In recent years there has been extensive research and writing on habits. How to make the good ones stick and how to kick the bad ones to the curb. It’s all there in black and white, all you have to do is do the work, the step-by-step processes laid out in myriad books and blogs.
But what if you didn’t have to do anything, really? What if the habits you believe are causing all your issues are only the tip of your human experience and there’s a whole giant iceberg harboring the real root to your angst just below the surface of your awareness?
You can’t fix what you don’t know. Or can you?
If you’ve been practicing yoga or yoga nidra, you’ve no doubt become acquainted with the third eye. Even if you’re new to yoga you’ve probably heard of it, maybe by its other name, the Mind’s Eye. The Third Eye has a long history in many traditions dating back thousands of years and plays a very important role in managing those habits.
- In Hinduism and Buddhism the Third Eye is the focus of meditative practices. One’s attention is placed on the Third Eye during meditation allowing access to the unconscious and subconscious mind so that information from the subconscious can be retrieved and later acted upon.
- In Taoism, Chan or Zen philosophies the Third Eye is the focus of attention during such practices as Qi Gong, to help train the practitioner to live in harmony with the Universe and maintain a meditative state throughout life.
- In Yoga, the Third Eye is also known as Ajna Chakra and is often the focal point of seated or supine postures, as well as meditation.
- In yoga nidra, The Third Eye becomes the gateway to change, especially when coupled with an intention.
But where is the Third Eye?
If it were to have a physical location, it would be somewhere between the eyebrows and a couple of inches back into the head, the geometric center of the brain. This spot happens to also be the home of the very visible and identifiable pineal gland, pituitary gland and hypothalamus, the hormone command center of the body.
The pineal gland’s physical location is deep in the brain between the two hemispheres where they meet. It is pinecone shaped, hence the name, and about the size of a soybean. It sits outside the blood brain barrier making it susceptible to toxins, but also susceptible to light which is crucial to its proper function of regulating hormones, in particular Melatonin, within the endocrine system. Melatonin manages the sleep/wake cycle, known as Circadian Rhythms in humans. A balanced cycle is critical to overall health. Our inner clock is said to determine the rate at which we age and melatonin has anti-depressant and anti-oxidant qualities.
Over time – some research points to as early as the teenage years – the pineal gland begins to calcify. Calcification is a slow process where calcium and fluoride deposits accumulate causing the gland to harden. This affects how it senses light and inhibits its ability to secrete melatonin. Experts are unclear why the calcification process occurs or if it is reversible. Some of the suggestions for potentially decalcifying the pineal gland include meditation, less screen time and a daily practice of yoga and exercise. Spending time in sunlight and sleeping in complete darkness are also recommended as this speaks directly to the light sensitivity of the gland.
The pituitary gland, also known as the “master” gland of the endocrine system, controls the functions of many of the other endocrine glands. It is small, about the size of a pea, and attached to the hypothalamus by nerve fibers and blood vessels.
The main responsibility of this master gland is to produce and release hormones that help carry out important bodily functions, such as:
- Stress response
- Water and sodium balance
- Labor and childbirth
The pituitary gland monitors bodily functions by sending signals to organs and glands – through the release of hormones – to communicate what functions are needed and when.
The hypothalamus has the very important task of retaining balance in the body known as homeostasis, through the regulation of hormones. It communicates between the endocrine and nervous systems to do so. When the body is out of balance, the corresponding system of the body will send signals to the brain to alert the hypothalamus. In response to this information, the hypothalamus and pituitary govern the release of the appropriate hormones into the bloodstream to return the body to a balanced state.
The functions of the hypothalamus are key to our overall health. It regulates and maintains internal body temperature, alerts the body when it is in need of nutrients by controlling hunger and thirst, and governs blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, it regulates sleep cycles, sex drive and digestion, as well as playing a key role in emotional health.
These three critically important glands work synergistically to control many functions of the body, especially the management of stress. The location of these glands gives us a physical spot to imagine when accessing the Third Eye. The function of the hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal gland work hand in hand with the energetic activation of the Third Eye.
