Ruminations from the Arizona Room is a series by Dr. Elizabeth Oakes, a former Shakespeare professor, a spiritual writer, and an award winning poet. A Sedonian of four years, she will share the thoughts that arise as she sits in the literal Arizona room in her home as well as the metaphorical “Arizona room” that is Sedona.
By Elizabeth Oakes
(July 10, 2017)
The concept of a life expectancy of “three-score and ten” has been around for centuries, long before most people could reach the age of seventy. Shakespeare mentions it twice, for instance, even though it was about thirty-seven in his time. Today the life expectancy for Americans is eighty-five, much longer than some would claim we contribute to society. So – why is this span seemingly coded into us from the get-go, at least in the popular imagination?
Based on my experience and observation, I have a theory – it concerns the chakras, those seven spinning wheels of energy. We begin as a newborn with the root chakra, the red one in the pelvic area, generating the energy we need to survive. Then, ideally, the energy center goes up the seven to the white light of the crown chakra at the top of the head. For most, this takes some time.
Throughout this process our inner world of the chakras and our life in the material coincide. As a very general review, the first three – red, orange, and yellow – power our physical survival, our social identity, our meeting a mate, and our making a place in the world, in short, of living and thriving.
With the fourth one up – the green heart chakra – we may feel love blossom from “me and mine” to the community and the world. This, too, correlates with our actions in the exterior world; for example, at this point, many begin to “give back” beyond their own circle.
With the fifth, the blue throat chakra, we “find our voice.” Having achieved a social identity, we then do what Carl Jung called individuate – we integrate our experiences and our consciousness to become our authentic self and interact with the world in a new way.
All of these correlate with the self that experiences the outer world. Indeed, for the first three, especially, the outer world dominates. The danger is in ignoring the signals that mandate change and growth. Dante may have been speaking of this when he wrote in the first lines ofThe Inferno:
Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
We today call it a “mid-life crisis,” one that many try to resolve with a little red sports car or a face lift. It is, however, primarily spiritual, not material. It’s not easy, as our culture no longer gives us guidelines at this point.
With the sixth, we integrate the spiritual, however we intuit it, in a personal way into the individuated self – one on one. Often the result is that we are drawn to the path not taken. As Plotinus, an ancient Greek philosopher influenced by Plato, said, “The flight of the soul is the alone to the Alone.” This may happen around age fifty.
With the seventh, we open to the Source, the All, whatever name we give the energy that animates everything, including us. This chakra becomes the primary one, generating energy that nourishes and envelopes the others. (Incidentally, it is in the approximate position as the fontanel in an infant.)
Although we still have the chakras spinning, our view is now transcendent. It doesn’t mean, however, that we remove ourselves from life; in fact, many of the spiritual masters, as well as the saints and mystics, tended to the entire world as their own, and not only its spiritual growth but its material well-being also.
This seventh chakra might be called the “three-score and ten” chakra, as it takes most of us a lifetime. Few of us are spiritual prodigies, born with this chakra the primary one, with love for all humanity and a direct connection to the source.
The chakras are like that yardstick we use to keep track of a child’s growth, only in this one we gauge our spiritual development and adulthood.
In Joyce Huntington Stanek’s “Ignition,” I see a symbolic representation of what occurs energetically in the body. As Joyce says,
This image came during a meditation on the Light within the cave of the heart. It began with an intense beam of white light falling onto a very open lotus floating on a clear deep pool. As the light penetrated the petals I was able to see it fill the bulb beneath with golden light. It continued down through a light-filled stem and going in a spiral movement it descended down, down, down into a network of roots which glowed and kept expanding eternally. The sensation was pure Love.
The light goes “top down,” nurturing the roots of the lotus, much like the crown chakra does the outer self that is embedded in the dense world. In this interchange the spiritual becomes the physical and the physical the spiritual.
To summarize, ideally, the crown chakra becomes the energy source the longer we live or the more we learn, augmenting the root chakra. Although we incorporate all of them all our life, the prime mover changes from survival at birth to an emergence into the All at spiritual maturity.
In a kind of shorthand, the process could be called “from power over” to “power to” to “power for” to “power not to,” this last a kind of surrender that welcomes us back into the fold from which we came. It is the journey of a lifetime, this becoming whole by living from the interior as well as the exterior.
Note: For more of Joyce’s visionary art, see www.joycehuntingtonart.com.
Note: The exact description of the chakras can vary. For instance, another graph, one among many, lists the movement from the root to the crown with these words: Survival, Sex, Power, Love, Expression, Perception, Spiritual.
Note: To position them in a vertical order does not mean that one chakra is more important than another.