With the Psychology of Color program commencing this month, in which we'll explore and unpack color and its various meanings, it seems as good an opportunity as ever to explore the extensive framework and complex terrains in which color is active, and how we operate with them.
Color is such an inherent presence for us all - from nature and food, to art and what we wear. But our perceptions and emotional connections to color are much more complex than what we realize! Colors are deeply personal, psychologically, spiritually and even physically rooted as well. Humans have used color as a universal tool of communication and understanding since our earliest histories.
Red is a warning, green for go and gold for wealth are just a few examples. Color is a tool that we have adopted to transcend our language and cultural barriers. Similarly, we can use color as a tool to transcend barriers between the spiritual, emotional and physical planes of our individual self as well to gain a more holistic picture. We do so by exploring and understanding the chakra system.
The chakra system is an ancient model for studying the energetic body - the unified plane where our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical self resides. It originated from yogi practices to aid in the awareness of the different meditative centers within the body, specifically seven aligned points that function as a database and filter for all our experiences and thoughts that we encounter in our lives. These seven focal points are the seven chakras. Think of these as seven wheels aligned and spaced throughout the body, whose functions are to spin and draw in the energy from all of our life experiences. While they filter and draw in all this information, they balance and harmonize the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health of the body. The seven chakras are the middle ground where our internal order and chaos finds a resolve.
Each chakra governs a different area of our bodies and uses and enhances different energies that are embodied in the seven main colors. Each color interacts with and affects our physical bodies differently, while also housing different emotional, mental and spiritual capacities or inhibitions as well. As a gentle introduction to the seven chakras, and their seven colors, here is an outline of the chakra system and the seven main colors:
The first chakra, called the base chakra, is governed by the color red. Extending from the feet to the base of the spine, the red chakra is where our grounding and power emanates from. Many visualize the red chakra as the roots of the body, mind and spirit. As such, it is in the red chakra that we connect to feelings of safety, confidence and survival. An imbalance of the base chakra can be manifested in feelings of insecurity, anger and anxiety. If we consider examples of where we find red in nature, we may gain more understanding of how the base chakra relates to the color red. Blood is a powerfully emotive and symbolic thing as is, and answers a lot for the similarly emotive and symbolic reception of the color red. Blood is a significant motif of survival and a rudimental characteristic of physicality. In a major sense, it is a foundational column of life. Likewise, the energy that emanates from red provides the foundation for security and support, that on which we build our lives. Red is a deep and vividly strong color, just as the energy that grounds us.
The second chakra, the sacral chakra, is governed by the color orange. Often thought of as the emotional center, our second chakra extends from the area about 4 inches below the belly button, by our reproductive organs, large intestine and colon. This is also where our sensuality and creativity reside, as well as that important perception of self and self-esteem. When our sacral chakra is in balance we operate more easily in honest emotional expression, and subsequently can trace explosive and self-damaging tendencies when our second chakra is inhibited. The orange of a flame is the perfect natural embodiment of the energy of orange. As much as it has the capacity for comfort and shelter, it has an amplitude for destruction and animosity in equal measure if not harnessed and composed. It can be an incomparable tool both for creation and destruction.
The third chakra, the solar plexus, is governed by the color yellow. This is where our personal power and sense of self resides, it is where we can identify our passions, impulses, strengths, weaknesses and ego. Emanating from the center of our bodies around the stomach and navel, the third chakra answers why it is that many of us experience fear as a physical sensation in our stomachs. When out of balance it is in the solar plexus that our confusion and fears are housed, but when we focus on finding balance in our third chakra we connect to the engine room of our personal power and self worth. The sun is a natural indicator of the energy embodied in yellow. The power and anchor of the sun is the centre of our solar system, it is the primary source of power and energy. When our central engine room of power is uninhibited and we open up to our strengths and passions, we are able to harness that energy and connect to our inner joy.
The fourth chakra, the heart chakra, is governed by the color green. Unsurprisingly this is where our capacities of love reside and as such our heart chakra is thought of as our energetic center from which we feel, experience and form our relationships with the people in our lives. This is the first tier from which we house our interpersonal centers. Harmonizing our heart chakra opens up our capacities of empathy and compassion. This capacity however is not solely reserved for our relationships with others, but strongly relates to the compassion, patience and understanding that comes with self love as well. In nature green is the color of growth, abundance and nourishment, from forests to flowers and fields. Its energy invites and inspires abundance and healing, exciting good intentions and an open heart.
