The Politics of the Heart Chakra

-Rosemary Barria

 

This month we are focusing on balancing the heart chakra. The heart chakra to some of you may be some abstract concept, so I will explain briefly. In the yogic tradition there are opposing energies that cross from the left and right side of our bodies (the ida and pingala, male and female, left and right sun and moon, yin and yang). The hubs where these energies meet are referred to as chakras. Though there are many chakras, in the United States and in Western practices we refer to seven mainly. I will not go into the details of all of these chakras, because that is not my intention of this post. We focus this month on the heart chakra, the fourth chakra, located at you can guess, your heart. It’s the gateway between the higher chakras and the more body based earthly chakras. The heart chakras focus color is green and the sanskrit is Anahata. The sound or mantra associated is Yam. We go over a lot of this on our instagram.

Using the heart chakra as a model of compassion for the self and others is pretty timely right now. Regardless of your belief system, there are numerous reasons for us to have a closed or overly active heart chakra. If your good and beautiful heart is too open or closed, I don’t blame you. It would be a very normal response to the mass traumatic experience we are experiencing. Some of us have been used to the world feeling unsafe for a long time. This is true, particularly for those of us who are persons of color, women, gender nonconforming, trans, immigrants, gay or lesbian, poor, but these fears have been amplified since November 8, 2016. So how do we cultivate authentic compassion and have a balanced heart chakra during these times? I will discuss both having too open of a heart and too closed of a heart in this post and hopefully offering a way to balance ourselves.

Lack of self-care is a sign of an overactive heart chakra. Self-care is everything when it comes to compassion. Self-care seems well selfish now, but it’s not. I have seen many of my friends post story after story and attend rally after rally, event after event. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were leaving time for themselves. I have myself chosen to spiral into an unhealthy read/post cycle on social media and it left me empty many days. When we don’t leave time for ourselves, how can we grow? Do we really need to be empty shells to be worth something? What are we trying to prove when we keep pushing? We can’t be out “there” trying to change the world when we are void of substance ourselves. This is what self-care does. It gives us substance of depth, wisdom and energy. This makes us powerful agents of change. When I speak of self-care, I’m not talking about fluffy bubble baths and chocolate (well not on its on anyway). I am talking about asking our body, spirit and mind what it needs each day. Audre Lorde said that self-care is an act of political warfare. There is a war on women. There is a war we are fighting, whether we like it or not, so we need to be prepared each and every day.

And when you find yourself cold, unable to leave your bubble to do anything about the horrors around you? You may find that your heart chakra is closed. The ones who are numb and seemingly inactive in the community may be the ones hurting most of all. Those who are deeply affected and have been for a while may be numb for self-preservation. This is why I have such a problem with people urging everyone to go to this or that rally, to be more active. Some of us can’t for psychological, not to mention financial or other practical reasons. The thing is we can all do something…we just need to expand our idea of what is “enough”. This is how we begin to open our hearts, along with some self-care of course. It’s not nothing if you say hi to people if you feel safe to do so. It’s not nothing for you to be ears and eyes for those in more danger than you are. It’s not nothing to exist as a person who has spent time with yourself to inform others that racism exists in all of us….it really does. The sooner you start practicing things like saying hi to people, by informing yourself or by attending a local SURJ meeting your heart will reach some healing. I went to a SURJ meeting with my little family and I will tell you it was incredibly healing to discuss everything. I believe for most of us we have a true desire to alleviate suffering. It is something we can cultivate and it can grow.

Our unfaltering compassion, not pity, but true compassion is our grand weapon. To live with love guiding our entire path, to love for ourselves, our family and community. It’s everything. Here are some exercises that may help and of course don’t try to do them all unless you have time. Maybe even focus on one a week. I am firm believer in daily time to yourself and I am a mother of a one year old…it is possible Even 5 minutes helps:

If your heart is too open, take some time to yourself:

•Check in daily with your heart, chant Om Bhakti Yam 9 times with the intention of self-compassion.

Loving Kindness Meditation, do not forget yourself!

•Journal your heart in balance. DIG. Look up shadow work…oh it hurts so good.

Take the project implicit test

•Turn off social media and news for at least a day.

•Go for a walk, hike, ride a bike, swim. Be outside.

•Do a chakra balancing. If your heart is overactive is may be protecting you and trying to rebalance because another chakra is closed.

•Get some energy work done.

•Attend a community yoga class or something else that will not trigger you to be even more “active”,but to help you connect authentically instead.

•Have you eaten today?

•Yoga poses: child’s pose, mountain pose, and goddess squat

If your heart is too closed, find support as you support yourself:

•Journal your heart in balance. DIG.Focus on shadow work, ask yourself some questions and write whatever comes to mind even if it does not make sense. Eventually something will strike you.

•Check in daily with your heart, chant Om Bhakti Yam 9 times with the intention of compassion for yourself and your community

Loving Kindness Meditation

Take the project implicit test

•Turn off social media and news for at least a day.

•Go for a walk, hike, ride a bike, swim. Be outside.

•Get some energy work done.

•Attend a SURJ meeting or something similar and just listen and if you want be heard.

•When was the last time you shared a meal with someone?

