What would it be like to rest in a place of ease? To find that life, after all, does not have to be a constant struggle. This is the energy of the Crown Chakra. As we work our way up the chakras, this is where everything comes to fruition -- where we connect to our highest self, and therefore, with the divine. It is a place of non-duality and oneness. However, this state of unity and bliss is not something to be understood and achieved with our thinking mind-- it is something to be felt. The 7th chakra takes us from becoming to being.
The “I Am” is a place of simply being. (Charlotte Kasl, If the Buddha got Stuck) It is the place from which all things came, and to where all things will return. It is open, expansive, creative, and full of love, joy and wonder. It is where we long to go on our spiritual journey-- but arriving there doesn’t happen all at once. Awakening is a gradual process. Little awakenings happen each day. “Your body awakens as you develop strength and gain flexibility. Inner spaciousness awakens as you expand your breath. Clarity awakens as you still your mind. Wisdom awakens as you study and grow. Joy awakens as you come into harmony with yourself and your surroundings.” (“Chakra Yoga” by Anodea Judith)
The gift of the Crown Chakra is this awakening-- this enlightenment. Eckhart Tolle explains enlightenment so well is his pivotal work, The Power of Now. “The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some super human accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but enlightenment is simply your natural state of felt oneness with the Divine. It is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. How do we recognize this awakening when it happens? It’s already here - Enlightenment isn’t about going someplace else or attaining something that we don’t have right now. Enlightenment is when the blinders start to come off. It’s a process of gradually uncovering something that is already there. That’s why relaxation and letting go are so important. You can't uncover something by harshness or uptightness. The only place enlightenment is realized is in the moment. You relax in nowness, let things be as they are, without judgement. We allow every single thing that occurs in our practice and in our life to be a support for being present. This takes an enormous shift in attitude. Quiet contentment begins to grow. Things that used to bother you seem less significant. Distinctions between inner and outer worlds fade, and you realize there is no separation.”
You cannot “seek” enlightenment. “Spiritual materialism” (A term coined by Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) refers to the spiritual path being a means to an end. We desire to “get” enlightenment, or we help others with an eye to accomplish something or become something. Spiritual materialism is a motivator to accomplish good works, but if the practice becomes a means to a “greater” end, we are no longer in the moment, and we can be thrown off course if our expectations are not met. The vow of bodhisattva is a solemn promise to never attain the freedom of enlightenment until all beings have reached enlightenment. This vow shows great altruism, and can help us move away from our self-centeredness. However, it is important to remember that even that vow implies a duality which is an illusion. There is no self and no other. There is no one helping, and no one being helped. (Pema Chodron, How to Meditate).
So if we can’t reason our way into enlightenment, and we can’t self-sacrifice our way to enlightenment, and enlightenment doesn’t come all at once in a flash… then what practices can we do to tune into our Crown Chakra Energy? First, we can get still. When exploring the upper chakras, we often turn to the last 3 limbs of the 8 limbed yogic path… Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation), and Samadhi (Enlightenment). Through focused attention, choosing where to direct our attention, we create our reality and begin to still the mind. The stories we tell ourselves, our self-limiting beliefs, often unconsciously rule our lives. If our 7th chakra is our operating system, and we need to occasionally defragment it, disengaging from old ways of thinking that no longer serve us, and constructing new beliefs that are in alignment with our values and highest self. (Chakra Yoga by Anodea Judith) For this we go to the practice of meditation, the quintessential 7th chakra practice. Although physical Asana practice (Hatha Yoga) is deeply healing, if you are not actually sitting still and meditating as well, you have not truly begun to practice yoga. In fact, as you’ve heard me say before, Asana was developed as a method to prepare ourselves for stillness and meditation. Perhaps the older we get, the more we will be drawn to meditation, even over physical Asana practice.
Our meditation cushion is not the only place we can connect with Source. You can also work with your Crown Chakra energy by going to your “happy place.” What is your favorite way to connect with Source? When you want to feel more in touch with the Divine, what do you do and where do you go? It could be a person, a place or even a song. Whatever it is, do this thing more often. Make it a priority in your life. Put it in your planner before you schedule other day-to-day things. Signal to the universe the importance of your spiritual practice.
