Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Don't you want to exist in a world where charities aren't necessary?
Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "Xistential", handmade collage with artist's photographs, 

copyright 2012

I don't pretend to know or even understand all the complicated social and psychological implications of money, but I have had some thoughts about it lately that I'd like to share. I'm not an economist, futurologist or even a science fiction writer! I can't explain what is going on in the world today nor do I know what will happen to the whole idea of currency. I wish I did, as I think it's all quite interesting, alas I don't have the capacity to engage in all that. In spite of some training in philosophy and psychology, I'm not really able to tell you how money affects people - there are plenty of people who do, so if you look up "the psychology of money" or "the philosophy of money", you'll find a lot of information on the internet. Of course, nowadays there are many more disciplines that deal with these questions. I will attempt to look at money in a very broad way, mainly with the aim of challenging some of the assumptions about money that are typical within new spiritual world views.

Humanity has moved from squirrel skins and the exchange of goods to stashing gold, to using paper that only symbolizes a specific value which is relative to the physical environment and all the things people need the money for. In other words, there is a progression from concrete towards more abstract notions, and this leads me to think that money might be replaced in the future by something even more abstract than printed paper. Perhaps it will be replaced by the idea of value, in which case people may be able to have what they need without having to prove themselves worthy of it in one way or another. In order for such a just and equality-based society to exist, greed has to be abolished. While it's important that we all think about it individually and deal with our own attitudes, ultimately the collective has to embrace this notion. 

If you impose a social system onto humanity, there will always be individuals who will want to take advantage of it for their own purposes based in greed. You have to work from within, not from without. Hopefully, if the collective reaches the level of consciousness responsible for love, compassion and generosity, this will eventually be possible. I don't see the future as dark, on the contrary, I think that humanity is in a mental cul de sac and sooner or later people will see that a more inclusive and more heart centred approach to life is better. Like many others, I think the average level of consciousness within the spectrum of consciousness is somewhere on the level of mental development, symbolized by the colour yellow and the third chakra. The next level will be green and centred around the heart chakra. A self-centred sense of individual self and Ego will blossom into a greater we-space where the individual can exist in greater harmony with other living beings. I think there is hope for humanity... somewhere over the rainbow.

On a physical level, the human desire to breed has to be controlled in some way or another. I don't know what the answer is, as you can imagine all sorts of scenarios that ultimately sound really fascist. With less people to sustain, the world might be able to handle their needs without the notion of the survival of the fittest. When robots take care of production and other menial tasks, nations, or indeed "the world", should be able to offer anything its inhabitants could ever want - the point is, when you can have what you want you might no longer feel the need for hoarding or owning more than anyone else. I'm mentioning these ideas simply because I think it's good to have some kind of vision in mind, something that we can all aspire to. This is the first step in having what you want.

The other step is to recognize greed in yourself and others. There are so many methods for acquiring wealth out there, and sadly many of them feed on spiritual belief systems. Some mini-communities such as the Amish have liberated themselves to a very high degree from the idea of money, but the catch with this and other similar existing communities is that they rely on a high level of conformity. They are highly dogmatic and introverted. I'm personally much more interested in society as a whole, however scary and overwhelming it may be. This is in fact the way of the Bodhisattva. Within the real world, it's clear that many people rebel against any form of imposed dogmas, and this is the way it should be. Society needs to start truly understanding and savouring the potential of each individual rather than thinking in terms of the good for the greatest number of people, or the average person. For instance, we have regional issues of schools and hospitals being withdrawn simply because there aren't enough people in these areas to sustain them. It's a ludicrous idea, and totally abolishes the idea of the individual's worth. We have a similar issue with accessibility of the disabled. That's just to mention a couple of issues that are all too obvious to me in daily life.

Within the New Age movement, you get a lot of quick steps towards the acquisition of wealth, and theories about abundance. Clear out your first chakra following these instructions and you'll be rich, any day soon..! This kind of statement is blatantly encouraging a greedy attitude and doesn't really work because clearing out your system takes time and cannot be forced through the use of your will power. Be glad that it isn't that easy because you may not even be mentally and emotionally prepared for wealth, and so need to wait until you are (if that's what you want, of course). 

