You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Mary Oliver
I love this quote. Reading Mary Oliver feels like lying down on lush, damp grass, taking a deep breath and sinking in. But how often do we take the time to sink in and really inhabit our body?
Our modern lifestyle creates a disconnect with the body, we become like a head with hands, always thinking and doing, but rarely fully being in our body.
Unless we habitually stop and practice meditation, dance or yoga, or spend time in nature, we may never really arrive in our body all day.
The wisdom of the body – with its endless and varied signals and systems – is our vehicle for living.
And like any vehicle, our body provides a stream of signs to guide and inform us. It provides the physicality, the flesh, the medium though which we interact with our physical, emotional and spiritual world.
From the soft lub-dub of our heart beat, to our churning guts, our racing pulse, our cold feet, the body conveys a series of messages, if we would only listen.
The soft animal of our body knows what it loves. It feels our pleasure and our pain.
The body contains truths unique to our being. We are similar, but not the same and neither are our bodies. As you embrace this, you can settle into a beautiful relationship with the unique body, the exquisite system of flesh and senses, that is you.
Your biography becomes your biology. Caroline Myss
The yogis have always known this, that the stresses of the body must be smoothed out and soothed with yoga poses before the mind can be still and spirit can be heard. The yoga tradition is all about purifying the vehicle to achieve union of body and spirit.
In the Vedanta – the ancient Indian wisdom writings – it says that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Our body is what allows us to have this experience.
The first chakra, located at the base of our spine, is called Muladhara in Sanskrit, meaning root support. Like the root system of a tree, our root or base chakra energetically grounds us in the physical world. This chakra balances our physicality, sense of security and stability in our body and in the world.
Linking the chakras are a series of energy channels that, in their purest and unimpeded form, constantly flow and spiral up and down the spinal column, keeping our energetic system in connectivity to both the earth and ethereal energy above, with the chakras like little hubs in between.
Anodea Judith calls the chakras the ‘architecture of the soul.’ She says a chakra is a centre of organisation for the reception, the assimilation and the expression of life force energy. The chakras are the portals, the mediators, between the inner world and the outer world.
Chakras can be described as processing centres of energy and information, as well as gateways for this energy and information to flow into, out of, and through. Note that when I refer to ‘energy’ I use the term to describe the concept used in many esoteric traditions of the vital life force energy, or spiritual energy, also known as prana or qi.
Many of us have sustained emotional and physical traumas in life which may have affected the formation and flow of our chakras. This biography of experience is energetically recorded in our chakra system (as well as the cells in our bodies.) This can cause our chakras to compensate by either restricting energy flow, becoming deficient or under active, or by becoming over active and excessive. Or even a combination of both.
‘So what?’ You ask, ‘it’s only energy,’ read on, and I’ll tell you why this kind of imbalance can have deep and far reaching effects on your life.
The land is my backbone. Galarrwuy Yunipingu
Linked to physical realities of life – security, shelter, sustenance, family, tribe – Deedre Diemer writes that the first chakra is associated with primordial trust. It is the chakra associated with our basic instincts for food, shelter, sex and survival. As such, we may have an overreactive first chakra, that is out of balance and causes us to compensate in a variety of ways.
Natalie Southgate writes that when your base chakra is balanced, you feel connectedness with the world and those around you, in a state of safety and stability. The balanced base chakra gives you a focused sense of your place in the world. As it is your root chakra, it is vital to allow your other chakras to be in balance.
Like the foundations of a house, or the roots of the tree, the base is essential to the stability of the whole structure.
If we are imbalanced in this chakra it can manifest as a lack of physicality, being underweight, spacey and anxious. Or it may manifest as an excessive physicality in being overweight and overly attached to the physical by hoarding, over eating and indulgence in pleasure, or over-accumulation of stuff.
To lose our connection with the body is to become spiritually homeless. Without an anchor we float aimlessly, battered by the winds and waves of life. Anodea Judith
I often wondered how I could be both spaced out and have a tendency to over-indulge. Anodea Judith points out that as these extremes are both compensatory behaviours to address an issue in this chakra we may experience symptoms of both.
If you imagine the root chakra like a plant in a pot, it needs a degree of support to keep the soil and moisture in, but too tight a restraint will not allow it to grow.
