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.

Not afraid to be ordinary

I have to admit right at the outset that ever since I was a kid I disliked anything which was ‘normal’, ‘regular’, ‘conventional’.  I would often ask why rituals are done a certain way or why do I have to follow social rules which my brother didn’t have to follow. And you know what the rest of the why’s would look like..

The story began one afternoon when I was sitting in our family’s apartment balcony and looking at what people in the apartments living opposite to us were doing( I know it wasn’t a nice thing to peek but hey..everything was too close not to watch when the curtains are open) . It was yet another sunny day in Mumbai and I had just returned from school. While I was watching,  I noticed one apartment in particular where the kids were playing and the maid was drying the clothes in the balcony. They weren’t doing anything extraordinary and in fact they were doing exactly the same thing as they did the day before and the day prior to that. It was then that I wondered:

  • Will I die one day and no one would know?
  • Will my existence go unnoticed?
  • How can I be different?

Trust me when I tell you that I was all of 10-11 years old thinking about such glum stuff. In that very moment

  • I decided to be different.
  • To not follow the routine, mundane and mechanical life.
  • To create my own rules and
  • To learn everything on my own ( this wasn’t a smart intention to set but I did set it that way)

This existential thought storm also triggered a resistance towards anything normal. If someone had a normal childhood i.e. sans any major struggles or discomfort then that didn’t interest me, two people who got married with ease didn’t give me as much a kick as did an odd couple i.e. Older woman marrying a younger man, if everyone was afraid of the walking alone in the dark then I would surely try and see what the fuss was all about. I wanted to be above the rest but not in the normal competitive manner where you tried to score better than your peer. I got above the rest using some spiritual and philosophical understanding. Being competitive also meant being normal so I wasn’t going to engage in it.

Fast forward some years and some first-hand experiences , I craved normalcy and all I wanted was a normal life. I was at a point where I was tired of ups and downs and desperately wanted the comfort of the plateau, the known. I needed certainty/ stability and thankfully I was able to achieve it after some challenges. The truth is that had I not tasted these challenges where being able to make ends meet in a foreign land was my daily concern, then I wouldn’t have been able to value normalcy. I am stubborn like thatJ

With this new found respect for normalcy and my 10 year old still inside of me, today I have reached a point where I can say that no matter how ordinary you are, there is an inherent uniqueness in each one of us which can never be suppressed (unless you choose to suppress it). You don’t have to try too hard to be extraordinary.

Accepting the beauty of normalcy takes courage. Accepting somewhere that most of life is lined with routine tasks which are not to be fought with but won over. The ‘difference’ lies in the choices we make while leading an otherwise ordinary life. There is an ease in this approach to life. An organic wisdom if you will. It is the beauty of a homemaker who sings while she cooks, the compassion of a man returning from a 9-5 job who helps a wounded animal on the street,  the courage of an otherwise ordinary bystander to stand up for a woman who is being eve teased.

In my opinion, if we can simply learn to be good at being ordinary with an elevated consciousness/humanness then we will never be ‘just another’ person who lived/died. As long as we keep fighting the normalcy, that’s what we stay busy with and staying busy in our own head doesn’t mean that we aren’t ordinary. This constant battle we create for ourselves can induce more fear in us than needed.

I am not suggesting here that you shouldn’t challenge yourself or try to grow or be complacent. If you do any of the above then you are not respecting your inherent uniqueness and not allowing it to express itself. What I am saying here is that not everyone needs to be a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bill Gates to make a difference or to live a life that has created an impact. If you live your life with authenticity then it will indeed be a life well lived. Some of us spend too much time and energy focusing on what we are NOT in this moment. You don’t have to know everything OR be restless at all times because you aren’t doing enough to get somewhere.

The Changing room-II

It is scary..to not know. To not know where you are headed when you have always felt like you did. You took pride in your clarity of purpose and alignment of every thought, action and word. It makes you question the very foundation that you once stood on and built yourself. Fears and insecurities begin to surface and your sense of certainty in who you are isn’t certain anymore. It is a place where you feel that you are simply ‘in between’. Every aspect of your life is being gently ripped apart. Tears flow through the eyes unexplained as if the soul needs to be cleansed. Almost as if the well inside is full and needs to pour outside. You feel slightly embarrassed sharing this with friends who have known you to be their anchor in trying times. Friends who have seen you as somebody who is sure of her dreams. It is that ‘sure’ which I am no longer sure about. There seems to be a state of confusion or transformation to be more precise. It is something like you are standing in the center and everything else around you is moving and you are a mere spectator, clueless and yet in it.

As often cited in textbooks, these moments catch you and begin to surface more when you are alone. You can ignore it once, twice perhaps thrice but the fourth time you simply cannot. I have postponed the welling up of these thoughts several times until now and somehow today I could no longer do it. I knew that I had to write it down. A lot of my dreams in the past few months had signaled me towards change and transformation. However I did not exactly know what that ‘feels’ like. It feels like something is being pulled out of you..a sense of death and dying in a way. Sometimes you feel lost and begin wondering ‘how did I get here’ and ‘Do I need to be some place else’. It is soul wrenching and a quiet pain. It is subdued for the most part but it for sure is there. Any traces of ‘ I know who I am’ and thereby the swollen ego syndrome is all washed away. Perhaps this is what the tears are for..to wash away, to cleanse, to make you humble and more human in your imperfections.

There are moments where I want to hide my face into someone’s chest, someone who can assure me that ‘this too shall pass’ and that I am with you no matter what. The anxiety of being human and the need to be rescued. Feeling as I do, I also have no choice but to be with myself right now ( I laughed as I wrote this). Is it the dark night of the soul? May be. All the times when I would wonder ‘how can someone be afraid of change’ and one just needs to have faith are all being offered to me as personal experiences. Don’t know if anyone likes being in this phase but as always I am hoping that I can shine through this and emerge a clear diamond. I often say that strong headed or stubborn people need harder lessons to get through their tough heads and guess what..I am in one right now! Taking my bow to life and spirit!

Seems like I need to simply surrender and then my ego comes right back at me telling me to ‘do’ something. It says, you cannot simply sit back and let this happen, you need to take charge. These are perhaps my mind’s attempts to hold on to whatever I know, that is if I know anythingJ