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Animal spirits: totems for root chakra work

I am a Chakra junkie. I love exploring the energy of the Chakra system, and I am always looking for new ways to connect with and experience that energy. Lately I have been seeking to link chakra energy into the interconnected web of life by invoking the spirits of animals who embody that energy into my chakra work.

The first, or root, chakra – Muladhara – is the center of earthy, stable energy. The animals that bring that energy are solid and heavy, with one exception.

african_bush_elephant_big_animalDespite weighing 10,000 pounds, elephants walk softly on the earth. Nurturing elephants fare well in their often harsh natural environments, and demonstrate a strong commitment to their group’s protection and survival. As a symbol of safety and strength, elephants can be called on to support first chakra explorations. In addition, the gentle eyes of the huge elephant are full of ancient wisdom. The elephant is a worthwhile companion for your grounding practice.

highlandbOx represents strength, endurance, stamina, prosperity and productivity. These characteristics reflect the energy of the first chakra. Consider a pair of oxen as your guardians while you settle into a deep, rooting meditation.

 

bullThe bull is the Earth Lord, embodying abundance and contentment when calm. When running, the bull’s thundering hooves make the earth quake. Call on bull to bring power to a deficient first chakra.

 

shutterstock_mole.jpg.CROP.original-originalMole is neither heavy nor strong, yet offers a strong connection to the earth. Moles represent the ultimate in groundedness. Ask mole to teach you about eating right, an important first chakra lesson, by sharing her knowledge of herbs and roots.

To connect to the spirit of these first chakra animals, you can simply meditate on them or their qualities. You might also try imagining yourself in the body of the animal. What would it feel like to move like an elephant, an ox, a bull or a mole? You can also call on them as guardians during any root chakra work.

Can you think of any other animals with first chakra spirit?

 

Exploring Sacred Space: What do we mean by sacred space?

FairfaxSpiral_1Ever since I was a girl, I have been creating altars. From memorials to pets that had passed to a candlelit desk for contemplative studies to a full ritual altar at the center of a circle, I love the act of setting the stage for my intentions. Sometimes I find places where nature has created an altar of sorts: a sheltered cove between sand dunes with an interesting layout of shells, a hollow in the roots of a tree, or a mountaintop with an amazing view. As I think of these altars, I know they are sacred space. But why?

Sometimes an elaborate collection of objects creates a place where, as Joseph Campbell puts it, wonder can be revealed.

Sometimes an elaborate collection of objects creates a place where, as Joseph Campbell puts it, wonder can be revealed.

I love Peg Streep’s book, Altars Made Easy: A Complete Guide To Creating Your Own Sacred Space. In it, Streep defines sacred space as “a physical place where the divine or the supernatural can be glimpsed or experienced.” She sees sacred spaces as those places where we get in touch with that which is larger than ourselves. For me, it is the feeling of smallness you get when you stand on a peak and look out at the landscape spread out below, or the sense of wonder invoked by watching a candle flame dance. Sometimes the natural arrangement of objects, or simply a sense of the presence of a higher power, makes a place sacred.

Perhaps this, more than the need to “conquer” nature, inspires adventurers to climb the highest mountains or dive deep into the sea. Mountaintops, ocean reefs and the like are places of wonder and awe where we sense that which is beyond, yet within, ourselves. Even deep in the woods, or in your own backyard, nature offers such places. If you’ve ever stopped to contemplate a knot of tree roots, a circle of wild flowers, or the engineering of a perfect bird’s nest, you have felt it.

My simple elemental kitchen altar offers moments of serenity during busy days.

My simple elemental kitchen altar offers moments of serenity during busy days.

In Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life, the author, Denise Linn, notes that the human psyche yearns for the mysterious and wondrous things that bring meaning to life’s ordinary moments. Being in sacred space fills that need and nourishes the soul.  Indoors, a display of objects, when  imbued with meaning by the individual, becomes holy. Even a grouping of photos, placed with intention, can elicit a sense of connection, gratitude and wonder.

