Here comes the sun And I say it's all right — George Harrison
Today is the first day of spring where I live. Phoenix that I am, I cannot help loving the symbolism of renewal and rebirth inherent in spring. This morning, however, I was feeling decidedly un-rejuvenated. I was thinking about the story I’m currently writing and how my guides have been signaling to me for months now that I should be writing about empathy and love, but I was saying, “That’s boring; I don’t want to write that shit and nobody wants to read that either.” Well clearly I’m full of shit because last week in a freewriting session, I ended up writing several pages all about one character’s love for another and it moved me to tears. I thought that this piece was backstory, but my guides told me outright in yesterday’s meditation to “write love” and I realized that what I’d come up with is actually the very heart of my story. Despite this, today when I was thinking again about this character, I was annoyed with myself for giving him a huge piece of myself, namely empathy and his capacity to feel things so intensely and to love so strongly.
When I sat down to meditate this afternoon, I felt Isis’s presence (a warmth that envelops me like being wrapped lovingly in an invisible blanket) and the message that I came away with in this session was essentially that what I have always deemed to be a curse—my intense empathy, the ability to feel others’ emotions—could actually be my greatest strength if I learn how to manage it and use it to help others instead of running from it or trying to shut it off. I will certainly need to develop a stronger “emotional armor,” so to speak, to protect myself from that onslaught of emotional energy and to be ever cognizant that others’ emotions are not mine even though I feel them as if they are.
How fitting that this realization comes today with the onset of spring. This is the next phase of my spiritual journey, I think—to embrace that empathy in myself and in my writing as well. No more hiding in the shadows; I have to let my true self shine. It’s a scary thought, I admit, but I have to trust that my guides will help me through it.
Yesterday, I spent some time revamping my yoga routines and associated playlists. In a previous post, I wrote about how I was inspired by Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga to create custom routines focused on each of the seven major chakras based on her suggested sequences. I expanded my routines by adding Judith’s kundalini chakra breathing exercises to the beginning of each one and increasing the times holding poses so that each one is now roughly 40 minutes. This morning was the first that I practiced one of the revised routines (anahata, heart chakra) and I was pleased with the result. It feels more wholistic to me—an exercise for mind, body, and spirit—which is exactly what I was going for. If you’re curious about the routines themselves, I highly recommend investing in Judith’s book as well as the precursor, Wheels of Life, a guide to the chakra system in general. My custom playlists for each chakra are listed below in case anyone is curious about those. The idea to create them came to me when I wrote that the yoga instructor character in my book played pop music during her classes instead of “traditional” yoga/meditation music. So, essentially, her classes are based off of Chakra Yoga and the music she plays during those are these playlists that I made.
Muladhara, Root Chakra: The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“The Ground Beneath Her Feet” by U2
“Stand” by R.E.M.
“Dig Down” (Acoustic Gospel Version) by Muse
“And She Was” by Talking Heads
“I’m a Mother” by the Pretenders
“Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones
“Body Electric” by Lana Del Rey
“Shelter From the Storm” by Bob Dylan
“A Letter to Fear” by Fantastic Negrito
“Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
Svadhistahana, Sacral Chakra: Hooked On a Feeling
“Hooked On a Feeling” by Blue Swede
“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
“I’ve Got a Feeling” by the Beatles
“Turn Me On” by Norah Jones
“Undisclosed Desires” by Muse
“Desire” by U2
“Because the Night” by Patti Smith Group
“Night in My Veins” by the Pretenders
“Faith” by George Michael
“Burning Desire” by Lana Del Rey
“Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith
“Crimson and Clover” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Manipura, Solar Plexus Chakra: Light My Fire
“Light My Fire” by the Doors
“Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake
“Beast of Burden” by the Rolling Stones
“Into the Fire” by Sarah McLachlan
“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
“Army of Me” by Björk
“Mirror Master” by Young the Giant
“(You Will) Set the World On Fire” by David Bowie
“Uprising” by Muse
Anahata, Heart Chakra: Open Your Heart
“Open Your Heart” by Madonna
“What Is Life” by George Harrison
“Between Two Lungs” by Florence + the Machine
“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
“Tenderness” by General Public
“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher” by Jackie Wilson
“Breathe (In the Air)” by Pink Floyd
“True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper
“Somebody to Love” by Queen
“Love Is What You Need” by the Clarks
Visuddha, Throat Chakra: Good Vibrations
“Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys
“If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” by Cat Stevens
“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” by R.E.M.
