Belonging: Chakras (2)

I quite like to be on my own … and my happiness is sometimes greater depending on who is not there.

I have now lived on my own for 10 years since both my 2 daughters left home for university in 2010. I worked full time most of my working life and I did not particularly socialise much with my colleagues. They did not live nearby and we did not have many interests in common. I have a few close friends here in the UK; but my long term friends are French and live in France; so I do not see them on a regular basis. So this little cartoon reflects quite well what I used to think about my relationships with people generally. What I like about this cartoon is that it defines rather well the fine line between being “on my own” and being “lonely”. Yes, I am on my own; but, to a point, it has been my choice to be so.

Conversely I do not think that loneliness is a choice; it has abandonment, estrangement attached to it. Whenever I felt lonely, I felt abandoned, let down … by my parents, my teachers, my friends, my romantic partners … by the whole world! But the bottom of misery is reached when loneliness turns into depression and despair. The ego, deprived of its minimum dose of daily praise, abandons itself as well. So the whole network of personal relationships with oneself and others completely breaks down. Sat-Chid-ananda become empty words: no existential meaning, ignorance of one’s needs and reality, and certainly no bliss.

Let’s come back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: after the basic physical needs come the emotional needs: Love and belonging. Next come the Esteem needs. They are ego needs: Self-esteem and self-respect go together. However, a typical human desire is to be accepted and valued by others. So finally people develop a concern with getting recognition that they have indeed achieved their full potential, and that they deserve the status that goes with it.

As for the chakras, after manipura, the “mine” awareness comes Anahata, which is about a more subtle self-awareness, this time in relation to others, more of the “belonging” element. The combination of all the basic needs find their expression in Vishuddhi. With adequate grounding, discriminatory skills and compassion come the ability to see reality and convey truth; self-acceptance is part of the process. With Ajna, knowledge goes beyond physical reality to reach a deeper level of perception.

There are 3 higher chakras:

4. Anahata is symbolised by a circular flower with twelve green petals called the heart- mind and is situated in the heart centre. Within it is a yantra (geometrical shapes) of two intersecting triangles symbolising the union of male and female qualities. Anahata chakra is not yet concerned with the spiritual realm; it is still a bodily chakra related to feelings and senses, likes and dislikes. Physically Anahata governs blood circulation. Anahata is also related to the thymus, located in the chest. The thymus is an element of the immune system as well as being part of the endocrine system. It is the site of maturation of the T cells responsible for fending off disease. Emotionally it governs unconditional love for the self and others, mentally it governs passion, and spiritually it governs devotion. Key issues involving Anahata are complex emotions: compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, equilibrium, well-being; but also rejection.

5. Vishuddhi, Vishuddha or Vishuddhi is depicted as a silver crescent within a white circle, with 16 pale blue or turquoise petals. The silver crescent is the lunar symbol of nada, pure cosmic sound. The crescent is symbolic of purity, and purification is a vital aspect of Vishuddhi Chakra. Vishuddhi may be understood as relating to communication and growth through expression. Physically, Vishuddhi governs communication, emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of security, through self-acceptance.

6. Ajna, also translated as intuitive knowledge, is symbolised by a lotus with two petals. It is at this point that the two nadis Ida and Pingala are said to terminate and merge with the central channel Sushumna, signifying the end of duality and enlightenment. It is located at the upper end of the spinal column, at the point of transition from the spine to the brain. When you concentrate on Ajna chakra, you become one-pointed and knower of past, present and future, beyond time. The activation of Ajna chakra is said to lead to psychic powers (siddhis) such as clairvoyance.The two physical eyes see the past and the present, while the third eye reveals the insight of the future. The mantra is Aum, or “Pranava Om” the supreme sound. When one establishes himself in the place between the eyebrows he goes beyond all the kinds of desires that motivate life and impel one to move in many directions, according to one’s individual dharma.

It is common knowledge that mental and emotional issues, lack of existential purpose bring along a whole range of physical ailments. Over-eating (or under-eating), over- drinking, substance abuse generally, physical neglect are symptoms of mental and emotional distress and also contribute to a weakened immune system.

This is where the difference between voluntary solitude (to be on your own by choice) and loneliness (feelings of abandonment and estrangement) comes into play. I can only talk about my own experience. But I do not think that my experience is a unique experience. So I am happy to share it with you.

The present situation is forcing us into physical isolation into our family unit. Because my family unit is split, my household is just myself … I normally go up and about, to London, Scotland or France. I go to yoga classes and workshops, art classes, go away to visit friends … So this is a new situation and I have not chosen that situation. However, most of the time, I do not feel lonely or depressed. There is a bit of frustration linked to a lack of freedom of movement; but on the whole my well-being has only been remotely affected. If anything my relationship with local people is now richer and certainly more varied. I am becoming more attentive to people’s needs and I am also appreciative of their help generally.

However, as the days pass, I get less and less interested in looking at whats-up groups’ posts and videos. I do value exchanges with my family and friends; but I now find that contacts with virtual groups however well-meaning they are, with people I do not really know that well … THEY make me feel lonely. Strangely it is the people that advocate Universal Love, positive thinking at all cost (everybody is “soo” amazing and fantastic) … that makes me feel the most disheartened. It must be this well-known social media phenomena. The image people project is always glamorous and positive. They cannot help but fishing for praise, and attract likes, love and approval (“you look gorgeous … amazing … awesome”, “how cute”, LOL). But what about if for some reason you go against the grain? It is banned to make you feel inadequate. Feeling estranged in the middle of a group/crowd is not a rare occurrence.

In myths, heroes get reward for risking their life battling against dragons: kingship or being paired with the prettiest princess, often both. Cinderella married the handsome prince and we are told that she “lived happily ever after”. But what do nurses, doctors and all the essential workers get? Our appreciation most certainly; but I sometimes wonder about all the essential people that are working for us right now, and whether they might sometimes feel lonely too and get tired and bemused of being “fantastic” heroes.

At a personal level, arguably, the only way to fight the occasional surge of loneliness is to retreat from all this fake positivity and glamour, and reflect. I am actually grateful that I have the luxury of being able to do just that: reflect. My group of yoga students’ support allows me to continue to explore Yoga and its philosophy. It helps me to deepen my own thinking and, especially now, gives me a platform to explore the working of our body/mind. So hopefully this is a fair exchange of services: they help me and I help them.

Asanas, pranayama and relaxation/meditation are just tools to this end. I am only instrumental and interested in passing on the little I know.


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