Take a look around your home, your yard, or the places you frequent. Where have you found or created sacred space?

(Perhaps my Pinterest board devoted to sacred spaces will inspire you to create or find your own altars.)

How Reiki can support you during times of change

This image depicts a Reiki treatment in progre...

A Reiki treatment in progress. Author: James Logan; Uploaded by Andy Beer with agreement of author and models. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you approach the fall equinox, you may find yourself connecting to the energy of change. This time of year, when the trees are letting go of their leaves, encourages deep cleaning. Whether it’s your home, your body, your career or your lifestyle, it’s time to clean it out, dust it off, and welcome change.

Reiki is a powerful platform for change. Regular sessions, through self-practice or with a practitioner, offer gentle yet powerful support that nourishes you and clears a space into which you can invite the season’s newness.

Reiki can lessen the anxiety and pain often associated with change, so you will feel more able to incorporate needed health interventions or make lifestyle changes. Reiki can also clear the mind, enabling you to better evaluate the sometimes conflicting choices before you, so you can make important decisions with greater confidence.

When approaching change, it is important avoid making choices based on fear. Surrender to your Reiki experience, perhaps savoring the breath, allowing your awareness to drop within. Your session will bring you toward balance, and you will be better able to sort through your options, and see possibilities you hadn’t considered before. Regular Reiki sessions support you to make wise, timely changes, ones you can sustain, and which, in turn, will sustain you.

For me, self care is about making conscious choices to address the needs of my body, mind and spirit. Reiki is one tool in my self-care regimen, an over-arching support which gently guides me towards what my body needs to restore balance and wellness. In this way, Reiki opens us up to change, welcoming the newness of natural health.

Getting to know the Earth Element

Tree roots and boulders encountered while hiking.

Tree roots and boulders encountered while hiking.

When I chose “Elements of Wellness” for my services, I was considering not only the various aspects of creating health, but also of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. Each of these elements has unique qualities that you can tap into to become balanced and whole. In our Spirit Circles, we invite each of those elements to lend their power and aid to our intentions.

I resonate most deeply with the Earth Element (most likely because I’m a Virgo, an earth sign along with Taurus and Capricorn). Earth is where you put your roots, both physically and energetically. To me, Earth is home. It represents stability, security, nourishment and quiet stillness. When you think of Earth, think of mountains, stones, tree roots, bears, wolves, winter, midnight, and the colors green and brown.

Some ways you can connect to the Earth Element are:

  1. Grounding meditations. Sit solidly and imagine roots growing from your tailbone down into the earth. Feel yourself getting heavier and sense yourself being anchored in place.
  2. Walk on the earth. Whether you take a walk around your neighborhood or climb a mountain, direct your awareness to the feel of your feet on the ground.
  3. Explore crystals and stones. You can simply spend a few minutes holding one in your hands and noticing the feel. Particularly earth-y stones include hematite, jet and emerald.
  4. Practice mountain pose. Embody Earth.
  5. Grow vegetables or fruit trees. Enjoy the pure nourishment from the earth.

Spin and twist in my “Maypole Vinyasa” yoga flow

Ribbons wrapping around a Maypole

Ribbons wrapping around a Maypole

Happy May Day!

May Day, or Beltane, has a long history. It started as a Celtic fire festival celebrated on or around May 1, and included bonfires, Maypoles, dancing, and plenty of sexual energy. May Day marked the end of winter’s precarious, barren months and the passage into the summer growing season, when flowers bloom and the trees are green. Because the crops were still very young and tender, and susceptible to frost and blight, people did everything in their power to encourage their growth. The celebration and rituals were meant to insure that the warmth of the sun’s masculine energy would promote the fertility of the feminine earth.

