' A therapist friend once suggested that I try to think more metaphorically about my experiences. I admit that I scoffed, just a little bit, at the advice. After all, as an English professor, I certainly spent enough of my time dealing with metaphors. Why extend that to my personal life any more than I already did?
But I decided to give it a try. To make the proverbial long story short, I found it helpful, useful, and fun. Thinking metaphorically about what is happening in your life can give you both needed distance, and deeper insight. Finding parallels in nature, history, or mythology pulls you out into a larger point of view. This can help you personalize universal themes, and vice versa. Exaggerating your situation through metaphor can sometimes help you actually laugh at yourself. And getting creative with metaphors can offer fresh perspectives, allowing you to see new solutions.
My first impressions of the chakra system skewed them toward the metaphorical. They seemed so strongly linked to life themes, that for a long time, I didn’t consider them on a physical level at all. That changed when a friend cleared my third eye chakra and a fierce headache simply dissolved. I began clearing them for headaches and bellyaches when my children were young, and always felt newly astonished at their rapid results. Funny, but I had to learn to take the chakras literally.
As a culture, we’re becoming more aware of the interlaced nature of our minds, bodies, and souls, but many of us still tend to compartmentalize our workings. Approaching the chakras more holistically can be a great journey of multi-level understanding. I’d like to share a quick example. At the winter solstice, I offered a class in which we identified an intention for the next annual cycle, and then checked in, to see if there was a chakra that needed support for carrying that intention forward. “I’ve been working steadily with my root chakra since that night,” a woman in the class told me recently. “As I’ve been meditating on the root chakra, I have realized that we’ve lived here for years, and I still don’t think of it as home.”
This is a huge realization, and one that makes perfect sense given the themes of belonging and stability associated with the root chakra. But what she said next was even more significant: “I began wondering what I could do that would help change that. I decided to plant asparagus in my garden. Since that takes several years to mature, it means I consider myself ‘rooted’ and committed to being here, at home.”
What a beautiful example of working with the literal and the metaphorical aspects, the mental and physical dimensions, simultaneously. Her root chakra--and her wide-open awareness--offered a valuable insight, along with an action that she could take to make a positive shift occur. Plus, she’ll get to look back on all that in a few years when she’s eating her asparagus!
Explore Your Chakras in this Upcoming Course:
If you live in the Albany, NY, area, we invite you to join us in a wonderful, 7-week interactive chakra class coming up in April, 2016. Integrative nutrition and health coach Joan Bender, LMHC, and I will be teaching a course all about energy, food, and the chakras, entitled Care and Feeding of Your Chakras. See http://www.jbenderwellness.com/caring--feeding-your-chakras.html for more information and registration.
The smallest shoppers in the cooperative grocery where I work often grab my attention most. Children in the 18- to 24-month range amaze me with their laser-like focus. Perched in their shopping cart, they appear to drink in their surroundings. Recently, I saw a toddler gripping a shampoo bottle. She gazed at the label intently, as though analyzing the ingredients, just as she had, no doubt, observed her mother do. More often, young children experimentally reach out towards all sorts of products, even those far beyond their grasp.
Reaching for objects is a primary developmental skill. The process of identifying a desirable thing, honing in on its location, and then reaching out a hand to make contact and to pull it toward us is one we repeat constantly. Sometimes we are mindful about it: we decide what we want, we find it, and we take action to attain it. We extend ourselves toward whatever we wish to welcome in to our journey through life. Other times, we are operating on autopilot, carrying out old patterns and programs. Sometimes we are barely even conscious that we are reaching. We are just acting, or reacting, by habit. We may reach for salty or sugary snacks, or caffeine, or alcohol. We may seek out the company of familiar--but not necessarily beneficial--activities or relationships.
We do all this on a physical level, but we also do it energetically. Aspects of our energy systems can reflect these mindful or not so mindful "reachings-for." Energy gets stuck in patterns that keep pulling in what we don't really want. Sometimes this happens because a deeper part of us feels the need to "replay" certain events, in the hope that we can revise or heal them. When we have learned new strategies, this reaching for a replay can help us. But often, we haven't acquired the wisdom to do much more than watch reruns.
This can be where practices such as mindfulness meditation, and Energy Medicine, shift the playing field. Getting clarity on what you want to reach for is key; these practices help clear the cobwebs. Energy work can also be invaluable for resetting habit patterns, so that you aren't stuck in a reactive reaching rut.
Heaven Rushing In
An extremely simple practice for reaching out to draw in fresh, new energy is called "Heaven Rushing In." Like the baby lupine leaves collecting raindrops, you can collect the goodness of the universe in your outstretched arms. To prepare, simply stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Breathing in, raise them above your head, until your palms come together, and exhale them down, in prayer position, to your sternum. Take another breath in and out, as your thumbs rest against an acupuncture point called the "Sea of Tranquility." Then, on an in-breath, stretch your hands toward the sky in a "Victory" pose. Stay as long as you like, imagining yourself as a chalice filling with heaven energy. When you feel full, bring your hands down, palms moving back to your chest, drawing that new energy toward your heart. I like to end with a bow, stretching my arms down, to offer back some of this energy to the earth.
We tend to narrow our focus to the view straight ahead: the tasks that need to get done, the problems we need to solve, the people who most demand our attention.
Energetically, this closes down our "radiant circuits," that energy system that plays in the joy of the moment, and is meant to release us into a more expansive field of vision. To get out of this lock down, it helps to simply stop and stretch. Like a tree that connects heaven and earth, we can send our energy up and down at the same moment, standing with awareness in our feet and extending our fingertips to the sky. And breathing.
It only takes seconds. When energy has space to move, we can expand. Our radiant circuits awaken, and we are better able to switch from surviving to savoring.