We are all seers
No doubt many have read about or had their interest piqued at the idea of the “third eye” as a representation of mystical intuition and insight. For millenum spiritual seekers have been intrigued by how the third eye’s awakening can catapult them into the higher dimensions of direct perception as a prelude to enlightenment. At the least most of us would be quite happy to attain the earlier stages of enhanced mental clarity and concentration whereby we might start to see the bigger picture and find deeper meaning in all things. Indeed it is the third eye that holds the key to open the portal into the transcendental realms of consciousness.
We all know that our physical eyes perceive the physical world, but there are those few who’s third eye can see the true world as a unified whole with an unyielding connection to Spirit. Such people are quite recognisable and have stood out throughout history. When a person opens and enters into the third eye, light forms around their head and their aura reveals the Divine within that reflects the Divinity within others. One thing for sure, unless it happens in a rare spontaneous awakening, or is preordained; to open our third spiritual eye means we will need to do the work. This will take time, practice and patience to achieve and after some time we may begin to experience sporadic or fleeting foretastes of crystalline lucidity that reveal we are surely on the path. We can intellectualise all we want about this process however we release all words and concepts when experiential understanding arises; only direct experience will ignite real inner knowing. The good news is that all humans are predisposed to actuate this process.
All that we believe will be dissolved
The great spiritual masters tell us that to open our third eye will annihilate our systems of belief and conditioning and only once those limitations have been dissolved, can we arrive at the foundation of truth. To shatter our familiar, comforting systems can be overwhelming and is often the greatest obstacle hindering our ability to move into awakening. It is through the process of surrender and relinquishing our controlled and limited story of how our life will unfold that we can reach the greater truth of what is and who we are at the level of existence and non-existence.
The symbol of the third eye appears historically across all cultures. In Indian spiritual traditions, the third eye refers to the sixth chakra - Ajna. The third eye symbolises the gate that leads to the inner realms of higher consciousness where we abandon our tenacious grip on the material world. Everything dies and evaporates in this space and is reduced to its essence. No longer will we see “good and “bad” or differentiate between “I” and “you” because when the third eye opens, duality dissolves.
Ajna is the locus in the human body where we attain intuition and psychic perception; of all the chakras this one has the most powerful effect on our personality. Sacred texts reveal that dedicated meditation on this chakra can bestow wisdom, insight, intuition and clarity of vision where other realms are opened to us. We will begin to perceive the vast field of energy that connects everything when we realise we are not just our bodies, minds and emotions and we accept the greater unity within the cosmos.
Ajna - The command centre for the subtle body
The ajna chakra is the command centre for the subtle body and is located just above and between the eyebrows. Solar and lunar energies meet and mix in the sixth Chakra, which forms the final junction of the three main nadi energy channels, while the central channel Sushumna continues to the crown chakra and higher levels of consciousness. Ajna manages the five senses and regulates the other chakras and their related energy channels. It governs the eyes, ears, nose and the base of the skull; we perceive everything that is within the scope of the senses, as well as what is beyond them.
“I must walk more with the five senses…I must let my senses wander as my thoughts, my eyes, see without looking. Be not preoccupied with looking. Go not to the object, let it come to you. What I need is not to look at all, but a true sauntering of the eye.” Henry Thoreau
Ajna provides energy for us to experience clear and concise thought, as well as the gifts of inner reflection and contemplation. When this chakra is operating harmoniously both hemispheres of the brain are balanced; we can simultaneously develop left-brain focus with rational thinking as well as experience right brain artistic and creative imagination.
“I shut my eyes in order to see.” Paul Gauguin
When things go “awr-eye”
When the energy of the third eye chakra is out of alignment or not flowing freely, a variety of physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual ailments can pop up.
Blockages here cause poor memory, insomnia and failure to understand subtle signals, resulting in setting our sights too low. One might notice physical signs like tension in the brow area, headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision, sinus issues, hearing problems or dizziness. Cognitive indicators of an unbalanced third eye chakra may include dissociation, issues concentrating, nightmares, sleep disturbances, mental fog and confusion.
