Parallels between Vedic Wisdom and Western Psychology

In the past few years my interests have led me to dig up some info on psychology in the Western world and corresponding work in the realm of Eastern wisdom. In this blog I am drawing parallels between two Western Psychological models of understanding why we do what we do with the Eastern wisdom namely from the Vedas about the Energy Centers which exist in us connecting us to the larger whole. Let’s dive in!

Tony Robbins’ Human Needs Psychology teaches us that we as human beings have the following six needs:

  • Certainty – Our need to feel safe, comfortable and having a sense of control.
  • Variety- Our need for adventure, pleasure, fun, spontaneity.
  • Significance- Our need for achievement, a sense of accomplishment and recognition.
  • Love and Connection- Our need to feel loved and establish relationships, feel a sense of connection with others.
  • Growth- Our need to feel that we are learning, growing in different areas of our lives.
  • Contribution- Our need to give back without expecting anything in return, to make a contribution, to have a sense of purpose larger than us.

As per Human Needs Psychology, most of us spend our lives focusing on the first four needs but it is the fifth and sixth that bring us the true fulfillment we are looking for.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

  • Physiological – Our need for food, water, warmth.
  • Safety- Our need to be secure and safe.
  • Love/belonging- Our need to have intimate relationships, friends.
  • Esteem- Our need for prestige and a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Self-actualization- Our need to achieve our full potential including creative pursuits.

The first four needs are categorized as deficiency needs ( we get motivated to fulfill these when they are denied to us or are unmet) and the 5th one is our need for growth ( these become stronger the more we engage in them).

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Journeying between the East and the West

As per the wisdom of the Vedas, a human body has the following 7 energy centers:

The human body has seven different energy centers which are called Chakras in Sanskrit. Chakra translates to a wheel. These energy points spin in order to receive and give out energy. Each center governs a certain aspect of our life and organs in our body. Chakras are healthy when they are clear and moving in the clockwise direction. Most of us have more than one that aren’t functioning optimally at a given point in time which point us to our challenges/areas of improvement which are recognized as patterns/themes. The best part is that you can simply intend/visualize a chakra to be moving clockwise and it begins spinning in the right direction. Of course, there is an entire field of Energy Healing dedicated to balancing the chakras and one may need that depending on how blocked they are.

  • Root Chakra/Muladhara – Muladhara translates to Root Support Located at the base of the spine, this chakra is red in color and represents the Earth element. This corresponds to safety, security and longevity.
  • Sacral Chakra/ Svadisthana – Svadisthana means sweetness.Located between the root chakra and the navel, this chakra is orange in color and represents the water element. This corresponds to feelings, sensuality and reproduction.
  • Solar Plexus Chakra/Manipura – Manipura means a lustrous gem. Located between the navel and the sternum, this chakra is yellow in color and represents the fire element. This corresponds to power, will and courageous action.
  • Heart Chakra/Anahata- Anahata means unhurt, unstruck, unbeaten. Located in the center of the chest, this chakra is green in color and represents the air element. This chakra is the bridge between the lower three and the higher three chakras. This corresponds to selfless love , balance , relationships.
  • Throat Chakra/Visuddha- Visuddha means pure place. Located between the heart and third eye in the center of your throat, the color of this chakra is turquoise and represents the element of sound. This corresponds to speech, communication, true purpose.
  • Third Eye Chakra/Ajna- Ajna means command. Located above the eyebrows in the center of the forehead, this chakra is indigo in color and represents the element of light. This corresponds to clarity of vision, intuition or pure knowing.
  • Crown Chakra/Sahasrara- Sahasrara means thousand fold. Located on top of the head, this chakra is white/gold in color and represents the element of space. This corresponds to our connection with a higher power, intelligence.

Root Chakra corresponds to the needs for Certainty/Physiological/Safety.

Sacral Chakra corresponds to the need for Variety.

Solar Plexus Chakra corresponds to the need for Significance/Esteem.

Heart Chakra corresponds to the need for Love/Connection.

Throat, Third Eye and Crown Chakras correspond to the Growth, Contribution and Self Actualization needs in the two western models.

Drawing parallels between the first four chakras and the western models is an easy match to perform.  It is the higher ones that need some explaining. Maslow’s Self-Actualization and Tony Robbins’ Growth and Contribution needs correspond to the 5th -6th and 7th energy centers.  These energy centers when functioning well connect us to the bigger picture where we can see how our challenges and struggles can be used to help others, where we feel rooted in our authenticity and speak out truth, where we engage in activities where our life actions benefit others around us. This is where one moves higher up from the needs of the ‘I’ and being self centric to serving a larger good.

