That Little Voice
Have you ever had an epiphany -- an “Ah ha” moment? You can thank the Third Eye Chakra for these moments of realization. The Third Eye Chakra is the seat of intuition and seeing clearly. Here, we see not only with the eyes, but also with the heart, mind and spirit. After tuning your subtle vibrations in the 5th/Throat chakra, in the 6th/Third Eye Chakra you find stillness. It’s element is space. Like a mirror reflection in a lake, you can see yourself clearly when the water is still. Not only can you see yourself, but you move beyond this world, into the archetypal world of deep wisdom.
The Third Eye Chakra is less about vigorous asana practice and more about slowing down the body and mind for the stillness of meditation. That is why Patanjali said “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Through stillness, we can see clearly. As you get older you may start asking questions about the meaning and cycles of life-- then you know you are ready to begin work with the 3rd eye chakra. The male and female nadis (Ida and Pingala) are said to meet in chakra six, collapsing duality into a single-pointed, non-dual consciousness. You begin to experience union of mind/body, observer/observed, individual/universal self. The Sanskrit name of this Chakra, “Ajna,” means “to perceive” and “to command.” It teaches us to use all our avenues of perception and then use this to inform our actions. The “command” part is the active part of this chakra-- sending out lightning bolts from our third eye to destroy ignorance and illusion. (Chakra Yoga by Anodea Judith)
The Third Eye Chakra is located between and behind the eyebrows and includes the forehead, eyes and pineal gland. In the 17th century Rene Descartes called the pineal gland the “seat of the soul”. It produces melatonin, a derivative of serotonin, which is produced during sleep. This tiny gland is the size of a pea, but it is light-sensitive and suspected to be the key factor in dreaming, near-death experiences and psychedelic experiences. It is the only unpaired organ in the brain, in keeping with the 6th chakra’s non-duality.
Intuition can seem elusive to many of us. You may look back on your life and remember times you wish you had followed your gut and avoided some danger or made a different decision. You may feel even now like you are not sure if you can differentiate between your intuition and your chattering monkey-mind! So first, a little background on intuition. Contrary to popular belief, intuition is not independent of reasoning. Psychologists believe that our intuition is really a “rapid-fire, unconscious associating process, like a mental puzzle.” (The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown) The brain makes observations, pairs them up with existing memories and knowledge and experiences, and produces in us a “gut” feeling before we even have time to think a situation through.
So our intuition is our ability to trust all the ways we are guided-- our intellect, our insight, our instinct, our experience and our faith. Sometimes it tells us what we need to know, and sometimes it steers us to explore something more deeply. So why don’t we listen to it? Our need for certainty and safety often sabotages our gut. (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection.) When we question our intuition, if we are fearful, we might start asking others their opinions about what we should do. This is evidence that we are second-guessing ourselves. If we struggle with low self-esteem, or have been gas-lighted in the past and are prone to doubting ourselves, it can be hard to find the bravery to even acknowledge, let alone act upon our intuition. Additionally, those times when our gut is telling us to slow down and gather more information, we may charge ahead into decisions because we don’t want to know the answers that will come from due diligence. We know that fact finding might lead us away from what we think we want. Here is where our faith comes in. We must believe that even if our intuition leads us away from one thing, the abundant universe has plenty more in store for us!
Luckily, we don’t need to know how intuition works in order to use it. (Laura Day, Practical Intuition). Intuition is a capacity you are born with -- everyone has it. As children we treat all kinds of perceptions as real. We have imaginary friends telling us secrets and if we see a monster in the dark, it might be a message from our subconscious about fear or stress we are carrying around. As children, our knowledge of the grown-up world might be limited, so we use play as a way to experiment with knowing--- we make-believe! We use intuition all the time. It plays a role in every decision we make. We breathe unconsciously all the time, but in yoga there are benefits to reclaiming conscious control over our breath. Similarly we are intuiting all the time, but with mindfulness we can learn to develop and use our intuition.
Laura Day, in Practical Intuition, gives some great pointers for how to tap into your intuition. The first step is to get in touch with your senses. To access intuition, become acutely, exquisitely alive to whatever you’re sensing, so you can consciously allow it to fade into the background. When it is quiet you will be better able to hear your inner voice. The next step is to ask a question. Intuition works best when you set it in motion with a question. This focuses your intuition and tells you what you need to notice. Because of this, it is important to become aware of what questions you might unconsciously be asking. There is a saying, “A question properly phrased is half answered.” By the time you fine-tune your question, you may reveal much of the answer because you will become aware of your values and goals. Make it specific, and unambiguous, and then take note of the intuitive hits. We can all be in the same place and notice completely different things. So make a mental or actual note of the things you notice after your question. Take note of your dreams, of images and words that pop into your mind and even physical sensations. “Remember, everything is a sign: everything you perceive, everything you sense, remember, or feel or dream or intuit, in short, everything you notice - has meaning. Everything. Nothing is random. Everything is significant. There are no coincidences.” (Laura Day, Practical Intuition). If you have trouble believing this, just begin by pretending that everything is a sign and look for a meaning. Allow things to be meaningful and they become meaningful.
