Life Archery ~ Circles, Cycles, & Chakras
What in life are you aiming for?
Whether targeting your outer goals or your center within, practice & refinement are essential to hitting the mark. Yoga teaches us this simple & elegant truth. By repeatedly returning to our mat, we are asked to reflect & refine our awareness, pinning it down to a singular point in time; hitting the center of the soul with mindful accuracy.
For me, this means living in my creative flow, as it is where I am operating for the highest good and actualizing my greatest potential. The challenge is to simplify, removing all that is unnecessary, so that I can more easily connect to my creative muse and be in alignment with my spirit day to day, navigating the natural up/down cycles with consciousness and compassion. It is a goal I choose and one that I am learning requires accountability, responsibility and commitment in all that I do. It is what I call Life Archery.
Kenny Noland, Target Mysteries Aglow Series, 2002
Living mindfully means making that target...the soul center within...part of our everyday. The challenge is keeping ourselves aligned with how we choose and how we act. The nature of a target is the circling round a central axis. As a means to better understand how I might proceed, I turn to art as my inspiration. Painters have painted endless targets, Jasper Johns & Kenny Noland (1924-2010) come to mind. They each return again and again to the same circular motif. Different colors, brushstrokes and day of the week, but the endless cycling of existence is made clear through spinning wheels of color and tonal gradations on canvas.
Enso, a Japanese word meaning “circular form” is the symbol of Buddhist enlightenment. A target representing supreme freedom. In the biography of the Prajnaparamita master Nagarjuna, it states that whenever he taught in public, the master would appear as a luminous circle in order to reveal the true form of buddha nature: “Neither large nor small, neither wide nor narrow, neither good nor bad, neither transient nor eternal.”
Samsara, the endless cycle of suffering, death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound, is what we all hope to escape, whether through meditation, vacation, or for some, sadly, addiction. Yet no matter what we might know or what we might do, we all get trapped, whether it is in a whirlpool of choices or distractions, or in the unexpected rythmns of life. Pema Chodron calls this shenpa Tibetan for “getting hooked.” Geting hooked is how we stay caught in the wheel of suffering. This journey we call life is represented by the bhavacakra, or Wheel of Life, a Buddhist philosophical and sacred diagram placed at the entrance to temples in India and Tibet. Comprised of concentric circles representing our karma, each spoke on the wheel represents the constantly churning turmoil of worldly existence and stages of awareness that trap us in suffering. The way out, according to Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, was through meditation and yoga.
Bhavacakra, (Wheel of Life), 19th century, Tibet, Rubin Museum, New York
Suffering is not limited to the mind but also manifests in the body. This painting from Northern India circa 1850, is an exquisite representation of the 7 chakras, or wheels, signifying sources of life force energy. Each glowing circle are in fact nerve bundles aligned along the sushumna, the central column of energy in the body, having distinct roles to play in effecting and directing our bodily systems, dictating psychological, physical and spiritual well being. By opening the chakras, one gains access to the sacred interior of the body and the conduit of deep life force (pranasakti). The science of the chakras has yet to penetrate the white tower of Western medicine, but has gained significant ground through alternative healing practices, such as Chinese medicine, acupuncture, reiki and yoga.
Chakra Man, North India, Punjab Hills, 19th Century
The chakras shown in this image as sequential, colored orbs of light are the most recognized representation of the subtle body. When one accesses and opens these wheels of light/lifeforce, one gains entry to the sacred interior of the body unleashing deep healing and rejuvenation. Tias Little, in his recent book The Subtle Body, has masterfully and extensively mapped the connection between the body, anatomy, yoga asana, and the rich networks and symbolisms of energy that pervade ancient yogic art and texts.
Working with Tias this past July, I felt like I had conquered the top of a mountain, finally able to unwind the muscular and energetic knots, or granthis, deep within my body,My internal holding patterns were a lingering and limiting result of my hip replacement in 2014. Though my body had recuperated physiologically, energetically I was struggling with extreme levels of internal tension, that could not be resolved through typical yogic sequences. The misfiring of my nervous system, anxiety and inability to think clearly were symptoms, along with unexplained muscle spasms and intermittent pain through my non-bionic leg, that were soon resolved following a week-long Anatomy of the Chakras workshop, that combined asana and anatomy along with his signature SATYA style of somatic movement, that caused profound change. It was a revelation to me. The level to which our bodies are intricately wired, inter-related and unseen, and yet through chakra study and specific asanas targeting each chakra, I was able to clear, heal, and re-energize my body to a state of function prior to my surgery.