While I totally agree that endlessly turning over your need for money like a mantra in your head is not constructive, I don't think one should never think of money. Yes, it's good to celebrate life and abundance rather than money. The problem with this kind of thinking is that you could either be stuck in a day dreaming rut, or you could be suppressing your true feelings about money. You need to look at your assumptions about money and deal with them. For instance, in my own life it's been a case of worrying about greed and justice. I have not really wanted a lot of money just in case I wasn't able to deal with it in a responsible sort of way. What if it fostered greed? What if my acquisition of money was causing bad karma and turned out to be unjust in relation to other people? What if my money was away from somebody else's money? Of course, there are many other ways in which a person can have a troubled relationship with money - most of us do in one way or another! It's an enormous collective problem. You might like to have a look at this list of financial dysfunction by Dr Klontz at Psychology Today and really think about your own behaviour... 

1. Money Avoidance Disorders (also includes Underspending and Excessive Risk Aversion):

Financial Denial: When, rather than face financial reality, we try to minimize money problems by refusing to think about them all together (e.g. avoiding looking at a bank statement or paying a credit card bill).

Financial Rejection: The experience of guilt whenever money, of any amount, is accrued. People with low self-esteem are particularly prone to this disorder, and it leads to a whole host of financial and psychological troubles. 

2. Money-Worshipping Disorders (also includes Pathological Gambling, Workaholism, and Overspending):

Hoarding: When stockpiling objects or money provides a sense of safety, security, and relief of anxiety.

Compulsive Buying: Compulsive buying is overspending on steroids. Compulsive shoppers are consumed by their money worries. They often learned, early in life, that the ritual of shopping provides a temporary escape from worry and anxiety. When they think about and anticipate the pleasure they will feel when they shop, dopamine, a "feel good" chemical, floods their brains-only to wear off quickly, leaving them craving another fix.

3. Relational Money Disorders (also includes Financial Dependence and Financial Incest): 

Financial Infidelity: Telling "little green lies" about one's spending or finances to one's partner, like making purchases outside an agreed-upon budget or lying about the cost of a big-ticket item. Extreme examples might include taking out a second mortgage behind your partner's back or opening a secret bank account.

Financial Enabling: Giving money to others whether you can afford it or not; giving when it is not in the other's long-term best interest; having trouble or finding it impossible to say no to requests for money; and/or even sacrificing one's own financial wellbeing for the sake of others. A common example is when parents support adult children who should be able to support themselves. Financial Enabling becomes increasingly common among family members in a down economy, when there is sense of guilt about less fortunate relatives.

It's pretty obvious that until money can be rid of altogether, wealth should be delegated to those who would be able to deal with it in a responsible sort of way. I can only hope that somehow, life will take care of this matter. Meanwhile, you should think deeply what you want for yourself and whether you're one of these people who can be responsible. I used to think anybody could have money because it's just another lesson in life. Now I'm not so sure... in times of such global crisis I really do wonder if this is a good working idea. You also need to stop using terminology and methods that belong to the past. Imagine a whole new future with a new set of axioms -  collectively recognized universal truths about the true equality between human beings. It's not about anybody's rights. Nobody has a right to anything, we were born and as a living creature we have a responsibility for our lives and other beings we encounter, but if we had any rights it would mean that some things were fundamentally off centre to begin with. The idea of rights can only exist in a world governed by greed. This is not the world we should imagine.

It's commonly understood that wealth doesn't lead to happiness. The lack of it certainly makes people miserable in an environment where you simply have to have it in order to be comfortable. Contrary to popular belief many nations with social welfare only keep the poor from perishing but don't ensure any kind of level of contentment. I'm sure it's true that you get used to money and that any psychological issues you have will eventually make themselves known and sabotage your happiness. For instance, a big problem in today's world is victimization, and while a tendency to feel like a victim can probably be solved through money, I doubt whether it's a sustainable solution. This is precisely why it's silly to wish for it if you're not a very mature person. Make sure you know how to value the good things you can have with money for the right reasons and also have the compassion required to use it for the good of all mankind! You really need to deal with any issues that make you feel needy in the first place... it's true and has often been stated in a spiritual context that grasping creates suffering. Make sure you're spiritually and emotionally at peace with life before you take on the task of dealing with wealth in a constructive way.