Then, learn your own symbolic language by being observant over time. Notice if most of your intuitive data comes in images or sounds. Do you “feel” your information or do you see it? Don’t overthink your translation of the signs. At first just pretend you have the ability to interpret them, and over time, you will! Access your inner child who uses imagination and pretends. Don’t worry about whether your impressions are “right” or “wrong.” This is just an information gathering process! Once you open up to the idea of developing your intuition, your intuition will blossom because you are sending it the message that you are listening.
How do we know when we are being intuitive? The short answer is you don’t know-- you won’t be sure. This is the nature of intuition. You will come to know it over time, as the impressions you recieve are confirmed by experience. It is NOT intuition if your mind is in overdrive-- with lots of reasoning and rationalization. Intuition comes quietly and simply. It is NOT intuition if your mind is using words like “should,” or if you experience strong emotions such as fear or anger in response to a question. A dangerous misconception about intuition is that it should be used to make decisions. The best use of intuition is not to decide whether you should do something but simply to add information to what you already know and feel. Don’t consider intuitive information in isolation… consider it along with your logic and emotions.
When your Third Eye Chakra is in balance, you are like an “energy peacock.” You have many eyes that see the world in full, vibrant color and all your senses are available to you as sources of wisdom and information. (The Ultimate Guide to the Chakras by Athena Perrakis). You’ll have epiphanies, and you’ll see connections you might have missed before. Everything is connected and you can see it as a whole. So you live with the grace of someone who knows exactly who they are and where they stand. You can listen to other people’s ideas and emotions without reacting or projecting because you see beyond your own and other people’s baggage.
When your Third Eye Chakra is out of balance, you may be scared of looking within, scared of looking without, and full of confusion. When it is overactive, you may feel disembodied -- disconnected from your physical body or distanced from your mind. You may be stuck in your own imagination and hide from reality. Because you are so far away, you miss out on sensation, and connection with the people around you, and the joy of being present. When it is underactive, you are closed-minded and all that comes along with that -- critical, manipulative, thinking you know everything and in denial. Stuck in your rational mind, you have to see things to believe them and are unable to empathize with those around you.
As you follow the steps to utilize your intuition, you will also be activating your Third Eye Chakra. It is fun to explore practices that bring archetypal and symbolic knowledge like tarot, runes, soul collage and vision boards. In yoga, your “drishti” is your gaze. What you gaze upon focuses your attention. Where your attention is focused becomes your experience. Your drishti can keep you steady in balancing postures, but it is also so much more than that. What you focus on creates your reality. If you focus on your faults, and what is wrong with your practice, this will color your experience. If you focus on appreciating the good, your inner experience will shift. A deeper level of yoga is learning to command your perspective.
In yoga, you can use physical eye exercises to strengthen the muscles of the eyes and stimulate the Third Eye Chakra. As we evolved our vision was constantly going from distance vision to close up throughout the day. So while holding our head steady, moving our eyes up and down, side to side, and in circles can improve vision, and strengthen the muscles of the eye. The Third Eye Chakra is more about stillness than physical postures, but we can connect with its energy in Head to Knee Pose, Child’s Pose and by bringing our prayer hands to the Third Eye Center. We can also use postures that help us connect with our midline, like Eagle pose or moving between Mountain, to Backbend to Forward Fold. The gemstones for the Third Eye Chakra are mostly indigo and violet. They include sodalite, labradorite, azurite, and purple fluorite. Essential oils and herbs for this chakra are eyebright, juniper, mugwort, poppy, mandrake root, blue lotus and cypress.
That little voice may not be a voice at all-- but rather it is an amalgamation of your accumulated experiences, your wisdom, your knowledge, your senses and your inner and outer guides who help you on your path. Don’t worry about making mistakes, just experiment and see where it takes you! In the long run, following your intuition is sure to be less painful than suppressing it, and in the process you just might get to know yourself.
* (For further reading, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Chakras” by Athena Perrakis, Ph.D., “Chakra Yoga” by Anodea Judith, “Practical Intuition” by Laura Day, “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie, “Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. Much of the content of this essay was taken from or inspired by these insightful works.)