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Vishuddha: Storytelling, Self-Expression, and Sound

When we read stories, we can relate to characters who express similar triumphs and conflicts, giving us a sense of belonging to a greater narrative. Storytelling may diminish feelings of separation, loneliness, and anxiety, when we realize how we are not alone in how we think, feel, or act.  

This week’s theme was Vishuddha, the 5th chakra, and its themes, including expression, truth, authenticity, sound, speech, and communication. Vishuddha means “especially pure” in Sanskrit and is located at the throat. It is captured as a brilliant blue jewel with ether as its element. Ether is the most subtle of all elements and represents the idea of spaciousness. In the book “Wheels of Life” by Anodea Judith, she states that when we reach the 5th chakra, we’re beginning to unite all that we’ve learned in the lower chakras-stability, creativity, purpose, and compassion. At the 5th chakra, we begin to express how we feel, communicate our truths, and bring our voice to the world. 

We sat down with Shiv Derek Oss for a conversation on how myth shapes our reality and builds community, and how to discover your voice, story, and sound through Vishuddha chakra. See the full interview on the #PracticeWithClara platform or listen on Spotify. Highlights from our talk are below.

The Power of Storytelling

Shiv: The biography of Joseph Campbell, it’s the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell was an American mythologist, and he brings together these themes that are what Carl Jung would call the collective unconscious. What Campbell says is that every society has this with this myth that the soul, the individual, goes through. Campbell uses symbols moving throughout time to track this, this motif moving throughout all time and space. And that absolutely shifted my full understanding of what it means to be alive. And I think this deals with storytelling as well, this essence of ‘once upon a time’. This connects with therapy and the therapeutic notions of the cycle of the AUm, about these elements and forces that are within us. Symbols externalized through the deities, Shiva and Vishnu, and so on. These are external symbols of internal processes. That’s how I got involved in mythology and my journey.

Clara: The book that I’m reading right now is a book by Sarah Wilson, she’s an Australian author who wrote First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety. It’s a book all about anxiety and she is a woman who’s worked with anxiety since she was 11 or 12 years old.

And she’s been in different kinds of therapy and she’s done all sorts of self-help to medication- anything to kind of help her with anxiety. And she’s been diagnosed with bipolar and she was diagnosed with OCD and a ton of other things. It’s not a medical book. It’s a book of her experience of anxiety. I didn’t realize it until reading this, but I guess I battled with anxiety quite a bit in my teens and early twenties. Then through yoga, I was able to move through it and kind of work with my anxiety. And since giving birth to my baby, I feel like my mind is going in so many directions all the time, and I’ve been feeling really anxious. 

Usually, those who are very anxious are very sensitive people. And the idea of the book is to work with the sensitivities you experience without it becoming overwhelming. And I feel that way about the practice of yoga in general, in terms of like what it’s given me. In my own like emotional landscape is that a lot of my intense emotions used to be beasts that would take over. 

Stephanie: Through someone else’s story, you found solace. The thing with storytelling is it’s not a prescription to living, it’s someone presenting what occurred and you can choose how you relate to it and how you want to adapt it to your way of being. 

Clara: It’s important for us to express because then it builds intimacy with the people around you.

Shiv: This reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis, he was an English author and wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. 

One of the things that Lewis says, especially in shadow lenses, we read so that we recognize that we’re not alone. And so storytelling gives us that sense that we’re not alone and, and mythology gives us the sense that universally. 

Sounds to Make Your Heart Swell

Stephanie: What is the sound that you feel reassured by, a sound that lights you up? 

Shiv: When I photograph when I’m doing weddings and things like that, and I want people to come together because they’re all over the place talking. And I’ll try to get people together to focus because we’re going to take a photograph and nobody’s quite interested because they want to do other things. I say, look, this is what we do- we’re going to make one sound. 

In the native tradition when you want to gather people’s attention, you say, ‘Ho!’ and so at these types of events, I’ll say, ok everybody, I want you to go ‘Ho!’ on the count of three. And, all of a sudden, you know, after the third ‘Ho’ everybody’s laughing and focused and we’re all there for the photograph. So that’s my favorite sound.

Clara: The first thing that comes to mind would be Al Gromer Khan and Amelia Cuni, Monsoon Point. It’s probably about 60 minutes long, and it’s essentially just two women making the sound of Aum, and it’s the sound of Aum layered over and over again. I use it to calm and ground. 

Vishuddha Blockages and Imbalances

Clara: The shadow side of Vishuddha is when it’s blocked, and a blockage shows up when you can’t speak. The other side, in an imbalance of Vishuddha chakra, is that you overshare. It goes one of two ways. 

Shiv: A blockage occurred when I was in a boarding school because we were not allowed to speak. And I carry that with me. To balance this, what I’ve done is I’ve learned to sing and I’m thinking of people who stuttered, people who stutter can sing and they typically don’t stutter when they’re singing.

What I do instead of singing, I do images. And what really gets me going is, is how light operates, and how life is dependent on light. I express myself, not through my throat chakra, but through the photographs and vision through light. 

One of the things I recognize as part of my shadow is now my throat is caught, still caught, and I’m working on that. I do this by massaging myself at my throat and I’m conscious of wanting to express myself and share my truth.

Clara: When I feel imbalanced in Vishuddha chakra, this is expressed through a nightmare that I have had most of my life is. In the nightmare, people can’t hear me, I’m trying to speak and it doesn’t come out. I’m trying to scream or yell for help and it doesn’t come out. In the nightmare related to work, I call it a ‘work-mare’ I walk into the yoga studio and nobody listens to me. People are on their cell phones. People are talking really loudly and anytime I speak, nobody hears me. N matter how long or how loud I speak, they just keep doing what they’re doing. And so in that way, an imbalance shows up in my dreams that I’m not heard.