In the same way a deficient base chakra contracts too tightly into its core, not allowing enough room for energy to come in, to have, to hold, to manifest. In this scenario we are literally strangling our energy flow, the earth energy that needs to flow up and through our base chakra is restricted and bottlenecked, creating blockages that may literally prevent us from manifesting or maintaining physical things, including our own healthy robust body, as there is no room to receive. This kind of person can be literally disembodied, spacey, anxious, ungrounded.
The person who compensates for an unbalanced base chakra though physical over-indulgence, allows excessive earth energy into their system. They may feel heavy, lethargic, they may be overweight, overeat, hoard and covet possessions, money and power. It is as if they use physical things, including their own body weight to compensate for deficiencies in this chakra, perhaps to literally compensate for a lack of maternal holding in their formative years.
Again this results in a blockage. Too much energy, when it is held and hoarded in this way impedes the flow just as much as constricted energy. It’s akin to the Buddhist concept of attachment, it is the attachment to our desires that causes suffering. It causes us to get stuck in a unmanageable mess of our own making.
Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life and that person was you. It is not too late to become that person again. Robert Brault
The base chakra is very much about grounding, stability, and security, and I have learned the only lasting stability and security available is that which I provide to myself, through being present in the body, in the now. My intention now is for balance and health. I no longer want to shield myself in weight, nor do I want to starve, or define myself by some ideal so manipulated that not even today’s models actually achieve it. My intention is to love myself, to protect myself without needing layers of flesh to do so. To be whatever size and shape my true being is, healthy, comfortable, happy. My intention is to rediscover joy in my body, my life.
The lesson of Muladhara chakra is grounding, a full inhabiting of our physical bodies as the embodiment of our connection to the element of earth. To cease existing primarily in our heads and inhabit our bodies. To cease grasping onto people, places and things as the source of our security.
Here we can experience pleasure and pain, connect with our feelings, and release these accumulated emotional energies through our connection with the physical.
Movement through our bodies allows energy to flow, it can trigger blockages to shift and cause accumulated energies to be released or redistributed and balanced.
Movement brings us into our physicality, brings our energy down from our heads into our roots, allowing a real connection with not only our physical selves, but the physicality of the world around us.
Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and the moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body. Saraha Doha
To encourage our vital energy to flow freely we must let go of our attachments and defences. The chakras can be blocked by our learned defences, either something we want to keep out or something we don’t want to let out. What kinds of things would cause these defences? Toxic energy, fear and violence are all things we may shut down to avoid. Similarly we may repress our own ‘negative’ emotions – anger, sorrow, exuberance – having learned it was unsafe to express these.
Sometimes the residue from trauma gets stored in our body and our energy system. While traditional psychotherapy may assist at a mental and behavioural level, we also need to release these wounds energetically, in order to release the attachments and defences they cause us to act out – often unconsciously – in our lives.
As in all things balance is the key. An over-amped base chakra may cause us to be frozen in fear or rushing about in a heightened state of anxiety. What we ideally want is movement that is grounded and purposeful. We need to reconnect with the nurturing aspects of Mother Earth.
I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. Mary Oliver
To ground we invite this energy back down through our body and reconnect ourselves energetically with the earth.
Traditionally humans spent most of their lives in direct contact with the earth, walking, living and sleeping on the ground. In the modern world we are so disconnected from the earth in layers of buildings, shoes, vehicles.
In Chakradance we reconnect our base chakra to the earth by dancing to earthy tribal beats, moving powerfully through our legs and feet. We may visualise ourself as a seed planted in the earth, provided with all the sustenance, support, and security it needs to grow. We see ourselves setting down strong roots as we grow into the world, like a giant majestic tree firmly rooted in the soil, so our branches can safely reach up and out into the sunshine.
Anodea Judith says that the best way to restore balance to the base chakra, is to open the leg channels. The legs connect us to the earth and the energy flows up through our feet and legs and into the base chakra. Our legs are like two prongs of an electric plug – we need to plug in to the earth energy to ground.
Plenty of earthing, feet in the earth, sitting crouched on the earth, visualising mother earth’s energy cleansing, grounding, and balancing me. All very tribal, this earth-based, primal dance of the base chakra, and so liberating for a cerebral girl like me.
Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.
Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul