Working with Chakras
Chakra is the Sanskrit word for “wheel.” In the yoga tradition, it refers to energy centers throughout the body, most frequently to the seven major chakras aligned along sushumna nadi, the central channel for energy or prana that runs along the length of the spine. As I often remind people when I teach yoga, yoga is an ancient tradition of philosophy and practice with its roots in India and other parts of South Asia. It is a practice oriented toward liberation from suffering through the recognition of union. The chakras are part of the energetic, subtle body as mapped primarily by the Tantric tradition of yoga, and working with them is one pathway toward finding balance and harmony within yourself and in relation to the world from which you are not ultimately separate.
There are many ways to work energetically with the chakras—through meditation, pranayama (breathing practices), asana (physical postures), energetic healing modalities like reiki, plant and stone healing, and cultivating behavioral practices that support the balanced opening of each energy center.
One of my favorite ways to work with the chakras is through meditation, directing my attention through each one and cycling breath and awareness between them. Over the course of working with the chakras for many years, I’ve realized that I strongly associate each one with particular qualities, specific sensory experiences and feelings states that allow me to expand my awareness of each energy center.
With muladhara, the root chakra that corresponds to safety, security, and our connection to our most basic needs, I associate red dirt and stone, the ancient richness of the earth.
With swadisthana, the sacral chakra that corresponds to creativity, desire, pleasure, sexuality, and feeling, I associate sweetness, like the golden glow of honey that comes from the life-giving union of bees and flowers.
With manipura, the solar plexus chakra that corresponds to courage, confidence, willpower, health, and vitality, I associate the blazing light of the rising sun.
With anahata, the heart chakra that corresponds to love, empathy, compassion, and connection, I associate the verdant green foliage of a cool forest, tender leaves opening to receive light.
With vishuddha, the throat chakra that corresponds to the voice, speech, communication, and truthfulness, I associate the vast open expanse of a clear blue sky. Imagine if your voice felt that open and free.
With ajña, the third eye chakra that corresponds to intuition, inner wisdom, perception, and understanding, I associate the depths of dark waters, diving into all that is held beneath their surface.
With sahasrara, the crown chakra that corresponds to the realization of our union with all things, the culminating liberation of recognizing that we are not separate, I associate the shimmering lights of stars in the infinite blackness of space.
As I meditate, I invite each of these qualities and associations into the space of each chakra, and in doing so, become more aware of the sensations available to me throughout my subtle body.
Try it. See what you feel. I would love to hear about your experience.
If you’re looking for more information about chakras—because not everything we read on the internet is the best information—I highly recommend Anodea Judith’s book Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System.
You can read more about my background with yoga here.
And if you are looking for support in connecting to your own subtle body and its felt wisdom, you can book a session with me here.
Tomorrow—Friday, June 21—the Sun moves into the sign of Cancer, marking the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year. As we move into these summer months, we celebrate the life-sustaining light of the Sun, the verdant growth of our green kin all around us, and all that nourishes the lives that we are making together. Cancer is a cardinal water sign, a sign of beginnings, the waters of the womb, sensitivity, nurturing, and the protective instincts. It is a time to reflect on what it is that we need to feel safe, secure, protected, and cared for, as well as how we might offer care, protection, security, and safety to others.
This summer we will move through two eclipses—a solar eclipse in Cancer on July 2 and a partial lunar eclipse in Capricorn on July 16. But these eclipses are activating challenging astrology that has been building for some time, aspects that the Sun will be illuminating throughout this season as it moves through Cancer.
On July 9, the Sun will oppose Saturn in Capricorn and the South Node. Saturn conjunct the South Node requires us to dismantle long-lasting structures that are no longer supporting us. We are in a period of abandoning systems that suffocate us, abolishing institutions that have been built on oppression and exploitation, and demolishing rigid patterns that only ever direct us back again toward our own domination.
This is work we’ve been doing since November 2018 as Saturn approached the South Node, and now the life-giving light of the Sun is shining a spotlight on these deeply dismantling processes. In this configuration, Neptune in Pisces will be trine the Sun and sextile Saturn and the South Node. Neptune is the planet is dissolution, the waters of collectivity, the waves of dreams, inspiration, and imagination. Neptune’s support asks us to allow the waters of our own imagination to flow freely, to invite our dreams of another world to erode the foundations of the world that is coming to an end.
But none of this happens without struggle or confronting the powers that be.
On July 14, the Sun will oppose Pluto, the planet associated with power, the underworld, and the dark processes of disintegration and transformation. The wisdom of the Earth teaches us that death is part of life, that things must die in order for life to continue to flourish and evolve in all its intrinsic exuberance. This opposition will challenge us to see and know and name that which must come to an end and be transformed in order for our personal and collective lives to endure. The existing structures that are collapsing will not do so without a fight. The rattling breaths of empire, white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy will try to drag us down into the underworld—but perhaps that is a descent to which we are called. Perhaps it is in the dark and hidden places beneath our surfaces that we can examine the root structures of these systems, dig them up and cut them out. As the Sun shines brightly in all its summer brilliance, it also turns back toward darkness, toward longer nights and shorter days. It is in the darkness—within our own selves and within the worlds we are breaking and making—that we must confront the deep structures of our oppression.