Some of the good things that money can buy don't cost that much...
with taste and some determination one can learn how to manage on a small budget, 

be resourcefuland still have a nice life.
There is a point at which poverty becomes extremely limiting though - 
and not all of us wish to live like ascetics.
In today's world, good, nutritious food, good quality clothes and objects, medical help, trouble free housing, 
and so forth cost money, and we can't just wish it away.
Having to beg for money all the time can be demeaning if you're a sensitive soul.
(Photo copyright Vivi-Mari Carpelan)
Check out this documentary, The Queen of Versailles!
Read the blog post in which I describe a dream about becoming a billionaire - it changed some perspectives for me.
This book about the psychology of money sounds promising.
Have a look at this Buddhist inspired approach to a new future, Joanna Macy's  The Great Turning. There are workshops for artists as well.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


It's my experience that positive and negative feelings are perfectly capable of co-existing in a person. This is yet another reason why some of the chakra books are in my mind quite silly; how often do you not hear that if your heart is closed, then you're a callous person. Nothing in my own life points to the idea that I am a callous person through and through even though I've had problems with opening up emotionally and still don't feel quite balanced. Basically, if upper levels of consciousness are well developed it's going to show, even  if the chakras are temporarily closed or just "troubled". By temporarily I mean anything from a few seconds to a few decades, if not even more (though I doubt this is possible). I think that a "deeper insight into life" as I call it for convenience's sake, will make itself known in a way of poking at your attention, wanting you to sort yourself up, clear out emotional garbage and become a more whole individual.

It's all very well... but at some point you might run out of fuel. I got seriously tired of staring at my own navel, dealing with endless emotional issues... year in and year out. To be fair, entering a solid relationship changed my perspective a bit as there isn't a whole lot you can do about all the things that pop up during your journey together. Basically I just expect matters to take their own course, much as they used to, but with less active involvement from myself. Finding a new way to live is already a lot of work... I no longer have the same time to spend so you deal with issues when they come up and when you have a convenient slot. You talk, you agree, you decide to try and do better next time... on it goes. I'm sure it's going somewhere. You rest assured that as you get used to each other, it all gets easier. In our case, we've lived a long life without this sort of committed relationship and it isn't easy to change gear. 

For sure, I've also been wondering about the collective energies... people seemed dazed and eager to numb themselves up, and as they push positive emotions aside they are more likely to act out their ruthless instincts. I feel that I'm not the only one who feels tired and overwhelmed by the scope of personal and collective problems. Basic survival is something so many are dealing with... all the more reason to come down from an over-intellectualizing stance and work on grounding oneself in a reality that isn't all that pleasant - I know it doesn't seem like it but I'm sure that any kind of grounding will help in the long run! 

Over at the integral website people have been attacking each other like wild animals in a cage, presumably trying to protect their territory with the use of one of the most potent of weapons, a high intelligence quota. It's no doubt a sign of the times... and where better to act out all the Shadow issues that want to be known than in a community where people trigger your deepest fears or your most potent irritation. I believe we are all under a lot of pressure. I offered the view point that maybe people are frustrated with other people in their real lives, yet feeling quite helpless, and taking it out on each other within a virtual community... I say this because I myself feel extremely frustrated with people in general. If a big corporation tries to screw me over, I experience almost blind hatred and I will not give up until I have fought the beast - I simply cannot tolerate falsehood and greed. This stubbornness of mine has usually generated some kind of results, for instance the withdrawal of further payments for a complete and utter pile of garbage a company called a laptop.  The Finnish company Sonera had sold me this PC a number of years ago. In total, I spent 400 out of 700 euros on it, a price I could just barely accept. Never in the history of such purchases (with monthly instalments since it was all I could afford) had a customer actually been given into. I was triumphant but it was at the expense of my peace of mind over a period of several months. I'm assuming that part of my extreme emotional reactions to things is due to my condition, which after all is endlessly revolving around the issue of fight and flight. 