Yogis often begin their spiritual work at the brow chakra as it helps open and balance the other chakras. The subtle inner space of consciousness behind our two eyes, that is sometimes like an inner screen, is called Chid-akasha: (cit-akasa), this is the focal point of our visualisations and where we expand our inner picture of how we see ourselves and the world. This is the realm of reality where we transform our lives, harness our vitality and implement our dreams.
“That within us which seeks to know and to progress is not the mind, but something behind it which makes use of it.” Sri Aurobindo
When we look in a mirror at our two eyes, we see they are patterned after the spiritual eye: the outer "aura" or white of the eye; the inner circle or iris; and the central "star" or pupil. The point of origin of the single eye is in the subtle spiritual centre in the medulla oblongata (at the base of the brain, where it joins the spine). The energy from this single eye divides at the medulla and pours through the brain into the two physical eyes, through which the world of duality is perceived. The spiritual eye with its three lights, or three different rays one within the other like an extending telescopic lens has all-seeing spherical vision. It is through this that the deeply meditating yogi beholds all matter and the vibratory cosmic energy permeating the universe.
Our “first eye”
Ajna is linked to the pituitary gland and energetically with the pineal gland. The pineal resembles a tiny pinecone (where it gets its name) in the centre of the brain directly behind the eyes. The interior of the pineal gland has retinal tissue composed of photoreceptor cells and is filled with vitreous fluid just like the eyes. It is even wired to the visual cortex and is able to sense light directly.
Indeed, the name “third eye” comes from the pineal gland's primary function of 'letting in light and darkness', just as our two eyes do.
The pineal gland is a neuroendocrine organ that produces both melatonin and its precursor, serotonin, which are derived chemically from the alkaloid substance tryptamine. Light exposure is the most important factor related to pineal gland function and melatonin secretion. The pineal’s light-sensitive cells control the circadian rhythm; the process most people take for granted: maintaining a consistent rhythm from day to day. Without it, the body would struggle to sleep and wake at the same time and might not know how to respond to changes in light levels properly.
Curiously, many reptiles have a pineal gland that receives information from a rudimentary third eye with a retina-like lens. That enables them to see in ranges of light that are not available to humans such as infrared and ultraviolet. A Darwinian advocate proposes that our legendary “Third Eye” is a vestige from the reptilian stage of human evolution and was probably the primary eye to form in our brain; this means that we could call it the “First eye”.
The Seat of the Soul
One of the greatest mysteries hidden from us is the spiritual function of the pineal gland. French philosopher Descartes proposed that the pineal gland connects the body to the soul or contained it. In the ancient temples of Sumerians and Babylonians and on the walls of the pyramids of ancient Egypt are hieroglyphics that strongly suggest worship of the pineal gland as the seat of the spirit or the soul. They used the third eye as a route to higher awareness and consciousness. The Buddhists also related it to spiritual awakening and the Hindu peoples connect it to the third eye that represents intuition and clairvoyance and to activate it, many wear a vermillion or saffron coloured spot between the eyebrows.
The pineal gland makes a substance called DMT (dimethyltryptamine) also known as the spiritual molecule that curiously releases into the fast eye motion phase when we are dreaming and is responsible for visualising images in dreams. DMT is best known recreationally as a party drug that produces brief and intense psychedelic effects when ingested. DMT is an indole alkaloid that is the most powerful hallucinogenic or entheogenic found in the wild in all plants and animals (in greater or lesser concentration). DMT is abundant in the psychoactive plant chacruna (Psychotria Viridis) that is brewed with the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) to form Ayahuasca, the traditional spiritual medicine of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin.
The innate spiritual substance
In human embryos the pineal gland becomes visible and releases its first burst of DMT, 49 days after conception when the embryo becomes a foetus. At birth there is another DMT burst, then regularly every night during REM sleep. In the immediate state before death, a lot of DMT is produced and our consciousness is endowed with the ability to enter into higher mystical or inter-dimensional states. Rick Strassman in 2000 proposed that the DMT excreted by the pineal gland enabled the life force into this life and on to the next life.