Third Eye Energetically
The Third Eye is also known as Ajna Chakra and is the sixth of seven key chakras – translated to spinning wheel in Sanskrit – we work with in yoga nidra. There are thousands of energetic pathways through which prana, or energy, flows. Three of these primary pathways, known as nadis, hold a lot of power and are known as Ida and Pingala and Shushumna. The Shushmna is the central energy canal that rests along the spine. Imagine an open tube that allows energy to flow from above the crown of the head down through the earth and the opposite direction, from the earth up. When clear, this provides an open channel to remain grounded while accessing higher intelligence. Sitting along this central column are seven main chakras, or energy centers, each with a specific function. Ida and Pingala nadis are currents that ascend and descend, intertwining between the chakras to cause them to spin in a healthy way. Imagine the interlocking gears of a clock. These two nadis represent opposites and complementary polarity. Masculine and feminine, sun and moon, dark and light, activity and rest. These yin/yang polarities intersect at the Third Eye where they can become transformed and integrated, allowing change, clarity and healing.
A Commanding Presence
The Sanskrit word Ajna, translates to “command”, therefore, the Third Eye is known as the Command Center. It functions as a management system, governing many important aspects of life.
- Manages the five senses as well as the conscious and subconscious mind
- Helps perceive the underlying unity transcending the “good” and “bad” that we perceive through the two physical eyes.
- Seat of judgment, wisdom, and emotional intelligence
- It is said to be the 10th gate. While the 9 other gates of the senses allows us to interact with the world around us, the 10th gate is the channel into the inner spaces of consciousness that lead to enlightenment.
- Offers the ability to see the world and ourselves clearly
- Activates the power to create our reality using our imagination and insight
- It destroys our illusion of separateness that keeps our energy tied to attachment and expectation.
- Recognizes the patterns in life so they can be identified and changed if necessary
When balanced and open, the Third Eye acts as a channel allowing the human mind to connect with greater psychic and divine potentials. The third eye acts as an antenna allowing us to tune into our superconscious potential. Just as an antenna allows us to translate electromagnetic signals into video and audio, the Third Eye is the medium through which immaterial, unseen potentiality to manifests into actuality.
In terms of actualization of intention, the Third Eye is not only a channel to connect with the superconscious beyond the mind, it is also a medium to manifest from the immaterial to the material. All intentions and affirmations are actualized through this channel. Whatever we think or feel in this state manifests when we are free of fear or attachment to the outcome. Results come not from hard work or expectation, but from allowing and receiving from this superconscious state.
Activating the Third Eye
In order to live more consciously in this state, the Third Eye needs some regular maintenance in the form of activation. Once the chakras are open and energized, we live in the sublime state of synchronicity. When we find ourselves out of balance, however, there are simple ways to reconnect to the integrated flow of life.
Visual Stimulation: Activating the third eye can be as simple as looking at something pleasant, like a walk in a beautiful natural setting or a stroll through an art gallery.
Meditation: Finding a comfortable and quiet place to sit, closing the eyes and focusing awareness and attention on the third eye, while maintaining stillness and a slow steady breath, can often return equilibrium to the third eye.
Yoga Nidra: The most comprehensive activation of the third eye is perhaps also the easiest. Yoga Nidra speaks directly to and through the third eye, accessing prana, or energy, to make the most immediate and profound changes. Lying in a comfortable position while listening to a yoga nidra recording is all that is required. Your prana does all the work for you.
About Those Habits
While visual stimulation and meditation are worthy aids to maintaining the health and receptivity of the third eye, Yoga Nidra combined with the power of the Third Eye is a very potent combination.
Yoga nidra speaks directly to our energy body through the Third Eye, allowing prana to go where it is needed. Profound shifts in the physical and mental bodies often occur during yoga nidra automatically. The energy of the prana has its own intelligence and often finds the most immediate need without your involvement. There are many sublime and even so-called miraculous levels of healing that can occur when we are in this state. What we know is not all there is to know.
