Recently a fellow disciple asked me, “What should we do when we feel restless, spiritually dry, out of tune, or when we feel strongly drawn back into worldly desires?”
I will discuss in this article what I did when these kinds of feelings first ambushed me and also, what others have done when finding themselves in similar situations. For I believe that challenges like these happen to most sincere spiritual seekers. I even invented a name for them. I call them the Fifth Chakra Challenges.
First, it is important to recognize that the fifth chakra is one of the higher chakras, located way up there in the chakras system. When Fifth Chakra Challenges start happening to us, we can know that we are making excellent spiritual progress. It shows that our souls know we are ready to take on a new kind of challenge, one which is considerably more subtle than those presented by the lower four chakras.
The fifth chakra’s positive qualities are calmness, silence, and great expansiveness out into the unknown reaches of space or ether (ethereal-ness). However, as with all the chakras, it has its downsides. It can make us feel non-beneficial qualities like restlessness, boredom, and a sense of being ungrounded.
The way most of us experience these harmful qualities (and we often do not recognize or understand what is happening to us) is through a strong restless urge, suggesting that it would be helpful to drop back down into the lower chakras, indulge in familiar old habits, and thus, somehow FEEL MORE HUMAN AGAIN!
Our Gurus recognize that these challenges can and do happen. Sri Yukteswar offered a solution, saying, “When the dog yowls, simply throw the dog a bone!” A temporary slip into a desire to experience the good things of this world is not the end of our spiritual lives, as long as we know which way we are going and make a point to return to the pursuit of our goal of spiritual freedom as quickly as we can. These challenges simply happen, but recognizing what is happening can be very helpful!
When it first happened to me (and it has happened many times), I had only been at Ananda for about five weeks (my first visit), participating in the Apprenticeship Program (Summer, 1975). I was working very hard in the beautiful Ananda organic gardens, six days a week. In addition, I never missed the group sadhanas, three times a day. For me, this was a big jump, from about 15 minutes of meditation per day to 4½ hours daily, including yoga postures and chanting. Strengthening my sadhana was one of the primary reasons I came to Ananda. Still, it was a big lifestyle shift for me.
After weeks of diligently keeping this schedule, I woke up early one morning and found that I simply could not go to sadhana that morning. I thought if I chanted another chant, did another yoga posture or energization exercise, or spent another minute in meditation, that I would BURST and “freak out.”
Therefore, instead of going to the morning sadhana session, I slept late, then went down to Tyler Foote Road and hitchhiked a ride to Nevada City. I walked down Broad Street, bought a newspaper to read, found a small restaurant, ordered a large soft drink, a big plate of French fries, and a chocolate milkshake. For most of that day, I walked around town and tried to feel like a normal person again. At the close of the day, I caught a ride back to Ananda and was happy to resume my schedule of work, sadhana, classes, etc.
You see, I had “thrown the dog a bone” and my “dog” was content, at least for a while. For a long time, I never told anyone about my “escape.” I thought that I had done a very “unspiritual thing,” for sure!
What to my surprise, when I found the courage to tell someone (a new friend I had made at Ananda) about what I had done, and he was very amused by my story!
He said, “I think this feeling of rebellion happens to everyone here, sooner or later. Let me tell you what I did when it first happened to me. I drove to Sacramento, looked up an old girlfriend, ate a steak dinner, got drunk, had sex, and then came back to Ananda. I really have to scoff at your French fries, etc.” We both laughed together.
Later, when I first heard Swami Kriyananda talk on this subject, I realized that he had experienced the same challenge. Amazing! This is how he related the story:
I remember when I had been at Mt. Washington several months. In sudden rebellion one evening, against the constant call to service and meditation, I lay down stubbornly on my bed and spent a couple of blissful hours with a volume of Shakespeare’s plays. I simply needed a break. Master [Paramhansa Yogananda] recognizing the rebelliousness of human nature, encouraged occasional diversions. He encouraged me, too, to be less extreme, and more relaxed, in my zeal. As he told me once, “The mind is like a donkey. If you keep on forcing it, it will stand still and refuse to budge another step no matter how hard you beat it. The thing to do, then, is let it stand awhile. Finally, it will start walking again of its own accord.”
