lifetime. Pema Chodron

Anxiety and fear is a call to arms. Without it would I have pursued a spiritual solution? I doubt it. If not driven by my discomfort, what motivation would there have been for me to investigate meditation, yoga, Chakradance? That’s not to say that anxiety is all that motivates me, I have a connection to the spirit world that is precious and wonderful to me, but it was desperation that got me started.

For those of you who haven’t experienced anxiety it begins with a feeling of something running on a mouse-wheel in your chest. There’s a feeling of panic even if there’s no real sense of what the panic is about. It’s like feeling scared. 

People – the ones who don’t experience anxiety – will say it’s all in your head. Yes. Like real fear. That’s in your head too. And your body doesn’t distinguish between the two. For someone in the midst of an anxiety attack, they may as well be tied to the train tracks with the 4:32 fast approaching.

Anxiety certainly gets your attention. It’s hard to ignore that freight train rocking through your chest, the dry mouth, the pounding head, the urge to run. Maybe that’s the point. Anxiety wants me to pay attention. Like a parent who has asked politely twenty times for their child to come to dinner, anxiety ramps it up a notch just to get their attention.

We’re all very familiar with the experience of fear escalating, or the experience of running away from fear. But have we even taken the time to truly touch our fear, to be present with it and experience it fully? Do we know what it might mean to smile at fear? Pema Chodron

Meditation helps. It helps because it is a practice which disciplines us to let thoughts go, to not attach or overly identify with them. It helps because it brings awareness on to the breath, and breathing can become shallow when anxious, and breath moves energy through our subtle body. 

And it helps because it teaches us to just observe whatever state we may be in with loving compassion and a little detachment. In meditation I am present, aware, but not a slave to my thinking.

Someone once told me that the problem it not how we feel, it’s how we feel about how we feel. So when I’m anxious I have the choice to feel anxious about my anxiety – can you see the snowball effect of that line of thinking? 

Or I can choose to accept that I’m anxious, without reacting to it. This was a strategy I first encountered in Russ Harris’ book The Happiness Trap, but essentially it is the basis of many religious and contemplative practices. Begin in the now, with what is, accept it, breathe, refrain from judgement or reaction. Be an impassive observer of your own inner workings. Create a space between the feeling and the observing of the feeling.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. Pema Chodron

I know it sounds so simple, but it’s also really hard to unlearn years of habitual thinking. So I have found I need to be very gentle and compassionate with myself. Sometimes I react to my anxiety, that snowball starts rolling and I’m out of control.  And that’s okay. It always comes to a head and then I regroup. I meditate, I dance, I run, I do yoga. I sit on a stationary bike and pedal until all the nervous energy has burned out of me. I begin again.

I am sure much of my anxiety comes from a defensive self-protection. I want to be open to life, to explore, to love, to experience. 

Yet part of me feels that in the past when I have opened to life, to love, it has been a Trojan horse, which seemed at first, like a wondrous gift, but once within my walls, once it had me vulnerable, it attacked. After charming itself into my world it let me down in the most spectacular way. My heart hurts from this disappointment and betrayal. 

As much as I wish to be rendered new, these scars linger. But what if that’s the point? What could be more brave than keeping my heart open knowing that pain is inevitable?

A dark night of the soul is some of the most transformative times that we go through in our lives. They are sacred initiations. Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson talks of the modern tendency of pathologising of normal human suffering. Pain and suffering are part of life, we are built for it. As well as a physical immune system we have a psychic immune system. After a physical injury or illness we allow time for the bruises and scars to heal. The same goes for our psychic scars, after loss or sadness or disappointment there is a time when we feel bruised, and are healing. Time and self-compassion and acceptance is the way through this process. 

The thymus gland relates to the immune system in the body and is the gland that is located in the area of the heart chakra. Is it possible that this psychic immune system is also located in the heart centre? 

Just as our physical immunity strengthens from exposure to allergens and bacteria, perhaps our psychical immune system strengthens through these times of fear, pain and grief that so test our hearts.

Marianne Williamson maintains that much of what is diagnosed and medicated as anxiety and depressive disorders is actually the very sane reactions we have to the world we live in. Bombarded daily with images of violence, poverty, disease, only the hardest of hearts could not feel pain. 

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

Spiritual malady is often called the ‘dark night of the soul.’ As Buddha and Christ demonstrated suffering is at the core of the spiritual experience. Indeed the need to be happy – that we are so bombarded with – is a set-up for disappointment and despair.

When what we really need is to develop acceptance and resilience to pain, compassion for ourself and others, by understanding and accepting its intrinsic role in our human experience.

The energy of the heart is simple. It is love. It wants to love. To radiate its light. To bring warmth and healing to others. To open to the radiance of life. 

In Sanskrit, Anahata means unhurt or unstruck. 

The heart is always unhurt and unstruck. That sacred centre cannot be scarred. The scars are energetic memories of past suffering. They are not bad, just products of the mistaken belief that closing, hiding and shielding the heart will prevent pain when of course the opposite is true.

Jung described the heart chakra as the beginning of individuation. The place where we begin to experience something beyond our ego-self, something we might call spirit.

When we begin to heal the heart chakra, we create a softening of the heart. This softening stirs the energy of love and compassion and through awareness we can begin to dissolve the hurt we so often bury in our hearts. As our heart awakens to its own loving potential we begin to experience genuine connection with others, and our relationships grow healthy and radiate love. Natalie Southgate 

The heart Chakradance is a dance of integration, of uniting the masculine and feminine energies, the energies of the more dense chakras below, with the more etheric above. As we dance we honour Father Sky and Mother Earth, day and night, light and dark, yang and yin. We experience that beautiful space where all is united and integrated, where all apparent opposites move together in harmonious dance of love.

I remember the last time I led the Heart Chakradance, it was close in time to an experience that had hurt my heart. I was more than a little afraid to be going there, especially leading a class. ‘What if I break down?’ I worried, knowing the pain was just beneath the surface.

Yet in the dance I didn’t experience my pain, I held the space for the dancers, and what I found was the essence of the heart energy, endless, unfathomable, bottomless waves of love and compassion. The room was bathed in emerald green light, as I shifted the energies that people released, yes, there was sadness and grief and disappointment, but it paled in the face of this infinite supply of love. 

When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Pema Chodron 

The recent years have marked a shift for me into setting my sights high and acting with self-belief. And while the fear and anxiety are often there, they no longer dictate my actions. Often I see anxiety as an indicator that have stepped outside of my comfort zone, into new territory and I remind myself this is a good thing.

After returning from Bali I met with the leader of my Druid grove and she guided my through walking the wheel. The Druid wheel is both a calendar for the eight seasonal ceremonies of the year and like the Native American medicine wheel, a sacred symbolic and archetypal map for the stages of development and the energies we are working through at a given time in our life. 

As part of a grove or Druid community, it also suggests the ceremonial role that we should hold for that year. While we work through the energies of an aspect of the wheel, we can also hold and represent those energies for the group during ceremony. For me the wheel guided me to stop just North of West, at the position of the knight. 

Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move. Osho

It a curious position, archetypally the Knight is a young male, still adolescent, who embarks on a spiritual quest, the search for the Holy Grail, if you will. He represents the spiritual warrior. While it seemed strange for a woman at my stage of life, somewhere in the mother/queen realm to be guided to this energy, it also makes perfect sense.

This year I have been guided to make my spiritual journey a physical one, with my pilgrimages to Bali and India, and next year to Ireland. I have very much been called to get on my horse and physically seek. I have also been guided to do so alone. For the first time in my life I am not looking for a partner, if anything I feel I have no space for one right now. I’m the knight on his holy mission and it’s a path I must travel alone.

And how interesting that at a time when anxiety over my life choices has reared up, this warrior energy has emerged for me. It feels like a beautiful integration of the solar plexus warrior energy into the heart. Where my will and passion is channeled through my heart centre. 

It’s exciting for me to see spirit guide me in this way, it’s validating. As I march into the unknown, I have unseen guides alongside me. 

And like the turning of the wheel, my time as the knight won’t be forever, only until I have worked with these energies, gained their wisdom and I am ready to integrate this and move on.

The most courageous thing we will ever do is bear humbly the mystery of our own reality. Richard Rohr


Bless!

Light my fire

Energetically, physically, emotionally and mentally, we are all powerful, radiant beings. However, we may not always be living from a place where we accept and radiate our own power. Sometimes we may feel like it would be easier not to have to interact and bargain and state our worth to people at all. Sometimes we may give in and accept less than we’re worth. These are all symptoms of an under-active solar plexus chakra. Natalie Southgate

When I left my marriage seven years ago, I was a shivering mess of a woman. In fact, I should say shivering mess of a girl rather than a woman, even though I was well into my thirties.

All my life I had given my power to others, thinking everyone else knew better for me than I did, mostly because they told me that, but also I had never outgrown that childish irresponsibility of happily letting others take control.

Avoiding conflict seemed the peaceful path, and so I would give in to the needs and demands of others. It was just easier.

I had never stepped into my own power, never fully embraced my own authenticity or sense of integrity. Although I had some degree of a spiritual life, it could never fully come to fruition while I continued to place human powers ahead of my own connection with the divine.

Life is the sum of all your choices. Albert Camus

For years I was fuelled by fear and anxiety, as I forged through those hideous early months and years of separation and divorce. Trying not to take on my ex’s bitter rage, trying to sort out parenting arrangements, trying to mend bridges with my step-sons who rightly felt abandoned by me leaving them behind.

Then just as the sun seemed to finally peek back through the clouds, and life seemed to settle into a more mellow pace, my body completely crashed. It sounds dramatic I know, but that’s really what happened. The official diagnoses included depression, anaemia, low blood pressure, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut… Not to mention a whole lot of head-scratching by doctors who really couldn’t understand what was going on in my body, never mind why.

In retrospect I can see all those symptoms had one root cause, power loss. After years of giving my power away, I was bankrupt, and was running dangerously low on life force.

One of the greatest struggles of the healing process is to forgive both yourself and others and to stop expending valuable energy on the past hurts. Caroline Myss


It was during this time, researching my first blog, that I discovered Chakradance. Although I knew of the chakras and had always felt drawn to Indian mysticism, I can’t recall exactly how I found myself at the website.

Something drew me there and something about the name, the Sanskrit-inspired lettering, the colours and description of the practice set off bells and whistles in my gut. Before I even knew what I was responding to, my spirit was shouting “Yes! For Gods sake, YES!”

Thus began my Chakradance journey, which started with me dancing along to a DVD in my lounge room and has grown into a beautiful practice, a way of life and a spiritual business.

While I would never want to single out one chakra as being more fundamental than another, I think all newcomers to Chakradance identify pretty quickly where they are blocked or deficient. For me it was primarily the solar plexus.

When facilitating a class, I always explain to participants that they may encounter a chakra where the music doesn’t resonate, or where their dance feels stilted, or they just disconnect and their mind wanders off. For me the solar plexus was the triple whammy.

The tribal, warrior dance-inspired music – that I have since grown to love – was initially abrasive. My dancing, so smooth and graceful in the sacral chakra became jerky and off-beat. I often joke to people who have a similar experience with this chakra – it’s very common – that I danced like Peter Garrett, from Midnight Oil.

The Chakradance facilitator training involves a deep-dive into each chakra through dance, Jungian archetypes, energetic practices and journal writing. When I reached the solar plexus, I had little expectations because of my previous experiences.

Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. Pema Chodron 

The dance of Manipura (the solar plexus chakra) begins with a flame, and as the music intensifies, the fire increases, I danced like wildfire. I became one with the fire, I was fire, flickering and wild. It felt incredibly liberating and powerful, and then all of a sudden my perception shifted dramatically.

The experience transformed from being elemental fire, to being ON fire – being burned, encased in flames – and all the powerful emotions that came with it. Horror, fear, panic.

During the dance I became angry, outraged, I found myself growling and shouting, I was defending myself against people who had abused me, punished me, shamed me, or taken my power away. It was a stream of vitriol that started as a very young child and worked its way through to the more recent relationships in my life. Doctors, teachers, partners, family, friends, one after another I got very angry about all the times I had disempowered myself or been disempowered in these relationships.

Even knowing it was just in the dance, the emotional reaction was profound. Recovering in child’s pose, I found myself saying to myself, “that was then, this is now, it is safe to be powerful now.”

As I incanted this affirmation, there came a vision of a fiery cauldron burning away the hurts of the past, all those experiences where I was persecuted, shamed, or abused for expressing my power. An image came to me of a golden cauldron on a large fire, and I poured all this emotion into the pot, to be transformed by the fire.

That night I dreamt that a golden pot exploded – flipping its lid – with such a force it woke me up. Manipura had been activated!

Meditate there on the region of Fire, triangular in form and shining like the rising sun. Purnananda

The image of the cauldron is meaningful. In both Taoist and Celtic traditions, the three cauldrons are the energy centres which are roughly equivalent to the seven chakras in the yoga tradition. The first cauldron in the Celtic system is the cauldron of heat, or Coire Goiraith, and in the Taoist tradition, is known as “the golden stove” representing the refining and vitality of the life force into the Ching energy, which is basically a highly refined, super potent form of chi, or life force energy.

Since then I continue to connect deeply in this chakra. After my last few months of immersion in the waters of Svadisthana, I knew I needed to wake this fire up again. I needed energy, motivation, will to power. All the aspects of Manipura.

Manipura is the seat of personal power and will. It is the fire that fuels our metabolism, and if it’s activated it increases our energy, drive, and sense of purpose. Who couldn’t use some of that?

According to tantric texts, it is in manipura that the spiritual activation of the kundalini takes place, as it is the junction of two vital forces, prana and apana. As we breathe prana rises from the navel to the throat and apana rises from Muladhara – the root chakra – to the navel. Manipura is considered the activation point for these subtle energies. In the sacred alchemy described in Taoist texts, this corresponding dantien is the furnace.

From Manipura chakra emanate ten nadis appearing like the petals of a lotus. The lotus is yellow and the petals depict the ten pranas, vital forces, which control and nourish all the functions of the body. On each petal is inscribed a letter in blue, giving the sound vibrations produced by the ten nadis. Inside the yellow lotus is an inverted red triangle-shaped yantra, representing the fire element, the spreading of energy. The inverted triangle also suggests the movement of energy downward. On its three sides the triangle has svastika signs shaped like a ‘T’, representing the formative force of fire (tejas tattva). At the lower end of the inverted triangle is a symbolic animal, a ram, representing dynamism and endurance. The ram is the vehicle of Agni (the fire God) and on it is inscribed the bija mantra ‘ram’, which lies latent. This is the symbol of the Divine Intelligence presiding over fire. Arthur Avalon, The Serpent Power

So let’s start with the Sanskrit meaning of Manipura – which is city of jewels, mani means city and pura jewels.What are these jewels? The jewels of Manipura are self-confidence, self-assurance, clarity, wisdom and knowledge. Unlike the higher centres where this knowledge may be more subtle, in Manipura the gift of knowledge is translated into will and action. It is the knowledge that enables us to make authentic and empowered decisions for ourselves. The solar plexus chakra is where our mental intentions become manifest. Here our will is fired by passion, purpose and energy.

This centres awakens our sense of individuality. Where as the first and second centres activates our awareness of our physical and sensory natures respectively, it is in Manipura that we begin to individuate, we experience our sense of self as a distinct identity.

This chakra is our autonomy, our sovereignty, our authenticity. As Shakespeare said “to thine own self be true,” Manipura is where we can find this truth. Manipura is thought of as the centre of willpower, vitality, achievement. It is the force that makes us act in the world.

It has a corresponding centre in the physical body, the solar plexus, which governs our digestive fires and heat regulation in the body. Manipura regulates our pranic – or life force – energy throughout our body, controlling our energy balance, vitality and strength.

