Anodea Judith PhD: Wisdom Magazine Interview by Edie Weinstein-Moser: With numerous books to her name, including: the pioneering Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System, Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self, The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body, and Spirit through the Chakras and her most recent called Waking the Global Heart: Humanity’s Rite of Passage from the Love of Power to the Power of Love, Anodea Judith is very much like a chakra herself; a generator, receiver and transmitter of energy. Her simple, straightforward translation of what some might consider an esoteric subject helps those who are unfamiliar feel comfortable. She challenges her readers and students to take personal responsibility for their role in global healing.
Wisdom: I was moved by the opening line in your book Waking the Global Heart that reads “Everything that comes into being, begins in relationship.” How does that play out in your life?
Anodea: It’s an interesting time to ask. There is nothing that any of us really do alone, even if we think we do. If I write a book, even though I might be sitting at my computer all by myself, it gets published through relationship with a publisher and editor and designer and there is a relationship with the reader and with the media who put it out there. There’s nothing; not a piece of clothing or a piece of fruit that doesn’t come to us out of relationships of some sort. We need to honor these relationships that we are in.
Wisdom: Sometimes that’s easier said than done. What do you think keeps us from honoring relationships?
Anodea: We have at least three levels of relationships. One is the relationship with ourselves and we need to keep the integrity of that. Two is a relationship with our close intimate others; close friends and partners and family. Three is our relationship to the larger world. All three of those need to be functioning but sometimes one of those relationships will be antithetical to the others. What your partner wants you to do may be different from what you want to do, so the question may be how to stay in integrity with yourself and stay in integrity with your intimate relationships at the same time.
Wisdom: So, in order to be intimate with another, you have to be intimate with yourself? It’s about being your own primary partner, before you can truly be with someone else.
Anodea: And you have to have that integrity with yourself.
Wisdom: What was the ‘call’ that awakened you?
Anodea: People ask that, like when did I cross over into spirituality from the mainstream world? I never did. I was born there. I just always have been in that world, there wasn’t any particular point, but there were seminal experiences. One was back in the 70’s during the back to the land movement, when I sold everything I had and moved into a solitary situation for a couple of months. I was completely away from civilization, living in a tent. I had to walk the last mile to where my tent was pitched. No phones and it was long before cell phones existed. I lived in the natural world. From my mountain-top I could see civilization down in the valley. I could see it’s smoke and pollution and lights at night. I knew it would take over everything if I couldn’t come down from the mountain and figure out how to do something about it.
Wisdom: How does your passion for the exploration you are doing translate into action or activism?
Anodea: There are a few things. One is that we can go too quickly to activism before we really think about what we are doing. We are in a huge, transformational global shift, something we haven’t seen the likes of in the last 5,000 years. A new operating principle. Before we do too much, we need to understand what that overarching change is. Part of my work, as a philosopher and I call myself an evolutionary activist, is to outline some of the archetypal changes we are making, so we can understand that part of it. Within that framework, we can come to our activism, which I think is very important. It’s one thing to have theory, but if you don’t do anything about it, what good is it? We can then take it to our everyday lives, from how we do our relationships to whether we recycle and turn off the lights and save energy and write our Congress members and pay attention to the news and get involved in all of the billions of things we can do. Once we have the vision, we can act within it. To act without a vision is just going to create the same thing we have now.
Wisdom: You were reading my mind, since my next question was going to be “As planetary dwellers, how can we focus on ‘Tikkun Olam’ (Hebrew for ‘repair of the world’) and take responsibility?”
Anodea: We have to realize what ripped the world and what it was in the evolutionary pattern that had us living in antagonism with nature. The way I look at it, is that we have to put the culture on the couch. We have a fairly insane culture right now that is self destructing. Speaking as a psychotherapist who spent twenty years counseling people, if a client came to me in crisis and they were suicidal and had drug problems and were running out of money, not able to form healthy relationships, I would have to look at the historical events that led to that crisis and the belief systems and behaviors. We have to do the same thing with the world or we won’t become whole enough to get to the next stage. It’s not so much about, “Where are we going?”, but wherever we are going, we are going in a broken down vehicle. We’re not going to get there unless we repair the vehicle. We have to come back to our wholeness and our integration.