The potent DMT has profound effects on human consciousness and focussed spiritual practice can catalyse its our own production in the pineal. Of course many will choose to engage in supposed shortcuts like taking psychedelics to awaken the third eye and this is certainly valid to maybe clock up the experience or heal a psychological trauma or addiction. Mostly this will be short-lived and not very sustainable on the ongoing path to complete illumination. How wonderful that we don’t necessarily need to find this DMT magic substance externally and if we redirect our focus internally we can manufacture it within ourselves. We might discover that true peace, love and joy are not found outside of us.
“The soul never thinks without a mental picture.” Aristotle
Gland of the Super powers
A whole range of electro-magnetic energy around us stimulates the pineal gland and it is self-activating as ultraviolet radiation flows towards the Earth. It is claimed that when Divine light activates the pineal gland through deep meditation, it creates a communication link to the pituitary gland that enables us to access the higher spiritual planes of consciousness. As the pineal gland starts to resonate with Divine light, our Kundalini serpent power begins its spiralling ascent from the base of our spine towards the crown and the intrinsic spiritual process unfolds.
There are many enticing powers or extraordinary abilities called siddhis, like clairvoyance, to be gained through activation of the third eye in yogic development however the great sages warn us that even if they are useful they are a distraction on the true path to spiritual enlightenment. What serves us most is to develop the third eye in the realms of meditation, dreams, imagination and visualisation, especially if we want to gain insight into Ultimate reality to receive channelled messages that catalyse our spiritual growth.
“The yogin who has conquered the life-force and who always contemplates the Self, the Supreme Lord of the blue appearance at the spot between the eyebrows, while gazing at the tip of the nose, attains the supreme goal of Yoga.” Gorasha Paddhuti
Changing the way we see things
If we are inspired to experience essential Truth then it is tremendously helpful to become aware and modify our current modes of vision and seeing the world. Approx. 80% of the information we receive comes through our eyes, in fact the greedy optic nerve hogs enormous amount of brain energy, to the deficit of other faculties. This is why yogic practices of subduing eye movement are used to channel the mind into higher powers of awareness. The science of perception and existential philosophy tell us that that peripheral vision is essential to understanding ‘where’ we are, which is important in figuring out ‘who’ we are moment by moment in a more differentiated way. When we are distracted and scan stimulating sights, eyes darting here and there, we get caught up in the outer appearance of things and our prana (vitality) flows out, taking us further away from the state of yoga that we seek.
“You are not able to behold me with your own eyes; I give thee the divine eye, behold my Lordly yoga” Bhagavad Gita (11.8)
Soft Loving Gaze
To counteract these habits, control and focus of our attention is a fundamental yoga principle. When we control and direct the focus, first of the eyes and then of the attention, we are using the yogic technique called drishti, a kind of “X-Ray” vision. Drishti is a point of focus where we rest our gaze on a fixed point during yoga asana and meditation practice; it improves our concentration because it is so easy to become distracted when your eyes are wandering around. Even though a Drishti is often described as a fixed gaze, the eyes should always stay soft and not strained. We don’t focus with a hard gaze; instead, we use a soft, all-embracing gaze, as if looking from the back of our head toward a vision of cosmic unity rather than the brittle gaze of the two eyes.
When we soften our focus we feel the corresponding softening in the heart region that effectively sends our awareness beyond outer appearance to inner essence. Constant practice of drishti - the yogic vision develops ekagraha, single-pointed focus that brings us closer to seeing our true Self. Our eyes can only see objects in front of us that reflect the visible spectrum of light, but yogis seek to view an inner reality not normally visible. We become aware of how our brains only let us see what we want to see as a projection of our own limited ideas. Often our opinions, prejudices and habits prevent us from seeing unity. Drishti is a techniqueabout looking for the Divine everywhere and thus seeing the true nature of things around us. Used in this way, drishti becomes a technique for removing the ignorance (avidya) that obscures this true vision and allows us to see God or the Divine in everything.
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting, a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be filled with light.” Mathew 6.22
Scientifically speaking, we do not actually see through our eyes, but through our brain; photoreceptors convert light (electromagnetic radiation) into nerve signals that our brain turns into what we see. Normal, everyday sight is called central vision, which is high-resolution and used for reading, TV, Internet and driving or anything that requires maximum acuity. This vision is produced by our fovea (meaning pit) centralis, located in the middle of our retina at the back of the eyes and is filled with 6-7 million cones (photoreceptors) that are also responsible for our ability to see colour.