If anyone of the 5th , 6th and or 7th are blocked, one may not be able to feel fulfilled in these areas- perhaps one can see (6th) the bigger picture but is afraid to speak the highest truth (5th) for the want of losing someone’s approval in the process. The 7th one is our connection to the universe’s big data, to the universal intelligence.  Speaking your truth also entails recognizing the areas you need help with which is a pre-requisite to any kind of growth to occur.  The 6th energy center provides us with the ability to visualize and use our intuition to conceive bigger ideas which is enhanced once your 7th is open to receiving from the universal intelligence.

This is one of my posts that I have had fun writing..hope you had fun reading it! One can approach healing/growth from any direction using any method one is drawn to. The key is that you need to be able to feel the difference. Combination of more than one method at a time works great too.

In order to learn more about Chakras, I recommend you visit http://www.deborahkingcenter.com and or read the book Truth Heals by Deborah King.

Solitude

It is often when we are alone that our faith gets stronger

It is often when we are alone that our fears crawl out into the open

It is often when we are alone that we are silent

It is often when we are alone that we do take a deep listen.

 

Being by yourself is no easy task and avoid it, we must at all costs

For one who learns to cherish solitude taps into her higher self

Needs no one to tell her who she is

What would then ‘they’ do if she doesn’t need them anymore?

 

Free and wild she soars in the sky

Talks to the winds when she needs advice

Hugs the trees when she needs comfort

She leads the way for another who searches for her highest truth.

Cruising the skies or waiting in the Hangar?

I do not know what is it about air travel or travel in general and the flow of thoughts combined with the urge to pen them down. It’s almost like an irresistible urge. Something very similar to when you just have to go to the bathroom and can’t control your pee any longerJ Wonder if I could have given a more subtle example but then the relatability factor of natural instincts in unquestionable. Right, and now that we have established that…

Enroute to the airport today I got consumed by the sight of airplanes on the runway waiting for their turn to get the OK signal for flying. Then there are planes which were simply standing by which are even farther away in the process of taking off and nowhere close to the runway. Can you guess what I am getting at? Perhaps it’s too early to have you guess. All those airplanes standing over there and also the ones closer to the runway have their routes planned and their times of flying set. The mere act of ‘waiting’ close to the runway or being farther away in the hangar does not negate the fact that they will indeed fly. They will fly but only at a certain time and on a certain route.

I have often wondered…

What’s the need for yet another life coach, doctor, healer, teacher, dancer when so many already exist and what could this yet another person could even dream of contributing that hasn’t already been done.

What’s the point in starting yet another company if you are not the pioneer in the industry?

What’s the point of doing anything if I am only going to be lost in the crowd of me toos??

The starting point here is the thought that knowingly or unknowingly we all strive to contribute/make a difference. Even if you think are you are not the ‘helper’ or ‘social worker’ or ‘activist’ type, no matter what you are doing, you chose it to make a difference and to contribute. Some of us who work a job simply to meet ends and take care of a family are making a difference in that exact manner- providing to the family. If you are driven by intellectual kung-fu and have chosen to be a business analyst or forensic psychologist , you are making a difference. If you have chosen to be a full time home maker then you are making a huge difference in several lives at once. No matter what hat you are wearing, you are making a difference.

The second point is discovering our own uniqueness (I know that’s such a clichéd term but please bear with me) that lies within us. What is your USP? It’s everything about YOU. The type of family you were born in, the school you went to , the religion you follow or chose not to, major life events that have occurred and shaped you, are all factors that are unique to you and you alone. These experiences impact our thinking in unique ways, the way we make decisions, the way we interact with the world etc. You are a me too only until you see yourself through a different lens. And yes another important factor is that you need to honor your unique gifts yourself i.e. be authentic and embrace all the crap you have been through.

Much like the different routes for airplanes and a different timing to fly, each one of us has followed a unique route and will continue to do so. Even if you are doing the same job with the same set of tasks, you do it and process it differently than the next person who does it. There always are differences.

