In emotionally confusing situations, our first urge is to try to understand. We use our logical brains to try to figure out things like grief, pain, and (strangest of all) other people. Our logical minds are powerful and important, but they can come up short when it comes to our emotions. In these moments, we need to access the deeper intelligences of our own bodies.
One way to tap into this deeper wisdom is through the emotional map of the Chakra system. There is something to learn from all seven of these energetic centers (Anodea Judith’s Wheels of Life is an excellent resource), but there are two that I always turn to when I’m lost and confused in order to see (and feel) past the cloud of excessive thought.
You can work with your chakras seated, or in Supported Bridge pose as explained in my recent post. Bring your awareness into each place, send your breath there, and observe what comes up for you.
Manipura Chakra is located in line with the solar plexus, the kidneys, and the stress-hormone producing adrenal glands. This energetic centre governs the ego. Here is where we feel anxiety, anger, and the kind of strength we need to stand up for ourselves and others. This is where our “No” lives.
Ideally, energy flows through all of the chakras in a balanced way, but sometimes one chakra can take up too much energy, effectively stealing from the others. When I feel for Manipura Chakra, whose element is fire, I check the heat. If the flame feels particularly hot, I may need to ask myself: Is my ego wounded by what happened? Do I want to strike out like a rattlesnake? Is the flame in here about to burn the house down? Or does it feel like a steady glow that gives strength without the need to react right away? Manipura’s job is to protect you, and anger and fear are there for important reasons, but they can also be hard to see past. If the heat is steady and clear, I know that it’s a “No” response, and Manipura is offering me the strength to assert my boundaries.
Svadisthana Chakra is located in the low belly, in line with the sacrum and in relationship to your reproductive organs. Its element is water, and can balance out the fire in Manipura. This is a chakra of creative and sexual energy, intimate relationships, desires, dreams, and traumas. Emotions that flow from here like a calm, powerful river are gut reactions that are coming from somewhere, even if they don’t make sense right away.
Svadisthana needs to be able to move, feel, and flow. If this area feels numb or shut down, or if emotions are pouring out like a tsunami, there may be a trauma trigger that is creating an unbalanced response. Svadisthana doesn’t speak in English: these emotions don’t care about fitting into your ego story, so they can be hard to look at with our analytical minds. The trick is simply to feel them.
Exploring these deeper wisdoms can be illuminating, but it’s important to acknowledge that we can’t always figure out what’s happening in the wild and wooly outside world, filled as it is with other people. While they may not give us all the answers to life’s problems, practices like this one that explore the wisdom of feeling will certainly teach us something about ourselves.