My favorite May Day tradition is the Maypole dance. A tall wooden pole was erected with a number of long ribbons attached to the top. Dancers, often young men and women, would each hold the end of a ribbon. Circling the Maypole, men going in one direction and women in the other, the dancers would weave in and out and, as a result, weave the ribbons around the Maypole.

This afternoon I laid my yoga mat out in the space between our fire pit, vegetable beds and the “field” (the empty piece of property that borders ours). To emulate the circular Maypole dance, I created this fun vinyasa flow sequence which blends the masculine energy of Surya Namaskar with the feminine fluidity of Chandra Namaskar. I mixed in an oblique twist in Chatarunga Dandasana and Vasisthasana (side plank) to flow like those ribbons wrapping around the Maypole.

 

Sorry for the shaky video. It turns out ten-year-old boys do not make good tripods.

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That Feeling Inside

Shakira’s got a sixth Chakra feeling inside…

In the series of posts about the Chakra system, we were last in the throat checking out the energy of communication. Now we find ourselves higher, in the carotid plexis, the area also known as the third eye. Here, between the eyebrows, Ajna, the sixth Chakra, shines it’s deep indigo light of wisdom, intuition and imagination. It is the birthplace of ideas and the window to the spiritual realms.

Ajna is represented by the element of light and the color of the night sky. It gives us the right to see, with our physical eyes and the mind’s eye. It is the sixth Chakra’s energy that allows us to “know” something is happening when we are not physically present or gives us that “feeling” that we were meant to meet someone.

When you know who’s calling before you look at the caller ID, that’s Ajna at work.

Your local psychic is probably a bit overloaded with sixth Chakra energy, but too little leaves us without any insight, forced to analyze every last detail of our lives and to panic in the face of uncertainty. Headaches and vision problems signal a sixth Chakra imbalance. When Ajna is balanced our imaginations inspire us, we are intuitive and artistic and we have vivid dreams. We trust our own wisdom and are confident that our lives are unfolding as they should.

To keep the sixth Chakra light shining, get on your yoga mat and find a focal point. Let your gaze rest on your drishti and balance on one leg in Vrksasana (tree), Natarajasana (dancer) or Garudasana (eagle). Then roll your eyes just like a teenager. Those eye rolls are called Tratak and the muscles around the eyes need regular exercise to keep your vision clear.

Off our mats, we can create visual art, enjoy the visual stimulation of brightly colored holiday lights or fireworks, practice guided visualizations or try past life regression. Play with tarot cards or runes to exercise your insight. Color mandalas. Meditate.

And, like Shakira, look for those feelings inside, because your intuition might be telling you that your soul mate is across the room.

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Me Tarzan. Me get it done.

Look out Jane, the ape-man has got a huge third Chakra…

It’s time to look at the third Chakra’s fiery energy. The Sanskrit name for this Chakra is Manipura, which means “lustrous gem”. Just like a well-cut diamond seems to sparkle with its own light, Manipura’s energy generates our internal flame.

Moving up the spine, you can find your third Chakra in your solar plexus, just above your navel. It glows bright yellow with the energy of self-esteem, self-worth, proactivity and power. Our third Chakra gives us the right to act and to be an individual. This is the energy center where all our ideas and our dreams get transformed into something real. It is our will power that gives us the strength to act on our ideas.

Think of some powerful people you know. No one doubts these people will do what they say they are going to do. They stand tall, shoulders back, chest lifted and belly forward, and they project confidence.

People with strong third Chakras make good warriors. Every society has its warriors. The soldiers are obvious, but there are also warriors in law enforcement, fire departments, child protective services and environmental protection. Sports, both amateur and professional, are full of warriors. Anyone with the desire to be the best person they can be and the confidence to achieve it has the third Chakra’s warrior power.

Even the apes had a warrior in Tarzan. Hey guys, that confidence is really sexy, too. Especially to women named Jane.

Not everyone has that internal glow. When the third Chakra is blocked, our self-esteem gets blocked as well. Some people have lots of great ideas, but they never get past thinking about them. Some don’t think they deserve success. Others are just afraid to take action.

