The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

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!)

Namaste

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On the Chakras

More often than not we find scientific ‘proof’ that ancient wisdom passed on through generations that was considered ignorant hokey-pokey non-sense turns out to be true. How did they know?

 

This painting I created is my artistic interpretation of the manifest and un-manifest world. The colors symbolize the manifest world; and the shades of tan, white, black and grey are what is on the other side. The colors also are the Chakras.

 

As humans we know very little that can be scientifically proven regarding the spiritual world or how conscious life pops in and out of existence. The energetic body is something that some types of scientists dabble in, but again there is no ‘proof’.

 

Eastern philosophies and their ancient texts explain that as there is a visible physical body, there is also an accompanying invisible energetic body. It’s 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.

 

Mental health professional do this type of work and explorations. Yoga is all about the energetic body and helping energy flow more easily through the practice of physical postures (asana). Hence, my interest in the topic. Additionally my interest in art and color peaks my curiosity into how color is combined in various ways.

 

The chakras are something that has always fascinated me, long before I understood, practiced or taught yoga. The first time I heard about them, they just made sense to me. Like my cells deep down inside knew it to be true even though my mind was kind of laughing at the idea.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know about the chakras (I was well into the my 30’s believe it or not before I ever heard of them!), they are 7 of the main energetic centers of our bodies that 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 through the center part of the body.

 

Later while completing a 500 hour yoga teacher certification course I would learn about the rest of the energetic system, but the chakras are the most well known and are depicted through so many texts and pictures throughout history.

 

The chakras have colors. There are 7 and they coincide with the colors of the rainbow. Their flow is vertical (unlike my art piece). Like the koshas (yogic) and other more managerial concepts I’ve learned about in my life through my business education, they remind me very much of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It also reminds me of evolution in that it starts out very basic and physical, but then moves toward a path of higher consciousness and enlightenment toward self-actualization and understanding why we are here. We can’t get there until the lower needs are met. In the chakra system, if anything is blocked on the lower end; the energy is unable to flow up higher.

 

These two pictures I swiped from Google Images are a visual depiction of what I’m describing. Maslow’s famous triangle in this photo is actually colored similarly to the chakras.

The chakras are energetic. I later came to the realization that when I’m in emotional pain, the actual physical accompanying pain is located at a chakra point. It often points me in the direction of where I’m being blocked.

 

I’ve studied and read a lot of spiritual and religious texts. I don’t have a strong belief in any one thing, but I have an idea of how my own personal belief system/understanding of the physical and non-physical worlds are: the tangible and intangible. The part where we are alive and moving about this planet, and the part of the cycle that is blocked to us. The part where we wonder what happens to our consciousness or spirit when our physical body dies. What is our spirit before we are born? Is the spirit even real?

 

My artistic expression of the spiritual life cycle is depicted here. Like the Yin-Yang, half of the time our spirit is in the manifest world and the other half in the unmanifest world.

 

The colored lines are the manifest world, the world where white light bends and we can see color.

 

The non-rainbow colors represent the un-manifest world. When all colors are combined and mixed together, they create the ‘color’ (if you can call it that) brown. When you add white to brown it becomes tan. Adding black darkens it up. White is all there is, with everything included in it (white light contains all the colors in the spectrum), and black being the absence of it all – together they create gray. At dusk when we are in between day and night, color is shaded over. It doesn’t exist to the eye. Only form.

 

Our physical life is surrounding by this unknown. Before birth and after death there is the unknown. Lack of light (life) is as far away from us as possible. Or is it? Does it bend and show color in the absence of material things? Possibly it contains all the colors blended together (browns), and on the side closer to death and darkness that brown is darker, while on the side closer to birth and brightness it’s a shade of tan.

 

White and black together make a perfect in between shade of gray. Gray even has shades- darker and depending on the mixture of black and white: still a total absence of color. Science already has determined that in the absence of anything material, refraction of white light is also absent.

 

At least to our senses that is. Perhaps if we had another sense we’d see a whole other world on the other side….