This chakra helps develop the ego, creating our self-identity. Concerned with assertiveness and personal power, it is easy to see where this chakra can be out of balance. Either in excess feeling a desire for material power and control over people, or deficient in allowing ourselves to be dominated by others.

The archetype of the warrior epitomises the energy of this chakra.

The archetypes that we live out reflect the psychological patterning of self-care and worthiness, demonstrating the degree to which we love and cherish ourselves. The archetypes are also a metaphor for the strength of our vital energy, and the degree of creativity and pleasure we enjoy. Ambika Wauters

I wrote in my last post of becoming immersed in the watery, emotional world of the unconscious. My mandala drawings were full of water serpents chasing their tails, and I see how easy it might be to sink into those waters. What I needed was the sun rise to call me up and out, to again experience the heat and fiery passion of the dawn.

While we can dive into our unconscious and dance in our sensory waters, we cannot live there, there is no momentum.The unconscious is rendered conscious in the light of Manipura. Rising from sacral depths our emotions are digested and processed in the solar plexus chakra.

Here in Manipura, we have to contend with both the fire of desire and the power of the emotions. Without the fire in our bellies we could be stuck in the mud, or stay in the dark oceanic depths. Here in this energy centre we rise like the sun and the will to action is engaged.

You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand. Irene C. Kassorla

As much as our shadow side is unconscious and hidden, it does want to be seen. Those parts of ourselves that are underdeveloped, or we turn a blind eye to, will project themselves onto other people and life circumstances to force us to see the things we try to avoid in ourselves. All this owning of our truth, our authenticity and our power comes to light in the solar plexus.

Here we experience the light bulb moment, as the light illuminates the dark and we see what we have been wrestling with in the murky depths of the sacral waters. Unconscious becomes conscious awareness.

Dancing the solar plexus chakra was the catalyst for this process, allowing me to release all the ways I had been disempowered.

Our fiery natures gets dampened through our way of life in the west, through societal conformity and a focus on relating to others, which is all very base and sacral chakra stuff. The epidemic of depression and anxiety in modern westernised cultures could reflect a generalised loss of connection to the vital core of spiritual power, based in the solar plexus.

Above the inverted triangle is the storm-God Rudra (Shiva), portrayed as an old Shiva, daubed with white ashes, who represents the power of destruction. Presiding over the subtle body, seated beside Rudra, is his consort, the three-headed, four-armed goddess of fire, Lakini. Arthur Avalon, The Serpent Power

The solar plexus Chakradance is a journey with the Warrior archetype, with our relationship to masculinity. What does ‘warrior’ mean in our world? Integrity, perhaps? Not being silenced by ideals of correctness?

Servitude, the opposite archetypal energy means following the party line, subsuming ones own needs and desires beneath the needs and desires of others.

In an age of rampant political correctness, it is a fine line between respect for difference and being silenced from speaking our thoughts because they might offend someone.

There’s certainly plenty of anti-masculine rhetoric that goes around, as if the feminine alone could save the world. What will save humanity, if indeed it even needs saving, is balance. I’m not talking homogenisation here, I mean true balance, where all aspects of our selves can be healthily expressed. Where masculine traits are not derided.

We give away our power all the time, in our choice of lifestyle, where we spend our money, what we choose to do with our time. If the power of Manipura is considered masculine, if the warrior archetype is considered masculine, if authenticity, autonomy, the will to power is masculine, I say we all need plenty of that.

Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness. Shakti Gawain

For women, it may help to think of this archetype as sovereignty, as the warrior queens who stood their ground under all kinds of difficult circumstances, who prized integrity and autonomy as the highest goals.

As we move into the heart chakra, we begin to balance and integrate these masculine and feminine energies, but before integration comes activation, and I feel that this chakra is so out of whack in our culture. Most of us are just living in the box we were provided with, enjoying our small illusions of freedom and autonomy. While a few are overactive in the chakra wielding tyrannical control and destruction over the world.

Until we activate, acknowledge and integrate our inner warriors, the shadow warrior will continue to rage in the collective unconscious of humankind.

Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage? Pink Floyd

Like all archetypes, the warrior is a stage we must develop through, taking the lessons and integrating them as we move into the next phase of development. Archetypes are two dimensional aspects, as such we try them on, act them out, but they are rites of passage, stages we move through to differentiate and ultimately integrate the various aspects of self.

As teenagers when the energy of Manipura really fires up, we may find ourselves butting heads with the world, but at some point we have to turn all that passion and will power within to foster our own integrity and personal authenticity. This inner warrior needs discipline equal to its fiery passion.

Many people misunderstand Tantra as being about sex. What Tantra really does is provide a system for engaging with, managing and ultimately uniting our inner masculine and feminine energies. The tantric practitioner seeks union of the shakti and shiva within their subtle body, by encouraging the upward movement of the feminine kundalini energy to unite in Sahasrara – the crown chakra – with the masculine shiva energy. As in Jungian psychological terms, the goal is an inner union, an integration of forces, that he called individuation.

By meditating on the navel centre one attains knowledge of the whole body. Patanjali

5 top tips for balancing your solar plexus chakra by Chakradance founder Natalie Southgate:

  1. Take responsibility for your life; avoid blaming others, circumstances, or fate.
  2. Develop a strong sense of self and keep sight of your own unique direction, ambitions and goals. Take the right action to achieve these goals.
  3. Find appropriate self-discipline in your life.
  4. Create good boundaries.
  5. Call to mind and celebrate your achievements and successes.

Expressing power need not be an act of overpowering. It is an act of being in touch with who you truly are and having your actions follow that belief. It is being able to commit, have integrity, keep your word and deal honourably. A balanced and healthy solar plexus chakra allows us to live lives of dignity and self-respect. Natalie Southgate

Blessings!

After the Storm

  

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does. Margaret Atwood

This morning I woke up and wept. Afterwards I feel as if a storm has blown through me. That tension and anticipation, moments before the storm hits, the release of torrential winds and rain, and the subsequent freshness and sense of cleansing and calm that comes after really good downpour.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in the last few years is the patience to allow my emotions to come and go. I’m not saying I stay ever-calm or enjoy these storms, but I do mentally buoy myself with the understanding that they are a force unto themselves, and they will pass.

For years I medicated uncomfortable emotions with all kinds of panaceas – from alcohol to love to food – and for years into addiction recovery, I would get on the phone and talk, talk, talk about my feelings to anyone who would listen. I never learned to just allow them, to just sit with myself without panicking or having to judge or create a big story out of the experience.

What I discovered over time is that feelings, like the weather are in constant flux. And if I can just be with my feelings, just be present while they ebb and flow – or dance and wail while they storm and rage – they will always pass away and shift into another state. 

Heraclitus – the Greek philosopher – believed flux and change was the central theme to life. Like the ancient Chinese philosophers he understood the paradox of non-dual thinking epitomised so beautifully in the yin yang symbol. There’s no sense of fixed polarities between opposite states, just a constant shift in balance between different states of being. Movement, flux, change.

Unlike his predecessor Thales who believed water was the great unifying element, Heraclitus though it was fire. What’s interesting here is the shift between all creation being of the gods, to an understanding of a more earthly and nature-originated source. The Greeks like many ancients, saw the inherent wisdom within the very nature of things, and then applied this wisdom to human life.

The Greeks, like many ancient cultures, associated the four elements with different aspects or humours of the human body, particularly in relation to medicine, but also as a study of emotional temperaments. Water was generally associated with the feminine, the lungs and the brain.

In modern Western esoteric traditions, think here of the imagery in the tarot, water represents the emotions, the psyche, the flowing, unpredictable, sometimes hidden aspects of human nature.

  
In Hindu philosophy the element water is one of the five great elements, or Panchamabhuta, is associated with water devas or vasus, with Chandra (the moon) and Shukra (Venus) who represents feelings, sexuality, intuition and emotions.

The Mantrapushpam, a sacred text of the Rishis, explains that the moon and the waters support each other, and draws a parallel between the waxing and waning of the moon, the effect on the tides, and the mind vacillating between emotions of grief and happiness.

Emotions are like the tides, in constant flow and flux, and the connection between emotions and the element of water is archetypal. Water doesn’t move in a straight line from point A to point B, it meanders and goes around things – solid things like rocks and trees and land masses. A lot like the emotional nature, water ebbs and flows, it can rage and damage, or be calm and soothing.

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong. Laoxi

And what about the connection between water and tears, that has always fascinated me. Why does salt water well in my eyes when I’m feeling emotional?

These past months have been, hmmm, let’s keep the language PG and say ‘challenging.’ I felt right back in the deep end of life again, frantically treading water.

My dad has been sick, again. Every time, it’s that emotional roller coaster of not knowing if we are going to lose him. Not even if, but when.

My son is struggling at school. I think I try to hold things together for his sake, it’s not ideal when your main parent has an emotional breakdown. So as soon as he left for a weeks holiday with his dad, the pressure of the past few months dammed-up emotions broke though.

So I wake up, alone, and it feels like there’s a race to see if my head or my heart is going to implode first. My thoughts eddy me from one overwhelming scenario to another, wave after wave of emotions crash, culminating in a massive cry.

At the extremities of human feeling, language becomes the language of tears. John O’Donohue

At the same time, I was reflecting on the sacral chakra, located around the lower belly. The sacral chakra is considered the energy centre of our senses, emotions, sexuality and creativity. The Sanskrit name svadisthana translates as ‘the dwelling place of the self’ and ‘sweetness,’ so it is our own sweet place.

This chakra is associated with the element of water. Like water our sacral chakra is in constant motion. Tap in for a moment to your feeling state, your emotional sense, you senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. Notice the constant stream of ideas, of creativity that streams through your mind. It’s in a state of movement, of flux, isn’t it?

I’m always looking for synchronicities in my life, I think ideas and concepts come together at a particular time for a reason. These seemingly random ideas began to coalesce into a theme for me.

Maybe I navigate through life like water?

 

I often berate myself because my emotions seem to loom so large and dictate so much of my behaviour, but what if that’s just how I am? What if like a body of water I do swell with the rains, and get churned up by the wind? Only to be restored to calm again. What if I do tend to flow around or over obstacles instead of moving them? Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that?

I know I have a great affinity with water. Particularly the ocean. I took my son away on a road trip, we crossed the bay on a ferry and drove along the Great Ocean Road which transverses the Southern coast of Australia. The next day we awoke outside of Lorne, a truly spectacular place where the bush land meets the ocean. Sleeping by the ocean had worked its magic and I felt that the crisp sea breeze had blown my mind clear, decluttering and clarifying. I walked down to the rocky shoreline and allowed the waves to crash over me.

Sitting on a rock with the ocean crashing over me, singing my soul song, I imagined myself a mermaid. Tapping into some primal aspect of myself that never feels completely happy on solid ground. Between worlds. In the liminal zone.

The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My dreams take place in a watery world. As a child I would dream that I awoke in my bedroom and that it had a door in the floor that opened to the sea. I would swim and swim from azure shallows to a dark, churning ocean. Then find myself at the shore, back amongst people. Sometimes I just swam away.

I have an old pattern of trying to be someone else. Somewhere along the line, I got the message that I was not okay as I was and I needed to change in order to be worthy of love and acceptance. What if it’s one of my gifts to be so emotional? Well, perhaps ‘gift’ is stretching things a little, but what if I just have to accept that aspect of myself.

Forty years after learning my wild nature was not acceptable, I am still beating my head against that wall of trying to be different, but what if I just be who I am? What if I accept that plenty of people won’t accept me that way, but that’s okay. If emotions drive me, then perhaps it’s time I learned to flow with that force. Or at least to not fight it.

I tell you, we are the people of the sea and restless, wind-tormented still have no will but the water’s will. Traditional Irish poem

Our culture tends to dismiss emotion, to see it as weak and unmanageable. We tell people to “pull yourself together” and “swallow a load of concrete and harden up.”

We all feel emotions, some of us more than others, and some of us are more expressive about our emotions that others. So what’s the big deal, why are we so afraid of feeling?

Emotion is energy in motion, it is the moving out of energy from the unconscious into the conscious mind so we can deal with it. An emotion is like a message from within, and we need to be receptive to the messages.

Understanding that emotions move like water, gives us a clue to how to experience them. If we are in a strong current of water we can expend a lot of energy swimming against it, or we can go with the flow, and save our energy for paddling once the power has dissipated from the current, or in this case the emotional charge.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters. Norman Maclean

   
It’s hard being watery in a world that loves hard edges and grid lines and efficacy of A to B without meandering. My life, the true life that inspires me, all happens on a meander. Even that word makes me deeply exhale.

At best in our society we are encouraged to talk about our emotions, “and how did that make you feel?” The favourite go-to line of therapists. While I think naming our emotions is valid to a point, what our body surely wants is for us to FEEL them. I find now that excessive talking only creates and embeds a story around my emotional state, which may even entrench rather than release these feelings.

So how do we release emotions? We feel them. We allow them, honour them, dance in their rain, fly with their winds, bask in their sun. We stop resisting, denying and suppressing them. We allow our watery natures to flow.

Water is so fundamental to life. Our bodies are mostly water, we live on a planet that is mostly water, where all forms of life evolved out of the waters. We all come from the waters of the womb.

The water element is at the heart of evolution. All of life has come out of the sea. The matrix of life began in the primal soup that stirred in the beginning. Life crawled out of this water onto land. In a strangely ironic parallel, this is also the way human life begins. John O’Donohue

Our modern lifestyles tend to be quite rigid. Most of us work in jobs where we are expected to be somewhere at a certain time for a certain time, often sitting still, working on a computer.

And yet this inner ocean needs to move, to ebb and flow. How do we create a safe space to be in this sacral chakra energy?

May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children. Rainer Maria Rilke

Dance is a wonderful way to reconnect with our own sweet place. In traditional cultures dance is used as an important part of their ritual practice, as well as for the emotional and spiritual release it provides. Dance literally puts our energy into motion, releasing emotion, awakening our senses, freeing up tension in our body and connecting us with the deep essence of our spirit.

In Chakradance, the element of water comes through the sacral chakra. This is the feminine centre, a centre that holds the key to our emotional life, to our sensuality. In the dance we visualise stepping into a stream and being washed clean of any stress or tension. Then we dance from the hips, our bodies undulating like water. Stimulating the natural ebb and flow of our being.

A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable. William Wordsworth

Dancing allows all parts of me to engage in a delicious whirl of sensory experience, all the conflicting feelings and emotions and demands of my life get to come up and play, express themselves, are rearranged, and often dissipate or transform into something completely new.

Instead of life feeling disastrous. It feel like a dance of delicious imperfection.

 

But that’s in the dance. Then the music stops and I have to live it. Some days I stay in the dance, I maintain this perspective. But others… My desire to flow comes crashing down amongst all the conflicting needs and desires of those around me.

Some days I swing from some makeshift peace and acceptance of my life to abject terror that I’m letting everything slide. That I’m a slack mother, a negligent daughter, a bad friend, a haphazard worker. As a business owner I feel I should be doing so much more. As a woman I feel I should be socialising, dating. But I’m tired and deflated. There’s an apt word. Deflated.

I once had so many ideals for life and this world. Now I often feel jaded. I still believe in love and peace as perfect principles, but I also accept, as someone who’s lived in this world for over four decades, that much of the time these principles are not what motivates us, even the best of us.

I try very hard to be loving and kind but some days I’m hanging on by a thread not to just scream and shout and hit people. Some days the thread snaps.

I think this world forces me to be rigid and strong, and I suppress my watery nature. I freeze up. A few months ago I had an experience that affected me so that my entire sexuality and confidence in myself literally froze. I kept functioning but I felt nothing. George Clooney himself could have walked up and kissed my hand without the merest flutter of recognition in my body.

I just let myself be. Chakradance has taught me that these blocks will shift when they are ready to. I could see it was a self-defence mechanism. There was too much hurt so my feelings froze.

