Today is Ash Wednesday. The start of lent. 40 days and 40 nights. Easter is on the way. My understanding of why the Christian faith gives up something for lent is because shortly before Jesus died, he spent 40 days and 40 nights in the dessert fasting.
Wikipedia defines the number 40 as having great symbolic meaning to Jews, Christians and Muslims even today, and the number is used in terms of time, representing a period of probation and trial.
Noah was on the boat for 40 days. When I learned about mantra in yoga teacher training, 40 days was the minimum recommended time to do one. Even U2 has a song called 40.
40 days is good period of time to create a new habit, or give up and old one. In terms of lent, this period happens right before the rebirth or understanding of everlasting life that takes place on Easter. We give up something that does not serve for 40 days, so 40 days later it is conquered and we in some way are like a new person.
For the next several weeks I hope to write about a chakra each week. Similar to giving something up and creating better habits, choosing to honor each week of the season with a blog is a commitment to doing something that will better my life.
I’m on a new journey. For reasons I won’t write about today, I have permanently given up alcohol. I’m day 9 into my new life. Unlike times before; I have no plans to ever go back, cut back, have it once in while- it’s never.
Coincidentally lent came right at the start of my commitment.
The chakras build in order of basic survival to enlightenment. I wrote about them once before a little less that 2 years ago https://esterinaanderson.com/2019/03/31/on-the-chakras/
Some relevant text from that blog:
There are 7 main energetic centers of our bodies from which energy flows through. They start at the base of the spine in the tailbone area and work their way up the body through the crown of the head.
Ancient texts in Eastern philosophies explain that as there is a visible physical body, there is also an accompanying invisible energetic body. It is just as complicated and intricate. It has systems, nodes, and channels as our physical bodies do. Energy can get blocked just as an artery can. Emotions are energetic. They get stuck and if not released can go deeper and deeper into our being and/or eventually manifest through physical pain.
The 7 main energy points are the chakras. Each is associated with a color of the rainbow.
Akin giving up a beloved habit that is not good for us, as time passes it becomes easier, similar in the way that the chakras (as energy points) go from denser to lighter qualities.
At first stopping or quitting something may feel like survival to get through each day. At some point it seems doable and a fire is lit within us to carry on. Eventually more clarity sets in and shedding the weight of a particular habit enables us to be more open and present, say more, know more, and become all the wiser and stronger for it.
Week 1 – Muladhara
The Muladhara chakra is red .
I painted the Muladhara as well as the other six last month.
From Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra: The upside-down triangle is the alchemical symbol for earth, which also reminds us of the grounded energy of Muladhara. The four petals in this symbol represent the four mind-states that originate in this chakra: mind, intellect, consciousness, and ego.
It is known as the root chakra due to its location at the base of the spine. When we sit, it is the place where we root directly to the earth and physical world. Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), this chakra is associated with the heavy and dense qualities of earth.
Due to its root quality, it is not unlike the start of Maslow’s triangle, where it is difficult to move past that level if basic survival needs are not met.
This chakra symbolizes safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy (food, other humans, clothing, etc)
When the root chakra is balanced or open, we feel grounded or well-established—physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even economically. However, when this area is imbalanced or blocked we may feel unstable, unhealthy, and disconnected.
Old habits can feel like a security blanket. As much as we may intellectually know that habit does not serve us, it can feel symbolic of safety. We know life with it, but some part of us inside that is fearful may panic over the thought of our existence without it. That old habit at the root is a blockage. It is causing us to feel unstable, unhealthy and disconnected. Until we trust in something more powerful than the physical want of keeping a habit; we will feel more connected, grounded and safe. Safe because we can exist in an even better capacity without the handicap of what it is we need to shed.
In this next section I’m going all yogic, so follow along if you’d like, or just skip right on over and perhaps do the 5 minute , 1 pose practice to aid in grounding at the end of this blog.
From the yogic perspective koshas surround what we might identify as our soul with 5 sheaths or layers. The way one of my teachers describes it, would be to imagine our soul as our light. If we were to picture that light screwed into a lamp piece, there would be 5 layers between our light and the outer world.