 

The chakras here in this painting are the physical living world we experience. They move from a lower vibration to a higher one. Less conscious to more conscious. More connected to the earth and physical things to less. Much like Maslow’s triangle.

 

 

1stCHAKRA

Color: Red

Sanskrit name: Muladhara

Known as: Root chakra

Location: Base of the spine in the tailbone area

Symbolizes: safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy (food, other humans, clothing, etc)

My interpretation: it is our root. It’s located in a place where we sit and literally connect to the earth beneath us. Also in a place where we connect with other humans through copulation.

To me it symbolizes the earlist part of life when we are completely at the mercy of others. We build a foundation from the original safety and survival as babies. Our perception of the world is shaped from there. We come into life here. We could be stuck here our whole lives. If we are, unless it’s purely lack of money for food/shelter/clothing – it’s an energetic or emotional “stuckness”.

 

2ndCHAKRA

Color: Orange

Sanskrit name: Swadhisthana

Known as: Emotional chakra

Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below naval and 2 inches in

Symbolizes: emotions, creativity, sexuality, and is associated with water, flow

My interpretation: it is what is next. We feel and can interpret that after we are fed. Sexuality helps life to stay on the planet. It’s the next closest thing to survival after we are fed, clothed and have the ability to live. It’s also our ‘gut’ feeling and is at the gut level. It symbolizes the childhood part of life where we are learning and growing, coming into our own and understanding how to respond to the world.

 

3rdCHAKRA

Color: Yellow 

Sanskrit name: Manipura

Known as: Solar chakra

Location: Upper abdomen, between the heart and belly button (solar plexus)

Symbolizes: Mental activities, intellect, personal power, will. It’s where self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem are built and is at the core of our personality and identity.

My interpretation: Once we have that safety and gut feelings, we are able to use our mind and will power to go about in the world. That will power is based on our heat and desire. Heat and power like the sun. It’s the younger adult part of life up until middle age or the part of life where we shift mentally to part II – or something else. Where we are moving & shaking, taking care of the young and old. Working and using our physical identity to move through the world.

 

4thCHAKRA

Color: Green 

Sanskrit name: Anahata 

Known as: Heart chakra

Location: Center of the chest just above the heat  

Symbolizes: The ability to love, relate to others, have compassion and feel our inner selves.

My interpretation: Mentally we can move past all the intellect and listen to our heart. It’s like the highest of the 3 proverbial minds (gut, mind, heart).  It can guide us the right way if the solar plexus chakra is flowing freely and we can distinguish it between the monkey mind and the inner self. It’s the connection of the physical body to the higher body. It’s a place in life that symbolizes a switch to another thought process. If you can get there it’s beautiful. Usually around middle age or when we start to get tired of the grind and ask “What For”?

 

 

5th CHAKRA

Color: Blue  

Sanskrit name: Vishuddha  

Known as: Throat chakra (voice)

Location: Throat  

Symbolizes: Communication, self-expression, speaking our truth, creativity

My interpretation: When the lower chakras are unblocked we find ourselves more closely in the flow of life. We are able to be creative, speak our truth, and communicate in a heart-felt way with the world and people around us. On the proverbial life line, it’s at the later part of life where we understand how we are interpreted, live from a heart level rather than a level of obtaining material wealth, possession or status.

 

6th CHAKRA

Color: Indigo (or Purple in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Ajna  

Known as: Third Eye chakra 

Location: Forehead, between the eye brows   

Symbolizes: Inner wisdom, intuition, imagination. Ability to see the big picture inside and out. 

My interpretation: In other cultures the elderly are praised for the very notion that we get wiser as we grow older. We can be taught certain things, but it’s only through really knowing and figuring out their truth for ourselves that we can become wise enough to understand the wisdom bestowed upon on from sages of the past.

 

7thCHAKRA

Color: Purple (or White in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara   

Known as: Crown chakra  

Location: Top of the head    

Symbolizes: Inner and outer beauty, universal connection with spirituality and consciousness. Pure bliss.  