Shamans dance with their spirit guides and power animals to be empowered with spiritual life force. And to release what is no longer needed. Chakaradance taps into this shamanic practice, as well as the energetic aspects of the chakras. As my class danced in the sacral chakra, I felt that energy stir. That divine feminine that had shut down began to awaken.

Anodea Judith says that when we awaken these ‘frozen’ parts of ourselves, there is a thawing out stage. And like the recovery from frostbite, going from numb to thawing can feel excruciatingly painful. There is a reason we freeze out our emotions, they sometimes hurt. A lot.

Alongside the thawing is a tingling, very much like that sensation of blood retuning to a numbed limb. It brings sustenance and life. It reminds that there is always healing. The challenge is to let go of fighting this process. To resist thawing because it hurts blocks the life force that wants to move through me.

Maybe life is in the struggle. In the struggle and the letting go. Flux, movement, change.

Always be like water. Float in the times of pain or dance like waves along the wind which touches its surface. Santosh Kalwar

  
Maybe that’s the deliciousness. Like the fresh air that comes with a big storm, that washes away all the tension and makes everything feel new again, even just for a moment.

It feels that life is truly seen in those fresh moments. It may feel crappy. I may be tired of always having to be strong and kind when I’m tired and sad and just want some strong arms around me. But I do it. And then suddenly there is a moment. When my teenage son who is driving me crazy walks past and I feel in my bones the miracle of his creation and his growth from a baby into this burgeoning young man. And I trust that he’s going to be okay, that his life will burst from him in its own unique way and I don’t have to control or manipulate that.

And I sit with my dad and he gets sicker and frailer and I remember the man who made rude jokes at the dinner table, and always had gravy in his beard, and made you smile for ten minutes with the sun in your eyes while he took a photo, only to find there wasn’t any film in the camera anyway. Who took me so much to heart when I begged him not to embarrass me by shaking my male friend’s hand, that when my friend stuck his hand out, it took dad several awkward attempts to untangle his own from behind his back.

It hurts this life. It hurts to love. Because inherent in love is loss. Inherent in every moment is loss, just look at nature. Constantly recycling life from leaves to worms to raindrops.

It’s perfect in its imperfection. Because a perfect world would have no pain, would it? And yet pain is part of it.

My greatest asset is the pain I have navigated in life. That pain allows me compassion for the pain of others. To try to spiritually bypass suffering is possibly missing the entire point of being on a spiritual path.

Using our emotional suffering can be an in to developing compassion. The Buddhist practice of tonglen, in its most simplified form, is to allow ourselves to mentally connect with all sentient beings that suffer in the same way we do. And then radiating loving kindness to all suffering beings, by definition, including ourselves.

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity. Pema Chodron

I suppose the point should be made, that in all this talk of letting my emotions flow, I don’t mean venting them at someone else’s expense. I have been accused of being insincere at times because I will hold back expressing the full force of my emotions. I will exercise restraint and wait until the storm clears before communicating. Otherwise, well, it’s not pretty. Obviously at work I deal with all kinds of people who have all kinds of emotional effects on me. But I have to keep that in check, that’s just being professional.

So when I talk of expression and release of emotions, I am referring to finding appropriate ways to do that, in the right environment. Releasing emotion at the expense of another person is more akin to abuse than healthy release.

After 17 years in recovery groups, I’ve heard a lot of platitudes. Some still irritate me, but others despite their somewhat cloying tone, are helpful. One such platitude is to ‘act better than you feel.’ I like this because if doesn’t discount my emotions, it just reminds me to check myself before acting on them.

Is this insincere? Yes and no. It’s perhaps inauthentic, in the sense of complete self-expression, but who does that? Who doesn’t filter their behaviour in some circumstances? Imagine the chaos if we all just acted how we felt all the time. “Sorry, I just can’t parent/work/show up today because I’m having a feeling.” Or just venting on the people around us all the time, imagine if we told our partners the depths of our feelings towards them at all times, or our mothers? That’s not helpful authenticity, that’s just careless self-absorption.

This is where the work of Russ Harris, author of the Happiness Trap, amongst others, comes in handy. Authenticity can be expressed at an emotional level sure, but is that really going to benefit us and the people around us? Most likely not.

Authenticity at the level of our values, and the behaviours associated with our values however, can be of benefit. When I know what my values are, and identify how to act them out in my life, say loving kindness and respect for others, I may not be able to unleash the true nature of my feelings at all times, I may have to take some time out to process and calm down before I can respectfully communicate with another person, but that’s not inauthentic, it’s just putting my value systems ahead of uncontained self-expression.

Do I manage this all the time? Hell, no! Have I told you how emotional I am?

No. I try. And often where I fail is with the people that matter most. I can be restrained at work, but at home, with those relationships closest to my heart, that’s where it gets harder. But I try, I practice. I meditate and try to own my stuff as best I can. Progress not perfection. Yes, another cloying platitude.

I think this balance between awareness of our authentic self and our connectness to others, to all of life, is the basis of all spiritual practice. 

You used to think that it was so easy, but you’re trying, you’re trying now. Gerry Rafferty 

The point, is I think, that if we can mindfully experience our own emotions, and find healthy forms of expression, like dance or creativity or a good brisk walk, then we have a better chance of first, developing self awareness and second not venting unto others. We can also begin to see how these passionate emotional charges can be channeled for creativity and self-expression in constructive rather than destructive ways.

Which is why I’ve discovered, and I don’t think I’m alone here, that I need clear boundaries in relationships. Like my river banks, boundaries allow me to flow easily, to see where I need to go, otherwise I just disperse my energies everywhere and dry out.

And in my own life, this is what I’m pouring my energy into. It’s contained, but flowing.

And then every now and again we can allow ourselves the leeway to not be perfect and to have ourselves explode all over the place with emotion and hope the people around us love us enough to forgive.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea. e e Cummings

As I reflect on my affinity with water, I remember the day I found my soul song as I waded in rock pools near the thrashing ocean. I was distraught with emotion, with the wretched, wrenching pain of lost love. I hummed a song that resonated in my mind at that time, and somewhere between that melody and the ocean’s roar and hiss, my soul song came. It is a sad song, the wail of a siren calling for redemption, but it has great power. It reminds me that my own strength and power has come from sadness too.

The danger for water is stagnation. Is becoming so contained as to be stuck without its essential life force which is flux and flow. I see that in my own life. Disheartened in love, deflated in my dreams for my life, I have been merely going through the daily motions of life.

I sleep a lot, my dreams being an escape or release from my stuckness.

It’s taken me months to write this post. I have allowed time to flow and I know feels like it’s time to get some momentum going again. I am stagnating. I realise that any change right now would be beneficial. I find a simple change to my routine, early rising meditation, regular exercise, very basic things can get me moving and flowing again.

I need movement, when I allow my body to sit or rest too much, I lose all momentum. The time for resting and recuperating is over, it’s time to get moving again, to move those waters and let them flow on.

The undiscovered vein within us is a living part of the psyche; classical Chinese philosophy names this interior way “Tao,” and likens it to a flow of water that moves irresistibly towards its goal. To rest in Tao means fulfilment, wholeness, one’s destination reached, one’s mission done; the beginning, end, and perfect realisation of the meaning of existence innate in all things. C.G. Jung

This post is long, I know, if you made it this far you’ve done well. I thought about editing it down, but the whole point was the process of emotional flow and it’s taken me three months to go through this process. At the beginning I felt flooded with emotion. Then, as those storms subsided and I sat with the feelings, I eventually became stagnant and stuck, through moving, both physically and energetically, the flow has begun again.

What I have learned is that I can’t force or fast-track this process, trying to control it only adds to the pressure. The best I can do is make peace with wherever I find myself, to understand that great things come from sadness and grief, these are our shadow times when we get to dig deep and tap into unknown reservoirs of strength and power. 

And then to be grateful, ever so thankful, when I get to rise up out of the depths and sun begins to shine again.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person you walked in. Haruki Murakami

  

Blessings!

Art by Katherine Skaggs katherineskaggs.com

Over-amped and insecure? Get into your body

image
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Mary Oliver

I love this quote. Reading Mary Oliver feels like lying down on lush, damp grass, taking a deep breath and sinking in. But how often do we take the time to sink in and really inhabit our body?

The modern lifestyle creates a disconnect with the body, we become like a head with hands, thinking, thinking, doing, doing. Unless we habitually stop and practice meditation, dance or yoga, or spend time in nature, we may never really arrive in our body all day.

The wisdom of the body – with its endless and varied cacophony of signals and mechanisms – is our projection of spirit. This is our vehicle for incarnation. And like any vehicle, our body provides a stream of signals to guide and inform us. It provides the physicality, the flesh, the medium though which we interact with our physical, emotional and spiritual world.

From the soft lub-dub of our heart beat, to our churning guts, our racing pulse, our cold feet, the body conveys a series of messages, if we would only listen. 

From the cold knife-to-the-heart sensation of heartbreak and shame, to the butterflies of excitement, the soft animal of our body knows what it loves. It feels our pleasure and our pain.

The body contains truths unique to our being. Just as one person may enjoy eating peanut butter by the spoonful, another may fall into analphylactic shock at the smallest trace of nuts. We are similar, but not the same and neither are our bodies. As you embrace this, you can settle into a beautiful relationship with the unique body, the exquisite system of flesh and senses, that is you.

The yogis have always known this, that the stresses of the body must be smoothed out and soothed with yoga poses before the mind can be still and spirit can be heard. The yoga tradition is all about purifying the vessel to achieve union of body and spirit.

The spirit likes to dress up like this: ten fingers, ten toes, shoulders and all the rest… It could float, of course, but would rather plumb through matter. Airy and shapeless thing, it needs the metaphor of the body… To be understood, to be more than pure light that burns where no one is. Mary Oliver

image

The first chakra, located at the base of our spine, is called Muladhara in Sanskrit, meaning root support. Like the root system of a tree, our root or base chakra energetically grounds us in the physical world.

Linking the chakras are a series of energy channels that, in their purest and unimpeded form, constantly flow and spiral up and down the spinal column, keeping our energetic system in connectivity to both the earth and ethereal energy above, with the chakras like little hubs in between.

Caroline Myss describes these channels and the chakras as our ‘energy anatomy’ and a ‘blueprint for managing spiritual power’ and that the purpose of most spiritual teachings – though often misunderstood – is to teach us how to manage this system of power.

Anodea Judith calls the chakras the ‘architecture of the soul.’ She says a chakra is a centre of organisation for the reception, the assimilation and the expression of life force energy. The chakras are the portals, the mediators, between the inner world and the outer world. 

Chakras can be described as processing centres of energy and information, as well as gateways for this energy and information to flow into, out of, and through. Note that when I refer to ‘energy’ I use the term to describe the concept used in many esoteric traditions of the vital life force energy, or spiritual energy, also known as prana or qi.

Many of us have sustained emotional and physical traumas in life which may have affected the formation and flow of our chakras. This biography of experience is energetically recorded in our chakra system (as well as the cells in our bodies.) This can cause our chakras to compensate by either restricting energy flow, becoming deficient or under active, or by becoming over active and excessive. Or even a combination of both. 

‘So what?’ You ask, ‘it’s only energy,’ read on, and I’ll tell you why this kind of imbalance can have deep and far reaching effects on your life.

Your biography becomes your biology. Caroline Myss

image

Linked to physical realities of life – security, shelter, sustenance, family, tribe – Deedre Diemer writes that the first chakra is associated with primordial trust. It is the chakra associated with our basic instincts for food, shelter, sex and survival.

Developmentally this chakra emerges between conception and eighteen months, and is informed by our environment during that time. If we felt safe and nurtured and our needs were taken care of, if we were held lovingly by our mothers, and picked up when we cried, chances are this chakra is embedded with a core sense of security.

However up to 50% of people report that they either suffered birth trauma or there were significant stressors in their family of origin or community – war or poverty, for example – to inhibit this secure bonding from occurring. Not mention subsequent life trauma that can affect our sense of security. As such, we may have an overreactive first chakra, that is out of balance and causes us to compensate in a variety of ways.

If we are imbalanced in this chakra it can manifest as a lack of physicality, being underweight, spacey and anxious. Or it may manifest as an excessive physicality in being overweight and overly attached to the physical by hoarding, over eating and indulgence in pleasure, or over-accumulation of stuff.

I often wondered how I could be both spaced out and have a tendency to over-indulge. Anodea Judith points out that as these extremes are both compensatory behaviours to address an issue in this chakra we may experience symptoms of both.

This very body that we have, that’s sitting here right now… With its aches and pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive. Pema Chodron

image

If you imagine the root chakra like a plant in a pot, it needs a degree of support to keep the soil and moisture in, but too tight a restraint will not allow it to grow.

In the same way a deficient base chakra contracts too tightly into its core, not allowing enough room for energy to come in, to have, to hold, to manifest. In this scenario we are literally strangling our energy flow, the earth energy that needs to flow up and through our base chakra is restricted and bottlenecked, creating blockages that may literally prevent us from manifesting or maintaining physical things, including our own healthy robust body, as there is no room to receive. This kind of person can be literally disembodied, spacey, anxious, ungrounded.

The person who compensates for an unbalanced base chakra though physical over-indulgence, allows excessive earth energy into their system. They may feel heavy, lethargic, they may be overweight, overeat, hoard and covet possessions, money and power. It is as if they use physical things, including their own body weight to compensate for deficiencies in this chakra, perhaps to literally compensate for a lack of maternal holding in their formative years.

Again this results in a blockage. Too much energy, when it is held and hoarded in this way impedes the flow just as much as constricted energy. It’s akin to the Buddhist concept of attachment, it is the attachment to our desires that causes suffering. It causes us to get stuck in a unmanageable mess of our own making.

As Albert Einstein once said, the most fundamental decision we make in life, is whether to see this world as inherently good and beneficent or not. This worldview informs everything we think, feel, and do. How we perceive and thus operate in the world. The base chakra question, is this world safe for me to embody?

Erik Erickson wrote that this first stage of psychosocial development – from birth to eighteen months – is a time when either trust or mistrust of the world around us is established. This informs our behaviour at the most fundamental level. If I can trust the world, I can allow myself to have it. I’m not suspicious. I am accepting.

If something is not safe, we won’t allow ourselves to have it, you wouldn’t drink poison, in the same way if your inherent world view is of an unsafe place, you won’t fully allow yourself to engage in it. You may stay detached, non-committal, risk-avoidant, and fearful.

We either master the fundamentals of survival or we become one of life’s victims. Ambika Wauters

image

So much of our sense of our body and our self comes from the initial holding experience provided by our parents. Anodea Judith says that this initial holding wires up our brain body interface, it literally teaches us awareness that we have a body, we are in a body. This all comes through touch. Here we get imprinted with a cellular message of safety and security. Our instincts are quietened, not alarmed. This is a good grounding in the first chakra.

But what if you didn’t get this. What if you grew up in fear uncertainty, violence, instability? What did you have to do to yourself in order to survive this fundamental stage? If our needs are not met, our survival instincts start freaking out, our central nervous system is wired in a permanent state of anxiety, our body gets over-amped. We become over-vigilant, fearful, unable to settle, insecure. This kind of person doesn’t know how to calm down.

This may explain why so many people depend on alcohol, drugs, sex, food and shopping to self-soothe. They simply have no mechanism to return to a state of calm without external stimulus. Hence researchers into addiction like Gabor Mate suggest there are significant and demonstrable links between unresolved childhood trauma and addiction. His TEDX talk is a fascinating insight in the causes of addiction.

Nothing records the effect of a sad life as graphically as the human body. Naguib Mahvouz

The lesson of Muladhara chakra is grounding, a full inhabiting of our physical bodies as the embodiment of our connection to the element of earth. To cease existing primarily in our heads and inhabit our bodies. To cease grasping onto people, places and things as the source of our security.