As for individuals, well it's not easy. When you relocate to a new culture, you have plenty figure out. Add to this the erratic energies at this point in time, as well as personal issues with health and money, and you have a cocktail that is difficult to digest. Sometimes when I listen to music from the 1960s it hits me how light and airy everything seemed compared to now. Now it seems we are all wrapped in a dark blanket, with fear of suffocation. It's easy to say that your reactions are a choice, even my husband goes on about it. But if you feel deeply, you don't necessarily feel that you have a choice. It's more about riding the storm, about surviving without losing your mind, about not giving up. What is remarkable is that all of us, in my close family, feel that something is going to change. We have had dreams and intuitions. You keep reminding yourself that it's the darkest before dawn... and I mean really dark. Don't feel too guilty about not always feeling all encompassing compassion. It's not necessarily a case of not having any. For instance, every time I think of organ donation I sincerely wish I could give my healthy organs away to someone in need. In fact I get incredibly emotional about it. I think that counts as compassion. I also see other random signs of compassion in myself, and when it's there, it's forceful. Sometimes my heart feels to big for my chest... But I also have dark feelings, ones that I really feel guilty about, and though I think "I am feeling this because it's reflecting my Shadow self and it needs attention", I simply don't have the stamina to deal with all of it. I resolve to give myself a bit of a break during these hard times.

I read this article on the idea that "positive thinking" isn't very fruitful. Read it, it's thought provoking. Of course, the point is not to think negatively, as the title suggests. The poit, in my opinion, is to be realistic. This is what I think: Have a goal but don't just day dream about it... take proper action, pretty much like the Chinese would say. If you can't do anything concrete, you need patience until the time is right. Think about the obstacles and how you can remove them - if you feel you can't, then can you get back to it later or find another way? Can you just trust that it will work out somehow if it's something that will be really useful on your journey towards a greater you? I know it's very easy to get entangled in all sorts of complicated thought processes which contradict one another. Try and keep the basic idea simple, is my advice. Feel what you want in life rather than just thinking it. Is it real, is it what you really wish for, or is it just a pointless idea that doesn't really fit into your existence? Is it part of an intuition about your true potential in this life or is it just wishful thinking? Are you prepared to take the responsibilities that this particular path will manifest?  Engage in the thoughts and feelings but then leave them be when you have decided that it's a goal that is truly worth pursuing. It's important to relax and let go of any attempts at controlling the outcome. You can always come back to it at a later point in time when more thinking is useful. It's useful to trust that if it's meant to be, it will be, and vice versa. 

I like to be pragmatic about life and what we have been "given" in terms of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual functions. I don't want to deem any of it as bad but rather, look at it and see how this function can be used to one's advantage. Perhaps this is how you become less of a slave to conditioning that doesn't serve you. Remember, that "positive thinking" is as heavily polarised as negative thinking, and that in fact you need a mixture of all sorts of thinking and feeling in order to make things happen in this world. Don't fight the misgivings, the insight into the obstacles... embrace them and relax into the vision you have, with all its aspects... a little bit of fear can fuel your realism, just don't let it take over so much it hinders your movements. Also remember that the more likely your actions are to help others, the more likely you are to be following a good path that is inspired from your core self. It's not easy, in fact at the moment I personally feel terrible polarised and conflicted on the inside. But... in a few decades people will think our attitudes were mighty strange! They will laugh at the very notion that positive thinking on its own would get you anywhere. How much a slave of collective ideas are you?

Artwork: "Be Merry For You Won't Die", handmade mixed media collage by Vivi-Mari Carpelan, copyright 2012

Monday, 8 October 2012


The other day we received cards, envelopes and bad quality coasters with roses on and a letter of exhortation asking us to donate money to some research, I think it might have been cancer research but I'm not sure. So you're given things for free and then asked to pay... I get so irritated with this kind of emotional blackmail that I don't even take note of the charity that sends these letters out to unsuspecting members of the public. I do not respond to blackmail. I remember how in all the years when I grew up, once a year we used to get a package of badly printed and really tacky Christmas cards with a rough surface, I believe it might have been from Jehova's Witnesses. Or maybe it was the Red Cross? Of course we never paid the "voluntary donation" but the worst thing really must have been when we actually received one of those cards in the mail from someone else who clearly decided to take advantage of the free cards! I suspect they didn't pay either. You can sort of tell...

There is a video just come out about donating to third world countries, again I don't recall what the charity is because I was so repelled by the emotional blackmail. 