In a spiritual/philosophical sense your plane will take off when it is the exact match of your abilities with a time of need which is much larger than what our rational minds can comprehend. All airplanes never cruise the sky at once and neither can we have all on the runway at the same time. If we can get out of our heads and appreciate the ‘whole’, we would perhaps be able to see that not all people who have been successful did it at age 20 or 50. Each one has a different story. What is the common is their ability to acknowledge their uniqueness, embrace some level of uncertainty and take action. Don’t beat yourself up if 5 of your friends are millionaires and you are not right at this time. (On second thoughts, you could absolutely choose to do so if you do enjoy self-torture.)

I don’t have a count for how many airplanes exist today and how many cruise the global skies at once but there’s always room for more or so it seems. There’s always room for YOU to BE YOU! There’s a difference that ONLY YOU can make living in the most ordinary circumstances. A certain set of people with whom ONLY YOU will interact in the way YOU do. There is a micro in this whole macro that can only be touched by you.

Would love to hear if you have been able to relate to any of this..

 

Spiritual & Worldly..The Dichotomy.

My tryst with spiritual contemplation and exploration began with the questions: Why do I exist? Why am I here?

Most of us have struggled with these existential questions at some point of time in our lives. Some of us chose to ignore it and agreed to bury it deep down inside forever.  One way or another, it’s not an easy path to tread.  I was born, brought up in India and lived there for the first 26 years of my life and then moved to US. India is a land which is synonymous with almost everything spiritual/religious/mystic and US is the epitome of materialism. In this blog, I would like to share some parts of my life journey with you dealing with the spiritual/worldly dichotomy.

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Sunset on a Biking trail

I was born in a Hindu family but was fortunate to not be forced to do things a certain way. I explored my way through the questions of ‘why’ chant certain mantras, follow certain rituals and visit temples. I never bought into ‘this is how it is’ type of responses. I read a lot of books on different religions and alternate modalities, dived into different prayer rituals, the concept of idols (I don’t think I ever was an ‘idol worshipper’), contemplated on why I was born in a certain city to a certain family etc. You get the idea. I was bursting with questions and searching everywhere. Through most of my searches in India I did realize that most ‘spiritually’ inclined people didn’t pay much attention to everyday life which was filled with the challenge of facing ‘desire’ in many forms. Renouncing your family duties and not wanting to associate yourself with any material wealth was what most people aspired to do. I internalized that allergy to material wealth and never focused on trying to make more money and living a comfortable life. I could never relate to my friends who talked about their 5 year plan of getting married, buying a house, car etc. This was all gibberish to me. I could respect but not relate to their goals. It was easy for me to not place money and material goals on my priority list when I was 25 and living with my father in a good two bedroom apartment in Mumbai.  Having completed my MBA, I found a decent job with a company and made good money just for myself. My worldview completely turned topsy-turvy when I came to US as a student and had to do odd jobs, study , pay my rent, buy a car with working heat to survive in Chicago’s winters. I am not a quick learner though or should I say I am strong-willed and I couldn’t grasp the fact that I needed to align myself with the realities of the world where you ought to have a certain amount of money to feel safe, have a car to commute etc. I took my time but I learned my lesson.

My understanding  with respect to this dichotomy of spiritual vs material is that one is asked to be like a ‘lotus’ where one is in the dirt( you are free to question whether this world this needs to be referred to as dirt in the first place) but not of it. In my opinion, it’s easy to simply renounce everything and not have to perform any duties. It’s like being an addict whose life revolves around his drug of choice. The drug of choice here being the illusion of self-realization and nirvana. During my search I also came across a Buddhist thought which said something to the effect that: Before you are enlightened, you chop wood and carry water, after you are enlightened (which isn’t an end), you continue chop wood and carry water. This thought made perfect sense because it isn’t all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be ‘either – or’, it is meant to be an ‘and’. It’s about striking a balance. A few weeks ago, I was reading The Quran and was impressed by the clarity with which it portrays the need for this balance between spirituality and materialism.

The truth is that understanding these spiritual concepts is one part of the struggle and like any other subject, you need to be able to apply it in your everyday life. It is this application which isn’t easy and makes people want to find an escape and run away. I meditate everyday and there are times when I don’t want to come out of it because it’s a state of pure joy whenever you manage to tap into it. Despite feeling this joy during meditation I cannot say that I always emanate joy from my being in all my dealings on this earth. This is where one needs to laugh at oneself (am a huge work in progress on this one). It is easier to sit in the Himalayas and say that one needs to love thy neighbor as himself because all is one and a totally different thing to apply that thought when your neighbor’s dog shat on and ruined your first go at having a herb garden( On second thoughts, isn’t that manure for crops).

