Personal Growth - Chakras : An inbuilt growth detector
CHECK YOUR GROWTH GRAPHMooladhara: How secure are you?
How often have you felt distraught at an imagined future event?
a) Often b) Sometimes c) Rarely d) Never
I have all these wonderful insights about unconditional love and focusing on the happiness of others, but I am unable to put them into practice because I feel very hurt by what others say and do. I cannot go beyond my own feelings,” says an ardent seeker.
“I would love to have a lasting relationship with a woman but I cannot seem to stop having casual flings with whoever comes my way,” rues a 30-something man.
“I am deeply unhappy at work because I cannot assert my authority over my subordinates, who take advantage of me and do not follow my orders,” says a meek looking Arati Shedde (name changed), a manager in a bank.
All of us are hobbled by emotional and psychological issues that come in the way of our furthur growth. That is common knowledge. What is not is that we have an inbuilt system that tabulates our progress and also enables us to overcome them. We are talking about the ancient Indian body of knowledge called the chakra system.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, chakras (meaning wheel or disc in Sanskrit) are energy centres that run from the base of the spine to the top, or crown, of the head. Although they are part of a subtle energy system networking the body with nearly 72,000 junctions, there are seven major chakras, each a circular wheel of light spinning in the energetic system, associated with certain body parts, a colour, element, and function. Chakras are located in our auric body and are therefore invisible at the physical realm. Thousands of sages, however, have testified to their existence when in a higher level of consciousness.
The common understanding of the chakra system is that it is the path of ascension of the kundalini energy, and that invoking this energy will enable us to attain enlightenment. This is one approach.
The other more profound approach is to work on our psychological and emotional issues in such a way that the chakra naturally opens and the kundalini ascends. This is the path advocated by most teachers and the chakra system is well-equipped to play this role because each chakra is the centre of one of our fundamental emotional and psychological needs. Starting from the bottom up, these needs form a hierarchy somewhat like the Maslowian Hierarchy of Needs which says that man needs to fulfil fundamental needs like food and clothing before he can go on to higher needs such as for self-esteem and ultimately for self-actualisation.
The chakra system too starts with a basic need and each successive chakra represents a progressively higher or rarefied need.
The first is the mooladhara or root chakra which centres around the need for security. The second is the swadisthana which focuses on the need for pleasure. The third is the manipura or the solar plexus chakra which focuses on the need for power. The fourth is the anahata or the heart chakra, which deals with the need for love and connection. The fifth is the vishudha or throat chakra which stands for the need to communicate. It is alternatively recognised as standing for the need for acceptance. The sixth is the ajna which is oriented around intuition. And the seventh is the big one, sahashara chakra, standing for oneness or self-transcendence. Our spiritual progress can be tabulated by our capacity to meet each of these needs successfully and in the process balance the chakras.
“I am so scared now, Amma. I don’t want to go there,” said Jamuna’s daughter, Samyukta, after the family moved back to Colaba again recently. She had been there earlier and Jamuna had thought she would be thrilled at the move. Alas, we often don’t know when and where insecurity can strike. Her appetite became erratic, she was not able to concentrate or even watch a movie in peace. Fortunately, after a couple of weeks, she re-established bonds with her old friends and voila, her confidence, appetite and joie-de-vivre returned.
“When I left a stable and very prestigious job to join a start-up magazine of my liking, I experienced major bouts of insecurity,” says Uma Ganesh, a Mumbai-based writer. “I didn’t miss the power or the prestige or the fame associated with my job. But I did miss the security of getting a monthly salary on time.”
“My son doesn’t need me anymore. I have no motivation to continue here,” my friend Vyjayanthi said, a few months after her son got married to a lovely girl she had, in fact, liked very much prior to the marriage. Fortunately, her aunt counselled her to understand how important it was for her to continue cherishing her new role and play it without acrimony, giving her own example of being the matriarch in a big family. Fortunately, within a few weeks, Vyjayanthi’s whole perspective changed, and a wonderful new bond was established between her and her daughter-in-law.
The need for security and stability is a core need, the foundation upon which to build a happy, successful and useful life. The sight of a child lost in a marketplace or fair and piteously wailing for its mother is a graphic picture of the vital need for security in each of our lives. Only a deep and strong sense of stability can enable us to explore our facets, take risks and uncover our potential. The mooladhara chakra also known as the root chakra, which is the conduit for our experience of security is located at the perineum, between the anus and the genitals.
Security and stability stem from strong and secure family relationships, finance, health, and a relationship with God. Strong and clear-cut value systems that guide decision-making are also a source of stability and so too is self-esteem.
“Security issues can be about any aspect of life – money, career, relationships. It can be amazing that people can be very secure in one area and extremely insecure about another area. For example a person could feel very secure about money and very insecure about relationships or vice versa,” says Ameeta Shah, a psychotherapist from Mumbai.
She shares a case she dealt with where a client grew up feeling he could not measure up to his family’s standards for academic results, career choice and money making capacity as he chose graphic designing while his entire family was in the medical profession. His sense of inadequacy crippled his confidence and impacted not just his career but his relationships with his family and himself.
The virtue of stability can anchor us through all the vicissitudes of life, enabling us to spring back each time life sends us a googly. “When I separated from my husband because of his alcoholism and went back to my parental home, I moped around for a couple of months,” says Meenakshi, a nurse. “But then I thought to myself that life is fleeting and it was pointless being unhappy about something I was not to blame for, so I decided to enjoy living,” she says with a bright smile.
Imbalance in this chakra can generate the two extremes of insecurity and rigidity, an unwillingness to change. Imbalance can be rectified either by working on the issues or by meditating upon the root chakra and flooding that area with its colour, which is red.