Central Vision is the normal modus operandi for everyday seeing and is connected with the Beta brain waves of our left-brain hemisphere that arouse sympathetic nervous response and stress. Today we are totally dependent on acute (central) vision for our career, amusement and learning, but it influences our mind state and the way our brain works in deleterious ways that do us disservice.
The other kind of vision is called Peripheral Vision, which is outside of the centre and at the sides of what we see; this “wide viewing” behaviour was the only way to react to life for our ancestors because it gave them the very helpful holistic or bigger dimension of life. Early humans who lived in the forest, hunting and gathering to survive, approached everything from an expanded “point-of-view” to immerse more effectively in Nature and communicate with the other hunters and to see the moving prey.
When we use peripheral vision, we are using our right-hemisphere with alpha brainwaves and as a consequence we experience deep relaxation. (Thanks to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.) We avoid the adrenaline-fuelled fight-or-flight reaction by using peripheral vision and gain access to our non-conscious mind. It is not possible to maintain negative feelings of anger, fear and stress when we intentionally use wide, soft focus, peripheral vision that is more akin to our yogic drishti. This is one of the modified ways we can employ that is more conducive to a deeper communion with Nature.
“Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first time or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.” Betty Smith
“Learn to see, and then you'll know that there is no end to the new worlds of our vision.” Carlos Castaneda
Shambhavi Mudra or the "Eyebrow Gazing Centre Technique"
This is described in the ancient yogic text, the Gheranda Samhita. It is a powerful mudra used during meditation to still the mind and to experience higher stages of consciousness. It essentially involves gazing at the eyebrow centre. By constant practice, the muscles can sustain the position for a long period of time in prolonged meditation, strengthening them. This mudra also activates the Ajna Chakra.
Practice breath work.
The simplest and game-changing way to activate the Ajna Chakra is through breathing consciously. Sit in a comfortable meditative pose with your spine elongated. Close your eyes and focus all your energies on your third eye. Bring your attention to breathing while inhaling and imagine a positive light entering the third-eye chakra. In the same way, while exhaling, let all the negative thoughts away from you and let the whole body relax. Continue this process for 5 to 10 minutes. Practice daily
Practice Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
This powerful breathing technique brings balance to the right and left hemispheres of your brain by harmonising the energy flowing toward the “rational” left-brain and the “intuitive” right brain.
A daily prerequisite that brings awareness and focus to the point between the eyes in the centre of the head; soften all the tiny muscles surrounding the eye sockets. Allow time and space to stimulate the third eye location and connect with your inner essence.
Many yoga poses or asana are predisposed to activating Ajna: child's pose, plough, downward dog, wide-angle seated forward bend, wide-legged forward fold, legs up the wall, lotus, shoulder stand and headstand. Practising these asana daily is beneficial for improving brain function and the acuity of all the sensory organs in the head regulating all the bodily systems.
Chant the seed mantra of – AUM
Another way to activate Ajna Chakra is to concentrate on the sixth chakra and chant its seed mantra – AUM - the pranava or source of all sounds that creates unity and non-dual consciousness. Internally sound the Bija mantra 'AUM' slowly with full awareness. Continue the chanting and concentration on the chakra as long as you are comfortable.
Eat a nutritious diet
Stop eating junk food and eat real, unprocessed, organic food; our food choices govern our energy. Add an array of purple foods such as blackberries, blueberries, grapes, eggplant, purple kale, purple sweet potatoes and purple cabbage into the diet. Choose ingredients like chlorella, spirulina, blue-green algae, apple cider vinegar, chlorophyll, wheat grass, cilantro, raw cacao, goji berries, dried seaweed or kelp. Citric acid also breaks down the calcium in the pineal, so try lemon juice in the morning when you wake up.
Take nootropic herbs
Regularly imbibe these cognitive enhancers that replenish the endocrine system too. Ashwagandha, ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, reishi, brahmi, rhodiola, gotu kola, rosemary, ginseng, lemon balm, green tea, lion's mane, juniper berries, skullcap, horsetail
Practise gentle safe sunbathing
When the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit the bare skin, processes inside the tissue start making vitamin D for the body to use. This also helps to detoxify and de-calcify the pineal gland.