Wisdom: Using the vehicle metaphor, it seems we have to do preventive maintenance. My experience is that many people don’t see that, believing instead that someone else will take care of it.
Anodea: It’s a change in paradigm that is so large. In the book Waking the Global Heart, I take human history and put it on a developmental framework, from our cultural infancy to our toddlerhood, to our middle childhood and we are now in our adolescence. Everything to this point has been a parent/child model of authority. That leaves the child passive, thinking “Mommy and Daddy will take care of it. They’re going to put the food on the table, they’re going to pay my bills and fix it when it hurts. Someone else is going to do it for me.” We have been in that mentality since the beginning of time in many ways and what I see is that we are maturing as adolescents and getting ready to undergo a rite of passage into adulthood. We are better informed, we have more power. We are awake and alive and can do activism. It isn’t just Mommy and Daddy anymore. What we find is that the authority figures are often corrupt and don’t have our best interests in mind. In one sense, it is making people take power into their own hands, doing something about the situation. That is part of the new organizing principle that we wake up into our adulthood and take responsibility. Responsibility is the ‘ability to respond’ and if they feel powerless, then they don’t have the ability to respond.
Wisdom: Is that one of the underlying messages in the book?
Anodea: Yes, that we are moving from third chakra to the fourth. Third chakra is about power, ego, aggression and fourth chakra is about love, compassion, connectedness and relationships. It is an organizing principle for humanity, so instead of a chain of command, we are moving to a web of connection. Instead of an ego-system, we are moving to an understanding of an eco-system. Instead of competition, we are moving to collaboration. Many of those things I have in the book and people need to understand that is a change in how we are organized as a society and that’s a fundamental change in organization that will make things more efficient. Bureaucracy, which is a top- down model, is horrendously inefficient. It wastes energy and paper and people’s life force.
Wisdom: Since this issue is focusing on yoga, this seems to be what I call yoga off the mat, as Seane Corn likes to say “off the mat and into the world.”
Anodea: It’s not that we either ‘do the world or do ourselves”, not an either-or, but a both-and. We need to evolve our own consciousness and that’s where yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices come into play. We are not going to be effective agents in the world out there, if we haven’t done our work at home and on the inside. When we do that, we become hardier, brighter vessels to carry the message. Yoga is a way to elevate and expand our consciousness and develop ourselves. From that development, we work the world. An analogy I use is to play in a grand symphony together, but with any symphony we might go to, the musicians practiced on their own for a long time in order to play well with others. Our spiritual practice is like a musician practicing their scales so they can play in the symphony. Our spiritual practice is so that we can play in the symphony of the collective awakening. Everyone is there raising their consciousness together and experiencing a different state of being within themselves. When you do that, you go out of your class and into the world from a different perspective. Then from that state, you can’t put the same things that were harmful, into your body, that you might have done a few years ago. You can’t tolerate toxic situations as well.
Wisdom: How do you translate esoteric concepts, like chakras, for mainstream audiences?
Anodea: You can talk about all of this without ever using the word ‘chakras’ if that is a put off for people. I can just refer to ‘power issues’ or ‘relationship, communication or survival issues’. Everyone can relate to that and they don’t have to know it relates to some energy in the body. I ask them where they feel it in their body and then said “That’s a chakra. Just put your attention in your belly and see what’s going on there.” What the naming does is that it allows it to be an idea that is dawning in the collective consciousness for transformation, a new map to transform ourselves and the world. That’s the value of it. When you say “it’s your power issue, it doesn’t put it on the map. It’s like saying there is a big town over there but you don’t know what state it’s in.
Wisdom: In the simplest manner, how would you define chakras and their relevance for our daily living?