Once we have moved through the lower chakras and all the doing, feeling, moving and expressing, we can find stillness and connection. The element of the Crown Chakra is space, and thus “creating spiritual space” around your thoughts and problems can lead to creative solutions and insights, changes in perspective, compassion and understanding. No longer tethered to our physical reality and our lifetime of conditioning, we feel a connection to all beings. We see the bigger picture and we no longer live in fear of loss. When your Crown Chakra is in balance, you are in bliss. You feel connected and you are in the flow. You feel steered in the right direction and the tools you need to move forward are provided for you. You are humble and non-judgmental. Your peaceful presence attracts others.
When your Crown Chakra is out of balance, you may fear the loss of identity, and fear being disconnected from those around you. As I mentioned in my “buzz” on Samadhi, in the past when I have considered what it would be like to reach enlightenment, I feared a loss of the ability to connect to others. And when I considered what it might be like to reconnect with source upon my passing from this earth, I feared the loss of my “self”-- the things that makes me unique. I now realize that both of those concerns are a product of an out-of-balance Crown Chakra! As to the first concern (my fear that if I found this inner peace and neutrality, that I wouldn’t feel as strong of a connection to the people in my life), I realized that neutral space is actually the only place that true connection can come from! If you are in a situation with another and emotions are high, if you stay connected to Source, you can look past the other’s “pain body” and instead relate to the other person’s radiant and pure being through your own. (Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now). This is true connection and will avoid so much drama and ego-identification that keeps us separate and apart. Since the definition of a balanced Crown Chakra involves feeling at one with everything, a fear of connecting doesn’t really make sense. We might lose unhealthy, co-dependent, can’t-live-without-you type of connections-- but the connection we gain would be deep and abiding.
As to the second concern, I have never been completely comforted by the idea of losing my sense of self and merging with the oneness that connects all things, which is essentially my conception of what happens after my body’s physical death, or if I die to the illusion of myself that keeps me separate. Luckily I had an “ah-ha moment” when I was re-reading the Power of Now. “Your radiant true nature remains, but not the personality. In any case, whatever is real or of true value in your personality is your true nature shining through. This is never lost. Nothing that is of value, nothing that is real, is ever lost.” So when you die, you are still there - the divine presence that you are-- radiant and fully awake. Nothing that was real ever died, only names and illusions. We often think of egolessness as a great loss, but actually it’s a gain! It’s like regaining eyesight after being blind or regaining hearing after having been deaf. (Pema Chodron, How to Meditate)
If your Crown Chakra is underactive, you suffer from a lack of faith. You feel as though there is no greater connection and that you’re not influential in the greater scheme of things. Stuck only in your physical reality, you may be obsessed with your appearance, materialistic and self-conscious. You lack imagination, and are so practical that your life lacks color. If it is overactive, you float in the clouds, with a spaciness and an inability to connect to the physical world. You might have a spiritual addiction, an obsession with enlightenment and an inability to experience your physical reality.
In addition to balancing our 7th Chakra with stillness and meditation, and creating the circumstances in which we are best able to connect with the divine, we can also turn to our earthly helpers-- the gemstones, herbs and essential oils. The gemstones of the Crown Chakra are often white or ultraviolet in color. They include Amethyst, Charoite, Phosphosiderite, Ametrine, Lepidolite, and Purple Mook Jasper. Herbs and essential oils for this chakra include Lavender, Gotu Kola, Palo Santo, Spikenard, St. John’s Wort and Frangipana (Plumeria). Although stillness is the key to this chakra, there are some yoga postures that can help us connect with its energy, including Headstand, Rabbit, Embryo, Savasana, Waterfall (Legs up the Wall Pose) and Dancer. The Crown Chakra includes the head, brain, nervous system, skull, crown of the head and extends several inches above the head as well. So consider postures that stimulate the top of your head, or direct your blood-flow or energy up to the top of your head.
The good news and the bad news about the Crown Chakra is that there isn’t much to be “done.” We can take the steps in each moment to set ourselves up for success, and then our only job is to achor ourselves in the present and be still. Any place can be your “happy place.” Peace will be waiting there.
* (For further reading, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Chakras” by Athena Perrakis, Ph.D., “Chakra Yoga” by Anodea Judith, “If the Buddha Got Stuck” by Charlotte Kasl, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, “How to Meditate” by Pema Chodron. Much of the content of this essay was taken from or inspired by these insightful works.)