Here we can experience pleasure and pain, connect with our feelings, and release these accumulated emotional energies through our connection with the physical.

Movement through our bodies allows energy to flow, it can trigger blockages to shift and cause accumulated energies to be released or redistributed and balanced.

Movement brings us into our physicality, brings our energy down from our heads into our roots, allowing a real connection with not only our physical selves, but the physicality of the world around us.

For those who, like myself, have a lifetime’s accumulated negative body issues, this takes patience and self-compassion. Making peace with the body I have despised, abandoned and abused for many years is a process that does not come overnight.

After two years of Chakradance practice, alongside many years of yoga and mindful meditation, I have found a degree of peace and comfort in my own skin that I have never before known. At times my body even brings me immeasurable joy. 

Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and the moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body. Saraha Doha 

image

To encourage our vital energy to flow freely we must let go of our attachments and defences. The chakras can be blocked by our learned defences, either something we want to keep out or something we don’t want to let out. What kinds of things would cause these defences? Toxic energy, fear and violence are all things we may shut down to avoid. Similarly we may repress our own ‘negative’ emotions – anger, sorrow, exuberance – having learned it was unsafe to express these. 

Sometimes the residue from trauma gets stored in our body and our energy system. While traditional psychotherapy may assist at a mental and behavioural level, we also need to release these wounds energetically, in order to release the attachments and defences they cause us to act out – often unconsciously – in our lives.

As in all things balance is the key. An over-amped base chakra may cause us to be frozen in fear or rushing about in a heightened state of anxiety. What we ideally want is movement that is grounded and purposeful. We need to reconnect with the nurturing aspects of Mother Earth.

To ground we invite this energy back down through our body and reconnect ourselves energetically with the earth.

Traditionally humans spent most of their lives in direct contact with the earth, walking, living and sleeping on the ground. In the modern world we are so disconnected from the earth in layers of buildings, shoes, vehicles. 

I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. Mary Oliver

image

In Chakradance we reconnect our base chakra to the earth by dancing to earthy tribal beats, moving powerfully through our legs and feet. We may visualise ourself as a seed planted in the earth, provided with all the sustenance, support, and security it needs to grow. We see ourselves setting down strong roots as we grow into the world, like a giant majestic tree firmly rooted in the soil, so our branches can safely reach up and out into the sunshine.

Anodea Judith says that the best way to restore balance to the base chakra, is to open the leg channels. The legs connect us to the earth and the energy flows up through our feet and legs and into the base chakra. Our legs are like two prongs of an electric plug – we need to plug in to the earth energy to ground, receive and release.

Grounding exercise by Anodea Judith

This exercise will work whether your base chakra is deficient excessive or both, even if you feel your base chakra is balanced, grounding is always energising and restorative.

1. Stance

Stamp your feet a little to get the energy moving, then stand with your feet shoulder width or even a little further apart.

Make sure your feet are pointing straight or even slightly pigeon-toed, bend your knees slightly so your knee sits directly above your second toe.

Press down and out with your feet, as if you are trying to push apart two floorboards with your feet. So you want your feet firm and active.

2. Exercise

As you inhale gently bend your knees deeper, keeping your upper body upright, shoulders above hips.

As you exhale, slowly push down and out through your feet to straighten your knees, ensuring you do not lock your knees at the top. Do this very slowly.

Remember to keep the tension and engagement, the pushing sensation through your legs and feet.

3. Visualisation

As you exhale and push down, visualise energy from the base chakra in your pelvic floor pushing down through the core of your legs and feet and down into the earth.

(if your legs begin to tremble this is a good sign – you are shifting blockages and allowing energy to flow. If there’s any pain, stop)

If you feel you have deficient energy visualise drawing energy up through your legs and into your base chakra. 

If you feel you have excessive energy, visualise pushing that excess down into the earth.

If you’re not sure, just visualise both. Releasing in the exhale, receiving on the inhale.

4. Affirmation

As you exhale say ‘I am in here’ then ‘I am in here, and this is mine’ – really feeling yourself in your body.

You can do this up to 10 times. Trust your body, stop when you’ve had enough. You will build up your strength over time.

Practise this exercise daily and notice the difference after a week. Ideally this exercise will clear your channels, allow you to ground, release and receive energy through your base chakra.

I am one with the source, in so far as I act as a source, by making everything I have received flow again. Raimon Panikkar

Blessings!

Things that makes you go Om

eye_of_the_chakra_storm_by_rebelbam-d5lut55

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought. Basho

People often ask me, “what are the chakras?” And rightly so, I do teach Chakradance.

In truth, probably like all ancient systems, the chakras just ain’t what they used to be. And for good reason, the world ain’t what it used to be. Any system worth its salt must be adaptable to change. Nothing stays still for thousands of years, particularly not whirling vortices of energy.

The more I read and learn about ancient systems, be it the Hindu chakra system, druidry or shamanism, the more I begin to understand that there is no one ‘standard system.’ These systems were highly localised and steeped in the culture and traditions of the people who developed them.

So where does that leave a woman of Irish descent, living in Australia, with an innate fascination for Indian mysticism?

Good question. Can you let me know when you figure it out?

The ancients created a profound system. We can now marry this wisdom with modern information about the natural world, the body, and the psyche, to create an even more effective system. Anodea Judith

root_chakra_by_rebelbam-d5g04xe

Seriously though, it leaves me where most of us seekers are these days… Trying to find meaning in a world where culture has been stripped away, appropriated, and misrepresented. Most of us have not been raised in a lineage of a cultural spiritual tradition, some of our cultural traditions barely even exist anymore. Due to mass migration, many of us have been raised in lands far removed and alien to those of our ancestors.

Even though I have lived in this beautiful land all my life, I am not one of the First People and as such I am not privy to much of their sacred law. Nor should I be, I respect that. In addition to that, our education system has largely ignored indigenous history and wisdom, so what I could have been taught, I haven’t. I intend to remedy that now.

So, I find myself walking a fine line between research and direct experience. I keep an open mind, I read, I look out for interesting people with like-minds, I journey with spirit. And somehow, as I continue to follow the next obvious step on this path, I am guided to the things that illuminate my way.

Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come. Our breath is a part of life’s breath, the ocean of air that envelopes the earth. David Suzuki

It’s a patchwork journey. A zigzag path. A bit of this, a bit of that. Sometimes I get lost in all the competing avenues of interest. This week in particular I have had moments of indecision paralysis because I have “homework” from my druidry course, my nature magic course, and my shamanic journeying course. What do I do first?

Then I remind myself, they’re just different pathways, the destination is the same. And I try to find pathways that are meaningful to me, that make sense together, for me, as a Western woman.

I just keep connecting, and trust that spirit will guide me.

And I see connections everywhere. The similarities between the druidic path and the shamanic path, and many ancient belief systems continue to astound me. The representation of spirit as something that can be mapped and worked with, appears across belief systems.

sacral_chakra_by_rebelbam-d5h9u6s

At the heart of most eastern philosophies lies an understanding of the mystical channels of energy that flow through our bodies. The word ‘chakra’ is an ancient Sanskrit word, which literally translated means ‘wheel’.

Just a quick note here on the use of the word ‘energy’. I refer to the subtle energy as described so well by physicist F David Peat:

Many of the biochemical processes within the body involve exchanges of physical energy, but these grosser forms of energy are not what I take the terms healing energy and subtle energy to mean. Rather, the latter are like the activity of a conductor of an orchestra or the choreographer of a ballet, that integrates and coordinates into one cohesive movement all the bio-chemical and energy processes of the body. F David Peat

The chakra system is a system of energy and information. The chakras are part of the subtle energy body, which means they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Some highly sensitive people can perceive the chakras, which is why the original information recorded by the earliest Indian mystics is still proving to be pretty accurate today. All people can learn to attune themselves to these subtle energy channels.

Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and moon, as well as the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as the body. Saraha Doha

The chakras are part of the yoga tradition. Yoga meaning ‘yoke’ or union is the practice designed to yoke the mortal, physical self, to the divine nature of pure consciousness. Yoga and the early concepts of energy centres first appear in the Vedic texts of India from about 4,000 years ago. Following the Vedas were the texts of the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

The idea of the subtle vital force (prana) and the channels along which it flows (nadis) appear in the earliest Upanishads. The heart was said to be the centre of the 72,000 nadis or subtle channels.

Within these Hindu scriptures, the chakra concept became a part of a complex set of ideas related to esoteric anatomy, or as Caroline Myss refers to it, the ‘anatomy of the spirit.’ What we may be learning to manage here then, is our soul.

Subtle energy is like the underlying meaning and coherence which remains implicate in the phenomenal world. Jason Kirkey

These texts mention varying numbers of chakras. Over time, one system of six or seven chakras along the body’s axis became the dominant model, adopted by most schools of yoga. This particular system originated in about the tenth century, and rapidly became widely popular. It is in this model where Kundalini – divine feminine shakti energy – is said to “rise” upward, piercing the various centres until reaching the crown of the head, resulting in union with the Divine Shiva energy.

solar_plexus_chakra_by_rebelbam-d5r3zhl

It was the tantra tradition that moved from the dualistic worldview of the ancient Hindu texts, of matter and spirit as distinct things, that earthly desires should be renounced in the pursuit of enlightenment, to a non-dual idea of integration of body and spirit, to be in the world, not apart from it, a weaving together of the previous traditions, that included the chakras, and saw the body as a sacred temple for spirit.

The practice of tantra is about inner-transformation. The energy involved in the process of tantric transformation is the energy of our own bliss. Prana Gogia

In the tantric texts, the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, the chakras are described as emanations of consciousness from Brahman, a spiritual energy which flows through the crown and gradually becomes denser, creating these distinct levels of chakras, and eventually finds its rest in the Muladhara, or base, chakra. Another text, the Gorakshashatakam gives specific instructions for meditating on the chakras.

The word tantra, which has a dubious reputation in the West as predominantly sexual practices, actually means ‘loom’ and denotes this weaving together of the principles of yoga, the kundalini energy, and deity worship, including practices for mastering our spiritual energy.

The soul… is the primary organizing, sustaining, and guiding principle of a living being. Thomas Berry

The chakra system was popularised in the West by Sir John Woodroffe (writing as Arthur Avalon), in his book, The Serpent Power, which was an English translation of these tantric texts.

Theosphists Charles Leadbeater and Alice Bailey investigated the connections they saw between the chakras and the biology of the human body – associating each chakra with particular endocrine glands and nerve ganglions or plexii in the sympathetic nervous system. According to their clairvoyant perception, the chakras were seen as energy vortexes in the each of the subtle bodies – or layers of the aura. This is quite different to the Indian traditions, where the chakras are subtle centres of consciousness, but have no independent energy status.

Carl Jung and Rudolph Steiner further integrated Eastern spiritual concepts with the evolving theories of Western psychological development. They believed the chakras develop from conception as we age physically, emotionally, and spiritually, starting with the base chakra and moving up into our individual energy expressions and finally up to our connection with the source energy. Jung saw the chakras as an analogy for the progression towards individuation.

To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else. Bernadette Devlin

anahata_heart_chakra_by_rebelbam-d5ytb0x

Many New Age writers, such as Anodea Judith in her book Wheels of Life, and Caroline Myss in her book, Energy Anatomy, have written about their experiences with the chakras in great detail, including the reasons for their functions and associations.

Anodea Judith points out that the associations of the spectrum colours to chakras is a Western addition, attributed to Christopher Hills who published a book entitled Nuclear Evolution in the early 1970’s. The addition of the rainbow colours has hugely influenced Western thinking about the chakras.

According to the Eastern texts, the chakras are formed at the junctions of three connected energy channels, or nadis, that ascend the spine, one on each side, and spiralling around, the central channel, the Shushumna. The two lesser channels of energy – the Pingala on the right and Ida on the left – run parallel to the spinal cord. Chakras both take up and collect prana (life force energy) and transform and pass on energy. This system can be seen as a road map for energy transmission and organisation throughout the subtle energy body.

Chakras are organizing centres within the body for the receiving, processing, and distributing of life energies. Anodea Judith

In the Western approach, which is less esoteric, and more holistic, than the traditional Hindu concept of the chakra system, each chakra is associated with a certain part of the body, and a certain organs and endocrine glands. The endocrine system is a collection of hormone-producing glands, which act as the body’s chemical messengers, and instruct the body in the bodily functions attributed to each chakra.

In the West the chakras are often seen as analogous to ‘computer software’ programmes which relate to our safety, sexuality, power, love, communication, intuition and self-realisation. They have the power to affect our health, emotions, thoughts and behaviours in a positive or negative way.

This is seen as the energy exchange of the mind-body-spirit interaction, and as every organ in the human body has its equivalent on the mental and spiritual level, so too every chakra corresponds to a specific aspect of human behaviour and development.

The lower chakras are associated with fundamental emotions and needs, for the energy here vibrates at a lower frequency and is therefore denser in nature. The finer energies of the upper chakras corresponds to our higher mental and spiritual aspirations and faculties.

Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. Chief Seattle

throat_chakra__vishuddha__by_rebelbam-d6epyfr

Chakradance incorporates the concepts of the chakras as interpreted by Western thinkers, particularly influenced by Carl Jung, Arthur Avalon, and Anodea Judith. These writers extensively studied the Hindu texts, and then incorporated them into a conceptual framework that was meaningful to the Western mind.

The chakras regulate a field of energy called the aura – a dynamic, energetic matrix, which includes the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of our being.

Whereas the original Indian texts associated sounds – mantras – and deities with each chakra, a practice followed by Anodea Judith and Chakradance, Jung presented the chakras as a system of psycho-spiritual awakening, and used developmental stages of the psyche and archetypes to convey this system. 

As long as we’re in a state of confusion, overwhelmed by the three conflicting emotions, trapped in cyclic existence, we’re not happy and we can’t benefit sentient beings. Even though we think we might be benefitting them, ultimately we’re not. Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje

The chakras are often described in the West as energetic ‘gateways’, which connect the various layers of the aura. They move like wheels and open like petals of a flower, allowing the subtle energies to flow freely. Each chakra was believed to vibrate to a certain sound frequency, as well as, in the modern Western concept, a certain colour frequency.

The founder of Chakradance, Natalie Southgate, came upon the practice intuitively when she was studying Jungian psychology and ancient and shamanic dance practice.

She describes her experience. As she allowed herself to dance freely in the dark of her living room, music filled the darkness and her intuitive movements started to guide her into the inner power ignited within her chakras. She began to notice certain music carried a unique resonance with different chakra centres. Free flowing movements born in spontaneity brought her home into her inner dance of her true self.

Chakradance awakens each chakra, starting with the base chakra and flowing effortlessly from one to the other, up to the crown chakra, with unique musical vibrations. The combination of music, movement, and guided imagery allows the dancer to journey through the chakras, focusing attention on a particular chakra, allowing the centre to open, and releasing any blockages.

Emotional, spiritual and physical energies are released. Natalie Southgate describes dancing the seven chakras as like dancing through seven different worlds, each with its own lessons, meaning, and stories.

Chakradance draws on many ancient systems from around the world to find the common elements of those culture’s dances with the chakra system or its equivalent. Dance has long been used in shamanic cultures to connect to our spiritual source, to commune with our gods, to find healing and answers about life.

Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of society. I was just curious. Jim Morrison

third_eye_chakra___ajna_by_rebelbam-d6lxary

In Hinduism, many of the great epics are taught through dance, whilst in Sufism, the whirling dervishes surrender their individuality and dance into spiritual “oneness”. One of the oldest recorded references made to religious dancing comes to us from the Old Testament -“Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre” (Psalms 149:3).

Chakradance combines the elements of this spiritual journeying process through dance and rhythm, with the rich exploration of the chakra system.

