VISHUDDHA: THE PURIFIER
Chakra Five lives in the throat. It teaches us about air, vibration, song, language, story, creativity, authenticity and self-expression. The Sanskrit for Chakra 5 is vishuddha. This means “purification.” As you contemplate what is shared in the rest of the post, keep this in mind. How can air, vibration, song, language, authentic expression, etc. be part of a purifying process? And, contemplate the opposite. What is the effect of polluted air, negative vibration, stuck song, untrue language, inauthentic expression?
35-minute talk I gave at the Chakra Five workshop at Prema Yoga Brooklyn on Sunday, February 4, 2018.
THROAT & AIR
Just as the throat is more of a passageway than it is a place, AIR is more of a medium than a solid thing. Air, in case you were wondering, is actually a mixture of gases that is maintained by the earth’s atmosphere. This atmosphere is unique to this planet. It co-evolved with life here.
Us animals rely on air to live. It brings precious oxygen to our cells, and the cells use oxygen to produce energy. No wonder the word for breath and lifeforce are the same in Sanskrit--prana. When we exhale we release carbon dioxide which the plants use in photosynthesis. Plants, in turn, release more oxygen—the very part of the gas compound that we need most. It's a beautiful cycle and reminds us that "waste" is a human invention. Nature’s design is too tight to abide such a concept. Her ways are too exquisite, too wholistic; everything has value in her system and nothing is wasted. To breathe is to be in a giving-receiving cycle.
The pure gases which make up the air are invisible to the human eye, making AIR close to SPIRIT, making the act of breathing divine. What is SPIRIT? In the most general sense, it is what we cannot percieve but we trust must be present. "Spirit" is in the word respiration. Spiritu is latin for breath. By connecting deeply to the act of breathing, by sensing into the air all around us, our awareness grows subtler and we gain the capacity to "feel" into spiritual information that is always here but usually overlooked.
Practice: SENSING CHAKRA FIVE
Gently caress your neck with your hands. Notice the shape of the neck, slender, spreading out toward the head at the top and spreading out toward the chest at the bottom. Feel the ridges that mark the outer boundaries of the important tubes that run down the length of the neck. Feel the passage of AIR flowing up and down through this tubing.
Notice what travels on the airwaves this month--the unseen medium that makes so much of our lives possible, especially in this digital age.
VIBRATION & SOUND
One thing that travels on the air waves: VIBRATION. The ancient yogis believed that the universe began with a vibration. To chant OM is to relive that origin story, to reconnect ourselves with the vibration that moves through all things.
Of all the vibrations in the room right now, your ear can perceive less than 1% of them. We call that SOUND. Chakra 5 teaches us how to be with vibration and sound before we attach meaning. I encourage you to take in sounds and make sounds this month and see how they effect you--both on an auditory level and that of physical vibration. I find that certain tones, harmonies and rhythms effect me certain ways. But I encourage you to stick with the physical sensations of vibration this month, the raw experience of your vibratory nature. Notice how different sounds work on your emotional body, but also notice how different FEEL vibration as well as HEAR it.
Here's a rad playlist for you. Chakra 5: Express True You.
Practice: BIJA MANTRAS
Each chakra is said to have a bija, or "seed" mantra. To awaken that chakra, heal it and empower it, chant its mantra. Try singing each one from bottom to top, feeling vibration in the spaces which are ruled by that chakra.
Chakra 7: OM (silent)
Chakra 6: OM
Chakra 5: HUM
Chakra 4: YUM
Chakra 3: RUM
Chakra 2: VUM
Chakra 1: LUM
Practice: SONG TIME
Make a playlist of songs you love to sing. Make a practice of belting out a few songs every week. As you sing, notice what parts of the body vibrate and envision the purification process happening. Think about how a washing machine agitates your clothes, freeing-up gunk stuck between the threads. It makes room for clean, soapy water to move into the tiny little spaces in the clothes. When you chant, something similar happens--on a physical level and on an energetic one.
LANGUAGE & TRUTH
When our words are authentic and properly connected to the world around us, and the energy within us, they heal. Participating in language that is distracting, destructive, inauthentic or false leaves a residue. But just by getting clear again, aligning with healing again, and speaking truth again, we can clean up that residue. So positive speech, the work of Chakra Five, cleans up our lives.
Practice: EMBODIED TRUTH
Close your eyes. Take a few breaths. Then say something that your heart does not believe, that your body does not believe. Feel the effects. Then say something true and feel the internal harmony. Ahhhh.
As you have probably noticed, language doesn't just happen "out there." Most of us are talking to ourselves all day long! And getting a handle on how you speak to yourself is a huge part of healing Chakra Five. We all have skin in this game. Not just artists or writers or professional singers or speakers. The stories we tell ourselves form our experience of reality, so if we don't take responsibility for them, we lose ownership over our experience of our lives.
What is the nature of your internal dialogue? With what tone do you tend to speak to yourself? Is it harsh or kind? Is the inner language creative and varied and colorful? Or does it tend to be black-and-white, cliche, predictable?
Practice: LANGUAGE RESET
1. REST: Spend a little time without taking in or putting out words. If you can’t go away on a silent retreat, you can still schedule in silent moments in your week. It can help to listen to a guided meditation, put on relaxing music, follow the sound of the breath or repeat a mantra. Those tend to focus the mind away from the inner dialogue long enough to cleanse the mental palate and drop you into a quieter place. A walk in the park without a podcast, a quiet cup of tea without reading the news, a jigsaw puzzle with the classical station on—that’ll do it!