Dan Cleeve already says it all. "Take so-called first-world problems — like a too-short lead on a smart phone charger. Then, put them in the mouths of Africans. Successfully compelling charity video, right?". I have thought about this a million times. We live in a certain environment and it causes certain reactions in us. It's true that Westerners complain about insignificant issues when there are people who suffer from serious problems such as lack of water. However... remember when your parents used to say, eat up child, there are starving people in Africa? Well, it's the same thing... exhortation is not nice. It makes you close off. It doesn't really matter what the issue is. You don't go around telling people to shut up and be grateful for what they have, stop moaning about this or that... would you say that to a friend? You might do it gracefully, with kindness and consideration, wouldn't you? Why would it be okay to say it to a stranger, without kindness and consideration? Don't plant guilt in other people. It's not nice and it's not good karma either for that matter. Not that I can be bothered with karma any more... it comes and it goes, and who knows how it really works? We try and do our best, from our hearts, not from our heads... thinking is great but not when done to excess... not when you go through your Facebook page and all you get is just bland second hand quotes with the "intent to inspire"... I tell you, I want to hear about what people really feel, not what they think other people should do with their lives!!

Dan goes on to saying, "But telling us that 'First world problems aren't problems' is self-evident, and if we're going to be all serious about stuff, problems in the first world include access to health care, domestic violence and wealth inequality." Absolutely! We have problems, we have loads of problems. Insulting the people who are asked to donate is not in good taste. Our problems just happen to be different from that of Africans living without water... now I have seen a documentary about the problem with water shortage and that really helped me see what's going on... it was the most useful thing and didn't smack of propaganda. However, the fact remains that we have so much to deal with here in the West, we should take care of our own issues before we even start to try and fix issues elsewhere. Knowing where to start untying a knot is essential, otherwise you're just wasting your time. Also take into account that people are so desperately unhappy or trying to avoid unhappiness that they numb themselves up with drugs, alcohol, mindless Facebook updates that pretend that everything is all right, and stupid movies or TV shows... this is a serious problem that needs attention.

The world is such a mess. Sometimes I just want to scream, I'm so overwhelmed!! Especially when I go to Ikea on a quiet afternoon (just picking up a cheap bar stool to sit on while working) and there's a kid there, yelling at the top of his voice, reaching the highest pitch humanly possible, for two minutes with two minute's intervals. And they keep following us as we navigate through the maze of shopping departments... 

I saw the film God Bless America last night. It's about a man who gets fed up with all the superficial crap that goes on around him and ends up on a killing spree, getting rid of people who "really deserve to die". He's especially upset with the baby next door, reality shows about spoilt brats and talent shows that take the piss out of people who aren't very bright. It's a straightforward movie, quite American in that sense, without the more subtle intelligence of Black Mirror. But I think in some ways people should see it and reflect upon the problems with modern day society, as the protagonist says in the beginning; the kind of utter decadence that tends to take place when a particular culture is about to crash. I've been to America and heard the jargon on TV... it really is that bad.

I often think about the way in which everything in society today seems topsy turvy. It's as if people had deliberately gone for solutions that are the exact opposite to what would actually work both in humanistic as well as practical terms. Greed pervades all layers of society. You cannot blame only a part of it (if you must blame, that is). You may not be contributing to it actively, and so you may be one of those few people who are in the world but not of it. It's a better place to be, but it doesn't mean you're liberated from responsibilities  The only difference is, if you have understood what things are really about, you are your own master and intelligent enough not to let so-called authorities keep you on a leash. I don't watch these kind of reality shows on TV or online, but sometimes I come across them, for instance I recently happened across a show about the problems of being a millionaire's wife, and I found myself staring at it with utter disbelief yet with a sort of fascination... I guess it's only my great sense of self-preservation that stops me from getting sucked up in this garbage! Well, to be honest, I like observing what's going on, I try and watch and learn. I feel that's what I'm here for. To some extent, because I don't want to pollute my mind either. And I try and keep in mind that the pendulum swings one way before it swings the other, and in the end will slow down in the middle - it's the symbol of the golden middle path. This is evolution, and if things are really, really bad right now, it's because they have to go to an extreme before things can change for the better. People are testing boundaries, seeing how far they can go... they have the right to, but hopefully they will soon see what's going on because I don't know how much longer the world can hold this kind of negativity.