These are oppositions between our very lives—the Sun—the structures that support or oppress us—Saturn—and the powers to unearth and transform—Pluto.
Audre Lorde wrote that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” When she wrote this, she was specifically addressing a gathering of academic feminists who were failing to recognize that the term “women” could not depend upon any assumption that all women are the same but rather must deal explicitly and persistently with the reality of difference in the lives of women. She wrote: “Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can be sparked … I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.” As we move into the astrology of this summer, may we all reach down deep into ourselves, descending into the underworld, and transforming any part of ourselves that holds terror and loathing of difference, and like the light of the Sun passing through these oppositions to Saturn and Pluto, may this process of transformation illuminate all our choices as we move between the world as it has been and all the worlds that are yet to come.
If you're looking for support in these days ahead, I would love to work with you. You can learn more about my offerings here and booking information here.
Full Moon in Sagittarius
On Monday, June 17, 2019, we will receive the abundant, expansive light of the Full Moon in Sagittarius. This is an especially lovely lunation because not only is the Moon at its most luminous, but it is ruled by Jupiter in its own sign. Jupiter is the planet associated with growth, expansion, abundance, faith, and belief that can sustain us on our journeys to discover that which we hold to be most true. When a planet is in one of its own signs, it is said to have access to its strengths and resources. With the Full Moon in Sagittarius along with Jupiter, we can think of the Moon as a guest in Jupiter’s home, and Jupiter has the capacity to serve as a generous host. Additionally, both the Moon and Jupiter are in aspect with Venus in Gemini and are in aversion to the more challenging planets in Cancer and Capricorn. This Full Moon can offer relief and support in the midst of what might feel like a challenging season for some of us. This is a reprieve from some of the intense astrology we’ve been moving through this month.
As the Moon blossoms brightly in Sagittarius, Mars is just one or two degrees between oppositions to Saturn and Pluto, both retrograde in Capricorn. These are intense, potentially difficult oppositions, but it’s astrology that also holds valuable lessons for us as we move through what might feel like pressure, conflict, or resistance. Mars is separating from its opposition to Saturn, which may have felt like charging relentlessly into an immovable structure. This aspect reminds me of Sara Ahmed’s writing about diversity work as “banging your head against a brick wall” kind of labor. In Living a Feminist Life, she suggests that “the wall is more than a metaphor and refers to the processes whereby histories become concrete, how patterns set before they harden.” In our institutions, our social structures, and even in the deeply internalized norms through which we know ourselves, we constantly come up against the walls of empire, colonization, white supremacy, sexism and misogyny, the violent repression of queer and trans experiences, and all the other ways in which what is possible for ourselves and our world have been limited. Some of us encounter these walls more than others; some of us feel them as a prison, some of us may even experience them as support systems we don’t know how to live without. If our positions of privilege allow walls to remain invisible to us—especially if existing structures of injustice are so embedded in our thinking and living that we don't even recognize the ways in which they limit life and livability for others—now is a time to listen carefully to those who do experience our current systems as oppressive, exploitative realms of impossibility. Mars opposed Saturn asks us to examine the established structures in ourselves and in our world as ask: who does this benefit? What does this serve? What kinds of lives and worlds are made impossible because this system remains in place?
As Mars separates from this opposition to Saturn, it is applying an opposition to Pluto, which will be exact on June 19. Mars opposed Pluto is a power struggle like no other, where the drive to act and the drive to control clash above and below. Having found ourselves thrown against walls and structures that may seem immovable, now we find ourselves digging into the underworld to wrestle with processes that hold the potential for deep personal transformation and collective liberation. It seems fitting that this astrology is happening during the month of Pride, when we celebrate decades of struggle for the liberation of LGBTQ communities, in which we continue to demand justice for all lives, all genders, all sexualities, especially those most marginalized in our society—Black and Brown people, transgender people, women, disabled people, older people, and so on.
All of this to say: this Full Moon in Sagittarius is here to replenish and resource, to reconnect us to the beliefs that sustain us and bring to light that which we will need to continue to struggle against systems of oppression that are not only outside of us but inside of ourselves as well. The Moon will appear the most full Sunday night and early Monday morning. How this will show up in each of our lives will be different depending on the particularities of our charts, but we might all ask ourselves these questions by full moonlight:
What am I struggling for?
What am I resisting?
What are the structures that support me, and what are the entrenched systems that I know are poisoning me from within and without?
What do I believe to be most true, and how might those beliefs light my path?
How might I use the abundance and resources of this Full Moon to connect to pleasure, passion, and care that can then fuel my relentless pursuit of justice?
Happy Pride + Blessed Full Moon
Michael J. Morris is a witch, an astrologer, a tarot reader, an artist, a writer, and a teacher.