Note: This article is a follow-up from part 1 in case you didn’t get a chance to read that yet.
“What are the advantages of having the lotus flower at the root chakra downward-facing?” -a student in class who had started the chakra exploration for a few months with an upward-facing lotus and then it spontaneously flipped to downward-facing.
That’s a good question, and in retrospect, I’m surprised that it didn’t come up more than once, at least some permutation of it. My memory of my years of study with Angela and Victor, my main teachers, was that they worked with the root chakra being downward-facing, and that is how I have worked with the root chakra for as many years, but I’d never thought about why or what were the advantages or disadvantages. I appreciated having the opportunity and challenge to take my understanding and awareness even deeper.
As a side note, I had a teacher once answer a question I asked about why she guided something the way she did, and she said “That’s the way my teacher did it,” and left it at that, which I thought was the worst possible answer a teacher could give, so I could never fall back on that. (I include that anecdote for all the teachers out there reading this, including my teacher trainees!)
I searched the one book I have of Victor’s, and found a lotus flower that he had drawn that is downward-facing, so I felt correct in my memory, thank God! However that still doesn’t answer my student’s good question.
Traditionally the yogic teachings are about “raising the kundalini” from it’s “sleeping home” at the pelvic floor and having it move up the energetic spine, culminating in enlightenment/Self-realization, some kind of transcendence, an experience of Oneness, when it reaches the crown chakra at the top of the head. If this is our desire or focus, then the upward-facing lotus makes much more sense since the upward lotus goes naturally with energy moving upward and possibly facilitating the “kundalini rising”, appropriately and as we might expect.
The downward lotus has the opposite effect, encouraging energy moving downward and connecting with the Earth. We could assume that this is against the flow of the energy of Enlightenment, but I think that that is an incorrect assessment. My two main spiritual teachers are Amma, who the western press has dubbed “the Hugging Saint”, and Grace, a “love-realized mystic” from Mt. Shasta who I have brought to Loving Kindness a couple of times, and hopefully again in the future. Both of these powerful, loving and insightful women teach not a kind of enlightenment that leads to a transcendence that disconnects one from the world, but an enlightenment that is fully, lovingly engaged in and connected to the world, while maintaining the deepest insight into the True Nature of the world. This enlightenment culminates in loving service, while service itself is also part of the Path to it.
The downward lotus invites, encourages and expresses the connection with the Earth. (As I wrote last time, it IS the root chakra, literally translated from Sanskrit as “root support.” Clearly this direction is what the Earth and humanity need at this time, NOT the energy of moving away from that, which everyone reading this certainly can see is the energy of the climate deniers and Earth-abusers and of those waiting for the Rapture. Disconnection from the Earth is, no doubt, a cause and symptom of the crisis we face as human beings. This downward-connecting energy is also especially good and necessary for those vata people like me who are a bit on the “airy” side and need some grounding to not “float away,” as well as for those who would prefer, like me, to spend their days in spiritual pursuits and not “mundane” worldly life stuff.
From the deep connection with the Earth that we can cultivate with a functional root chakra, we as humans can play our rightful role as intermediaries, like the trees, between the spiritual realm/the heavens/the Infinite Space and the Earth. Without it we have cut off half of ourselves. We need the here and now, the Ground, as uncomfortable as it may be sometimes, in order to jump, to grow, realize our full potential and to go beyond our small view of ourselves. Paradoxically, the here and now, the earthly ground, can trap us in attachment to it and have us cut ourselves off from our spiritual reality and potential. As with most things, it’s about balance.
At the end of each class, I lead what I call “circular breathing”, or in Polarity Therapy, called “The Microcosmic Orbit.” In this practice, while breathing in, we move the awareness or the breath or energy from the pelvic floor up the back of the spine to the top center of the head. On the out-breath, it moves down the front midline of the body back to the pelvic floor. The upward part of that flow is the movement toward growth and transcendence and spiritual understanding; the downward part of that flow is the movement toward manifesting our spiritual Realization in the world, which is the making of the Realization REAL, not just a self-centered, “me” thing. Again, THIS is what the world and humanity, if it is to continue to be called “humanity”, needs.
As I continue to explore the root chakra in my own practice, I anticipate a time when I will be suggesting that we use BOTH a downward-facing AND an upward-facing lotus at the root, but ultimately, I think the downward lotus here has advantages that are more in line with what the world needs at this time and also in line with our deepest spiritual hunger and need: to connect and to experience ourself as part of the One, if not AS the One, in all its varied expression, and to serve the various manifestations of the One with this natural understanding.