2. PROCESS: Make a regular creative processing ritual for yourself. Do journaling practices. Talk!—To your therapist, your friend, or one I’ve been using a lot up here in the mountains, the voice recorder on your phone! Make art of all kinds. Creative processing is not just for artists. Otherwise we would not need to dream every night.
3. REFRESH: Spend some time nourishing yourself with language and story that feels refreshing, honest, loving and wise. Whose words feel the most true and whole and resonant? Find recordings of your favorite orators and listen to them in the car or while you wash the dishes. Put books by your favorite poets or teachers by the bed and read a bit from them first thing in the morning and last thing at night so that your day begins and ends with truth instead of whatever the hell is on all of our newsfeeds. (Granted, there’s some really inspiring stuff on there too! But while I scroll and scroll and scroll to find it, my mind is already being invaded by fear.) Or revisit your favorite epic novels and adventure movies. You know the ones. They help you make sense of war and peace, dark and light, challenge and rest, little picture and big picture.
UNIQUENESS & AUTHENTICITY
The delicate contours of your throat are unique and the sound of your voice is one-of-a-kind. Your throat chakra creates a special auditory thumbprint, allowing your sounds to come out unlike any other creature, past, present or future. So it is not just the breath that you exhale which is a special gift to the world, but the sounds that you make. To honor Chakra Five requires that you truly honor your own uniqueness. That you come to appreciate your special gifts, that you learn to enjoy them on your own and share them for the benefit of others as well.
Doing any kind of creative work will bring us into better appreciation of our unique gifts. Unfortunately, much of our uniqueness, much of our joy in creativity is educated out of us. So it may take some de-programming to remember what it feels like to just create for creation's sake. It make take some un-education to get back to what true gifts your weird and wonderful self is here to share.
Practice: INNER CHILD
Sit in a meditation posture and quiet the mind by feeling your breath for a couple of minutes. Imagine now that you are sitting in a beautiful place. Take a little time making the details of your environment rich, so that the imagination can begin to open doorways in your consciousness. When you feel immersed in your visualized setting, notice as a little human approaches. It is you as a child. Take in the presence of this child and greet him or her in whatever way feels authentic. Then sit down with this person and ask: what do I need to know right now in my life? You can ask any questions you like of course!
COMMUNICATION & STORY
Experiment with how address yourself and other beings, in your mind and out loud.
The Indians addressed life as a “thou,” I mean, trees and stones, everything else. You can address anything as a “thou”, and you can feel the change in your psychology as you do it. The ego that sees a “thou” is not the same ego that sees an “it.” Your whole psychology changes when you address things as an “it.” And when you go to war with a people, the problem of the newspapers is to turn those people into its, so that they’re not “thous.” - Joseph Campbell
Thou feels a bit awkward on my lips personally. But what if you started calling youself, "sweetheart" when you were feeling down. Or what if you took a walk in the park and said, "hello, holy tree!" to every tree you saw. What if you took a break from using harsh or demeaning words when speaking about other beings. In a Tibetan Buddhist tradition I was involved with for a while, everyone called everyone else, "hla" which means "dear one." You would put it at the end of a name, "Aaron'hla." It made us all more tender, more affectionate, more interconnected.
When you were born, you went from being a water creature to an earth-bound, air-breathing one. That inhale marked a powerful metamorphesis. How do you honor the transition moments in your life. How do you honor your unique story?
Story is how we connect the dots in our own understanding and how we connect with other speaking beings. But if there is not a freshness, playfulness and earnestness to our communication, then the language we use can end up forging and fortifying unhealthy connections. If I have heard a story over and over again without questioning it or allowing a playful engagement with it, then it hardens into a solid "truth," aka a dogma, which stops revealing anything useful me. If I repeat the story to myself enough the dogma creates a kind of prison.
Practice: STORY TIME
What is the nature of the stories that you are soaking up all day long? How much time do you spend engaging with things that are trivial? Things that are negative? How much time do you spend engaging with language that is in alignement with the values of your heart?
Growing up as a child actor I heard again and again that talent was innate. When I got to my mid-twenties and hadn't made anything of my acting career I thought, "Welp. That ship has sailed!" I didn't go get more training, I didn't seek the help of a mentor, I didn't double down on my networking. I just gave up. This one line story has some truth to it and is useful in some scenarios. But it is by no means the whole truth and, in this case, it was the wrong truth to be repeating. Every time I repeated it I reinforced the prison walls. Everytime I spoke to myself in that demeaning and dismissive tone, I amplified the obstacle between me and achieving my dreams.
We all have skin in this game. Not just artists or writers or professional singers or speakers. The stories we tell ourselves form our experience of reality, so if we don't take responsiblity for them, we lose ownership over our experience of our lives. We all dream--this is the creative sorting of the impressions we take in all day. Making art of any kind is just the awake version of this--it is how we process information and make sense of the world and ourselves. The result of this processing and sense-making is "artwork" something that can be shared with others to help them process and make sense. We are all dreamers and therefore we are all artists. We are all in need of understanding and healing Vishuddha Chakra.