Be true to yourself on your journey as hard as it may be. Strike a balance with an ‘AND’ not ‘OR’.

Dead wild goose

My typical drive to work wasn’t as typical today. I left home knowing that I was running late ( well..coz I woke up late). I was driving on my normal route which had regular traffic as you would expect in a busy Chicago suburb. While passing through one of the intersections and singing along with the radio, I couldn’t help but notice a goose fluttering its wings by the side of the road. It was a busy intersection with an exit to an interstate. I couldn’t stop right away and drove a couple of miles while my mind was trying to reason whether or not to turn around since I was already late. My conscience won the battle since I knew I wouldn’t have been at peace knowing that I could have perhaps done something to help the innocent creature lying on the street. I turned around and prayed that I get some help if I need any. Right when I turned by the spot, another man did too. We knew why were there. Our hearts couldn’t simply pass it by. I asked him if he thought we could help the bird. He looked and said it’s probably dead and checked to confirm the same. I asked if we could just move the body to a place where it wouldn’t be hit again although it was dead. He said, he would if there was something to lift it with. I searched my car and found some papers I didn’t need. The gentleman then moved the bird and we parted ways.

If it was me alone over there, I would have simply acted out of emotion and tried to move the body with my own hands without bothering to protect myself. I wouldn’t know how to check whether or not the bird was actually dead.

What I learned here was that while we try to do a good deed, we also need to think about our safety which is easily forgotten or frowned upon several times. Also, letting your conscience take the final call is a good idea. It only hints to the notion that one is capable of compassion despite the busy mechanical lives we lead. I also knew in that moment that I perhaps did what I could and worrying about how the body will be dealt with by some landscapers working there wasn’t going to help. I prayed over it while I was with the body.

As I am getting ready to post this blog, an image of a white swan pops up on my reader. Wonder what’s that about:)

Sending my best to you,

Pooja

Creating your own Ritual-fuel your intentionality

Being born in India where Hindus constitutes majority of the population, rituals were a common occurrence around me. I grew up with different ceremonies and rituals being performed at different times of the year. When you grow up with something you don’t always appreciate it and that’s exactly what happened with me. I was fascinated by the meaning and no one provided me with an answer. Curiosity persisted and I read several books, spoke to some wise friends and also followed my own intuition.

A ritual is defined as a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. You may follow the order as passed on by generations and can also create your personal ritual. It is an order that emanates from the center of your being, your heart.

I knew that the presence of all five elements i.e. earth, water, fire, air and ether always brought me a sense of purity, serenity and wholeness. Today I create my own rituals that help me uplift my mood, feel emotionally cleansed, cleansing the area I live in etc.

One of my favorite morning rituals is simply to light an incense stick after my morning meditation and also set an intention that my day be as fragrant as 

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Five elements in nature

 

the incense. At times when I feel driven, I also light up candles, place a jar of water next to the candles, bring in a basil leaf(earth element) and play my Tibetan cymbals. I also incorporate dancing when I feel like itJ. This whole ritual which lasts 15-20 minutes helps me reconnect with myself and feel lighter. A very common activity that we perform everyday i.e. taking a shower can be transformed into a ritual by utilizing the power of intention. You may set an intention that every droplet of water takes away all the dirt and enhances the overall health of your body. Like any other thing when this ritual becomes ‘another thing to do’, please stop it and renew it.

Fire, water and earth seem to have some transformative properties which perhaps why major religions choose to bury or cremate bodies of individuals. Air is ever present and provides movement to any other element. I believe that rituals add fuel to setting your intentions in motion. Feel free to use it for weight loss (as mentioned by Marianne Williamson in her book titled A course in Weight Loss), attracting love, enhancing your career etc. Take practices from any religion that appeal to you and make it your own. When you are connected with your heart, I don’t know that you could do any harm or go wrong!

Passing Clouds-Pain & Pleasure

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day in Chicago with bright sunshine and a cool breeze. A stop light made me pause and look at the sky while I was driving. I observed the clouds floating around in the sky. The sky being ever present and allowing the clouds to wander around, there was an engaging stillness about it. The clouds seemed weightless and moving across. Right at that point I wondered, what is it about being huma

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Floating Clouds

n that makes us believe in the permanency of fear based emotions and situations? Pain and pleasure are clouds that wander around in our life i.e. the sky. They are both temporary in nature, one making way for the other..moving along. As humans, it is perhaps our failure to foster our inner stillness in this fast paced life that leads us to focus on the clouds.