To Carl Jung the study of chakras was a study of symbols encountered as we develop our individuality and awareness of the unconscious. Jung likened this individuation process to a spiritual quest or journey, with the aim being to achieve ‘wholeness’.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. Edgar Allan Poe

Natalie Southgate describes the process of individuation as a series of phases and manifestations, which include: encountering the unconscious (inner unknown life), insight into our shadow (reclaiming parts of ourselves we reject), encountering anima and animus (inner feminine and masculine), experiences of the Self (glimpses of our total being). During this process, we begin to integrate the opposites within us (flesh and spirit, reason and emotion, extravert and introvert, saint and sinner). What is not integrated is projected out, so we perceive the unconscious parts of ourselves in others rather then recognising them in ourselves.

In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature… there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. Carl Jung

From a Jungian perspective, when we enter the chakras through dance we enter not only our individual selves but also a collective experience passed through the ages, culture to culture.

Another Jungian technique used in Chakradance is what he called ‘active imagination’, which feels a bit like a waking dream. In active imagining, we use self-expression – be it drawing, writing, or dancing – with the aim of assimilating and integrating our unconscious.

In Chakradance, we use the chakras to journey into our different aspects of consciousness, using specific music and creative visualisations relevant to each of the chakras such as physical elements, colours, or archetypes. This triggers a chain of associated images, ideas, sensations, feelings, or insights to rise from deep within us to the surface of our consciousness. The process of ‘active imagination’ sets up a line of communication between consciousness and the unconscious.

Chakradance is a beautiful example of a sacred dance practice, which uses ancient and modern wisdom to connect our spirit with the divine, both within ourselves and with the universe. The intention of Chakradance is to bring all seven chakras into harmony and balance.

Each of us is born with a treasure, an essence, a seed of quiescent potential, secreted for safekeeping in the center of our being. This treasure, this personal quality, power, talent, or gift (or set of such qualities), is ours to develop, embody, and offer to our communities in acts of service—our contributions to a more diverse, vital, and evolved world. Our personal destiny is to become that treasure through our actions. Bill Plotkin

crown_chakra___sahasrara___by_rebelbam-d7vu9ho

This week I got to thinking about sacred knowledge and cultural appropriation.

I went to a rally to protest the closures of the aboriginal communtities in Western Australia. Thousands of people sat in the city centre, outside the main train station at Flinders St, in the middle of Friday night peak hour. There was a fire and the sacred leaves were burnt, creating a smoke that smudged the entire gathering. My friend and I, both pale redheads, are never going to pass as indigenous to this land, and yet we are passionate about standing beside our indigenous brothers and sisters as they fight to stay on their lands.

I didn’t bring a flag or even my click sticks, it just didn’t feel appropriate. I was standing in solidarity, not trying to be a token aboriginal. I haven’t had their experience, I don’t have their songlines and dreamings in my psyche and DNA, and it would be shallow of me to pretend I do.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. Henry David Thoreau

What I do have is a deepening connection to this land, and a greater respect and understanding for the continuous cultural traditions that have been maintained here over the last 50,000 years.

As I do with shamanism and druidry and the Hindu chakra system. I respect this wisdom.

I didn’t have the privilege of growing up in a cultural tradition like that. As many people these days, even our indigenous peoples, do not. This is, in part, my passion for this protest. Believing as I do in the interconnectedness of land and people, I cannot abide the idea that in this day and age we would still force our First peoples from their land. Enough damage has been done, I cannot stand by and watch more.

I absolutely believe to the core of my being that these land-based traditions hold the key for our sustainability as a human race. Not that we need to revert to the past, but we do need to acknowledge wisdom that has stood the test of time, that works.

There is no reason why ancient tradition and science and technology cannot support each other, cannot be mutually enhanced by interacting with each other.

Jason Kirkey writes in his wonderful book on the ecology of Celtic spirituality, The Salmon in the Spring, of the need for integration. We know our technological life is inherently lacking in spirit, and yet who of us wants to live without electricity and running water – only a small few.

The goal then is to integrate our technological advances with a renewed spiritual connection with the wilderness. Intrinsic to our soul is a deep need for this connection and only by honouring this can we bring the vision of a truly modern world – one that respects science, technology, nature and spirit – into being. Kirkey argues that evolution is the key, we cannot go backwards to a more primitive life, nor should we.

hail_to_my_african_sun_by_rebelbam-d5zq37u

Our evolution and continued viability as a life-enhancing species on this planet requires our ecological integration into the cosmos. The human being is at its most creative wholeness when it freely and effortlessly mediates its own realized wildness into the world. Jason Kirkey

The mantle bestowed on humans in collective evolution is our ability for self-reflective awareness. This is not ‘our’ intelligence per se, but rather the evolutionary process has blessed us with this capacity to be a “particular expression of an intelligence and subjectivity” present in the cosmos from the beginning. In the scheme of things, of nature, humans got the job of self-reflection.

Our purpose now is to integrate this reflective consciousness into a mode of living that is in harmony with the evolutionary functions of all life – and not contrary to it.

So, I am wondering, I am thinking aloud. How do we honour and respect traditional cultures, allow them to operate according to the sacred traditions, accept that some knowledge will never be ours because of tribal law, and yet be thankful for the knowledge that can be shared to further our development? Can we defer to the experience and wisdom of our First peoples, without the typical modern Western arrogant demand for proof and evidence first? (As if 50,000 years of practical experience isn’t enough evidence.)

Sure, let’s invite science in to learn more about why these practices work, but let’s not wait for science, but rather accept that there is a demonstrated body of evidence already to the veracity and power of indigenous wisdom.

Western civilisation needs a complete overhaul or it will fall apart one day or another. It has realised the most complete perversion of any rational order of things. Reign of matter, of gold, of machine, of number, it no longer possesses breath, or liberty, or light… As long as we only talk about economic classes, profit, salaries, and production, and as long as we believe that real human progress is determined by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods, then we are not even close to what is essential. Julius Evola

tranquil_lotus_by_rebelbam-d69t12p

And for those of us who long for a framework within which to practice, can we incorporate the core principles of ancient wisdom, the ones that is is appropriate to share outside of strict tribal restrictions,  into a synthesised practice, one that acknowledges both the traditions and the reality of the modern world?

I too must be an estuary of confluent tides—
this earth-body of antlered thoughts,
the decay of leaves: my branching mind.
Tumbling with stones and salmon toward the sea,
the rivers of the Earth move through me. Jason Kirkey

Yes. I think we can. It’s already happening. It’s time to change the channel. To recognise that the money economy is only one possible construct of a limitless number under which we could live. And if it doesn’t work, we get to choose another.

Affirmations for the chakras:

I am grounded and connected with Mother Earth

I am in the flow of sensory experiences

I am taking up my rightful space in the world

I am open to love

I am expressing myself authentically

I am clear sighted and intuitive

I am experiencing my divinity and the divinity of all life

 

Bless!

tranquil_void_by_rebelbam-d5el5gl

Images by RebelBam on deviantart

Sources:

Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith

Chakradance.com

Arvan Harvat’s Introduction to the Chakras

Starry, starry dreamtime

dreamtime_sisters_184_photo_slideshow_CACHE-1000x1000

Modern physics is describing what the ancient wisdom keepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the ‘Earthkeepers’ say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses. Alberto Villoldo

Space. The final frontier… to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. Captain James T. Kirk

I’ve made no secret of the fact that when I started exploring the third eye chakra, this Star Trek sound byte was my in. I think it was Patrick Stewart’s dulcet tones, and the the vision of infinite space, of an starry indigo sky, and that sense of endless possibilities. Space has always captivated and fascinated me. The possibility that there was a space that vast within me, well…

And although the third eye is by no means a place that no one has gone before, it certainly feels like that when you begin to explore it.

I know this isn’t Patrick Stewart, but you gotta love the kitsch!

Our society has such a fear of the dark. Whether the dark depths of the ocean, or deep space. And yet the dark is where everything is born. From chaos, from the void, in it all creation stories begin, before the first sound and the first light, when there was only darkness, pregnant with possibilities.

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. Oscar Wilde

Many moons ago, I did a shamanic journey with my old flame, I went to a dark space, to the void. At the time, used to more elaborate, visual journeys, I mistakenly thought nothing had happened. Perhaps the proximity of my beloved had prevented me from letting go of the physical world and making the transition to the otherworld? I thought. It was like that with us, that buzzy energy when our bodies were close, it was rather distracting.

And yet, it wasn’t nothingness. The place I journeyed to had a substance and a heat to it. It had a pressure, it was pitch black, with only the tiniest pin-pricks of light, but it had so much presence. I remember being a little baffled and even disappointed at the time. My beloved had such a vivid journey to tell and I had, well, a whole lot of indescribable nothingness.

Close your eyes,
then you will find the way. Puyallup Indian myth

seven sister dreaming

Months later when I started studying Shamanic Journeying with Sandra Ingerman, I read an account by another student of such a journey. Sandra explained that this place is known as the ‘void’ and it is where we can go to ‘dream’ reality into being. It is a place of potential energy, before it takes form.

To me this concept of ‘dreaming’ creation from the void of pure potential, is the essence of the third eye chakra, it is vast, and yet it contains everything, and more specifically the possibilities of everything.

The shaman is a self-reliant explorer of the endless mansions of a magnificent hidden universe. Michael Harner

In Sanskit, Ajna translates as both “perceive” and “command”, and is considered the centre of intuition and intellect. It is the centre of inner vision and dreaming. This chakra is known as the ‘third eye,’ an energy centre situated between the brows, that has major significance in the energy anatomy of several religions and belief systems.

In the Taoist Qigong, the highest Dantian (energy centre) is located at this position. This is one of three ‘furnaces’ that converts the different sorts of energy in the body. In this Dantian, the spiritual shen energy is converted into wuji, the infinite space of void.

If you have insight, you use your inner eye, your inner ear, to pierce to the heart of things. Chuang Tzu 

Within the Sufi system of Lataif-e-sitta (the six subtleties) there exists a Lataif known as Khafi, or arcane subtlety, in this same position, and is related to mystical intuition.

According to the Kabbalah, there are two sephirot (emanating spheres) located at this level, associated with the left and right parts of the face. They are called Chokmah (wisdom), and Binah (understanding). [Wikipedia]

news-20-1289

This is your database of where you create your reality. This is your mission control. Caroline Myss

In Theosophy the third eye is related to the pineal gland. Philosopher René Descartes believed the pineal gland to be the “principal seat of the soul” and also viewed it as the third eye.

In the Celtic Chakras as described by Elen Sentier, “The brow is the meeting place that holds all the energies of the chakras.” In shamanic traditions, the word for ‘shaman’ was often ‘one who has the eye’ or ‘one who sees’ suggesting the use of this inner vision. 

The Iroquois have, properly speaking only a single divinity – the dream. To it they render their submission, and follow all its orders with the utmost exactness. Jacques Fremin

In the Indigenous Australian cultures, it is referred to as the “strong eye” and is both a tool for seeing the spirit world, as well as a form of deep-looking at the landscape, that caused a shift in consciousness into a meditative or trance-like state. Quartz crystals placed on the third eye to awaken visionary skills was common in some tribes.

When geographically distinct cultures from the world over express such similar associations with this energy centre, it implies a commonality in their direct experience. Which suggests to me that there is a distinctive character to this energy centre that can be tapped into regardless of cultural or religious bias.

Our imagination flies – we are its shadow on the earth. Vladimir Nabokov

The third eye Chakradance is a dance of ecstatic and altered states of consciousness reached through trance-dance. The dance of the third eye is the dance of the intuitive mind. In this dance we let go of the physical world and take the journey into the psychic world of our imagination.

Sandra Ingerman says that shamans dance to shake off their everyday lives and to free themselves from the anchor of their ego-mind which keeps us rooted in ordinary reality.

We journey in order to see, to understand, or to touch our intuition at its essence. And we can bring that clear sight back into reality with us.

In our visions, and our dreams, in the archetypal images that resonate with us, our unconscious speaks to us of a deeper truth than our physical senses perceive.

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem

dreamtime_sisters_199_photo_slideshow.CACHE-1000x1000

The nature of the third eye chakra is spacious and vast. It feels like anything is possible, the energy is so light and free-flowing.

This chakra governs mental functions of sight and visual recall, including the memory. It is located in the centre of the forehead – inside the head, radiating inwards, it’s focus is self-reflection and inner sight. When something is seen in the mind’s eye, or in a dream, it is being ‘seen’ by Ajna.

The third eye chakra is said to be the centre of perception, that intuitive sixth sense of just knowing, without knowing how we know. It is also the centre of our dreams and memory recall, the chakra where we can tap into archetypal energies. Through active use of our imagination, we can gain command over our vision of the world.

Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

It is in Ajna that we tap into the ‘collective unconscious’ and the world of archetypes. During the Chakradance we work with an archetypal energy in order to allow that energy to enter the physical body and move through it. By embodying archetypal energies in the meditative dance space, we can gain insight into how these energies are manifesting in our lives.

Accessing the full power of the imagination is a gift inherent in all of us. The ‘command’ function of Ajna relates to the powers of visual imagination. This allows us to shift from left-brain rational cognition to right-brain creative thinking. This is the shift into our inner visionary. Yes, you DO have one!

Whilst to the modern Western mindset, the concepts of archetypes and a collective unconscious sit more comfortably, in shamanic cultures these encounters are seen as a communion with spirits, power animals, and totems.

Since the so-called Age of Enlightenment, our shaky anthropocentric, rationalist egos have been brainwashed to forget what ‘primitive’ cultures once understood: Animals can be manifestations of celestial beings in disguise; they possess supernatural abilities, and they can be our spiritual guides and healers. Zeena Schreck

In Australian indigenous cultures this interconnection of people, land, and spirit is part of the what westerners call the Dreamtime, The Dreaming. In truth there is no one ‘Dreaming’, as each tribe and nation had its own Dreamings, specific to the land they dwell on.

Across the many indigenous Australians languages, there is no word for time. So although the ‘Dreamings’ contain creation stories, they are possess power and currency beyond time, and these stories and the spirits they convey have depth and relevance to all aspects of life.

art

The ‘Dreaming’ contains the creation stories in which the Ancestor Spirits came to the earth in human form and as they moved through the land, they created the animals, plants, rocks and other forms of the land that we know today.

In the beginning all was dark. The earth was flat and bare. There was no life, no death. The sun, the moon, and the stars, all of life, the ancestors, slept beneath the earth.

When the eternal ancestors awoke, in the ‘Dreamtime’, they wandered the earth, sometimes in animal form – as kangaroos, or emus, or lizards — sometimes in human shape, sometimes part animal and human, sometimes as part human and plant.

The spirits that make up ‘The Dreaming’ are eternal, existing in the past, the present, and the future equally. Christine Nicholls writes that ‘The Dreaming’ is conceptualised as “an eternal and continuing process involving the maintenance of life forces, embodied or symbolised as people, spirits, other natural species, or natural phenomena such as rocks, waterholes or constellations.”

The Dreaming’ or ‘the Dreamtime’ indicates a psychic state in which or during which contact is made with the ancestral spirits, or the Law, or that special period of the beginning. Mudrooroo

‘The Dreaming’ exists always and is deeply connected to the land, the land, animals, trees, rocks and plant life, all having their own spirit, the spirit that lives in all things. Humans and animals, plants, landscape features, and elements such as wind and fire, are all temporary incarnations of spirits which have always existed and will continue to exist after the material form is gone.

Once the Ancestor spirits had created the world, they became the trees, the stars, rocks, watering holes or living things. These are the sacred places of Aboriginal culture, the ‘Dreaming’ is never-ending, linking the past and the present, the people and the land. These beliefs form the foundation of all Aboriginal religions.  

Even humans have an associated primordial form, or totem. A person’s totem is more than just a symbol; it is an essential aspect of their being. Similar to the shamanistic concept of power animals. These totem animals are representative of the animal – meaning a kangaroo totem represents all kangaroos, the archetypal essence of kangaroo, not just an individual animal – and provide power and protection to their human connections.