Reading Shakespeare’s plays? Well, perhaps we tend to fall back to an appropriate level of human-ness, based on our present level of spiritual development.
It is very helpful to remember that when worldly restlessness seems to descend upon us, we may need to have what we consider “some fun in life.” We may need to do the things, which satisfy our worldly desires, instead of always trying to be a person who does nothing but DHARMA, DHARMA, DHARMA! However, once the dog gets its bone, it’s time to remember our spiritual goals and return with renewed vigor and determination to the upward climb—up the chakras to final freedom!
This “moving-up-and-down-the-chakras” activity may go on for years—maybe lifetimes, even though it does seem to tend to “refine” itself in an upward direction. The deeper we go spiritually (into our spiritual lives), the more the bone that satisfies the dog seems to have more spiritually-based qualities.
It used to be that when this feeling grabbed me, I would eat chocolate, read a crummy novel, turn on a Beatles album, and dance around the house playing my “air guitar,” to get my “fix” of feeling human again. In these ways, I quickly got over my rebellious feelings of, “I don’t WANT to be that spiritual (yet!). I just can’t live that way, all the time. I’m not strong enough to do it! I want to feel like a real person again. I want to return to some of the sense indulgences that made me feel happy and satisfied!”
Soon enough, it becomes quite noticeable that there is a wide spectrum in the quality of our desires on our upward climb to final freedom. Sometimes our lives feel like we are taking three steps forward and a step or two backward. Nevertheless, with persistence, perseverance, and the grace of God and Gurus to help us—it’s onward and upward we go! Try to notice this happening in yourself.
At this point in my life, the activities, which help me, when “Fifth Chakra Challenges” descend upon me, are different (although I’ll admit that I still like chocolate and light reading, from time to time). However, my favorite thing to do now is to go to the nearby Yuba River (alone!), swim in its clear waters, sit on a sun-warmed boulder, chant quietly, and watch the tall trees above me move in the wind. Rather than read a worldly novel, I now write novels instead—entertaining ones, with a spiritual theme—as Swamiji asked me to do.
From time to time, during my 40 years of living at Ananda, I have “snapped” or had a small “fifth chakra breakdown.” Eventually, I learned how to ‘throw the dog a bone,’ or ‘let the donkey take a break,’ and not feel even a tiny bit guilty about it. I know now that a slip is not a fall!
In closing, I would like to balance what I have said by emphasizing how important it is not to let ourselves become caught in a more serious downward spiral. It can happen, so be respectful of that possibility. If you find yourself in a state of rebellion, stop a moment and talk to God and Gurus about it. Then include them in your detour, whatever form it may take. Take them with you!
As soon as you feel better, refocus your energy and remind yourself of your joy-filled spiritual goals and the specific activities that will help you accomplish them as quickly as possible.
Pleasure is simply pleasure. Happiness is better than pleasure, and joy is even better than happiness! We must constantly remind ourselves that the neverending, ever-new bliss of the soul and oneness with God tops everything. We will get there eventually, for endless bliss is already within us, waiting to be uncovered. It is our truest destiny. We must remember never to stop striving—onward and upward—into perfect freedom!
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Thank you for this article on the fifth chakra challenge. The timing is perfect, it is just what I needed to hear. I so appreciate your down to earth style and personal stories which aid in helping me feel okay about my dullness and inner quiet discontent. So I will “throw the dog a bone” Time to figure out what that is. Thank you again for continuing to write about the spiritual path in the 21st century.
In DIvine Friendship,
Thank you Savitri. I like the part about talking to the gurus when we need their help. They are always right there beside us. We just have to listen and know.
What a wonderful way to address the detours in life we all face at times. Your levity and candidness, along with compassion and empathy, conveys your message so well.
Thank you for this special blessing to all of us.
