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Chakra Psychology and Higher States of Consciousness in Clinical Practice. By Galeet Farrow (Gollan)

Yoga, Mindfulness, Psychedelics, Transcendental Meditation and many other alternative modalities have entered the scene in a way that hasn’t been seen since the sixties. Many of our clients are participating in practices aimed to change or raise consciousness. I am not suggesting we offer anything we are not specifically trained in, however, our client’s engagement in such practices create the need for a language and systematic understanding of these states of mind. This can help to organize our thoughts and offer more precise support for our clients who are having consciousness shifting experiences. Sometimes these peak experiences can be destabilizing, having a way to connect and communicate with our client about this experience and what may be helpful is extremely validating for them.

As for psychedelics, we’ve seen a decriminalization in some states and with phase 3 research in progress, it is possible psilocybin will be federally rescheduled. This would open pathways for research and treatment that haven’t been considered since pre-1970 when it was classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance. Most importantly, information regarding the positive impact on mental health is becoming widely known by the public, thus, creating more interest and exploration. This increasing popularity has resulted in clients having increased interest in psychedelic use, as well as more openness to discuss their use and experiences with their counselor. This moment of popularization seems timely for us to begin a categorization of elevated states as a part of the psychological language.

As I sit with these clients, I listen with an open mind and heart, not wanting to place too much interpretation on their experience. Yet, I cannot help but note thematic similarities to the higher states of consciousness described in classical Chakra Theory. Chakra theory is a systematic, experiential, and observational phenomenon, meaning that it does not require belief. It asks the participant to explore the impact of different modalities on their physical and mental experience and to note changes in one’s consciousness and understanding of self and life. It proposes seven major motivations with which a human develops through into greater complexity, compassion, and a broadening identification with life.

Higher states of mind have been a long-time interest of mine and shifted to a focus of study when I met the eminent Sri Shyamji Bhatnagar, a living guru, over a decade ago. His process changed my life in a way I could never have imagined and I have been a student of his ever since. His work on Microchakra Psychology, and in general Chakra theory as a whole, offers therapists a way of conceptualizing and communicating with clients around these higher states of consciousness. The ultimate goal being to maintain higher states as a baseline functioning. I am not the first mental health professional to have interest in the Chakras as a psychological theory. The notable is Carl Jung’s series of lectures in 1932, specifically on the Chakras, as he attempted to describe this profound theory through the psychological lens of his time.

What is Chakra Theory?

So how does Chakra theory help us with understanding higher states of consciousness? Firstly, let’s understand the basis of Chakra theory as an emerging psychological theory which primarily employs a hermeneutic research style. It is based on a series of seven consecutive energy centers, or motivational principles, which a person moves through developmentally. Similar to Erik Erikson’s developmental theory, a person can leave energy behind in previous stages; or in this case, have “blockages” which prevent the fulfillment of that need. Too many blockages, then becomes the basis for the symptomology we see, ranging from depression, anxiety, addictions and relationship issues as a few examples. These ascending motivational principles move in an order similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They move from the most physical needs of survival to emotional connection, then onward to self-sufficiency and eventually culminating in a sense of oneness with life or a full actualization of our human potential. Most of what we work with in therapy are the blockages people experience as we try to identify the root of the symptom and provide suggestions or interventions to relieve it. There is a lot that could be expressed here in understanding the symptomology and interventions through this lens, but this article is focusing on the identification of higher states.

Theoretically, through consciousness expanding practices, the individual is temporarily opening a higher Chakra or expanded consciousness than is their norm. This is what we might call a “peak experience”. This new experience assists the client in understanding their next stage of growth more clearly. In these heightened states, many of the symptoms the person experienced are understood differently and are resolved, channeled, or transformed. Chakra theory offers many practices to assist in maintaining openings of the higher chakras, of which stabilizing the circadian rhythm into a healthy morning cycle is of primary importance. The mental health benefits of the circadian rhythm are supported by current psychological research. It would take more than an article to expand upon the many tools used to support mental health wellness. A more in-depth discussion of the theory itself will be presented in an upcoming fall workshop.

Higher Consciousness States

The Heart Chakra, also known as the 4th Chakra, is by far the most common opening my clients report experiencing. I consistently hear about an expanded sense of love, compassion and understanding that extends well beyond their typical parameters. They feel a deep compassion even for those who have wronged them. There is a respect for all living beings and a sense that all life as sacred. Although this may initially occur as a peak experience, it can then become the client’s goal as their baseline functioning. Working with the memory of this experience, paired with mindfulness techniques, can help them re-experience this type of consciousness with some focused effort.

For example, I have a client who had a peak experience in a yoga class where her heart opened to compassion for a moment. She had initially sought treatment for feelings of excessive anger and bitterness. In this expanded state, she saw her father, a character she has a lot of issues with, as an immature boy who didn’t really understand his impact as a caretaker. She understood him from a deeper place of compassion in that moment and was able to forgive him. After this experience she struggled to maintain this state of forgiveness, so we would work on recalling this experience in mindful states; at first in session but eventually on her own. Through our discussions of the heart chakra consciousness, she began focusing and developing increased compassion for all people she interacted with. This compassion was also becoming more readily available in the moment. She later reported being able to hear others with differing opinions that in the past would anger her. Instead, she could now see them with compassion and didn’t feel anger or resentment towards them. This alone alleviated a lot of the symptomology she had entered therapy for.

