Perusing novelist J. A. Konrath’s sequential list of New Year’s resolutions for writers, 2006-2014, I am struck by the shift in his focus. From aspiring to successful writer, to fame and fortune, and out the other side: in 2013, to single-minded focus as a writer again, dropping the social media buzzsaw; and then finally, suddenly in 2014, resolving, “I’ll get all of my real-life shit together.”
He keeps it simple this time, with a short list of 7 items, ending with:
5. Getting regular doctor check-ups so you don’t die from something avoidable.
6. Remembering that future goals shouldn’t come at the expense of enjoying every single day.
7. Appreciating the people you care about, and making sure they know it.
My holistic spirit continually resists my worldly urge to specialize, achieve, advance in a single area of expertise at the expense of the other areas. Meanwhile that desire to practice, excel, produce in a chosen art or craft continually asserts itself, pushing competing priorities to the background. This dance is ongoing, and it occurs to me that it’s not so much dualistic (yin-yang, masculine-feminine, spirit/ego) as it is holographic. That is, of the 7 major areas of life focus, each can be considered the top priority at any given time, or the center which infuses the whole, or the current focus while the other areas serve as background support, waiting their turn.
For example, if one likes to schedule one’s time according to priorities, one could take the “balanced” approach of allotting, say, an hour or two to each of the 7 chakra areas every day, giving them equal time and attention. Another approach to balance, more in keeping with the holographic vision, would be to devote a whole day to each area in turn, ending up with a rotating focus in the course of a week. With a more mystical view one could scrap the schedule altogether, and consider cultivating the sense of each focus area serving as a central guiding force behind and through the rest, all at the same time.
Here are some ways this holographic principle could apply to my own “chakra priorities.” Of course, if you do this yourself, you’ll want to substitute your own versions of my chosen passions.
Obviously good health is the starting point. Without it to support the body and mind, all the rest falls apart, or lacks sufficient vitality. Neglecting health for the pursuit of a hectic lifestyle, a stressful career, spiritual fanaticism, a toxic relationship, a rock star’s road to ruin, or an ivory tower existence is simply unsustainable, at best. Conversely, a healthy body promotes a healthy lifestyle, fuels a career, purifies the channel for spirit, attracts and nourishes relationship, provides endurance and energy for music, supports writing to ripe old age.
The same principles apply for each of the 7 areas. Each supports the other and is supported by the others – in turn and simultaneously. A lifestyle itself can be created to hold all the areas in balance, whether organically or systematically, according to one’s nature and needs as they arise. Likewise, care and attention to the other areas cannot help but manifest as a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Career supports the other areas by providing income. It also provides a healthy vehicle for ego identity – healthy, that is, if one’s career reflects one’s natural gifts and offers service to others. Without a career identity one risks drifting, dabbling, to no positive effect or impact in the world, while energies are drained in making ends meet.
Relationship occupies the middle, the heart space of the chakra chain, so is easy to conceive as a core principle underlying the whole. Relationship is not confined to a single significant other, or to one’s blood relations, but extends to “all my relations” – to all of life, to all of existence. Relationship is the working of spirit between all forms, and so it infuses everything with a spirit of interdependence: holistic healing practices and complementary foods and spices; lifestyle in community; networking for business; harmony and polyrhythm; orchestrating elements of written composition and narrative.
Like the other areas, music benefits from the support of the rest when it holds center stage, and it enhances the rest when it’s an underlying force. In a practical sense it’s obvious how a healthy lifestyle and relationships can support one’s musical calling. Some enlightened musicians stress also the importance of spiritual understanding and practice, or at least a non-egoic attitude. Writing lyrics and musical composition are a way for chakra 6 to support chakra 5. And it’s not just a matter of making a satisfying career or hobby out of playing music. There is the subtler aspect of personal expression, of flow with the currents of life, of listening to others, of refining a sense of timing. These are ways in which a musical sensibility enhances the inner quality of life, whatever one’s other callings might be.
Writing is the magic wand that renders every other area of life into its malleable matrix, language. It is the spoon that stirs the ingredients of the soup we call our life. So it’s easy to place it in the center – especially given the bias of this moment, when it’s what this writer is doing! The flip side of the writing coin is that a diverse and balanced life – or even an unbalanced life, fully lived – is more grist for the mill of creation. Clearly the drama of human relationship is the core of virtually all fiction. A musical sense of pacing and phrasing, even poetry, is also essential for any fluent style. Spiritual understanding, even forgiveness, is key, otherwise how can one hold the world in the light for others to see? Career can go either way: it can either support the struggling scribe by other means, or it can feed the desire to become commercially, and thus widely, accessible. Health is again essential. The most problematic connection is lifestyle – because again we come to that precarious dance between the rigorous demands of a highly competitive craft, and the juice of the rest of life: lovelife, concerts, clear mind, paying the bills … Which brings us back to what J. A. Konrath returns to as the eternal verities, items 2 and 1 in his latest list of unforgettables: death and taxes.
How spirit works, in this whole scheme, by now hardly needs repeating. In the “flower of life” layout I’ve chosen in the graphic, it occupies the place of honor, in the center. This is appropriate given its position at the crown of the 7 chakras, its universal status as sacred. Without spirit all the rest is empty form. Health, career, lifestyle for no compelling reason; music, relationship, writing without soul. Spirit works inside all the rest; and as a practice, spirit is strengthened and purified for such work. In that sense, though it is ever present, its presence cannot be taken for granted, but requires some dedication of sacrifice, some time out for its concerns. Yes, give the taxes to Caesar, but same some mojo for Jah.