•Yoga Poses: cobra, wild thing, standing back bend

Resources and References:

Chakras

Self-Care for People of Color after Trauma

Everything is Awful and I’m Not OK

 

 

Sacred Spaces: Rosemary Barria

Rosemary Barria: Holistic Life Coach/Yogini/Mom

Location: Kansas City, KS

Radiant Life will be featuring spaces where people find solitude, rest and inspiration once a month. I thought I would start with my own space since this month is my birthday and we haven’t asked anyone else yet. If you want to show us your space email us!

Before our son was born I had space all over the house including separate spaces to do work and another to do yoga and yet another for reading. Ridiculous I know! I reclaimed some space a few weeks ago and I am happy to say I like it better than my previous spaces, even if I feel like I am paying rent to Curby.

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Curby: The Landlord

Practice:

I start off mornings with a meditation of some kind and prefer to start off with silence. If I am feel really unfocused or have a special emotional need I may put on a guided meditation or do a kinesiology balance exercise given by one of my teachers Jessie Hays. A very important part of my practice has for a while been to clear out my chakras and to check in with my energy. I like chanting through each of the major chakras because sound changes me and I feel like it heals me. I would love to eventually have more bells and bowls to play tones with! I love using mantras and setting intentions and truly believe it has changed me.

I journal  everyday and find that is the best way for ideas to come out, for me to get to know myself and to problem solve. I also do a daily draw with tarot or oracle and journal about that too. Sometimes I share it with you on Instagram. If Sage, my baby, hasn’t woken up yet then I do yoga or some other form of bodyweight training. Sometimes I have to wait for his next nap, but I do movement of some kind every day. After all that if time allows, I work on something, write or learn. I do this all before or after my baby has gone to sleep, though I really prefer that awesome time of morning of 4am or 5 am. Sometimes my night owl self returns. Really as long as it is dark out I feel really creative and connected.

Even if you just have a table you call an altar and just enough room for a yoga mat like I do having a sacred space is so important. Here are little pieces of my sacred space…

 

 

 

Being Informed Does Not Make You a Good Person…Necessarily

By Rosemary Barria

 “Remember that self-care is not apathy, and that sensory overload isn’t social justice.” Mary Elizabeth Williams in a recent Salon article 

In the past year I have gone to two extremes, watching, listening to and reading the news every single day to watching nothing, listening to nothing but podcasts and getting my only news from headlines on my facebook feed. This has been a bad year for all of us as a country, I do know that. Personally, I have endured one of the hardest years of my life as a new mom and a preemie mom at that. Do I feel guilty for falling off the wagon of 24/7 ingestion and regurgitation? Nope. However, I would call myself a very empathetic person. I have wanted to save the world since I was like five years old, but never quite knowing how. Riddled with guilt, I would do nothing but regurgitate the news hoping others will care too. Why though? Does me sharing things call people to action or better yet does it call me to action? Usually it just makes me angry and actually depressed if I do just that. Is us biting our nails, typing our latest witty status really useful?

Actually I think social media is a powerful tool. I truly believe it can help us create change and unite us. Not knowing what is going on around me, especially in regards to what is happening in my own country with Black Lives Matters, is in some way enabling it to continue. We need to put these stories on blast for sure. I would argue that knowing about these stories is far more important than Donald Trump’s latest blunder. It is more important than spending our time trolling people like me to vote for Hillary Clinton. I think also of my fellow women sharing their stories of harassment, rape and other violations. I know some may disagree, but I think sharing these stories is empowering. Bring that shit out of the shadows! Women, black folks and others putting up with all this know this isn’t new…of course not, but putting it on blast unites us and shines light on it, so hopefully we can make some change. It can’t stop at the cycle of feeding and regurgitation though. 

My challenge to myself this year is to not dive into horrors but to rather dive into my community. My expertise is helping those who identify as women transition out of lives that don’t suit them and for them to embrace their creativity because that is where I have been. My expertise does not lie in how shitty black folks have it. I know a lot about how shitty women have it. No matter what I know it does not make me a good advocate to sit at my computer crying and screaming at the screen. If this news does not call us to action, then isn’t it just a way to exploit people more? Isn’t it honestly a way for us just to pat ourselves on the back?

It feels good to be involved in the zeitgeist of the time, even to the detriment of our own well being, but don’t you think it would make us all feel better if we were doing some damn good for once instead of just patting ourselves on the back for knowing what is going on? The feelings of uselessness and hopelessness will peel from us and we will emerge as beings connected to our community, not so useless, not so hopeless. Sure check in with the news, but check in with your neighborhood. Get super local news. Sure care about who will win for president, but check in with your local politics too. Believe me, this is mostly a writing to myself. I remind myself to pace myself and you to pace yourself. We are not living in an easy time and we could easily and rightfully get depressed. Be aware, but also act.  Take care of yourself first, then ask your friends, family and community how you can help, and if you have skills to do something, then do something. The least we can do is share marginalized folks stories, but maybe there is more we can do? Ideas?

Habit: Morning Routine

I have had a morning routine for several years now and it is probably one of the best life decisions I have ever made. I like to stay up late…at least I used to, but now I like waking up early so much that I try to avoid staying up too late. The benefits of having habits you do every morning are numerous, but here are a few.