Beautiful concept and article . It’s applicable to all of us on spiritual path. Love the Fifth chakra nomenclature 😊
It was so uplifting and authentic to
Read your article on the fifth ‘chakra’.
I felt like I was sitting in one of your classes. You taught with such ease and lightness!
I really enjoyed the reference to ‘giving the dog a bone’ and the donkey. I identify with both.
Thank you for being.
Love to you
Bless You Dear Savitri for sharing your journey 🙏
I truly Needed to read this and realise I’m Normal . My go to ‘rebellion’ is reading light regency novels.Invariably after a while I realise that no ‘earthly activity’ can compete with chanting the holy name of my Divine Beloved & reading or hearing the enchanting experiences of saints &I again return to my spiritual practice !
I’m saving this encouraging article -Thank You
I want to know about
Seven gates of freedom
Chakras for starters yoga postures to awaken the chakras
Pls help me to do the classes as I want to awaken the chakras and know more about Savita is teaching to help me
Thank you d
A very important article for sincere spiritual seekers, delivered in a down to earth, enjoyable way.
Thanks thanks thanks 🙏
You give me light and clarity ! I feel no guilty now !!
Savitri – Thank you for your post. A great insight on a common question. We all face what we see as a wall sometimes but it is instead simply an opportunity for perspective.
It was easy for me to embrace a return to these teachings with a return to ways of life from prior years. As I am working with developing my practice with Kriya, I am working with redefining my daily lifestyle to allow for meditation and study. That part at times can be overwhelming due to the many things that unfold in a day.
I have felt determined, realizing the benefits, but how to work with the discipline needs to be reworked until I can move through a day getting all the have-to done, and still have the time for meditation and sturdy.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I also enjoyed the comments and sharing of my brothers and sisters of Spirit.
How wonderful! The exact advice needed at the exact appropriate timing! Thank you so much! 😇🙏💖
Thank you for this and for all you do and who you are. This is article is beautiful and a great lesson for me. Blessings
Savitri, thank you so much for these very helpful words of wisdom and encouragement. I love the thought of taking God and Gurus on my detours!
Thank you so much 🙏🏽 I’m going to be coming back to this blog again and again 💙
Blessings and joy!
I like your articles.
Thanks for writing this piece! All those years ago, during YTT, about 3 weeks in, I had to run to my tent & have a little mini meltdown- “I just can’t chant Door of My Heart” one more time or I will explode! So I had a huge cry, which was only really about 4-5 minutes, then I lay back in the sun, and asked Divine Mother to bless & restore me. And she did!!! A few more minutes & I returned to class as fresh as could be. I will never ever forget that- Divine Mother is there for us, she sorts out all our problems, just as she promised. She gives us exactly what we need, each and every day, each and every step of our way. Here we are, 30 years later & everything is ever new joy. I miss going to Ananda, and will try to come sooner than later.
So glad to know that I am not alone in this!
Thanks Savitri for sharing!!
We all tend to slip away for a bit and that is technically not a fall.
What’s important is to stay tuned in to the Gurus to guide you.
Thank you! I can definitely relate to this, and I’m so grateful to know that it’s a common experience.
Dear Nayaswami Savitri Ji,
Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog. Helpful guidelines to practice.
Enjoyed reading it and saving it for future reference as well :-)
Thank you for the article. Pranam.
Wow!! Now that was a wonderful, beautiful and timely read. I couldn’t put it down, as I was able to relate to it fully. Thank you for this and keep writing!
thank you so much for these very useful words of wisdom and motivation. I specially loved your way of expressing thought of ‘throw the dog a bone,’ or ‘let the donkey take a break. Even I have experienced such moments.
Really loved it.
Thanks for sharing.
Wonderful article….very helpful.
Awesome article. I definitely need a little mercy for my perfectionistic slave driver who likes to tell me I am failing. Thank you for this.
Ah, Savitri, reading this, I realize how much I’ve missed your writing! What a joy, and thanks.
Thank you for this, Savitri