One of my recent summer delights was to discover at the Seattle Art Fair an amazing blazing oval aperture by James Turrell, the master of the Space & Light movement originating in Southern California in the 1960s. Turrell’s orb cast many shades of red evoking life energies radiating outward into infinity. Chakra-like in its reverberations, it called to mind the spirals of energy that subtly surrounds us and inhabit us.
James Turrell from Aten Reign, 2016, Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcut
Turrell also explores the deep recesses of inner & outer space in his now famous desert installation, Roden Crater, a must see architectural wonderment complete with sky-rooms and inner vaults of light/space experience. The artist’s lifelong research in the field of human visual and psychological perception culminated into Roden Crater, with specially engineered skyspaces where the cycles of geologic and celestial time can be directly experienced as a controlled environment for the contemplation of light. Turrell’s use of circular form and light speaks to the energetic mechanics of the chakras, which function as life giving illuminated highways within our human form. Turrell has been building the Crater since the late 1960's, referencing the 16th century royal observatory Jantur Manthur at Jaipur, India. I'm intrigued by the fact that after 50 years Turrell has finally captured current public interest by offering an other-worldly experience that brings the sacred and profane together in to a space/time continuum located in the Arizona desert.
James Turrell, East Portal, Skyspace, Roden Crater, Arizona
In Native American teachings, caves, or kivas, like the chakras, are energetical containers, or transitional spaces used in the process of spiritual transformation. Oriented to the East/West axis, Chaco Canyon, in Arizona residents used these spaces for ceremony and healing. Turrell plays on these same ideas using the Crater to awaken our instinctual reverence for light. Energetically, when we transform our lives, physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, we go through a series of energetic reorganization, as described in depth by both Carolyn Myss and neuroscientist Dr. Candace Pert.
Anasazi Kiva, Chaco Canyon Region, New Mexico
As described by Myss and Pert, the molecules of emotion and energetic patterns in the body are one, and inform what we think, say and do, as well as how we feel. These patterns of energy are formed in spirals throughout the body represented by the chakras and can be rewired using yoga asana and mediation to bring about deep change.
The most common form of change is addressing the mental afflictions through psychology, yet lasting change in behavior and circumstances must include physical transformation. It is this mind/body connection of yoga that seeds groundbreaking medical and psychological research aligning our times with the time-honored wisdom of Indian sages, whereby cycles of existence, spiraling energy, consciousness and creative process become one.
Lunar and Solar Eclipse Images
Wheels, Circles and Chakras are timeless forms of expressing our deep connection to natural cycles and our own life passages. Currently we are in between two major astral cycles symbolizing endings and beginnings ~ Lunar Full Moon Eclipse Aug 7th & Solar New Moon Eclipse Aug 21st ~ Signifying a time to cleanse, clear and wipe the slate clean followed by an opportunity of solar expansion to manifest new beginnings. These cosmic shake-ups come around every 6 months and allow us to rethink and choose our path, or be forced to change by what you won’t do or can’t do for yourself. Cosmically we all being called to realign.
The summer season at Hot Springs Ranch Nevada is also highlighted by cosmic events. The Perseid Meteor showers pass through every August, and this dazzling display of extra-terrestrial lights speaks to realms beyond sight and sound.
Perseid Meteor Showers
Wheels, Circles and Chakras are timeless forms of expressing our deep connection to natural cycles and our own life passages. Currently we are in between two major astral cycles symbolizing endings and beginnings ~ Lunar Full Moon Eclipse Aug 7th & Solar New Moon Eclipse Aug 21st ~ Signifying a time to cleanse, clear and wipe the slate clean followed by an opportunity of solar expansion to manifest new beginnings. These cosmic shake-ups come around every 6 months and allow us to rethink and choose our path, or be forced to change by what you won’t do or can’t do for yourself. Cosmically we are all being called to realign.
"Our own lives need to be our message" Thich Nat Hahn
Change is a constant factor in the way of all things. How we dance this cyclical inevitability determines our reality. Our journey through this lifetime is to meant to express our soul's purpose and live with integrity. I encourage you to explore what is cyclical in your life and step into change. To facilitate your journey, set aside time and connect with your practice. If you need support in that, join me for a week-long journey through the chakras. This yoga meditation immersion begins Aug 17-23rd. Come and explore how you might rewire your bodies for the change you seek and hit your target with ease and grace.
May you all live artfully and aim true!