One: You get alone time no matter what happens the rest of your day.

Moms never get privacy or alone time once everyone is awake. When I was working full time and in school full time, I would have really suffered without this morning routine. I am a firm believer that EVERYONE needs alone time and not just introverts.

Two: You are more productive.

As a new mom I didn’t think it would be possible to accomplish all I can accomplish before 7:00am. Many mornings when I finish my routine, I have time to do laundry and write blog posts, film or edit videos. When my son wakes up, it feels really good to have already addressed some things on my to do list, as well as have invested in my self care. Of course there are other mornings, especially at first when sleep was more important, but even if it took me until noon, I kept these habits up.

Three: You have time for self-care.

Busy people like new moms or full time students really have a hard time investing in self-care. I know I always put this low on my list, but I made it a goal to incorporate self-care into my morning routine. Self-care is not to be taken lightly. Audre Lorde, says that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” What does she mean? Is massaging my shoulders or taking a bath really that serious? Well it is. Women are more stressed than men  and are often the caretakers of others, even grown men…I dare say. It is crucial to find time to care for yourself and for me the best way has been mornings. Women are usually supposed to put everyone else first, even in the most well intentioned relationships.

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So…what do I do in the mornings? This has changed throughout the years, but I have a few standards.

One: Meditation or quiet time.

This is one that I wrote about last week and again I will say it changes day to day sometimes. Today I did a traditional meditation for 10 minutes. Sometimes I journal, make art , do oracle cards or read a spiritually focused book. I really like to use this time to focus and to reflect. One thing I am trying to do is to visualize success, rather than always asking myself for direction. I think all people need time for quiet and everyday. I think it is possible for everyone to get even 5 minutes of this. I like to light a candle or two and if I am feeling really not like doing this quiet time, I put on some music and sometimes I make tea.

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Two: Brush teeth and take care of face.

I start with doing a tongue scrap, then I brush my teeth. I love the feeling of clean teeth. What happens to our mouths overnight anyway?!  I also do a compress on my face with essential oils and warm water. Lately I have been using a lavender and tangerine essential oils. Then I moisturize my face with a blend of hemp, rose and lavender oil that I made. Lastly, I massage my shoulders and wrists especially with that oil blend or coconut oil. It is kind of indulgent, but super simple at the same time.

Three: Movement.

I wake up every morning and do some movement. Usually this is my favorite activity of yoga and I do anything from one sun salutation, to five or if I am not going to a class later, a full 40 minutes. Before I had Sage, my yoga practice was 90 minutes, but that is nearly impossible now unless I leave the house. I usually wrap up my practice with savasana and breath work called pranayama.

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Three: Hydrate.

Mike, my partner and I are currently challenging ourselves to try to drink a gallon a day. I am winning, but even if I don’t get to a gallon, it is helping me hydrate more. It is important to hydrate yourself and I feel it if I don’t. Imagine you have gone 8 hours without water, so get that water and fast!

Four: Breakfast.

Usually Sage is awake by the time I get to this step. If Mike is home we eat breakfast together. Usually though I am eating on the floor with Sage as he plays. I don’t have a cooked breakfast much anymore because it just doesn’t work out to watch a baby and cook at the same time. I am beyond burnt out on smoothies so typically I eat a fruit bowl  with seeds or banana nice cream with berries and nuts. I wasn’t always good at eating breakfast, but it is an important part of my day now.

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Five: Work on most important task or write.

If Sage hasn’t woken up then I start writing unless I have something important due that day that I haven’t finished. I also like to do one load of laundry a day. We cloth diaper, so this is how we maintain that system. Anyway, I write best late at night or early in the morning. I really like to be all there with Sage, so I try not to work or exercise while he is awake. If I don’t get to work in the morning, it happens during nap time. I really like working in the early morning though because I can get more finished because I am so focused at that time of day.

Six: Play.

Even if you don’t have a baby we should make time to play as research is showing. Brene Brown says that it is more important than us type A personalities realize. Play is unstructured and a way for us to lose track of time doing something we enjoy. I love reading and learning so as nerdy as it sounds that really is play for me, but now that I have a baby I have gotten a lot goofier and fun during my play time. I am a lucky mom because I have a laid back, happy baby and he is teaching me to be goofy. I also try to remember to play with my fur children who are also very goofy.

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Seven: Walk.

We like to go to the park on mornings when we can together as a family. It really helps us stay connected to nature and to each other. I wish we lived in a forest or near mountains, but since we don’t our connection to nature has to be intentional on our part. When it’s just me, our dog (Ceci) and Sage we still take a walk, it’s just not as pretty. Sage really loves walks and of course Ceci does.

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These are the things I do in the morning. It seems like a lot, but the first three are usually finished in less than an hour and the rest happen on good days, which is now thankfully most days. I slip into being a night owl once in a while and I always regret it. Staying up late is not as magical as waking up early to me. Hopefully this helped you out and maybe you can start doing one of these things if you don’t already. We would love to hear from you!

Find the corresponding video here.

-Rosemary Barria