Visitors to this website know that our physical body is not all we are. Around us is the invisible body that is our connection to the cosmos. It’s our higher life force. This invisible body is sometimes called the Light Body or the Subtle Body and is powered by seven energy centers that we call the chakra system. The word chakra, which is Sanskrit, is generally translated as “wheel” or “disc,” which seems to be how most people see the chakras. The chakra system was first described in Vedic writings and came to the West in the late 19th century primarily through the writings of the Theosophical Society and ceremonial magicians.
Back in 1998, I wrote a book titled Goddess Meditations. This was the very first book dedicated entirely to meditating with goddesses. No gods. In Chapter 6, which is about the chakra system, I assigned goddesses from pantheons around the world to the seven major chakras. Root chakra: Baba Yaga (Slavic). Genital chakra: Hathor (Egyptian). Solar plexus: Oya (African-Brazilian). Heart chakra: Kuan Yin (Chinese). Throat chakra: Sarasvati (Hindu). Third eye chakra: the Cumaean Sybil (Greco-Roman). Crown chakra: Sophia (Gnostic). Let us explore how we might live more soulfully with the energies, powers, and guidance we can receive from meditating on (or with) three of these chakra goddesses, Baba Yaga, Kuan Yin, and Sophia. The following paragraphs are adapted and simplified from Goddess Meditations.
Root Chakra: Baba Yaga
The fundamental issue of our lives is that we live on earth. Earth is where we interact in mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual ways with other people and with our other kin on the planet—with animals, plants, and minerals. We need to be grounded here and not turn into silly “space cadets.”
The root chakra issues are physical health, right livelihood, prosperity, and survival. Like the needs at the base of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous pyramid—the physiological needs like air, water, food, shelter, and safety—the root chakra issues are the fundament of our lives. That is, unless we pay attention to these issues and needs, we cannot live any kind of meaningful life.
Baba Yaga is a Slavic goddess who rules life, death, and rebirth. She comes from Mother Russia and is known to this day to the peoples of Eastern Europe, from the Baltic nations in the north down to the Balkans in the south. This is the area that Marija Gimbutas called Old Europe. Baba Yaga is thousands of years old. Sometimes she’s portrayed as the cliché wicked old witch (think Hansel and Gretel), but what she really is, is a harvest goddess. She harvests more than grain; she harvests people. She plants us, raises us, cuts us down, stores us through the metaphysical and metaphorical dark winter’s night, and then plants and raises us again.
Note: when you do the three guided meditations below, begin by finding a comfortable place to sit. (You can assume a yoga position if you want to.) Close your eyes and take two or three deep, easy breaths and let your body become more relaxed as your mind becomes clearer and your imagination becomes active. When your body is relaxed, open your inner eyes and know that in your imagination you are Somewhere Else. Look around. Meet the goddess.
As you meditate to meet Baba Yaga, imagine you’re in a dark forest. You’re standing on a path that is so faint and narrow you feel lost. You begin to remember what happens in the old folk and fairy tales to people who get lost in forests. All you can see around you are ancient trees. You can hear birds singing, and you can feel small animals in the forest. Step forward and follow the dim, dark path. Suddenly you spot a little house. It’s standing on birds’ legs! An old woman steps out of the house to face you: She is the Oldest One, She who is older than the trees. She is gray and wrinkled and is wearing raggedy old clothes, but her eyes are dark and clear. Baba Yaga is going to ask you three essential questions. Your task is to think deeply and carefully and answer truthfully.
Question #1: What must you do to improve your physical health? Think about this issue. Diet? Exercise? As you answer Baba Yaga, tell yourself that you will remember your answer when you return to ordinary consciousness and will take whatever action you need to take.
Question #2: What is prosperity and how can you gain it? Again, think about this issue. Answer Baba Yaga. Tell yourself that you will remember your answer when you return to ordinary consciousness and will take whatever action you need to take to move into prosperity.
Question #3: What is your right livelihood? For the third time, think about this issue. Answer Baba Yaga and tell yourself that you will remember your answer when you return to ordinary consciousness and will take whatever action you need to take to do the work you’re here on the planet to do
While you’re thinking, suddenly Baba Yaga begins dancing! Have you ever seen an ancient one dance? But don’t just watch her. Dance with the goddess until you have danced her root chakra energy into yourself. Soon the goddess’ dance is holding and supporting you with its power. You’re almost dizzy. And Baba Yaga’s house stands up. The goddess goes inside, and the house dances away and disappears into the dark forest. You’re still feeling the energy of the goddess’ dance, and now you begin to understand that her dance is the source of the energy of your root chakra. Dancing with Baba Yaga is one way you can survive on the planet. When you return to ordinary consciousness, think about Baba Yaga and her questions and her dance. Know that it’s up to you to act on your root chakra issues.
