Disconnection Has Become An Epidemic But These 4 Exercises Could Help
According to the latest numbers, depression plagues around 16.1 million adults in the U.S. Recent surveys on mental health, like the one that found a 71% increase1 in young adults (ages 18 to 25) who reported serious psychological distress between 2008 and 2017, demand we take a deeper look into why we are a nation plagued with unhappiness.
It has been suggested that social isolation and lack of community are among the reasons why, but in my opinion, these are symptoms of a larger issue—an epidemic of disconnection. The more we believe we are separate from one another, the environment, and the cosmos, the more disconnected and isolated we feel. While mental health is affected by a variety of biological, social, and environmental factors, spiritual well-being is integral. The crown chakra contains the spiritual insights needed to heal this crisis of disconnection.
Once it is understood that we are all pieces of the same whole, connection can never be lost.
A quick primer on the crown chakra—and what an open one looks like.
The crown, or seventh chakra is the gateway to the celestial world. "As above, so below" is the language of this energy center, referring to the idea that we are microcosms of a vast macrocosm. The crown chakra is associated with the pineal gland, which is well known for producing melatonin, the serotonin-derived hormone that affects our sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin production is inhibited by light and stimulated by darkness, thereby modulating sleep patterns in association with the circadian rhythm and seasonal cycles. In other words, the pineal gland of the brain is affected by the sun (a large celestial body) and directly connects the rhythms of the (microcosmic) human body to the rhythms of the (macrocosmic) universe.
On the energetic plane, the crown chakra serves a similar purpose: It provides the spiritual awareness that we are connected to something bigger than ourselves. Once it is understood that we are all pieces of the same whole, connection can never be lost.
When the crown chakra is out of balance, we feel disconnected from each other, as well as the purpose of life itself. Depression, insomnia, and hypersomnia can be common manifestations of energetic dysfunction in the crown. All of these states are influenced by a sense of disconnection. In some cases, we feel disconnected from other people; in others, it is a disconnection from nature or life's purpose. Life becomes insurmountable and heavy because when there is an imbalance in the seventh chakra, we feel alone and separate from the whole.
An open crown chakra understands that everything is connected, and it allows us to put our shortsighted self-interests aside in service of the whole.
Think of all the instances when a driver cut you off or an event you meticulously planned was rained out. In either case the ego is furious that life is not cooperating. But what if that driver was a surgeon rushing to the ER to save the life of someone who would eventually be instrumental in saving the planet from environmental catastrophe? What if that unexpected rainstorm that derailed your plans was a miraculous end to a drought that would've soon limited access to drinking water? Sometimes a personal misfortune or failure is an integral sacrifice for the well-being of the whole.
An open crown chakra understands that everything is connected, and it allows us to put our shortsighted self-interests aside in service of the whole. It transcends victimhood and isolation with trust and purpose.
It is no accident that every human being has a unique genetic makeup. The purpose of our uniqueness is not to disconnect us from the whole; it is to help us serve the whole. In this sense, we all share the same purpose: to be of service simply by being ourselves.
A note on opening the crown chakra.
Development of the crown chakra is most prominent from age 42 to 49. It takes time, experience, wisdom, and tremendous self-understanding to fully embody the interconnected nature of existence. While many of us have and will experience an opening of the seventh chakra, few people can sustain it long term. To live with an open crown chakra is to trust and accept all of the suffering and injustice in the world. For most of us, this is too much to bear, and we cannot begin to hold the wounds and suffering of all of humanity until we have worked through our own. This is why exploring the shadows and challenges of the lower six chakras is a necessary prerequisite to opening the crown.
Working through the lower chakras is best done sequentially, beginning at the root, where we learn to feel safe and secure while being authentic. The next step is the sacral chakra, home of the emotional body, where we discover how to feel our feelings without being overly driven by them. This is followed by the solar plexus, the epicenter of the mental body. Here we must confront the opinions, judgments, and beliefs that limit us until we cultivate true self-acceptance. Only then can we begin to share ourselves with the unconditional love and compassion of the heart. The heart chakra is the bridge between the lower and upper chakras, and once we have generated the self-love required to open it, we are ready to move into the higher frequencies of the upper chakras.
The throat chakra is a vehicle for expressing truth and turning thoughts into form (aka manifestation). The third-eye chakra sees through illusion, and when the emerging clarity is met with humility and the will to serve, the crown chakra opens up to a boundless sense of oneness and connection.
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Practices that support the opening of the final chakra.
Physical: Get to know your cycles.
The best way to experience the crown chakra physically is to connect with the cycles of the body. This may mean going to sleep earlier and waking up at sunrise for a few weeks to strengthen your circadian rhythm. For women, keeping track of your menstrual cycle and noting the phases of the moon at different points in your cycle can be a great way to access the wisdom of the crown. Notice the connections between your body and the great cycles of the universe.
Mental: Contemplate the right question.
The key to opening the crown chakra is one simple question: "How can I best serve the whole?" If there is anywhere in your life (meditation, journaling, coaching, conversation) where you are asking about your purpose, change the question from "What is my purpose?" to "How can I best serve the whole?" Meditate on this question and write down whatever thoughts arise. Simply asking this question activates the crown chakra.
Emotional: Cultivate the feeling of awe.
There are a lot of ways to do this, but spending time in nature is the most potent. Get into the mountains or stare out at the ocean and feel the humility of how small we are. Stargaze under the vast night sky and try to catch as many sunrises and sunsets as possible. Let nature move you with her majesty.
Spiritual: Be of service.
Being of service is a great way to nourish the crown chakra. Find a community or a cause that inspires you, and offer your time or resources. Whether your service is spending 10 minutes making impactful email introductions or your Saturday at a beach cleanup doesn't matter. The intention to be of service to the whole is the medicine.
Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P. is an NYC-based naturopathic doctor, nurse practitioner, and holistic coach. She was trained as a Reiki master at 20 years old and began studying yoga as a teenager. She obtained her master's in nursing from Seattle University and doctorate of naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University.
Eastern philosophy threads through all of Matluck’s work. Combining over a decade of experience working in conventional and alternative medicine, she brings a truly holistic lens to medicine, addressing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual obstacles to health.
Prior to opening a private practice in New York City, Matluck spent eight years at One Medical Group and has delivered onsite wellness workshops at countless prominent companies. She is also the founder of Seven Senses, where she leads transformational wellness experiences throughout the world.