Many of us could use more energy flowing through Manipura. We can light the fire in our bellies on the yoga mat with heat-building Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) and Kashtha Takshanasana (woodchopper). We can strengthen our core muscles and our will with poses like Navasana (upward boat). We can fuel the fire with pranayama (breathing exercises) like Kapalabhati.

We can also look for confidence-building activities off the mat. Activities that involve some risk-taking – rock climbing, white-water rafting, going to a foreign country by yourself – draw energy into the third Chakra. The martial arts, which teach us to develop and control our core power, are very third-Chakra oriented. Just getting up the nerve to talk to someone you find frightening can light Manipura’s flame.

Swinging by vines from tree to tree might fire up some third Chakra energy too.

When I was working on Manipura, what really made me think of Tarzan was his big yell. Your ape friends won’t hear you on the other side of the jungle unless your cry comes from your belly. The energy behind that yell comes from – you guessed it – the third Chakra.

Is there a fire in your belly?

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Your hips don’t lie.

Shakira knows her second Chakra…

Moving up the spine from last post’s first Chakra, we find Swadhisthana, the second Chakra, floating in the hips. The Sanskrit word Swadhisthana means sweetness and, oh, how sweet it is. The second Chakra is our emotional center and processes all the fun stuff: pleasure, desire, need, sexuality, sensation. And, like Shakira’s hips, it’s all about movement.

Thanks to the energy flowing through Swadhisthana, we have the inherent right to feel and have pleasure. The second Chakra is respresented by the color orange, the next color up on the rainbow spectrum after the first Chakra’s red, and water’s formless fluidity. Once we feel grounded and safe (first Chakra stuff), we can start to explore all the pleasures of life.

Connecting to your second Chakra is an exercise in balance. Imagine a wide bowl filled to the brim with water and that you need to move the bowl from one table to another. If, as you’re carrying it, the bowl tips even a tiny bit, one way or another, some of that water is going to spill out. It would be almost impossible to move the bowl without any water escaping. If you’re careless, you’ll dump it all and have a flood to clean up. Conversely, if you never move the bowl, the water is just going to sit there and stagnate in the bowl. So, ideally, you move the bowl carefully, wipe some water off the floor, and add some fresh water to the bowl once it’s on the new table. Then you start thinking about other tables that bowl could be moved to.

Our second Chakra energy works like that bowl full of water. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel emotion, if we deny our sexual needs or other earthly pleasures, our energy gets trapped and stagnates. This stagnation may show up in the body as low back pain, lack of flexibility or deadened senses, all things that keep us from moving freely. Of course, we don’t want to just let all the energy spill out. We can have too much of a good thing and find ourselves addicted to pleasurable experiences (sexual, drug induced, etc.). We can also get too invested in our emotions and start seeking situations that keep us on an emotional roller coaster, like some kind of crisis junkie.

If we allow ourselves to be like that moving bowl, letting our desires and emotions spill over small amounts at a time, we might have to suffer through some minor after-effects but we can easily regroup and go on to the next thing. The key is to enjoy life in moderation, having fun without drawing too much energy away from our first Chakra, sacrificing safety and security. We can let the currents of desire carry us for awhile, as long as we wash up on solid ground in the end.

Yoga can help keep Swadhisthana’s energy flowing but not overflowing. Asanas like Baddha Konasana (cobbler) and Adha Mukha Eda Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon) help to relieve tightness in the hips, improving flexiblity and your ability to move. If you’re holding in emotions, not allowing them to flow, you can help release them by journaling, writing poetry or even talking to a trusted friend. Therapy and 12-step programs offer help with addictions of all kinds if the fun gets out of hand.

Look for healthy pleasures to keep your second Chakra vibrant, enjoying the movement of your body, and maybe donning an orange skirt and shaking your hips on the dance floor every now and then.

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