The fifth chakra, the throat chakra, is governed by the color blue. Housed in the throat, the fifth chakra is our communication centre. The home from which people hear our voice and what you need to say, the point of transit between what we feel and expressing it to be heard and understood. The energy often associated with color blue is that of calm and peace. When we consider the capacity of our fifth chakra that allows us to calibrate our internal feelings and experiences with the world and people around us, it is denotative that blue is thought of as a peaceful and calming color. Whether the blue of the sea or sky, both immense, go-to ballasts of color, blue is the color associated with expansive freedom and tranquility. It bridges the quiet inner self to the great expanse of the outside world.
The sixth chakra, the third eye chakra, is governed by the color indigo. This extends from the brow and houses the first energy point that expands beyond our physical self and those around us. It is the center of our intuition, the place from which our being exists beyond scientific or physical manifestation. When we practice meditation and try to hone in on that quiet self that exists and operates within the immediate present, that is when we willfully connect to our third eye chakra. A familiar natural manifestation we can relate to the sixth chakra, is the deep indigo of the sky before the sun begins to warm up the day or after it dips far beyond the horizon line after sunset. It's the quieting of the sky before and after the day’s activity, the stillness in which to prepare and then digest the continuous ebb and flow. It is an all-encompassing gentle power, much like the quiet presence of our psyches.
And finally, the seventh chakra, the crown chakra, is governed by the color violet. This is the chakra of pure consciousness and extends from beyond the body. Located from the top of or just above the head, the seventh chakra is the access point to a higher spiritual state of consciousness that operates beyond any personal preoccupations and their limitations. As well as violet, the seventh chakra energy is often depicted with the color white. Both violet and white are rare and almost specialized colors to be found in our natural surroundings. Like the delicate and weather specific manifestation of snow, or the transient white crests of the waves of the ocean. Similarly, violet has a long history as a color reserved for regality because of the rarity and mastery of its pigment. Harmony in the energy of the crown chakra opens a greater plane of consciousness and presence, a sublime connection to greater awareness, as unique and pure as the colors within which they reside.
The exploration of color in the chakra system broadens the application of color as a tool to discover and even maintain a connection to our intuitive self. Color can serve as an indicator of past lives we may have lived and their experiences that we have intuitively carried forward with us. Color isn’t just a significant characteristic of the world we see around us. We feel color. By utilizing this sensory, physical stimulus, and furthering its range in what information we can synthesize from it, color and the chakra system is a valuable framework in which we can gage the coherent self as a complex network of fractal patterns.
A fractal is a never ending pattern. They are infinitely complex and self-similar across different scales. The most common examples of fractals are things we encounter in nature. Branches of trees, snowflakes, lightning and electricity, crystals, river systems, plants and leaves like the common fern, and even mountains are all examples of fractals. As complex as fractals - a term coined by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot - and fractal systems may seem, we are surrounded by an abundance of their different manifestations all around us. Defined by repetition - a uniform repetition of a seemingly non-uniformed, dynamic property - fractals sit on the cusp of chaos and harmony. They are the sublime irregular consistencies of not only our world, but of ourselves as well. Mandelbrot said, speaking to fractal systems found in the natural world, that “nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity”. What we often overlook though, is how integrated we ourselves as humans are in the complexities of the natural world around us, not simply physiologically, but mentally, spiritually and psychologically as well. So just as we can look to nature for examples to help us gain more understanding of how the main seven colors connect to our chakra energies, we can look to fractals in nature, like the fern, to understand how our chakras unfold in to self-similar patterns when they are in balance.
When we look at the chakra system as a model to understand our energetic body, we can also consider the chakra system as a system of internal fractals. Each chakra, its corresponding color and the purpose of that chakra is a fractal. These fractals account for all the major planes of our being, and how they balance in dynamic harmony. Fractal systems have many opportunities for growth, change and reorganization, but hold together well at any of their infinite forms, each person and their chakra system can do the same. Dr. Joe Dispenza wrote "when there is a coherent nervous system (a balance between your brain and your heart), information organized into fractal patterns can be read like a code.”
The eastern idea of the chakra system is that the body follows a fractal relationship with the universe. We are a microcosm inside of a macrocosm and everything is connected to everything else. Nothing exists outside of this connection.
So, think of the chakra system as the organization of the information we collect, both around us and synthesized within us. Then our relationship with color as a simple pattern that can be unpacked and decoded, it also means that we can work with this decoded chakra, listen in and notice what needs to heal, change or be accepted as it is.