Intention is the key
While the Third Eye is a portal to gain access to the subconscious mind, or the immaterial, this access also grants us the opportunity to manifest the immaterial into the material world. When the whole being is deeply relaxed and established in the Third Eye, the need to control or change or manage anything is released, creating an opening for intentions and affirmations to manifest into material reality.
During yoga nidra we are uniquely receptive to change from the very core of our consciousness. There is no part of us trying to manage or control the outcome. In this space of divine equanimity in the Third Eye the mind shifts from grasping to receptivity. When we go to the Third Eye in Yoga Nidra, we harness the power to become whatever we visualize and affirm. Change happens from beyond our doing.
Simple steps to creating a powerful intention
First, consider what it is you want to change or improve. It could be something on the physical plane, like eating healthier, quitting an unhealthy habit, or engaging in more physical activity. Perhaps it’s mental or emotional, like letting go of worry or stress. Take some time to write down what it is you’d like to bring into your life and what you’d like to release.
- Eat healthier, lose weight
- Stop stressing over everything
- Stop worrying about my health/children/parents/money
- Find a healthy loving relationship
- Become financially secure, get out of debt
Once you have your list, pare it down to the three most pressing items. Consider if your desire is to remove or gain something short-lived, or a behavior you’ve been struggling with a long time. Longer term issues tend to point to the real focus of the intention, and therefore, would have the greatest impact if rectified.
Take a look at the similarities of your list. What can be combined or what may be sprouting from the same root? From the list above we can see how our desires may overlap. Our new list might be:
- Become healthy (eating healthier, losing weight, relationships, money)
- Relax with what is (reducing stress and worry, financial insecurity, relationships, health)
- Gain clarity (relationships, weight, money)
One more step: From your list of 3, choose just one to work with for your intention. The most powerful and effective intentions have the following components:
- It must resonate. When you find it you will feel a “yes” in your body.
- It is written in the present tense as if it is already happening. An intention is a direction. You don’t have to do it perfectly. It can be right for you as long as that is the direction you want to move your life in.
- It is positive. Avoid using “not” in your intention. Turn “I do not smoke” into I am healthy and breathe easily” or something similar.
- It is short and concise. Find the most powerful word in what you wish to create and craft a sentence that begins with ‘I am’ or ‘I have’ around that. Example: Health. “I am vibrantly healthy.”
- It is about you. You cannot change another person so your intention cannot be about another. Example: If you want your family to get along your intention would still need to start with you. Perhaps something like: “I create a loving environment.”
Using anxiety and stress from our list above, the process may look something like this:
What is the feeling you want?
Present: “I no longer have stress or anxiety in my life around my job and finances.”
Positive: Use words that resonate as positive for you. Your intention for stress could be “I release all struggle.” OR “I am calm about money and at peace with my job.” Avoid the word “Not”, as in “I will not be stressed.”
Based on your answers to above, get to the root of it, making sure the words resonate and are about what you have control over – namely yourself.
Concise: Get to the root. “I am at peace with life.”
Resonates/About You: “I am at peace with life.” Other options could be: I relax with what is. All is calm in the present moment. I am free to choose peace. It’s about you. Make it personal.
Once you’ve got the intention that speaks to you, you’re ready to drop it into your yoga nidra. You can also use this short, memorable statement as a mantra in seated meditation or as a soothing reminder when you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation.
We pick up and drop habits throughout our lives. Some seem to have come into existence with our first breath, and in fact may have ridden in on the coat tails of karma. Others have been picked up over the years as a reaction to stress or joy or simply as instruction given to us by an authority figure. Most of our habits are healthy and benign, but the ones that have become insidious drivers of unwanted personality traits now have a way to be effortlessly released. You can do the process work you’ll find in the many books on habits out there, or you can simply lie down, repeat your intention, and receive yoga nidra through the portal of the third eye for the kind of change that comes from the depths of the point of origin. And you don’t even need to have an intention for change to happen. The more that you connect with the superconscious through the portal of the Third Eye all that is no longer in alignment with you will simply begin to fall away through continued practice.
Activating the third eye by repeating your new intention or mantra – especially in yoga nidra – are your ticket to creating shifts through release and receptivity rather than relying on hard work and struggle alone.