The outermost layer is the annamaya kosha. It is the “food” sheath.
From the article Annamaya Kosha-The energy system of Ayurveda and Yoga: In Sanskrit, it means the sheath of food. It is the sheath of the physical self as food empowers it. Through this sheath or layer, we identify ourselves as a mass which consists of the skin, flesh, fat, bones and filth.
Basically the first layer between our soul and the outside world in our skin, which is created by food.
The seed mantra for the Muladhara chakra is LAM.
A quick explanation of a mantra, then a seed mantra.
A mantra is a statement or sentence that is repeated frequently. Our minds are fed constantly by what is around us whether or not we are aware. Most of what we mentally digest from our environment is negative. We absorb things by media, conversations, advertisements, jingles, songs, etc. Our subconscious picks these things up and replays it over and over. Before we know it, those things we picked up become our thoughts, then beliefs, and then our reality. We are in this way like little machines on a program.
For example, you will have a healthy dinner and then feel full. An hour or so later you sit in front of the TV and there is a burger joint commercial. Maybe you didn’t even see it, perhaps you were in the bathroom when you heard a familiar jingle. Minutes later you are thinking about burgers. You now believe you are hungry (when you aren’t). Not long after you are in the car, driving up to a fast-food joint and doing something your rational mind knows is not in your best interest.
That is a really simple example, but it happens all of the time every day in very complicated and subconscious ways. What is around us sticks and becomes our norm.
By repeating a mantra we fill our mind with something we consciously want to put in there.
The world is but a vibration. Science proves that. The Sanskrit language is vibrational, meaning the sounds of the words correlate to the energic vibrations of the intention, mood, or object they describe.
A seed mantra is sort of a short cut to a larger meaning. They are said to contain the entire essence of a teaching. For example, rather than chanting “I’d like my insecurities and lack of stability surrounding quitting alcohol to come to pass”, I can chant “LAM” with the intention of clearing the root chakra in regard to my attachment to alcohol. It is understood that the vibration of LAM will connect to the subtle universal energies and help will aid in making this intention a reality.
All this talk about energy! Onto Prana Vayus and how energy moves.
Energy moves 5 ways within the body. The prana vayus are the directions in which this energy moves. Prana means energy and vayu means wind. Yoga poses are associated with certain energy directions by moving energy in certain ways.
For example, if you are looking for more energy, certain poses help that energy to flow upward. If you are looking for less energy and feel the need to ground down (perhaps when anxious), a pose that directs energy downward will assist in doing the trick.
The prana vayu associated with the root chakra is called Apana. Apana moves in a downward direction and aids in elimination.
It makes sense that the root chakra is associated with forces that drive downward to keep you rooted, and to help the body eliminate waste.
Yoga poses in which the body is firmly rooted are associated with the root chakra.
So – do you want to join me in getting a start in either creating or breaking a habit over the next 40 days? Perhaps we can tackle the first few, most difficult days by doing something radical and clearing the first chakra through mantra or some grounding poses.
For the next seven weeks I will also be performing a virtual pre-taped back-to-the basics posture series. They will be a few minutes long and cover some key elements of the most basic yoga poses.
This week is Mountain Pose (Tadasana in Sanskrit). It is the most basic of all poses. When I first learned yoga it was just something that we did in class every so often after doing something else. I was just standing there. One day the teacher broke it down from the ground up and it’s never been the same for me. I learned how engaged and present I could be by just standing. How I could root and reach.
I later realized that Mountain Pose is incorporated into everything. When we understand the concept of Mountain, we may come to realize that your perfect mountain pose (depending on your own body) can help you in alignment with everything you do. Walking, driving, running, sitting… and of course, other yoga poses. The concept of an aligned spine, engaged core and where certain parts of your body point to can be carried out into almost every physical way in which we move about, be it on the mat or in our lives.
So if you’d like to join me, clear a small place on the floor to stand – and let’s practice Mountain.
Some other grounding poses if you know them are Childs, Down Dog, Squat and Legs up the wall (everyone’s favorite) to name a few.
Until next week (hold me to it!)
If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog.