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.

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Patterns- let’s decode. Shall we?

Today I am experiencing one of those beautiful synchronicities that life offers you. This morning I was reading a book titled ‘Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson’ and later in the day while surfing for something to watch I stumbled upon this video titled ‘ The brain that changes itself’ on Amazon. Let me share and elaborate how my little head connects the two and there’s also a bonus at the end. Have fun!

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Mastadon of IPFW, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I am only 10th page of the book I mentioned and I loved how the author talks about the different messages we decode everyday from our external environment unconsciously. How do we decode these messages? Via our senses i.e. sight, smell, hearing, touch. For most people only one of these senses is the dominant source of information. Our decoding of this information depends on our past conditioning to a large extent. For example: When you say or read the word ‘food’ , each one of us experiences this word differently based on our associations to the word food in the past. It could be an image, it could be a distinct smell, it could be texture or the clinging of vessels related to the word. While we are forming those experiences/associations in the beginning we don’t filter it out, we simply receive and save it in our repository. This then helps us to not have to go through this decoding process again when we hear/read the word food. This association becomes our default as we grow up and we never really challenge it. We assume that what ‘food’ means for us is what it means for everyone else in general. This assumption of sameness makes our lives easier for sure but this assumption can also limit our abilities to learn more and new meanings of the word ‘food’. As I write this, I can think of how so many individuals argue over the definition of what is and what is not ‘food’ which is a never ending argument for many. So remember that we as humans like certainty and we create these patterns which need to be used by default without being questioned so that we can then utilize our brain power on other important issues like performing on job, rearing children etc. This can also be called our need to maintain homeostasis. Some of these patterns are helpful but some of these limit us.  But can these patterns not be changed or should they be changed at all in the first place?

The answer to whether or not they should be changed depends on what life circumstances you are facing and if you are happy/content with where you are then there isn’t exactly an incentive/need for you to change anything. What’s fascinating though is that our brain and bodies are constantly taking in and processing information and in a constant state of change. Even the food we eat is nothing but information/data in a different form which is then processed by our bodies and provided to us in the form of energy.

The thought of the need to change our patterns is the connection to the video I watched. In the video they talk about the concept of neuroplasticity which is the idea that the brain is capable at any age to make new connections and therefore rehabilitate itself/heal itself. My main takeaways from the video:

  • Unless the existing pathways are blocked or rendered useless, we don’t look for new ones. Some researchers have worked with individuals who lost their ability to use parts of their bodies due to traumatic incidents/strokes/paralysis. When these individuals were brought into treatment, the doctors restrained the dominant/usable hand and began exercising the other hand making slow and gradual progress everyday. What’s profound is that the new pathways weren’t built until the old ones were restrained/blocked. More often than not in life, we create suffering for ourselves when the situations around us seem to be blocking/restraining us. For example, you are a waitress and the restaurants in our area have stopped hiring. We create pain when we say..’ What will I do now? ‘and we keep looking for the same type of jobs. What if we looked at that block as a push to find a new pathway?
  • In another study, a person who had been blind for 38 years was given a device which sent feedback to his brain using the tongue instead of sight and he could navigate a physical path with turns simply based on that feedback he was receiving via his tongue. The man reported that the feedback he was receiving formed a mental image in his brain which is the same as seeing it with the eye. The brain doesn’t distinguish between ‘how’ the input is received. This is exactly how fears are real to people. Using this imagery available to us we can imagine new outcomes which is then enough for our brain to establish those new connections. Techniques like Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive behavioral therapy help us rewire our brains.
  • Brain is a neutral receptor and storage house..so what are you feeding it and storing here on a daily basis? Meditation and mindfulness are two practices that help us become more aware of our unconscious patterns and bring those to the foreground for us to then work on them. In the same breath I would also like to mention that more than 90% of our body’s serotonin is produced in the gut region. More than one third of the microbes in our gut are not human microbes but microbes from the food we eat. So, the source of your food, the way it reached you, the soil it grew in, the way you cook it and the manner in which you eat your meals all determine who you think you areJ. If you are interested to read more on the mind and gut, please read Eat Wheat , The Mind-Gut connection and The Second Brain for the more scientifically inclined.

How our thoughts affect our physiology-Experiment by Dr. Masaru Emoto

With 60-70% of our body being composed of water, we need to be mindful of our self-talk and what we say to others. This experiment helps us see the effect of loving and harming thoughts on our physiology. This is where our psychology becomes our biology.