Even though the ‘Dreamings’ vary, the Aboriginal people were also hugely interconnected.

For example, the Tingari are a group of Ancestral elders of the ‘Dreaming’ who travelled over vast stretches of the country, performing rituals and creating and shaping particular sites. Tingari is a Pintupi word in which the ‘Tingari’ is a creation myth, which refers to this group of Ancestral elders who embarked upon numerous journeys through the vast lands of the Gibson and Western Deserts.

DKA_Dreaming_Stories_CD___Frilly_Lizard

Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything godlike about God, it is that. He dared to imagine everything. Henry Miller

The Tingari stories embody a vast network of ‘Dreaming’ songlines that traverse the Western Desert region of Australia. A songline is one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky), which mark the route followed by Ancestral elders during the ‘Dreaming’. These formed both the knowledge and geographical maps of the people.

Songlines enable navigation across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. In some cases, the paths of these ancestral creator-beings are said to be evident from their marks on the land, such as large depressions, which are said to be their footprints.

By singing these songs, Indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia’s interior. Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different Indigenous peoples, who may speak different languages and have different cultural traditions.

…the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks’ or ‘Songlines’; to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Lore’. Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes – and so singing the world into existence. Bruce Chatwin

Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of the song are said to be in those different languages. Languages are not a barrier because the rhythm and melody of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes.

Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking on this songline and observing the land. They express the living presence of the place. In this way songlines, much like the Celtic bardic tradition of place-name stories, are used to journey with the living spirits of the land, the deities, and the Ancestors. Traditional Aboriginal people regard all land as sacred, and the songs must be continually sung to keep the land “alive”.

The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and painting. 

Wayamba_the_Turtle

The Jukurrpa [The Dreaming] is an all-embracing concept that provides rules for living, a moral code, as well as rules for interacting with the natural environment. The philosophy behind it is holistic – the Jukurrpa provides for a total, integrated way of life. It is important to understand that, for Warlpiri and other Aboriginal people living in remote Aboriginal settlements, The Dreaming isn’t something that has been consigned to the past but is a lived daily reality. We, the Warlpiri people, believe in the Jukurrpa to this day. Jeannie Herbert Nungarrayi

The narrative of these ‘dreamings’ – or stories or myths as we from Western cultures tend to think of them – are grounded in the land itself and draw upon the topographical features of the land and the sky to form creation and other land-based narratives that inform the peoples’ lives in every way, from practical matters of hunting and migrating, to their ethics and morality, to their spiritual lives.

Furthermore, as scientists from all over the world, including NASA are realising, these cultures have been recording valuable astronomy data in their ‘Dreaming’ stories for over 50,000. Check out this TedX talk by astronomer Duane Hamacher:

Speaking of cultural astronomy, the Pleiades is the brightest constellation of stars in the sky, and has been recorded in cultures as diverse as the Egyptian, Greek, Hopi, Mayan, Lakota, Japanese, Maori and Australian Aboriginal, since the beginning of human history.

The Mayans, Cherokee, and Hopi believe that their ancestors come from the Pleiades. The ancient Mayans and Egyptians built pyramids aligned with the stars of the Pleiades. They are known in Egypt as the Seven Midwives.  In China and Greece they are known as the Seven Sisters. 

According to Philip A. Clarke, there have been over fifty versions of the indigenous Pleiades dreaming stories recorded in Australia, most of them mirror the trend of associations with seven sisters who were chased into the sky through a variety of causes. The element most versions share is that a group of young women/girls are fleeing from either a single man or a group of men. In parts of the Kimberley Aboriginal people consider that an “old man,” the planet Venus, chases the youngest of the Plieades sisters across the night sky. 

We have five senses in which we glory and which we recognize and celebrate, senses that constitute the sensible world for us. But there are other senses – secret senses, sixth senses, if you will – equally vital, but unrecognized, and unlauded. Oliver Sacks

It is fascinating to me that such geographically disparate cultures share such common stories for this constellation. In many of these cultures, certainly the Australian and Native American, they believed that the ‘sky-world’ was in direct communication with us, teaching us these ‘dreamings.’

So what does all this have to do with me? I’m glad you asked. You see, despite appearances to the contrary, I am keenly sensitive of cultural (mis)appropriation. It worried at first me about Chakradance, drawing upon an Indian tradition, well I’m not Indian nor was I raised in that culture, so to alleviate this feeling of assuming another culture, I have been investigating what links I might find for the chakras in my ancestral Celtic heritage.

Yet somehow, as I practise Chakradance in my studio, what I seem to be connecting with more and more, is not just my ancestral traditions, but the spirit of the land.

I am a little reticent to write in too much detail about what I’m experiencing, it’s nascent and sacred, but it is sufficient to say it’s a very Australian connection, to this land and it’s people.

a9a22de581f1df3209a0cb6023cbf08f

And of course, it makes sense. Shamanism is very much about connecting with nature spirits, and if researching the ‘dreamings’ of the First Australians has taught me anything, it is that this land that I have been raised on is full of spirit, every rock, every river, every land mass, every tree has a story. As I lead ceremonies, as I ask for the spirits of the land to bless my space and bless my rites, of course the inevitable has happened, I have entered into a relationship with them.

The more I journey and tap into these unseen realms, the more I tend to agree that all living things are imbued in spirit, are in possession of consciousness, and are capable of communicating, if only we can remember how to see with our strong eye. Perhaps at some time we will transcend cultural barriers and reclaim our connection to spirit through direct experience, with both our ancestors and the ancestral spirits of whatever land we find ourselves in.

Close both eyes. Look from the other eye. Rumi

 

Affirmations from Natalie Southgate

The answers to all my questions lie within me.

I trust my insight and intuition.

I see clearly both in the physical and subtle worlds.

I see and understand the “big picture”.

My intellect is a powerful tool for good.

I envision and create beauty and goodness.

I am open to experiencing non-ordinary reality.

I trust my inner self to guide and protect me.

My imagination is vivid and powerful.

I am open to the wisdom within me.

 

Bless!

 

Images:

Wild Bush Yam Dreaming by Colleen Wallace Nungari

Alma Nungarrayi Granites, Yanjirlpirri or Napaljarri-warnu Jukurrpa (Star or Seven Sisters Dreaming)

Dreamtime Sisters by Colleen Wallace Nungari

Tingari – Karrkurritinytja (Lake MacDonald)  by George Ward Tjungurrayi

Wayamba the Turtle by Peter Muraay Djeripi Mulcahy

Tingari – Karrkurritinytja by Anatjari Tjampitjinpa 

Mundagatta Kulliwari by Michael J Donelly

Seven Sisters by Maggi Yilpi

 

Sources:

Introduction to Aboriginal Religion

An Overview of Australian Aboriginal Ethnoastronomy

Dreamtime and The Dreaming – an introduction

What is the Dreamtime or The Dreaming?

 

Check out Melbourne’s own Stonehenge:

Aboriginal Astronomy:

Singing your soul home

sambrown5Our task is to chant the world, chant the beauty. The world is a reflection of our chanting. Billy Yellow

Considering that this post is based on the chakra of communication and expression – the throat chakra – it seems rather ironic that this week I have experienced a chronic writer’s block, as well as a more pervasive block in my emotions and self-expression, that has left me feeling more angry and frustrated than expressive.

Maybe it’s something in the air, the planetary alignments, it seems that everyone is out of sorts this week. We are all like pressure cookers waiting for that final blast of heat that pops our lids.

And yet, surely the purpose of opening up our energy centres is to allow these very blocks to surface and be cleared.

Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. Rainer Maria Rilke

The throat chakra has always felt to me like a gateway between the realms of ordinary and non-ordinary reality. Here we transcend the element air and move into ether, the great void of potential energy. In a realm of subtle vibrational energy, any thought, sound, or intention can immediately shift things energetically. Here creation begins.

All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world. The Dhammapada 

It is here, in this etheric world of sound and vibration, we begin to understand how our thoughts and words have power. How the intentions behind these sounds really do contribute to our reality, to the world’s reality. And then the task becomes how to shift these often entrenched ways of thinking and speaking, our learned reactions to the world, and create a higher vibration that lifts our spirit as well as the collective energy field. Chanting does this. Creative expression does this.

samborwn9

Art activates the creative impulse in the brain-body-mind system, which to me is the God Impulse. It opens the portals of both our inward as well as our outer sensory systems. We are no longer encapsulated bags of skin dragging around dreary little egos. With art and music we become an organizing environment, our frequencies are raised. And we become re-frequenced with regard to world and time. And that is why the artist and musician often is the one who tells the emerging story, because their frequencies and their sensitivities have been honed and heightened to the point that they are picking up the rhythms of awakening. Jean Houston

In ancient cultures there was a perception of a divine harmony in the movements of the sun, moon, stars, and planets – the music of the spheres. The ancients designed their temples and stone circles based on these natural cycles. According to Joscelyn Godwin, Professor of Music at Colgate University, “the Australian Aboriginal culture, which is our planet’s longest continuously existing culture, has a 50,000 year history of using music to maintain the natural order. They perceive the landscape as a series of ‘songlines’, each representing an aspect of their cosmology, and they sing these songs to keep the life energy of the earth and the people in balance.”

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. Rumi

Australian aboriginals believed that without knowing the songs of the various species of plant and animal life, and being able to communicate with the nature spirits in this way, they literally would not survive. Like many indigenous cultures, their rituals, songs, dances, and art were interwoven with, both the practical matters of monitoring the seasons and moving to suitable shelter and hunting grounds, to matters of the spirit and living in harmony of the whole of creation.

sambrown

The throat chakra is representative of this concept of ‘as above, so below’, heaven and earth, our inner and outer worlds.

Our throat chakra is a bridge between our inner and outer selves – who we feel we truly are, and how we represent ourselves in the world. Lisa Erickson

Vissudha is the chakra of truth, communication, and expression. Represented by the archetype of the communicator, or alternately, as I have experienced this week, its shadow archetype, the silent child – realised as an inability for self-expression, self-doubt, self-criticism, and negative perceptions.

It’s hard to imagine how I would shift these blocks on my own, I am so thankful to be a part of my shamanic and Chakradance communities where there is a wealth of shared experience, wisdom, and support.

My teacher Sandra Ingerman is very humble in both expressing her difficulties over the years with aspects of journeying, and emphasising the need for practice. It’s not meant to be easy to become a ‘hollow bone’. We do get distracted by our mind’s chatter.

In shamanic journeying we aim to be like a hollow bone, to leave our ego-mind behind and allow spirit to carry our consciousness on the journey. In order to achieve this, we need to find rituals that allow us to leave our ego state of ordinary reality, to ’empty’ ourselves out, in order to become a receptacle for helping spirits, and to journey to the hidden realms of non-ordinary reality, or the ‘otherworld’ as the Celts so poetically refer to it.

sambrown4

This week I had the pleasure of teaching two Chakradance classes, one of which was focused entirely on the throat chakra. This chakra corresponds to the element of ether which, according to Carl Jung, is the sound and substance of the angelic realms.

By the time you reach this chakra, you are operating at a mostly vibrational level. Although the chakra is based in the physical throat and affects physiological areas of the throat, the ears and the thyroid gland, the energy of this centre is large and subtle, and very, very blue.

To harmonise the throat chakra, we use sound, through humming, chanting, singing, even shouting to release any pent up energy. If you are anything like me, every few weeks I need to play loud metal music and ‘sing my guts out’- it’s incredibly cleansing!

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all. Emily Dickinson

In Chakradance, we revert to an ancient form of heavy metal, the chanting of mantra sounds. For the throat chakra the sound is ‘ham’ – pronounced like ‘hum’ not the cured meat!

A mantra is a sacred sound which, when recited or chanted repetitively, can bring about a vibrational connection with certain aspects of the subtle energy body, higher self, or spirit. The Sanskrit word mantra consists of the root man- “to think” (also in manas “mind”) and the suffix -tra, designating tools or instruments, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”.

The most well-known mantra is probably the “om”, “ohm” or “aum.” The syllable “om” is first described as all-encompassing mystical entity in the Upanishads. Hindus believe that as creation began, the divine, all-encompassing consciousness took the form of the first and original vibration manifesting as sound “OM”.

spiral animals

Before creation began it was “Shunyākāsha”, the emptiness or the void. Shunyākāsha, meaning literally “no sky”, is more than nothingness, because everything then existed in a latent state of potentiality. The vibration of “OM” symbolises the manifestation of God in form, it is the reflection of the absolute reality, without beginning or end, and embracing all that exists.

The mantra “OM” is the name of God, the vibration of the Supreme. When taken letter by letter, A-U-M represents the divine energy (Shakti) united in its three elementary aspects: Bhrahma Shakti (creation), Vishnu Shakti (preservation) and Shiva Shakti (liberation, and/or destruction). [Wikipedia]

In the ancient Egypt, Athens and Rome, for example, sound was understood to be the fundamental creative force of the universe. You find knowledge of this in the sacred texts of different traditions. For example, in the book of Genesis, it is written “And the Lord SAID ‘Let there be light’” and in the Gospel according to St. John, is the statement “In the Beginning was the word”- the creation of the universe occurring through sound. Jonathan Goldman

Mantras can be used to resonate and harmonise the chakras, starting with low tones at the base, moving through mid-tones at the heart, and high tones at the crown. Interestingly the do-re-mi tones – as in “Do -a deer – a female deer…” – align quite nicely with the chakras. So many of us Western-raised kids have been singing basic mantras without even knowing it.

To penetrate the mysteries of music is to prepare for initiation into those fathomless mysteries of man and cosmos. Joscelyn Godwin

Try this Johnathan Goldman vocal toning the chakras video – it only takes 8 minutes and you’ll be buzzing with good vibrations.

Preparing for the throat Chakradance, I was chanting ‘ham’ for many hours this week. I observe a state of deep calm and ‘otherworldliness’ come over me after these chanting sessions. We all need different techniques to access a state of non-ordinary reality. For me being in a sacred space, either my space or nature, chanting and dancing, or making acoustic noises with drums or rattles, really helps me transition.

Spending time in communion with the throat chakra has highlighted a need to find my voice, to express myself, to make sound, both as communication and expression. Something happens to my soul when I voice this unfettered expression. Many of my partners have been powerful personalities and great singers and I have always tended to stay quiet in their midst. By vocalising with passion, I am finding my own voice, and suddenly it is like a dam bursting, and so much emotion that has been held back is allowed to flow freely.

In shamanism we find power songs or soul songs, which often come through a deep connection with the land.

You need to learn that there are songs that can connect you with the Earth; there are dances that you can dance. When you go to a place on the Earth, if the land calls out to you and says dance, then you should come alive and dance for the power in that spot. You should let a song come up out of you for the Earth, and the words don’t really matter; it’s the feeling. Pretty soon, as you open up to that kind of energy, you’re no longer simply you; you’ve become an Earth spirit, just feeling and hearing everything. That’s what we do at many of our ceremonies, we transform. Sun Bear

Back in January, I found my power place, sitting in a rock pool by the ocean. I started singing an Ani DeFranco song, but soon I was just crooning, wailing, I don’t even know what sound-making was coming from deep within me. It just came and I kept singing it and the more I sang, the more I felt that the ocean was holding me in my pain. That somehow my pain was a gateway to this kind of openness that would allow me to sit in the shallows and make these sounds. I was completely carried away, without inhibition.

Smiling with the mouth of the ocean
And I’ll wave to you with the arms of the mountain
I’ll see you. Faith No More

That emergent song stayed with me, and I use it in ceremony to connect me to that place of power that I connected with. It is a place within, but I also visualise that physical place and reconnect with the spirit of that land that so generously bestowed its power on me.