Avoid artificial light
Try to avoid prolonged exposure to artificial light or at least get a dose of outdoor sunlight every hour and avoid going to sleep with your computer or TV on. In fact a digital detox helps clear Ajna obstructions.
Use indigo colour
Incorporate the indigo colour, a blue hue associated with wisdom and deep inner knowledge, into your life with clothes and décor.
Practice candle gazing
Maintain a steady gaze on a candle flame, avoiding blinking to bring you into deeper meditation. This activates third eye light reception. You can try sun gazing as well, just for a shorter amount of time while the sun is low on the horizon.
Keep a dream journal
Help recall and increase your dreams by simply writing them down just as you wake up. This allows you to work through unprocessed issues in your waking life and come to terms with them while building self-awareness.
Maintain a rhythm
Wake up and go to sleep with the sun as much as possible to maintain your circadian rhythm and pineal gland activation.
Buy natural, fluoride free toothpaste; fluoride is believed to increase pineal gland calcifications.
Place specific third eye stones such as amethyst, clear quartz, and sodalite on the centre between your brows with clear intention of connectivity and opening.
Commune with nature:
To open your portals of dreaming, imagination, and creativity.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
Certain essential oils have a distinct resonance that aligns them with the sixth chakra. Anointing the third eye and inhaling these compatible oils entrains our focus and efforts specifically upon this Chakra. Diffuse them while meditating or doing yoga.
Clary sage oil Helps to combat negative emotions and lack of motivation associated with a blocked Ajna Chakra. It works to clear creative blocks, focus our intentions and bring clarity to our thoughts.
Lemon oil Is so uplifting and has the ability to bathe the pineal gland with light, helping to awaken the latent gifts of the third eye.
Sandalwood oil Is a fine meditation aid that helps break down the illusions that obscure our authentic self. It sheds light on the obstacles impeding our spiritual path, whether internal or external and allows a gentle processing at the deepest levels.
Lavender oil Clears brain fog as it calms the mind of stress and agitation; it diminishes the emotional intensity of memories and restores a clearer connection between body and mind.
Frankincense oil Stimulates the pineal gland and arouse spiritual intelligence and visions. It releases us from the obsessive patterns that tie us to the miasma of mundane and material existence.
Cypress oil Restores trust in our spiritual path, if our third Eye Chakra is blocked and we feel stuck. It encourages feelings of strength and self-confidence and improves mental clarity and focus.
Juniper berry oil Improves our self-awareness and pulls our thoughts away from distractions to bring our sixth Chakra back into balance. It can heighten our intuition and allow us to connect to our inner wisdom.
Grapefruit oil So uplifting and reviving, it helps us understand the origins of beliefs so we can consciously reprogram and cut through the illusions of control.
Basil oil Sharpens the senses, improves focus and stimulates the third eye, increases our ability to live consciously in the present.
Jasmine oil Sedates an anxious nervous system, while maintaining alertness for meditation. It coaxes us out of our comfort zone, enhancing imagination.
Peppermint oil Aids concentration, focus and memory, alleviating mental fatigue while boosting our receptivity and deepening intuitive insight.
Pine oil The tall upright pine with its pineal shaped seedcase reminds us that the small inner spark of knowing within each of us can grow into the vast and incandescent omniscience of universal consciousness.
Nutmeg oil Increases psychic awareness, creativity and imagination. Detaches us from materialism and sentimentality.
Honey myrtle oil Maintains an alert mind and focus. Helps dissolve stressful emotions, stimulating clarity, perspective and creative energy to stay fluid and unstuck.
Spikenard oil The holiest of oils is all about evolving our spirituality that will enable us to directly perceive ultimate reality.
Keep your eyes on the prize, without fixating on results. Surrender to the longing and let go of attachment to the goal itself. Spiritual practice will blossom when we can calmly abide in a non-preferential, nonreactive space that is sensitive, receptive and free from the demand that things go one way or another. Embrace whole-heartedly what is present. There is only pure awareness, formless, unborn and undying and that is who we are.