Anodea: The Sanskrit word means ‘wheel’, but my personal definition is that it is a center of organization; a place that organizes, just like your kitchen organizes your food, for the reception, assimilation and the expression of life force energy on different levels. Right now you are hearing my words, so you are receiving my words. You are assimilating them and turning them into meaning in your own mind and you are responding. You will say something to me or later you will tell someone something you learned. That’s your expression. We do this with life, love, sound and breath. They are gateways between the inner and outer world through which we have this exchange of life force energy. The chakra system is something ancient and profound and in the thirty years I have been working with it, I am glad it is becoming so popular. With that popularity also comes a trivialization and they become a shallow name for things. We have chakra dog collars and chakra chocolates and they are really something sacred in the body, a gateway to a sacred realm of consciousness. I am a stickler for keeping them what they really are about.
Wisdom: Are chakras physical manifestation of energies or are they symbolic?
Anodea: Both. They are symbolic in that they represent an elegant metaphysical system and they are actual in that you can have an experience in your own body of a chakra being shut down or opened up or awakened.
Wisdom: How did the colors get chosen, because I have heard different schools of thought on the subject?
Anodea: What has gained prominence in modern times is the rainbow progression. I am guilty of propagating that from my first book Wheels of Life. The reason being is that we have seven chakras that vibrate from a lower, heavier modality which is the earth and water element, all the way up to pure consciousness that vibrates rapidly and infinitely. There is a spectrum. A chakra isn’t a color particularly. It is just a frequency. There are different sounds, prayers and deities we can imagine. The beauty of the chakra system is that there are so many ways into it. You can get into it through physical asana (yoga postures) practice, through breath, through chanting, through visualization, meditation, your history, tasks you do in the real world.
Wisdom: Are there certain physiological conditions that correspond to the chakras?
Anodea: There is no absolute in it. Some people want to look it up in a book and say “I have this ailment and therefore it is the third chakra.” It’s not always . What I tell people is that’s the first place I’d look. If you have a sore throat, you may want to look at things related to the fifth (throat) chakra. If you have a bronchial condition or asthma or things related to the lungs or heart, you, then the heart chakra is the place I would look. It doesn’t mean it is the only place I’d look. The body is so complex and all the systems work together and feed into each other. The purpose of the chakra system is not to pigeon hole every little thing we can think of. The purpose of the chakra system is to invite us into the inner temple and experience the divine Shakti flowing through ourselves.
Wisdom: How can we make that transformation you refer to in your book, from the love of power to the power of love?
Anodea: First we have to do it in our own consciousness which means we have to move beyond operating principally from a place of satisfying our own ego. We look at what we can give rather than what we can get. Look at where we can connect more and overcome our illusion of separateness and really drop the ego and rise to a higher level of consciousness. That’s what we do as individuals. Out in the world, it is helping people make that transition from needing more and being separated from the Earth and nature and being in a competitive mindset and the high stress work day, treadmill and into a different way of relating. It is happening in pockets all over. Many people in the corporate world who are in this strict third chakra power-over organizing principle are very unhappy. As more people create communities whether it’s a yoga or political or artistic community and relate to each other in a different way, it feels better. A person who is in corporate America and comes to a yoga class and gets to experience people relating to each other in a different way, may go “Hey, I want what they’re having.” They transfer from the old system to the new system. It didn’t take a failure of the telephone company to have everybody switch to cell phones. It didn’t take a failure of the typewriter industry to have people buy computers. It was simply a better idea. One of the reasons yoga is sweeping the country is that people who practice yoga tend to be healthier and look better and have smiles on their faces and people say to them “Gee, you look good. What have you been doing the last two years?” One of the dangers of yoga sweeping the country is that some of the classes are mechanically oriented; “put your fingers here, turn your hip like that..” Some people have gone to yoga just as a fitness thing and don’t know the deeper meaning. Some people are narcissistically preening in a yoga class and I think that’s the danger. What is the purpose of our self fulfillment? The purpose is to play in a better symphony together.
Anodea Judith can be reached via her website www.sacredcenters.com Her schedule of appearances are listed there as well.
Edie Weinstein-Moser is a journalist, workshop facilitator, therapist and interfaith minister. She can be reached at www.liveinjoy.org