Another client who had a difficult and often unloving relationship with her mother had reported attending an aerial yoga session. At the end of the session, they laid inside the aerials which formed a cocoon around her. As she lay there, suspended in a cocoon, she experienced a profound sense of “the Great Mother” archetype, feeling held and loved by a force beyond our comprehension. The feeling of being loved seemed to calm her anxious nervous system. I suggested she try to recreate this feeling in the mornings, while still in bed, allowing herself to feel loved. She could palpably feel a reduction in heart rate and breathing while remembering this experience. In session, we would often refer back to this feeling and I would ask her to change her inner dialogue to what she imagines this loving mother might say to her. This profound experience became the basis of her inner love and relationship with herself, which ultimately led to significant decreases in her anxiety.

The 5th Chakra, also called the Throat Chakra, transforms the love and compassion of the heart into a devotional feeling. The experience of loving another people leads to an expansion which allows for a broader love and commitment to a cause, a deity, or life itself. This newfound devotion needs an expression, being the Throat Chakra, voice, sound and creativity, which help express these feelings become prominent. Artistic expression may go alongside this stage of consciousness but does not alone suggest the person is in it, as the devotional quality is the key to this state of consciousness. Here we find people whose peak experiences are of an otherworldly nature, describing a sense of divinity or golden light. Deep feelings of peace envelop the person even when they are facing difficult situations. Individuals who have this type of experience may also report a higher receptivity and sensitivity to the impact of music because of its connection to voice and throat.

I had a client who had been micro dosing for a period before beginning treatment. We reflected on what had been most helpful from his previous experiences and he reported heightened response to sound, describing it as creating an “inner temple” or an inner sound chamber. This individual shared about golden light moving with the sound. With my recognition of these Fifth Chakra indications, it provided the direction to encourage him to explore instrumentation. In trying to recapture the sense of peace he felt, we started incorporating sound into our sessions with simple instruments such as singing bowls. He began sitting with singing bowls for hours every day. While time consuming, he had been in and out of many different treatment centers for years with minimal relief. He was grateful something was offering him reprieve. This feeling of connection to something greater was a necessary development in his healing journey.

The 6th chakra is also called the Third Eye and located in the center of the forehead. It’s type of consciousness is a very focused state of mind, a pointed mental energy in which the person can concentrate for long periods of time on a mantra or affirmation. This is a place of mental clarity, where the duality between self and other begins to close. They experience themselves simply as presence. This is often in conjunction with experiencing internal light, it is a state of pure being. The mind ceases to wander and is completely merged with the present moment. This is the ultimate goal of mindfulness practices. During this peak experience, the breathing rate will slow significantly and the sense of self begins to dissolve or become mild.

A client reported meditating outside one day and suddenly they felt as if they were seeing light on the inside. They reported feeling the air was like water, the way a fish breathes, and having this heightened awareness of the flow of the breath through their body and into the atmosphere around them. They felt a sense of oneness or no separation between themselves and the sky, a sense of completely merging with the air and sky around them, becoming only breath. This heightened experience led to the beginning of this individual’s exploration of pranayama or the yogic breathing techniques. They eventually became interested in transcendental meditation as a way to alter their consciousness.

The 7th Chakra, also called the Crown Chakra and located at the top of the head. This consciousness is so rare we should generally assume the experiences are of the previous Chakras. The seventh Chakra mind would be a complete oneness with life force, what is called Samadhi in yogic literature. A person may sit in this state for days without food or movement. It is a complete convergence with all of life such that there is no sense of self at all, and yet the self is experienced as all things. Much like deep sleep, there is an inability to fully remember the state itself. The individual would be forever changed at a core level from this experience. Although many people will report a sense of merging with life, or oneness, it is usually more of a 6th Chakra state where some small sense of self remains.

Optimal Wellness

It occurs to me that as clinicians we are often looking at symptomology and working to reduce it, therefore the theories at hand have to do with identifying problematic mental and behavioral states. What about the opposite? What is optimal wellness and how can it orient our approach to treatment for those who are suffering? As a practicing counselor and a proponent of Chakra Psychology, this question has continued to gnaw at me. Clearly, uncomfortable symptomology is not wellness, though it may offer clues as to what the client needs. I have found that understanding higher states of consciousness can offer direction, even for those in heavy symptomology. Through conceptualizing our human potential as moving towards an ever-increasing compassion and expansion of the sense of self, we can approach clients in a way which identify and work through their blockages. For clients who have had peak experiences, we can utilize these to help anchor this new understanding into their daily reality. This increased sense of interconnection with all of life is what Thich Naht Hahn, the esteemed Buddhist Monk who is credited for bringing Mindfulness to America, termed “Interbeing”. Chakra theory offers us a language and a step-by-step opportunity to incorporate higher states of consciousness into our daily lives. Through my work and study, it seems the greater the capacity for compassion and ability to identify with life, the more contentment that arises. What else could optimal wellness be, if not this state of peace and communion?

I invite you to learn more at the upcoming workshop: Microchakra Psychology for Mental Health Professionals https://www.yourstarswithin.com/registration-form

“Microchakra Psychology for Mental Health Professionals Workshop has been approved by NBCC for NBCC credit. Your Stars Within is solely responsible for all aspects of the program. NBCC Approval No.SP-4225.”

Galeet is a practicing counselor, author and professor who has developed an emphasis area entitled Sacred Psychology at Prescott College where she teaches on these topics and more. If you are interested in more information, please visit her website or contact her directly about current and future trainings and offerings. She can be reached at: yourstarswithin@gmail.com or visit yourstarswithin.com


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