I have always felt limited in my ability to make a difference. I've always been a world-betterer, but the world got the better of me... for years, I've had to concede that there's only very little I can do. I had many worries and learnt what it means to be truly limited. But perhaps it's a matter of strategy? Recently I've been reconsidering my conditioned attitudes, trying to think "outside of the box" (don't you just hate that expression!), trying to think from a different perspective; what if, then what would I do... we'll see, perhaps one day one's efforts will take off for real. You just don't know, you have to keep trying. But please keep a sense of perspective, if you must complain about the length of your phone charger, do so in private. We have the right to express our frustration about things that don't work. It's good to have the experience of situations that are really destructive, and therefore I would say it's a good thing to really suffer sometimes. But don't buy into people who take things out of context and play with guilt by having Africans repeat the flippant remark of a rich Westerner in order to get you to donate money... it's not the right way to do things. Find ways of fostering a sense of proportions, but also honesty and true gratefulness, and positive feelings in other people, without guilt, blame and a generally patronising attitude... I can assure you it will work much better.

Sometimes people just need to complain! Hear this choir of complaints from Finland!

Saturday, 6 October 2012


Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "Deep Waters", handmade collage with artist's photographs,
copyright 2012
I felt that my blog was looking a bit tired and that I really needed to change the look as well as the description. I don't post very often these days, as my life has become more focused on the arts than on spiritual matters. My world view hasn't changed that much, but maybe my perspective has - rather than trying to look at life from above, I seem to be observing life from the ground up while working on a grass root's level. It's difficult to find words for this change of priorities. I guess it's really about being increasingly less theoretical and more practical about living life in a meaningful way. 

I haven't felt very spiritual, to be quite honest. I believe that once you have understood some of life's fundamental "truths" in a way that satisfies your soul, there is no turning back. So while I may feel less spiritual it could be an illusion that only means that I am more interested in the life we live here and now, in questions surrounding a true integration into society without the sacrifice of one's true self (putting the "being in the world but not the world" into practice), and what sort of work is truly useful at this time in history. I believe that one's purpose in life as well as the way in which one needs to manifest this purpose can be quite surprising and unorthodox. For instance, some people might wonder why I dwell on negative issues through my art while I personally feel that I need to talk about serious matters in a way that reaches the greatest audience. Most people need rather graphic examples of life's issues in order to start thinking about them. I want to break out of any club of mutual admiration, and reach across to new audiences if possible. My health is not good, and I struggle to find new ways of dealing with it, but also of using it as part of my communication with others. I'm also busy focusing on the kind of life I would truly like to have, as I feel that knowing and understanding bad health, poverty and other issues related to limitations and lack has had its days... Perhaps I'll talk more about this some other time. When things have been stagnated for a while, change is usually behind the door!

This blog has been running now for over four years, and I have reached a lot of people. I have every reason to be happy about the fact that so many people have come here in spite of my shortcomings in regards to advertising and interaction. My most popular post, i.e. the one dealing with a subject matter that people search for online a lot, is the one about dissolving the ego. Personally, I have stopped worrying about my ego... ok well I do worry a bit. But now that I'm in a meaningful relationship, I already have so many issues to deal with that dwelling on such basic spiritual issues seem a bit pointless. Take one thing at a time... be patient... one day it will all make sense and the mundane and the spiritual will come together in a new form. That's my feeling at this point in time.

Artwork: "Xistential", mixed media collage with artist's photograph, copyright Vivi-Mari Carpelan 2012

Monday, 1 October 2012


"Ode to Creativity", handmade collage, copyright Vivi-Mari Carpelan 2008.
This piece doesn't require a lot of explanation  but interestingly, it's the most popular piece I've ever made.
Wonder why? It's not hard to figure out how the colours speak to our desire for joy in life.
This is not meant to be a treatise, only a short account of my own observations. I did a chakra test online just for fun, knowing all too well that someone was trying to sell me something at the end of it, but though I think the test itself was rubbish, it made me think a little about the state of my own chakras right now. The test consisted of three questions per chakra, which is ridiculous. My chakras came out as being either weak or strong, presumably strong if I got two "right" out of three questions. You can't determine anything so complex on the basis of just three simple questions about your attitudes to life! 