My interpretation: Sounds like heaven on earth! With everything else unblocked and no attachment to any outcome- we can experience total peace, utter bliss. It’s the closest thing in our living world to death and not having an investment so tied and rooted to the material world. It’s the top of Maslow’s pyramid where we self-actualize.

 

The pyramid and the image of a sitting body are both sort of triangular in shape. My interpretation is that the larger base is at the bottom because those descriptions of what these areas symbolize are the most connected to earth. They are more difficult to move through and where the majority of individuals experience life. As we move up toward the more narrow sections, there are less humans around that thrive in those parts regularly, and it gets a bit easier to move because it’s further away from the root or axiomatic apron string. We can move up and down the Chakras at any time. But if the energy system is blocked by emotion it is difficult. Even a person with little to no food if they are emotionally clear can self-actualize.

 

In my artistic expression of this cycle the colors live in the middle of the known and unknown worlds. The small symbols on the painting that go from left to right, bottom to top are my humble explanation of moving upward through the chakras toward the unknown, which ultimately is completely and utterly surrounded by the pure energy of beautiful, boundless, weightless, expansive and all encompassing white light.

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this and 6 other pieces were inspired by contemporary artist Sean Scully. 2 weeks ago Daren and I went to the Wadsworth in Hartford and it was the last day for his exhibit. He works in stripes mainly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Unassuming Pear

The pear has little to no reputation. It is in a few desserts. It isn’t as popular as the banana. It’s not used in any popular lessons (such as the famous non comparison- apples to oranges). It’s not considered exotic like a papaya or coconut, it’s not a popular “pick your own” fruit, was never “in” like the avocado, or so heavily used in food or drink like the grape that fields and farms are required to keep up with the demand.

It’s just an unassuming pear, which is why I chose to paint it. 

The pear is like almost every other living thing amongst us. And like most things we don’t give it a second thought most of the time. 

The pear, the apple, the banana, the trees that produce these fruits, the flowers, our pets, sea life and of course humanity all live through a cycle. It’s as natural as nature itself. Humans are the only ones who sometimes fear or fight it. The rest of the planet accepts it as the flow we live in.

The flow and these cycles are shown to us by nature and what governs living. Particularly through the seasons. 

The pear painting goes from left to right, top to bottom through it’s very own abridged life cycle.

Winter
Winter is when most consider their surrounding closest to death. Life as we know it rests and hibernates. We hunker down and wait out the storm, most of us complaining along the way and wishing away the time until spring.

However, in the midst of the storm, under ground, and right below the surface, Mother Earth is preparing for the next cycle. The frost and subsequent defrost are laying the ground work for what is coming. Perhaps we may even consider it to be where life truly begins.

Like the architect on an empty lot where a new building will one day stand, the architect is surveying the surroundings and mentally creating what will later manifest as a structure using what is available in that time and place to make it so. 

In that time where there appears to be nothing, there is a vision of the future bubbling right under the surface- waiting to be put into action once the sketch is complete.

Winter is the sketch. It’s the time to not do, but just be and know that the spring will come, and with it there will be work to do. 

Under ground the trees and perennials are preparing the seeds that will come forth in the spring. Compared to sentient creatures such as us humans, it is the time when the mother’s egg prepares to be fertilized. 

It’s actually where all the magic is taking place. All that we cannot see or understand in the material world. It’s that beautiful dark little slip of space and time where the spiritual world intersects with the physical one. It may be the most auspicious time of the year.

Spring 
The thaw. The flow of water and life. The sun is with us longer. Dirt is tilled. Seeds are planted. The egg is fertilized.

Of all the planted seeds (the seed of man and animal as well in the form of sperm), only a small percent actually sprout forth into life. The lucky seeds that mesh perfectly with the womb of mother/Mother Earth, the ones that happen to have the prime conditions that nurture it’s growth, are so very lucky. We take it for granted, but we are fortunate to be alive and to experience life. The spring is the time of rapid growth where what makes it lives through its early days to survive through to maturity.

If we are looking at spring through a seasonal lens, it’s the time we lay the seeds, nurture what is planted and help it along until its strong enough to be on it’s own for whatever reason it is here to be. 

