God • Titan • Human • Animal • Hungry ghost • Hell
These are the names of the six realms, or lokas in Sanskrit. The realms represent the six styles in which human beings lose touch with their real nature and experience suffering, aka, karma.
When we do sadhana, we begin to step out of the realms. Our clarity, spontaneity, and freedom of expression increase.
Last time, I wrote about Human Realm. About every two weeks, I will be describing a new realm and will offer a few pointers about working with each flavor of karmic fixation.
Animal realm and god realm both express as a desire for pleasure and comfort. While god realm looks for these with a spiritual flavor, animal realm goes for the maple bacon ice cream and nookie.
Animal realm exhibits the most wildly varied expressions of all of the realm fixations. Animal realm vision can express as a party animal seeking distraction from pain in sex, drugs, and song. Animal realm can also express as holing up in a shack in Wyoming, social network addiction, or hiding out in one’s home watching re-runs of Battlestar Galactica.
Sometimes those expressing animal realm vision are painfully socially awkward. Sometimes they are suavely manipulative.
What ties together these diverse expressions is anxiety about boundaries. Animal realm will always seek to be in control of boundaries with others, whether it be through seduction, social caution, substance abuse, or total withdrawal.
At the heart of animal realm is confusion about how to be and how to negotiate life.
I call animal realm the “unborn” realm. There can be a basic feeling to animal realm of not understanding what is going on here and how to be. Animal realm folks sometimes seem to be cobbling together a personality by imitation because they don’t have a real sense of who they are.
Animal realm is more frequently visited by the male aspects of our species whose sense of separation from others, and hence anxiety about boundaries, tends to be more entrenched. Hungry ghost realm tends to be visited more frequently by female aspects.
Often these two realms together produce a dramatic power struggle within human relationships. One partner attempts to dominate or mark boundaries, and the other attempts to devour or merge. I will talk more about this common dynamic next time.
Exit from the Animal Realm
- The antidote to animal realm is clarity. Clarity comes from increasing fire element and freeing it to move in a healthy way by reducing heaviness in your life. Eating foods with light, warming qualities can help to wake you up from animal realm vision.
- Try to live in, or spend a lot of time in an environment with big sky, clean air, bright colors, and plenty of opportunity for movement.
- Use clarifying essential oils such as clary sage, frankincense, palo santo and helichrysum.
- Switch up your routines, and add variety to your day.
- If you don’t have any digestive inflammation, kapalibhati, or skull–clearing pranayama is great for animal realm. Make sure you get good instruction. It can be dangerous if done incorrectly.
- Develop a new habit of pausing and consulting your wisdom before letting your impulses get the better of you.
People who strongly inhabit animal realm are preoccupied with controlling the boundaries between themselves and others. They have a weak sense of self and feel easily overwhelmed. Within this seemingly unstable situation hides a wisdom seed—the understanding of the impermanence of the small self and our fundamental continuity with all life.