For one thing, as soon as you involve the mind, things change. Can you honestly say exactly how you feel about life in this very instant? The attitude that comes to mind may be dated, or it may be a newly discovered insight.  In the first case, it's no longer valid and in the second case it may not yet be very mature... I know for instance that in my own life, there are times when I fear power and money because of what people are doing with these, while other times I may feel quite empowered, focused and content with the idea of having financial security. It can be difficult if not impossible for me to say which is more true to the way I view life in general. In life, nothing is simple, and the chakras certainly aren't a simplified symbol of life! They are "living and breathing" just as much as you are, because the are you! 

I can't really give you any facts about chakras, because what I know is mostly hearsay. I have heard people repeat "facts" about chakras like parrots, without real insight. I really hate the commercialization of chakras, something quite sacred; the chakra industry as I call it. Nonetheless, I will offer you these viewpoints which I personally take as "facts", and you can ponder whether you feel the same. What I do know is that I can feel things in different ways in my body and thus determine which chakra is involved. When you know what they represent in terms of aspects of life and living, it can help you decide what to do about a specific issue and how to liberate that energy. I'm not saying that you can't involve the mind in this process, only that it's precarious. It mustn't be the sole thing you rely on for answers. You can ask yourself, what am I feeling or going through right now on a deeper level, and the answers may come to you in the form of words, images, sounds or sensations in the body. It could also come in the form a very abstract insight which requires no words, because it's an intuitive knowing. If you feel compelled to analyse your issues with your mind because you're the cerebral type, do it as a complement to other ways of knowing. Sometimes a train of thoughts sets off an emotional liberation that can usually be felt in the body, sometimes the undoing of an emotional block sets of a whole train of analytical thoughts about cause and effect. 

One book on chakras I had said that every second chakra turns counter clockwise, and that it's the opposite in men and women. Boy what a complicated "fact"! For years, but occasionally, I've picked a suitable piece of jewellery that I could use as a pendant and "checked" my chakras. To this day I don't know how accurate the readings are, but one thing is pretty certain; they all turn clockwise (I've tested this on men too). How I know this is that I can feel when a chakra isn't doing too well and the energy is either blocked, erratic or even negative. When the circle is wide and energetic and running clockwise, I also have a sense of freedom in respect to the issues represented by that particular chakra. Remember that chakras are alive, so they change all the time! Sometimes the changes happen from one minute to the next, and you can also affect the way they react with the sheer force of thought. This is another way in which you can rest assured that your thoughts matter. Test it yourself!

Yes, chakras also correspond with the spectrum of consciousness (as presented by Ken Wilber), the wavelengths of colours, sounds and so on. However, manically wearing a certain colour isn't going to make that much of a difference. It's also perfectly alright to wear black sometimes (though I have to admit that nowadays I don't enjoy wearing it that often). It's just a colour! I have heard people who called themselves spiritual healers scream in protest of the colour black. It has it's place here on Earth just as everything else, and it can be a nicely comforting colour at times. Trying to be jolly at all costs and at all times is counter productive. On the other hand, a saffron coloured bedroom may be more conducive to sensuous feelings than a blue one. Use your intuition and do what feels right. You will certainly be drawn to some colours more than others during times in your life when something in a specific chakra is under development. Following your attraction to certain colours can be an interesting way of self-observation.

I don't personally believe in obsessive meditation on the state of your chakras but everyone has their own favourite method, of course. If I meditate, it's not about control but about letting go of control. It's highly submissive and an intention to liberate tensions wherever they may be (admitting that I don't know everything about myself...). I'm not saying that you can't follow a CD that helps you go through you chakras and clean them, that's fine if it works for you. But I still need to find such a CD with music that actually speaks to me! I much rather just pick something I like and feel attracted to in that moment, and play it while meditating.

Update: I have had great success in opening chakras by using these three methods that I devised for myself:
1. hold the palm of your hands on the chakras and imagine them being healed
2. Visualise the colour of the chakra and/or something that represents the colour. For instance, I think of big juicy oranges when I visualise my second chakra.
3. Hum the notes from C upwards. Doh Reh Mi Fah Soh Lah Doh. You can hum the scale sliding upwards while imagining the energy rising to your third eye.