Ayurveda calls this time “Kapha”. It’s cool, wet and dense, just like the earth in the spring. It is strongly rooted to its source; very grounded. It grows quickly, and puts on weight easily.

In the chakra system it’s close to the roots. It’s red in color like the root chakra. All life needs a strong root to connect to the earth and then hold it strongly enough to keep it safe but light enough to allow it to grow.

Through the lens of a human, it’s the time of fertilization and early growth until young adulthood. Baby fat, rapid physical maturation, rosy cheeks, dense, learning-growing, needing a bit more nurture and support from the source as the child matures. For the mother who housed the egg and was in rest during the “winter” of the relationship with her own child, the work arrives in the form of carrying the child and then helping it arrive safely in young adulthood.

The pear… it isn’t quite ripe. If it is off the tree, it will be light in color; tinged by that red root that held it close to the branch. If eaten it’s a bit bitter, not quite ready. It has yet to mature. It’s a child. It’s in the spring or Kapha cycle.

Summer
Sun. Teaming life. Hot. Moving for purpose. Lighter, a bit dryer & quick to inflammation. 

The earth and it’s fruits are mostly in full bloom. Growth slows but it’s at the peak of maturity. The seeds no longer need help- they have the ability to live on their own, fighting off bugs and weeds without much outside help. The result of those spring planted seeds are here doing and being precisely what they are meant to do and be.

In Ayurveda this is “Pita”. Hot, quick to fire. Sustaining of life as we know it. Chakra-wise it’s lighter, and yellow like the sun. It is the chakra of digestion. It gives and supports life by helping everything keep moving as it should. Like digestion it’s lit by “Agni” or that internal moving fire.

Humans are now young adults to middle aged. In their prime. Taking care of both the young and old. They have an inner fire to make things happen, to sustain life, get things done, and keep the world going. They are the largest source of income generation. They have the energy and drive to keep it all going. They are like the full summer blooms, doing what they were meant to do.

At this time the pear is ripe. Mission accomplished. It’s the time to eat it or bake with it. Despite its color, it’s tinged with yellow undertones.

Autumn 
The change. Colors deepen. The temperature starts to cool and the air is lighter and drier. The days begin to darken. It feels like a welcome relief. The trees start to relax and succumb to nature. The leaves allow themselves to deepen, change, and finally let themselves go. Before the leaves do let go, that tree never seemed so beautiful.

Ayurvedically speaking this part of the cycle is “Vata”. Whether you are a half empty or half full glass type of person, it can be seen as the time of death or the agent of change. The necessary change that needs to take place so the next cycle of planning and development can take place. Chakra-wise we move up the body to the color blue or the throat chakra. The throat representing voice. With a mature and wise mind, humans have less energy but are able to speak their truth and guide the next generation.

Humans at this part of life also begin to slow down and let go. They often feel colder and have a more deep and philosophical understanding of this cycle and their own part it in. They are closer to spirit and that magic time of “winter” so to speak.  Generally they have more trouble keeping on weight and become drier. The skin is tinged with blue and darker undertones. They are like the fall.

The pear, if uneaten, becomes darker too. Blue & brown undertones. Overripe. More age spots. Soft to the touch. But the sweetest and juiciest it will ever be if you can handle the mess! Another proverbial day or two in its own cycle and it just becomes a pile of mush. Mush to turn the seeds inside to something new perhaps? The opportunity to begin the cycle again as we head back into winter.

Circle of Life
It’s a beautiful cycle. It is nature. Each part has its very own purpose and feeds right into the next. There is no real beginning and no real end.

We should keep in mind that there is truly nothing to fight. Try… but we will not win. It’s easier to just understand nature and accept and open up to where we are are in it.

Nature is bigger than us. She will carry us through each awesome, perpetual, ongoing, self sustaining cycle so we can play our own special part.

Like the seed that created the unassuming pear, we are each a seed lucky enough to have made it. 

 

I painted two versions of this. One with the raw primary colors and the other with a softer tint of each.

Below I used photography and light alteration to show the same concept.

The original pear this blog was written about is the one to the bottom left of the first photo.

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