I have spent this period of limited teaching to reflect more on my practice – what do I want to gain from my practice, how does it need to change, adapt and grow. I have found myself coming back to a text I first studied in 2014, to understand my own mind, and to help me sit with significant changes in my body at this time.
I have been studying tantric yoga over the last decade with a range of teachers. The text I have recently revisited is a translation by Sanskrit scholar Christopher Tompkins who translated the Kubjikopaniṣad (‘Secret Teachings of the Kubjikā Tantra’), and the ‘Universal Mother’ (Jagad Mātṛ) Chakra Scroll . These texts are from Kashmir and date around the 11th century.
This Universal Mother text describes a system of 12 chakras (the chakra system we are most familiar with in the West comes from one particular text and shows 7 chakras. In classes we have previously also explored a 5 chakra system- see previous blog posts on chakras here) Chakra systems were chosen for practice depending on what you wanted to use them for. Chakras are both thought to be “real” as they represent energy locations in the body, as well as metaphors, and are predominately tools for meditative practice.
In the Jagad Mātṛ, the 12 chakra system here represents the journey of the soul visualized as a bee, who is invited to visit the 50 petals of the various chakras in this system to gather the nectar and wisdom from all of our embodied human experience. The Chakras as visualized as threaded onto the central channel of the body. (Sushumna Nadi). Each petal represents its own quality, or little goddess.
The 5th Chakra in this 12 chakra system is the Manas chakra. Physically located in the body 10 fingers above the navel, which is often the base of the ribs. I have been fascinated with this chakra since studying this text in 2014 and have decided to focus just on this one chakra for term two. (yes, it has taken me 7 years to sit with the wisdom of this chakra to feel confident enough to explore it in my teaching!)
The term Manas chakra means “Centre of the mind”. The ancient yogis did not distinguish a separate body and mind, instead they understood us to have one body-mind. The manas chakra is the location for this body mind. It was described as our divinity mind – where our awareness is expanded into our full potential. And to reach our full potential, we need an understanding of how our thoughts and emotions influence our behaviour, and how we can chose to be with different thoughts and emotions.
There are 8 petals of this chakra and they are all of a different colour. (Each chakra has its own colour scheme in this system-(let go of the idea of chakras being rainbows!). Each petal also has its own direction of the compass.
Chakras are visualized and/or felt as spinning vortexes along our central channel. Because we usually see the chakras depicted visually and therefore outside of ourselves, we often imagine a centre in front of us, with petals reaching around, up and down, like we are drawing it on a flat piece of paper.
In this system we are encouraged to experience the centre of the chakra along the stem of our central channel, like it has been pierced- with the petals expanding from this centre three dimensionally into our body – towards the front, back and sides of the body. The petals, like any flower can open or close. In the centre of this Manas chakra lives a fire swan called the Hamsa. (not drawn in my diagram! ) This swan can travel to each of the petals and use the energy of the petal (or its opposite) to help transform our thinking, and help us to achieve our expanded state of being.
The Manas chakra acknowledges that we have many styles of thinking and emoting. The mind was thought of as an ocean and thoughts like its many waves. The early yogis were the first to encourage us to surf our thoughts and emotions and feelings, to encourage us to understand and not identify with the many different states of mind that come and go. We are encouraged to “behold” or accept and not suppress our thoughts, knowing that they will subside with time.
The 8 petals are conceptualized as:
East – translucent white – Virtuous – a reminder that we need discipline, and remembering of our innate goodness. When we are stuck here we often get caught in perfectionism and harsh self judgements.
Southeast – red- Sleepiness- a reminder that we need to rest, that sometimes our minds become dull. When we get stuck here we are not able to think critically, and live like in a dream like state.
Southern – Black – Anger- an acceptance of our dark thoughts – towards others and ourselves. If we are here without awareness we can become cruel, malicious, hurtful, and if we are here with awareness we can let anger flow and dissolve and be useful energy for change.
Southwest – Blue – Benevolence or impartiality – a way of transforming selfishness into an awareness of the suffering of others. Being stuck here may lead to aloofness or uncaring.
West – Brown – Fiery Bliss/Joy- those moments of awe, wonder and ecstasy. We know when we get tuck here as we chase moments of pleasure, often through things we become addicted too - social media, alcohol hard work outs etc.
Northwestern – Green- Thoughts as light rays – this is a reminder that we can transform moments of overwhelm into clarity and be literally inspired by the light. When we are here without awareness we are often over thinking, overwhelmed and not clear on what we need.
Northern – Yellow- Comical – A reminder that play is important and we can use humour, laughter and fun to transform our thoughts and emotions. When we get stuck here we don't take anything seriously.
Northwestern – Maroon – Creativity and insight. This is the petal where new ideas spring from. Its opposite is default mode- being stuck in habitual modes of thinking, feeling and acting and not being in the moment.
An awareness and exploration of this chakra and its eight petals gives us tools and insights into our body/mind. On what petal do we habitually spend time? What petals are hard for us to notice? Can we deliberately move our awareness to a particular petal to create a mood, or to move us when we are stuck, or to encourage acceptance of how we are?
It is important to remember that we were seen as being born self actualized – this is something that we need to uncover or remember (not create or develop!) and that all of our human experiences, including, suffering, anger are valid experiences, and that we will need to visit these petals at times – and this is ok.
In this coming 8 week term, we are applying the technique of “kindfulness”- approaching our body and mind with a kind awareness to explore each of these petals, using asana, breath, meditation and relaxation and mantra techniques.
In the Winter Solstice half day retreat we will lean into the darkness of this period and explore the 12 chakra system of the Universal mother as a way of integrating all aspects of ourselves. We will hopefully be using the labyrinth as well as some special chakra meditations to be with the 50 petal goddesses that live within.
Maureen loves exploring the philosophy of yoga, here are some of her thoughts on her yoga practice