Heart Chakra: Kuan Yin
We get a lot about love. It’s never having to say you’re sorry. It’s letting go of fear. It’s what the world needs now. It’s movies and novels and commercials. It’s a puppy, a backrub, a cup of fancy coffee. From Sappho to Shakespeare to Stephen Sondheim to Taylor Swift, poets (and advertisers) have written and sung volumes about love.
We know that the heart chakra is in charge of love, so for our heart chakra meditation, we’ll focus on love. But not romantic love, Not the religicized love the preachers exhort us to hold in our hearts. Not the fuzzy love used to sell us stuff. Not even manipulative love. The issues of the heart chakra are specific and useful: compassion, self-acceptance, and balance in relationships.
It is often said that the most compassionate of goddesses is Kuan Yin, “She who hears the cries of the world.” It is possible that Kuan Yin is related to an ancient Chinese goddess named Nu Kwa, who created a race of “golden people” and repaired the universe in a time of chaos when the four pillars that supported the earth had been destroyed by fire and flood. (Gee, does destruction by fire and flood sound familiar? How might compassion and balance help us reverse climate change? But that would be a whole other meditation.)
Let us visit Kuan Yin in her residence on Mount Potalaka, which may be in Sri Lanka or India or on an island near Shanghai.
As before, prepare yourself for this guided meditation by sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and taking two or three deep, easy breaths to relax your body and stimulate your imagination. Soon you find yourself standing in a meadow beside a wide river in which there is a boat waiting for you. Step in, and soon you arrive at the holy island, in the center of which stands Mount Potalaka, a mountain out of an exquisite Chinese brush painting. You’re standing at the beginning of a path that winds up and around the mountain. Growing along the path are flowers and herbs that bring beauty and health and peace to the world.
Step forward. Begin walking the path that encircles the holy mountain. Walk slowly, feel the beauty around you. Halfway up the mountain you come to the entrance of a large cave filled with wonders. This is Kuan Yin’s home. The painted walls show scenes of the goddess helping her followers and other people. Here she is rescuing someone from a fire, there she is standing at the edge of a receding flood. Other scenes show her rescuing a child from a wild animal, another shows her strolling through a garden and teaching the true power of compassion. In the center of the cave is a pool with blooming lotuses and swimming koi fish. Rising up out of the center of the pool is a wondrous fountain of marble and alabaster topped by a carving of a crescent moon.
Kuan Yin is sitting on an alabaster throne near the pool. She invites you to drink from the pool and hands you a silver cup. Accept the cup. As you swallow, you can feel Kuan Yin’s lessons of compassion, self-acceptance, and balance in relationships flowing into every part of your body. You may speak with the goddess now. Tell her about the annoying aspects of your current life—loud neighbors, demanding and selfish people pestering you for attention or money or more, the dangers of life in the city.
Kuan Yin considers what you’ve said, then replies, “I will tell you, first, what was once taught by my brother bodhisattva from another land: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy.’ Think about that lesson, my friend, and begin to understand how you can apply it in your life. Think about how you can be merciful to people and bring your relationships into greater balance and peace.”
When you return to ordinary consciousness, remember your visit with Kuan Yin and try to always speak from your heart to the people around you.
Crown Chakra: Sophia
Whereas the essential lesson of the root chakra is living on earth, the essential issue of the crown chakra is living in the universe. The earth is our fundament, or base; we’re planted here and do what we do on earth. The universe is our wider field of endeavor, the true home of our body, soul, and spirit. In the universe are the paths of all our lives and the lives of everyone else on the planet.
Ancient Taoist scholars taught, and scientist-philosophers of today affirm, that the essence of universe is consciousness. This is the intrinsic and indispensable quality of the universe. As quantum physics tells us, the apparently solid things we know through our physical senses are mostly empty space, and what looks empty is really filled with consciousness.
The issues of the crown chakra are connected to this consciousness: knowing, understanding, and connecting. What does meditation teach us? To be mindful. To live consciously. To participate in the consciousness of the universe. Notice that the crown chakra issues are stated as gerunds. In English grammar, a gerund is a word that was born as a verb and grows up to be used in a sentence as an active noun. A noun that wants to act. (Maybe a gerund is like a thought form. It’s winged and invisible and can be very powerful.)