“High Fidelity” by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
“Silence Is Golden” by Garbage
“Cosmic Dancer” by T. Rex
“Silent All These Years” by Tori Amos
“Stop Whispering” by Radiohead
“Drawn to the Rhythm” by Sarah McLachlan
“Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode
Ajña, Third-Eye Chakra: Beginning to See the Light
“Beginning to See the Light” by the Velvet Underground
Today marks a major milestone for me—I did an unassisted handstand! A couple of months ago, I set a goal for myself that I would do a handstand for real, by which I meant nothing supporting me but my hands. I’d been practicing against the wall during my third-eye and crown chakra yoga routines. I started by balancing on my hands, with my feet braced against the wall, my body in an L shape. I gradually started inching my feet farther up the wall. My husband eventually cleared the PERFECT space for me to practice right next to the Army of Darknessposter in our basement. I say perfect because (a) it’s Army of Darkness and Bruce Campbell and my goal was to kick fear’s ass just like Ash kicked those demons’ asses, and (b) when I fully stretched out, my feet just managed to touch that area of dropped ceiling. Well, today, I braced myself with my hands like I always do, then stretched my legs up toward the ceiling. As the toes of one foot brushed the lower ceiling, I thought to myself, I don’t need to brace my feet. In that moment, I let go, and I did it! I did a handstand! Then I got so excited about the fact that I was doing it that I fell, but that’s OK. The important thing was I did it and now I know that I can do it again.
Today’s milestone is pretty significant for me in terms of both my personal healing process and my growth as a practitioner of both yoga and meditation. I am so incredibly grateful for the progress I’ve made. A few years ago, when I decided to rehaul my lifestyle in the name of self-care, I vowed that exercise would be a part of my daily regimen. Although it took me a while to settle on specific cardio exercises that I liked and could stick with, there was never any question that yoga would be a part of my daily fitness routine.
I’ve been practicing yoga in general for several years now and I like using the Yoga Studio app for iPhone. A few years ago, before the rehaul, I felt drawn to practice their series of chakra yoga classes. Right around the same time, I began doing some guided meditation and read Mindfulness In Plain English. Although neither yoga nor meditation became a daily thing for me until post-awakening or rebirth or whatever you want to call it, my intro to meditation and chakras was the start of something pretty major—a step in my path toward achieving balance in my life. Since I’ve begun to practice both daily, they’ve made a HUGE difference in my life and healing journey.
Although I’ve been practicing chakra yoga for a couple of years now, I only recently read Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga. That book was a game-changer. Judith includes overviews of each of the seven major chakras and discusses specific yoga poses that target each one. She also includes a whole sequence of poses designed for each of the chakras. A sequence focused on the root chakra (muladhara), which is all about connection to the ground/earth, involves standing poses such as tree and mountain that stress a strong foundation. The second chakra, svadhistana, or sacral chakra, is stimulated by hip-opening poses like happy baby, lizard, monkey, and mermaid, one of my favorites (see a pic of my rendition below). Manipura, the solar plexus chakra, is all about ab work. The fourth chakra, anahata, is (literally) the heart of it all. Heart-opening poses include the aptly named melting heart pose, bow, camel, cobra, and wheel. Visuddha, the throat chakra, is stimulated by poses involving the neck and shoulders. Ajna, the third-eye chakra, is best activated by balancing poses and inversions such as headstands and handstands, which require exceptional focus to maintain. The seventh chakra, sahasrara, is the crown chakra. Judith admits that this chakra is much better served by meditation and says that there are not many poses devoted specifically to sahasrara. Her recommended sahasrara sequence follows the path of the kundalini, moving through each of the other chakras in turn, and is designed to open up all of the chakras, activating the crown chakra in the process. I have to admit, it’s one of my favorites. Today’s focus for me happened to be the third-eye and crown chakras, hence the handstand I did as part of this morning’s routine.
After reading Judith’s book, I wanted to put her suggested routines into practice. I used the Seconds App to create custom classes based on the routines in Judith’s book. Because I’m a huge dork who’s totally obsessed with music—I also created custom playlists to accompany each one. I’ve been practicing one or more of these routines every day since. I noticed a profound difference. Since day 1, my practice has become much more wholistic—an integrated mind-body-soul experience. Each day, both my yoga practice and my daily meditation are dedicated to whatever chakras are in need of focus or out of balance. I’ve become quite passionate about yoga this past year in particular; it’s right up there with writing and music for me now. I’ve contemplated getting an instructor certification, but that for now, I continue to develop my personal practice and I look forward to where it takes me next.