A power song is said to connect us with our helping spirits: power animals and guides, and to call our power home, both in the summoning of these spirit powers, but also singing our lost soul parts home. This correlation between voice and power makes sense to me.

sambrown6

Finding voice is a theme in Celtic stories, like this one of the bard-poet Caedmon. Caedmon arrived in Ireland in 650, into a highly musical culture. At gatherings a harp would be passed around and everyone had a turn, singing and playing.

“Often at a drinking gathering, when there was an occasion of joy when all must in turn sing with a harp, when Caedmon saw the harp nearing him, he arose for shame from that feast and went home.”

One night, after quietly slipping out of another gathering, he went to tend the animals in the stables. There, “When he set his limbs at rest and fell asleep, some man stood by him in his dream and hailed and greeted him and addressed him by his name: “Caedmon, sing me something.”

Caedmon responded, “I do not know how to sing and for that reason I went out from this feast and went hither.”

To which the figure responded, “Nevertheless, you must sing.”

“What must I sing?” asked the bewildered Caedmon.

Said this mysterious figure: “Sing to me of the first Creation.”

Caedmon then launched out in a fine blaze of song, with an erudition and musical intelligence that he never known before. The day following, he described his dream to his foreman, who brought the event to the attention of the Abbess Hilda. Caedmon’s gift was tested and confirmed when he composed and sang for her and her counsellors. 

Excerpt from The Shamanic Odyssey: Homer, Tolkien, and the Visionary Experience, by Robert Tindall and Susana Bustos 

sambrown2Caedmon’s song, like those who still sing in traditional shamanic cultures, had the quality of creating the world anew. When the bards sang, although they told the old stories and myths, each telling created these stories new, and their listeners experienced these tales as vivid visions through the power of the bard’s voice. The song literally took them on a journey.

Sing in me, muse, and through me tell the story of the man of many ways. Homer

In the Irish bardic tradition, stories were meant to evolve and change over time. A talented bard could deliver an old myth with exactly the power needed in that moment to bring about healing, wisdom, and transmutation.

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. Muriel Rukeyser

In the Irish mythological cycle, the poet Amergin invoked the spirit of the land, the goddess Éire, and cajoled her to give over the land to the people, by singing of his spiritual connection with the land and it’s animal and elemental spirits:

I am the wind that breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combatants,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in valor,
I am a salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a word of science,
I am the point of the lance in battle,
I am the God who created in the head the fire. Amergin

What he is saying, is that he is the spirit that lives in all things. In a shamanic state we can journey to any aspect of the spirit that lives in all things – we can connect with the salmon or the boar, the lake or the sun. The separation of energy and matter we experience as a barrier in ordinary reality, simply does not apply in non-ordinary realms.

tribal-love-spiral-sam-brown

Seeking Your Power Song by Kristin Madden

Find a place where you feel safe and are unlikely to be disturbed.
Make an offering of thanks to the spirits of this place and to the Creator. Ask for their blessings and protection in this work that you are about to do.
Enter shamanic or meditative trance by your usual method.
Go deep within your Self. Find who you are at your core, beyond your identity and the roles you play in this world. Feel yourself embodying the True You as you are filled with the energy of the multiverse. You are open to healing energy and to communication with spirit guides.
Begin to sing from this place of vitality, honesty, and power. Allow all you feel and all that you are to flow into your song. Be aware of any changes in your energy or body as the song becomes part of your being.
When you feel you have experienced what you set out to do, or that your song is complete for now, give thanks to all those that walk with you, guide you, and enliven you. Sit in silence for a moment and take note of how you feel. Then return to normal consciousness.

If you don’t feel confident entering a trance-state, simply sit in nature, in a place that appeals to you where you can be undisturbed, and begin to hum or chant and allow yourself to be carried away with the sounds and the sensual feel of the place. Notice the sounds, the smells, can you feel the breeze on your skin, the sunshine?

Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last
for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then— open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away. Mary Oliver

Allow yourself to be immersed in this place, this sensory connection will enable you to shift from your purely rational mind into a full body sensual experience of the place.

Don’t worry if a ‘song’ doesn’t come, just get used to experiencing the spirit of a place in this way. Over time, you’ll find as your sensory awareness awakens, you’ll begin to express your connection with the place in a creative way. Just let it unfold.

The stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own. Mary Oliver

 

Bless!

samborwn 11

Art by Sam Brown – view at ceruleansam.com and on Facebook

Sam began painting fantasy and science fiction themes which he still enjoys today. Over time, subjects such as anthropology, metaphysics and mysticism began to influence the content of his paintings and led to his magnetism toward the archetype of the spiral. A pattern seen throughout the Universe, the spiral has been utilized by many cultures over time and has several meanings associated with it. One being that of a spiritual journey… a spiral path which we all share.

Visit Sam on Facebook to see his creative process in action – it’s fascinating!

 

Sources:

On Earth as it is in Heaven: an interview with musicologist Joscelyn Goodwin

Shamanic Song among the Ancient Celts on Roaming the Mind – the online home for the writing and work of Robert Tindall and Susana E. Bustos.

 

Turning the heart

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness and ecstasy. Robert A. Johnson

Last week I wrote about the Celtic energy centres – the cauldrons – and since I have been practising Elen Sentier’s meditation on the Spiral Path through the chakras, even making a recording here on Soundcloud if you would like to try it. This week in particular, I am fascinated by the Cauldron of Motion and Vocation, Coire Ernmae, which some writers say, corresponds to the heart and solar plexus chakras.

This week’s Chakradance class was focused on the heart chakra. As always, there has been much synchronicity around this energy this week. What I teach and what I need to learn seem to flow together quite effortlessly.

In a reiki session at the start of the week, the reiki master, also a dear friend, said my heart was literally shouting “enough!”

This came as no surprise to me, nor probably to anyone who regularly reads this blog. Last year I reconnected with the man I had felt was my soul mate, and then following the well-worn pattern of the previous few years, our relationship imploded. The pain of this has been excruciating for me. Even five months later, I am left with a constant pain in my heart and this sense of not knowing, not understanding.

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. Charles Dickens

After my reiki session, as I practiced and then facilitated the heart Chakradance class, I tried to hear my heart, what was she saying to me? It seemed to me she had gone quiet, non-responsive, as if she was sulking, angry at the way I had allowed her to be pummelled so mercilessly.

Reflecting back on my life, I tried to remember a time when my heart felt open and safe. Of course there were times in the early throes of love when my heart blossomed, but these were all too quickly followed by the steely grate of disappointment and rejection slamming down on her.

It is almost always the case that whatever has wounded you will also be instrumental in your healing. Robert A. Johnson

I have always been disappointed in love. I have never been able to love and be loved in equal measure. I think of an animal, who when hurt, will retreat to a remote place to lick its wounds, and I feel this is where my heart is at. So I am trying to honour that.

feeling-blue-surbhi-grover

This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. Elizabeth Gilbert

Having the week off work, my intention has been to ask my heart what it wants, and try to honour that. Although she hasn’t been very talkative, I know when I find those things. Going back to yoga after a long absence has felt like a balm for my heart and soul. Spending time with a dear friend, back from a long sojourn in India, has reminded me of the necessity to embrace life and seek joy.

My friend has suffered great loss, its not my story to tell, but losing half your family is enough to smother the most robust of hearts. I have witnessed my friend walk through years of grieving, with great courage, candour, and determination.

His trip to India was a magical, mystical tour of, in your face, no holes barred, life. India is like that.

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. Louise Erdrich

This got me to thinking about the Celtic concept of the ‘turning of the cauldrons’. In the Celtic tradition, from what little we know of it, the three Cauldrons, or energy centres, are not all upright by default. The Cauldron of Warming, which provides our life-force, is upright in all of us from birth, but the other two, Vocation and Wisdom, must be turned by experience and the accumulation of wisdom. You can read more about the three cauldrons in my last post here.

There is a tendency is our modern, scientific, literal culture to dismiss stories and poems as fantasy. What possible wisdom could they offer us? What possible cosmology can be gained from a poem written over a thousand years ago? Robert A. Johnson answers this concern best:

First we must learn to think mythologically. Powerful things happen when we touch the thinking which myths, fairy tales, and our own dreams bring to us. The terms and settings of the old myths are strange; they seem archaic and distant to us, but if we listen to them carefully and take them seriously, we begin to hear and to understand. Robert A. Johnson

According to the poem, the Cauldron of Poesy, everyone is born into this world containing three centres: a centre of existence (The Cauldron of Warming), a centre of experience (The Cauldron of Vocation) and a centre of consciousness (The Cauldron of Knowledge).

The Cauldron of Warming is that which is necessary for life. The Cauldrons of Vocation and Knowledge are those areas of ourselves that can be changed by our own efforts. The texts describe the Cauldron of Warming as being upright at birth, while the Cauldron of Vocation is on its side and the Cauldron of Knowledge is inverted.

enlightened-within-surbhi-grover

The Cauldron of Vocation seems to correlate to the heart and solar plexus chakras in the Hindu tradition – although as I said last week this is merely a way for me to get traction with these concepts, there is no reason to believe there is an actual correspondence. This cauldron is turned to its side at birth and as the poem that tells of the cauldrons goes:

How many divisions of sorrow that turn the cauldrons of sages? Not hard; four. Longing, grief, the sorrows of jealousy and the discipline of pilgrimage to holy places. It is internally that these are borne although the cause is from outside. Cauldron of Poesy

Reflecting on this passage, on my dear friend’s journey through the most intense of grief and trauma, my own, albeit tame in comparison, ongoing dalliance with grief, longing, and heartache, and it seems to me this is a time of turning. My friend is so open to life and love, stretched wide in the yawning gape of terrific loss, he has allowed his heart to transverse that chasm between despair and joy, to encompass its entirety. I see a man whose heart has turned, and filled with its magic potion of grief, despair, joy, and ecstasy, has begun to bubble and broil with life.

Inspired, I feel a renewed sense of purpose, of vocation, if you will. This heartache is not taking me under, it is turning me.

The Irish are not a culture interested in the white light experience. Transformation in the Irish and Celtic legends is an often painful, laborious process. There is a true sense of balance between the dichotomies of light and dark, joy and sorrow, ecstasy and pain, and a deep sense that you simply cannot have one without the other.

We can see from these phrases that the translation of the word imbas as “poetic frenzy” is not an overstatement of the condition. This Celtic form of enlightenment is no gentle melding with the oneness of the universe. Instead, it is a passionate, sometimes uncontrollable engagement with the fabric of reality. The energies accessed when all the cauldrons are turned into their upright positions does indeed feel like fire flowing through the head, expanding, quickening, and burning, as when Amirgen proclaimed “I am a God who shapes fire for a head.” Erynn Rowan Laurie

As I said, there has been much synchronicity around this awakening, sometimes from the strangest of sources. I am a little nervous to write this, but what the hell, I have shared worse things with you! So this week I have been watching free movies on YouTube, and I came across Shirley MacLaine playing herself in a dramatised version of her autobiographical book Out on a Limb. This book has been canned for MacLaine’s claims of experiences with mediums, extra-terrestrials and past lives in Atlantis. I must admit, I have always written it off as a massive Hollywood, New-Age cliche.

svelte-surbhi-grover

Anyway, disclaimer notwithstanding, I was drawn to this movie. I love Shirley MacLaine as a performer and I was drawn to the opening lines of the movie when she spoke of a time in her life – her mid forties – where she was entwined in a baffling, powerful and tortuous affair with a married man, which defied logical explanation and for which she could only believe there must be a purpose she couldn’t understand.

“Oh hello,” I thought, I’m hooked. So she had me there. It’s an interesting story, it stretches the suspension of disbelief at times, but I resonated to this exploration into the cosmic purpose of this untenable relationship.

I think anyone who has experienced a love like this wonders how something so vast could possibly be contained in a lifetime as fleeting as this.

A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life. Elizabeth Gilbert

At the same time dancing the heart Chakradance, where we invite the union of the masculine and feminine energies in our heart, I began to wonder what is the cosmic purpose of where I find myself? Is this all part of a process to turn my heart into a position of receptivity?

The noble brew in which is boiled
the true root of all knowledge
which bestows after duty
which is climbed after diligence
which poetic ecstasy sets in motion
which joy turns
which is revealed through sorrow;
it is lasting power
undiminishing protection
I sing of the Cauldron of Motion. Cauldron of Poesy

As all of this is brewing in me, my friend gave me the image of an Indian deity, the consort of Krishna. I looked her up, in my goddesses of yoga book, and discovered this was Radha. In Hindu tradition all deities have a masculine/feminine aspect, a shiva/shakti archetype. Radha is Krishna’s shakti energy. Krishna was beautiful, magnetic, loved by all who met him. Young women wanted him, older women mothered and cared for him. He was adored. Radha was completely consumed with him, and yet because of his love for all and by all, she could never possess him in the way she wanted, and thus she is the goddess of unrequited desire and romantic longing.

As I read this out to my friend, we laughed, he could not have found me a more apt goddess!

The lesson of the Krishna/Radha story is the path of parakriya bhakti – enlightenment through erotic love and devotion. When Krishna must leave Radha, she is devastated, but she is encouraged to channel this passion into divine worship, the yoga of bhakti.

krishna-with-she-sekhar-roy

Robert A. Johnson writes in his book, We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, that passionate love in a human is displaced love for the divine. Then it follows that the longing for the lover, is a longing for the divine. The great fire of need that stirs our heart, our Cauldron of Vocation, motivates a reaching, a searching, a yearning, a longing, that begins to turn that cauldron within, and as it turns, it fills up with all that experience of joy and love, of despair and loss, in a great magic brew, and only then can we begin our journey into wisdom.

Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment. John O’Donohue

In the Cauldron of Poesy, we are told that jealousy and longing are part of the magic brew that turns the heart, or the Cauldron of Vocation.

Longing is a familiar concept in Irish stories. In the Settling of the Manor of Tara story, longing is associated with the Oran Mor, the great song. You can read my post on longing here. It is the soul’s longing that creates the music of the world, the great song that sings all into creation. Remembering the Irish were an oral, bardic, storytelling culture, the great song is life to them. Reality and history and cosmology all combine in the songs of the Irish. In their culture there are no true creation stories, in the sense of an absolute beginning of time, the great song is as endless and beginningless as a celtic knot.

The flute of the infinite is played without ending, and its sound is love.
When love renounces all boundaries it arrives at the truth. Srī Kabīrdās

This week in my shamanic studies, we have been connected with a buddy to practise journeying on behalf of others. My buddy is a lovely lady in Mission Beach in Queensland. We skyped yesterday and I was blown away by the synchronicity. We are both studying, as well as shamanism, courses based in druidry and nature magic and herbalism. Our conversation stretched effortlessly for forty-five minutes with an instant connection.

Pondering all the new connections and influences coming into my life, I wondered if I would be so engaged in all this if I still had my lover? When we were together, he was such a focal point of my energy, now I have to channel that energy elsewhere.

The heart chakra, or Anahata, is located in the centre of your chest. I have recorded Anodea Judith’s beautiful meditation on anahata here on Soundcloud. In Sanskrit, Anahata means unstruck, infinite, and continuous. It refers to the vibration of the heart love energy which resonates throughout the universe without beginning or end.

Awake my dear. Be kind to your sleeping heart. Take it out into the vast fields of light and let it breathe. Hafiz

The heart chakra represents our ability to love. In Jungian archetypes it can be either the lover or the shadow aspect of the actor. We can either be open hearted and sincere, or playing at love, whether selfishly or from a place of fear, never really surrendering to its power.

In Chakradance we open the heart by connecting to breath, and the element of air. Dancing into air, feeling air all around, opening the chest and arms and dancing as if we have wings and are soaring through the air, experiencing lightness and freedom. Then we honour the heart through the sacred marriage of the masculine and the feminine, the yang and the yin, Shiva and Shakti. Drawing the feminine energy up from the earth and the masculine energy down from the sky, these energies dance up and down our spinal column before finding union in the heart.