Sophia is not a goddess of wisdom. She is wisdom. Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom. We find her (under many aliases) in the Hebrew Bible and other ancient texts from the Near East, Egypt, and Greece. On the Qabalistic Tree of Life, she is Chokmah, the second Sphere and head of the (masculine) Pillar of Mercy. She is best known, however, as the Gnostic goddess, the “Mother of All because she was before them all, the first to come forth into the universe.” She was also described by Hildegard of Bingen: “You of the whirling wings … you quicken the world in your clasp. … Let all the earth praise Sophia!”
Begin the guided meditation as usual, in a comfortable sitting position, eyes closed. Take two or three deep, easy breaths, relax your body, and open your imagination. Let knowing, understanding, and connecting flood into your body and soak every cell of your being. Open your inner eyes and find yourself on a path that seems to lead nowhere and everywhere. Take that first step. Begin walking. But suddenly the path ends at the edge of a cliff. What now? It’s time to take a leap of faith…and as you leap, you find yourself supported by numberless scarlet butterflies that carry you up to a home on top of a tall, glass mountain. This is where Sophia lives, in a mansion of many rooms: she is above everything, able to look everywhere, able to touch every thing and every person. The goddess greets you and invites you into her glass house, where the air itself glitters and smells of lavender and jasmine and rosemary.
“This is a place of knowing and understanding,” Sophia tells you. “Here you will meet four friends and guides, those of flesh and those of spirit.” She turns and calls out, “Come forth!”
Out of the nearest room glides a green plant, your connection with the vegetable world. The plants hands you a leaf or a cutting to plant in your “real” home. Out of the next room steps an animal, four-legged, feathered, finned, or reptilian. Another connection with the nonhuman world. This animal can come to you as an invisible totem or spirit guide, or you can adopt a physical incarnation, like a cat, dog, goat, goldfish, canary or parrot, or maybe a lizard. It will be your job, of course, to care for the magical plant growing on your windowsill and the magical animal living with you.
When you’re ready, your third friend and guide appears: a deva or angel. But this is not a winged, frou-frou angel of Baroque art or Hallmark card; real devas and angels are muscular and filled with radiant energy. They are beings of elemental fire. This deva will speak silently to you about crown chakra issues. Now he or she gives you a token, which can be a magical word written in the angelic alphabet or a symbolic object which you may use when you need to strengthen your connection to the universe.
Finally, your fourth friend and guide appears. This is your spirit guide, someone who may be between incarnations or who has never incarnated on earth. It’s possible that you have known this person either in an earlier lifetime or between lives. Your spirit guide is a healer or teacher and has forever been your dearest friend. This person can help you know and understand and remain connected to the universe.
Spend time with Sophia and your four new friends. Establish working relationships with them. Find out how they can speak most meaningfully to you and promise them you will listen. What mystical or magical gifts do they have to offer you? In what ways can you honor them?
When you return to ordinary consciousness, remember your visit to Sophia’s glass mountain and her many-roomed mansion. Remember your four new friends. How will you keep those connections strong? What have you learned? What do you know now that you didn’t know before? Let these four friends help you live more soulfully on our blessed planet.
Copyright 2020 Barbara Ardinger. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com) is the author of Secret Lives, a novel about crones and other magical folks, and Pagan Every Day, a unique daybook of daily meditations. Her other books include Goddess Meditations (the first-ever book of meditations focusing on goddesses), and Finding New Goddesses (a parody of goddess encyclopedias). Her blogs and/or stories appear every month on Feminism and Religion https://feminismandreligion.com, where she is a regular Pagan contributor. She has been writing for the Llewellyn annuals since 2004, and her work has also been published in devotionals to Isis, Athena, and Brigid.
Barbara’s day job is freelance editing for people who have good ideas but don’t want to embarrass themselves in print. To date, she has edited more than 300 books, both fiction and nonfiction, on a wide range of topics. She lives in Long Beach, California, with her two rescued cats, Schroedinger and Heisenberg. Her doctorate is in English. After doing a bit of research in her Old Business file, she discovered that she had edited a few essays for Valerie way back in 2003! If you want to “talk” to Barbara, please send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She always replies….but not to spam.
Let’s all live more soulfully and be kinder to each other!