2-devotion-surbhi-grover

In many shamanic traditions, it is through the heart centre that we journey. The heart is seen as the bridge between worlds, where the corporeal and the etheric worlds meet. As such I have been possibly taxing my heart with the frequent journeying and seeking. No wonder she is exhausted. Sometimes it is the space between that holds the power. We can journey and seek, but we must equally allow time to sit quietly receive and allow the wisdom to simmer and brew. Perhaps that is the quietude in my heart, not sulking, just a silent request for stillness.

Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky. Hafiz

In Irish, the word ‘coire’ means both “cauldron” and “whirlpool.” Thus the cauldrons are both the container and the substance, both contained and uncontained. Unlike the hindu concept of the chakras as spinning wheels of energy, the cauldrons are said to contain many energetic properties, water, ether, fire, symbols, and matter. (Although the chakras also align to different elements, earth, water, fire, air, ether, so I’ll have to meditate some more on this.)

Erynn Rowan Laurie describes the motion of the cauldrons as “an artistic journey” that “bestows good wisdom and nobility and honour after turning.” Gathering knowledge from the Otherworld is sometimes described in tales as similar to shamanic journeying. 

Joy and sorrow are the mechanisms for turning the cauldrons within; the poem tells us that the “noble brew” of our cauldrons is that “which joy turns, which is revealed through sorrow.” The cauldrons are even described as “moving toward music.” So the turning, whilst quite an agonising and torturous process at times, is suggested to lead towards a sense of harmony, of concert. To me this makes sense, and I have to make sense of things, otherwise I crumble.

This sky, this sky where we live is not place to lose your wings. So love, love, love. Hafiz

Perhaps it strikes the reader that I am desperately clinging to this notion to give my heartache a meaning it doesn’t deserve. Where Bridget Jones turned to vodka and Chaka Khan, I have turned to the mystics of the ages and my dubious intuition. This may be true. There are two possible retorts to this, one that only broken open could I find the necessary spiritual hunger to accept this quest, or less optimistically, this quest keeps me imbued with a sense of hope where otherwise they might be none.

Again, this post feels like such a strange brew, the elements don’t seem to meld easily, it’s still lumpy and unformed, and yet somehow I know they belong together, that I am on the right track. Somehow I will find the cosmology that sits between my connection with the hindu-tantric tradition, my Irish blood, and my Australian psyche. I believe we all tap into the same source, our methods may vary, but we are all dancing to the same tune, the great song moves us all through our visions, dreams, and journeys. Somehow I know my heart wants me to follow this song. So I do.

Nothing will see us through the age we’re entering but high consciousness, and that comes hard. We don’t have a good, modern myth yet, and we need one. Robert A. Johnson

 

Heart Chakra Affirmations by Chakra Anatomy:

I am open to love.
All love resides within my heart.
I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
I nurture my inner child.
I am wanted and loved.
I live in balance, in a state of gracefulness and gratitude.
I love the beauty of nature and the animal world.
I forgive myself.
I am open to love and kindness.
I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me to transform and open up to love.
I am connected with other human beings.
I feel a sense of unity with nature and animals.
I accept things as they are.
I am peaceful.

Bless!


Further reading:

http://www.summerlands.com/crossroads/library/Turning%20the%20Cauldrons.html

http://www.obsidianmagazine.com/Pages/cauldronpoesy.html

 

Images:

Images by Surbhi Grover

Krishna and Radha 

Alok Porwal New Life

Fire in the belly

triskelerotated

Mystical insight and enlightenment occur when the veil between the worlds is lifted, the worlds are bridged, the gap closes, and we cross over. Tom Cowan

In Celtic symbology, the cauldron features frequently. One of the major Celtic stories, that of Taliesin, begins with a magical brew of the goddess Cerridwen, to create ‘awen.’

Awen is broadly described as a flowing spirit, a kind of life essence, a source of spiritual strength, prophetic insight, and poetic inspiration. Similar to the hindu concept of shakti in the sense of being a living, feminine, flowing, creative force. 

The feminine noun, Awen, has been variously translated as ‘inspiration’, ‘muse’, ‘genius’, or even ‘poetic frenzy’. According to a 19th century Welsh dictionary, the word itself is formed by combining the two words, ‘aw’, meaning ‘a fluid, a flowing’, and ‘en’, meaning ‘a living principle, a being, a spirit, essential’. 

The story of Taliesin is filled with shamanic wisdom and clues to the practices of the ancient Celts. It includes shape-shifting, magic potions, goddesses, forbidden cities of druids, and supernatural babies being found in rivers. One of the many symbols found there, is that of the cauldron. Whilst the cauldron is used for seemingly ordinary purposes, to brew up a potion, the symbology is that the cauldron is the container for awen.

Teach to me the mystery,
Of the Cauldron’s Brew,
Let Utter Darkness give way to light,
And be reborn anew. Damh the Bard

ceridwen_post

Erynn Rowan Laurie has written about the energetic system of the three cauldrons in her book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom. In this system, the cauldrons are energy centres, much like the hindu chakras. There are three cauldrons, roughly relating to earth, sea, and sky – referring to the chthonic, oceanic, and celestial aspects, and the correlation with the three realms. The Irish loved things in threes!

Like much of reconstructed Celtic druidry, revived from stories and poems, the concept of the three cauldrons comes from a 7th century Irish poem, called the ‘Cauldron of Poesy.’

Sources of nourishment, objects of quest, and containers of transformation, cauldrons simmer at the heart of Celtic myth. They are sought after but out of reach, redemptive yet threatening, holding mysteries that few ever plumb. Mary Pat Lynch

The poem describes the body as containing ‘three cauldrons’. The three cauldrons are known as the Coire Goiriath (Cauldron of Warming or Incubation), the Coire Ernmae (Cauldron of Motion or Vocation), and the Coire Sois (Cauldron of Inspiration or Knowledge). The poem is attributed to Amergin, an ancient Irish poet. It is an ancient poem of the oral tradition, written down by an Irish monk in the 7th Century.

The relative positions of these cauldrons within each person was thought to determine the overall health of a person as well as the state of their mind and psyche.

The first cauldron Coire Goirath, is the Cauldron of Warming or Incubation. Located in the pelvis, it represents physical health, physical movement, and life force, and should be in the upright position. It provides the heat and energy for the body, like a furnace.

sskessel2

The second cauldron, Coire Ernmae, is the cauldron of Vocation or motion, located at the centre of the chest, in the area of the heart. This cauldron is found on its side at birth and as a result of intense emotional life experiences, begins to turn and eventually become upright. It is turned through ‘joy and sorrow’, including  spiritual joy, sexual bliss, and grief and sadness. The cauldron is matured through this process of emotional growth experiences.

The third cauldron is Coire Sois, the cauldron of Wisdom or inspiration. This cauldron is upside down in most people and it is only through the intensive work on the emotions in the second cauldron and deep esoteric study or spiritual experiences, that this cauldron begins to turn. Poetry, wisdom, and prophecy are the rewards for it cultivation.

How many divisions of sorrow turn the cauldrons of sages? Not hard, four: longing and grief, the sorrows of jealousy, and the discipline of pilgrimages to holy places. These four are endured internally, turning the cauldrons, although the cause is from outside. Cauldron Of Poesy 

Right, well some holy pilgrimages and that’s me sorted!

Drawing parallels between the cauldrons and the chakra system is unavoidable for me. Energetic centres that correspond to external stimuli and that require spiritual and emotional growth, to open and produce energy, feeling, wisdom, inspiration, and prophecy.

However Laurie warns against trying to superimpose the two systems directly, she writes that “It should be understood that the cauldrons are not identical to chakras, and their functioning is different. Rather than “wheels” of energy, they are containers, holding or pouring out different substances. Within these cauldrons one may heat, boil, or brew one’s health, talents, emotions, and wisdom or poetry.”

w-beltane

The three cauldrons are said to be located at the pelvic girdle, the heart, and the centre of the head. Many moons age I had a flash of inspiration during a chakra meditation, that suggested the cauldrons loosely aligned with the chakras as such, the base/sacral/solar plexus (the ‘physical’ chakras) corresponding to the cauldron of warming, the heart chakra (the ‘bridge’ between the physical and spiritual) corresponding to the cauldron of motion (e-motion), and the throat, third eye and crown (the spiritual/etheric chakras) corresponding to the cauldron of inspiration.

My friend who has done work on the Celtic stories, aligns the chakras a little differently, with the base/sacral corresponding to the cauldron of warming, the solar plexus and heart corresponding to the cauldron of motion, and the throat, third eye and crown corresponding to the cauldron of inspiration. Elen Sentier, who writes about the celtic chakras, also combines the solar plexus and heart chakras at the centre, aligning with the Cauldron of Motion, however she couples the chakras quite differently.

The Cauldron of Vocation
Fills and is filled,
Grants gifts and is enriched,
Nourishes and is enlivened,
Sings praises and is praised,
Chants invocations and is enchanted,
Creates harmonies and is harmoniously created,
Defends and is strongly defended,
Orients and is aligned,
Upholds and is upheld. Cauldron Of Poesy

The cauldrons can be described as filling, turning, brewing, and boiling, reflecting the level of awakening and development as well as the results of working energetically with the energy centres. It is necessary to turn them to activate ‘imbas,’ the Irish word for ‘awen.’

Each cauldron can be in one of three positions: upright, tilted, or inverted. This position indicates the ability of a cauldron to function. An upright cauldron can hold and ‘cook’ its ingredients; a tilted cauldron allows its contents to slip away; an inverted one loses everything.

3CauldronSealesODubhain

Last year, I was training as a Chakradance facilitator, part of which was intensively dancing each chakra and doing some Jungian style self-analysis on each centre and it’s associations. The solar plexus chakra was a particularly powerful one for me.

You can read about it in detail in my post here, but suffice to say, the imagery was of a golden cauldron, burning away all the detritus of my past. Around the same time I had a dream so violent that I woke bolt upright in bed, after a cauldron exploded, and blew its lid. It was these experiences that prompted me to learn more about the connection between the chakras and the cauldrons.

I researched this connection and found both the Irish Celtic and the Taoist’s energy systems use the concept of cauldrons or dantian. In the Taoist tradition, the first cauldron, Lower Tan Tien, is known as “the golden stove” representing the refining and vitality of the life force into the Ching energy, which is basically a highly refined, super potent form of chi, or life force energy. Ching is creation energy, associated with the creation of life through sexual union, it is a solar channel of yang energy in the energy body.

firetransformation

It seems that these ancient systems acknowledged a similar kind of energy alchemy. The lower part of the body, the belly and below, was the manifestation of our physical energy, our bodies, our senses, our will to action.

Unfortunately the Irish literature gives little clue as to how the three cauldrons were used. The Irish were an oral culture, they transmitted wisdom through song and storytelling – the bardic arts – and by use of pneumonic devices like the ogham tree symbols.

What remains of Celtic cosmology is somewhat fragmented, mostly due to the colonisation of Europe by the Romans where Celtic culture was almost completely eliminated. What little was recorded was often done so by Christian monks.

So here I am left to look to other cultures and how they manage their energetic systems, and to tap into the collective unconscious to access ancestral knowledge of the Irish. Therefore my practice is part extrapolation, part intuition.

Fortunately there is much in common in many ancient shamanic practices, and much work that has gone on, and continues to go on, in reconstructing these wonderful practices. I just have to be very careful – in my blind enthusiasm – not to make assumptions about apparent similarities and appropriate other practices inappropriately!

Other writers of the Celtic Shamanic tradition have interpreted the system of the ‘celtic chakras’ differently. Elen Sentier, in her book Celtic Chakras, uses the Celtic symbol of the spiral – specifically the triskele – to find a celtic inspired pathway through the chakras. (The triskele is the triple spiral image you see in the first image of this post)

Her method is quite different to mine, but I intend to try her meditations as I love the idea of using the triskele as a basis for navigating the cauldrons. It removes the sense of hierarchy that most westerners approach the chakras with and unites the energies of the lower and upper chakras. Here is a diagram of her method, which I am sure I will be writing more about in the future.

chakraspiral.PNG

So back to what I do know, the chakras we understand them in Chakradance.

The solar plexus chakra relates to our metabolism, which is basically our inner furnace. Anodea Judith says “we can assess the health of this chakra by examining our body structure at this level: tight, hard stomachs, sunken diaphragms, or large potbellies are all indications of third chakra excess or deficiency.”

Known as Manipura in Sanskrit – which means lustrous gem – the third chakra revolves around themes of personal power, physical power, self-expression, and will. It its the fire that fuels our metabolism, and if it’s activated it increases our energy, drive, and sense of purpose.

To dance the solar plexus chakra is to call on the ancient warrior dances. In Chakradance, fast dynamic movements ignite the fire in our belly, fuelling our dance with energy and strength. Reining all this fiery energy in, movements then become strong, purposeful and clearly defined as our inner warrior emerges triumphant, brave and strong.

Joyful-fire-dance

The lower chakras work together, the solid ground of the base, the warming passion and pleasures of the sacral, all tend to the fire in the solar plexus. Without a solid foundation or the warming of sensual delights and creativity, there is no fuel for our fire.

When the third chakra is closed down, one may feel tired, afraid, shaky, quiet, or withdrawn. There is a fear of taking risks, confronting people or issues, taking charge, and with all this, a lack of energy. Anodea Judith

The archetype of the warrior – standing strong in their power – is the vision of the healthy solar plexus chakra. It is not aggressive, but it will not subvert itself either.

Many cultures associated this solar plexus area with our life force, the entry point of spiritual energy into the body. In traditional Japanese teachings and reiki healing, the hara system – located in the belly – is the main focus for building a person’s energy.

fire in the belly

Thus if our spiritual energy is low, it may manifest strongly here in our belly and solar plexus centre. Childhood traumas or abuse can lead to a depleted solar plexus chakra, and to a condition shamans know as ‘soul loss.’

Soul loss can be symptomatically identified by asking these questions:

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? Angeles Arrien

In shamanism, soul equates to power. Each person should have guiding spirits and power animals to protect and maintain their spiritual power. During trauma, or sometimes as a result of ignorance to their existence, we can lose these helping spirits and our power with them. Shamanic healing involves reconnecting those lost parts of spirit and our spirit helpers.

It has always been the role of the shaman to go into an altered state of consciousness and track down where the soul fled to in the alternate realities and return it to the body of the client. Sandra Ingerman

It is said that power animals and spirit guides will only stay with a person if they are honoured and cared for, we must invite them to dance with us in our journeys, listen to their messages, and live our lives with the vitality they bring. Otherwise they will get bored and wander off.

I think the same can be said for ourselves. If we don’t tend to our spirit, to our life’s passion, if we don’t ignite and tend to our inner fire, part of ourselves gets bored and wanders off, abandoning ourselves, and the lustrous gem we hold within.

Affirmations for the Solar Plexus Chakra by Natalie Southgate:

“I am worthy of the best in life.”

“I am capable.”

“I am powerful.”

“I set and reach my goals.”

“I stand up for myself and for what I believe in.”

“I know who I am and where I am going.”

Centering practice with the three realms:

http://www.tendingthepath.com/meditation-practices.html

Bless!

Damh the Bard performing the tale of Cerridwen and Taliesin

Further reading:

A comprehensive breakdown of Celtic cosmology

What is awen?

The Three Cauldrons by Mary Pat Lynch

The Three Cauldrons and the Cauldron of Poesy explained by Erynn Rowan Laurie

The Celtic Chakras. Elen Sentier

The Solar Plexus Chakra by Natalie Southgate

Images:

Triskele by Dorothy Bunny Bowen

Ceridwen

Beltane by Dorothy Bunny Bowen

Three Cauldrons positions by Searles O’Dubhain

Celtic Chakras by Elen Sentier

Golden Cauldron

Fire Transformation

Fire in the Belly by Bone Goddess

Joyful Fire Dance