The associated sense is ‘smell’. Any mother will agree that her baby ‘knows’ she is near even before seeing or touching her and very often, even stops bawling when they sense or ‘smell’ a loved one. To the baby, the equation is clear – the smell of loved ones is enough to assure her that she would be taken care of. As adults, we too feel most comfortable when sensing familiar smells like the aroma of food we like or perhaps the scent of a favourite flower.
Naturally, the element associated with it is the most stable and steady element: earth. In fact, Mother Earth is an even more appropriate symbol for this chakra. For truly, this chakra is all about feeling as secure and comfortable as one feels in one's mother’s arms. Let us not forget that this remains our birthright always.
The pleasure principle
When we go further, we come to the swadisthana chakra, located two inches below the navel. Naturally, after our basic needs come feelings and emotions, which is what this chakra stands for.
“I cannot bear to think of my siblings leaving home only for the sake of lust,” is Anagha’s (name changed) description of marriage. Such an unflattering description of their motivation had alienated her siblings and their spouses. It was only when she saw the next generation marry that Anagha understood it was not a sin to desire another.
The swadisthana stands for the pleasure principle and that is most often routed through food and sex.
In talking about the swadisthana at the programme called Breakthru, run by the Oneness Univercity, Samadarshini, the former acharya of Oneness astutely observed, “Pleasure has its continuity in thought. It does not end in the physical act. Because of this it always ends up in pain.” Anyone who has been in love knows about the compulsive need to daydream and to replay the times spent together. Epicures will similarly dwell with almost obsessive force about the memorable meal they had or are about to have.
Little wonder there is often quite a lot of imbalance either through over indulgence or through abstinence in this area among people of all ages. Dr Chugh, a psychologist from Delhi, says, "Denial of sexual needs is a very common phenomenon. It is often seen among women who repress their needs for sex in order to keep up with a stifling relationship. A lot of people develop a denial of needs as a consequence of some guilt or abuse."
He shares the case of a 32-year-old male, who suffered from both problems. As a small child, he was sexually abused by one of his neighbours and at around the same time, he peeped in through the keyhole when his mother was taking a bath. After that he did not remember getting into anything that was sexual. He never had a girlfriend, never had sex, and never watched or read anything which was sexual. At times when he did come across something sexual through a friend or while watching TV, he would feel extremely guilty and get into extensive prayers. He became a recluse, suffered inexplicable anxiety at work, and was generally depressed.
Overcoming these blocks and returning to a healthy expression of one’s sexual need is entirely possible. With therapy the person mentioned above became fully functional and went ahead to get married and have children, and had a good professional life as well.
Given as we are to pursuing pleasure and shunning pain, attaining balance in the swadisthana chakra is a tricky issue. The solution lies in one word: “Enough!” Our capacity to control our desires is the measure of our capacity to balance this chakra.
Another way to balance the chakra is to meditate upon it and bathe the chakra with the colour orange.
Once we attain balance, our capacity to enjoy life flowers out. The yogi, it is said, is the supreme bhogi. He can truly enjoy all life has to offer from food, to music to nature to sex, because of the simple fact that he is not at the mercy of any of it. Everything becomes fun, including the difficulties of life. We learn to relish life in its entirety!
The element of this chakra is water, which softens and fertilises the earth. Just as the dry earth sprouts life when it welcomes rain, a balanced swadisthana can unfold our creativity. The sense is taste as it stands for the pleasure principle.
The next step up the ladder is towards ‘power’ and the “I can” stage, which is centred around the manipura chakra.
All of us have a need for power, for significance and importance. When realised in a healthy way, this need can motivate us to achieve great things.
The term “fire in the belly,” is really very appropriate for the manipura chakra, as the element associated with this chakra is fire and it is located in the area of the belly.
When this chakra is imbalanced we can either veer into domination or helplessness.
When I (Jamuna) first met Promila Gurtu and attended her workshop, the chakra which seemed most out of sync was the manipura. Quite surprising, I thought. In fact, I was quite successful as an IT professional then and things were all right at the home front too. However, it was also a fact that I was not comfortable with some of the decisions being taken and I could not accept that my ‘power’ had certain boundaries too.
“Why does my son never listen to what I say?”
“Why do my parents never allow me to do what I want?”
“Why doesn’t my boss understand that I want to do it my way? It is after all, for the good of the company…”
How often do we hear these statements? In each of these cases we are trying to derive power by controlling others. However, the source of our power has to be vested in ourselves, that we can only control our responses and not of others is a fundamental spiritual rule. It is this rule we need to yoke in order to move away from being affected by what others do or say. By freeing others to behave as they choose and by exerting our capacity to respond independent of their words or actions we attain a rare form of freedom. This freedom is the testament of our inner power. When we can remain unperturbed by anything that happens outside us, we will be truly powerful.
“Authentic power is one that enables us to be comfortable irrespective of others' responses,” says Anil Bhatnagar, a motivational speaker from Delhi. “When we try to control people, we give away our power to them because our happiness depends on how they behave. And when we are being controlled by others or by our own expectations, loving becomes impossible,” he avers.
Trying to control what we cannot causes us to worry about the future and obsess about the past. Which is why the sense associated with this chakra is sight… for, an ability to see clearly without distorting the past or future leads to living in the present moment. To balance the manipura, meditate upon it and bathe it with yellow. Also, resolve your sense of powerlessness or need to control through therapy, self-awareness and other techniques.
Once we make the transition from power over others to power over ourselves, the manipura opens up and functions optimally.
Love for all
The move from the manipura to the anahata chakra which is the next in order, is a quantum leap. This is because the first three chakras deal with personal issues. With the heart chakra we are going from the self to the other, a movement from independence to interdependence.
Sheela (name changed), my (Jamuna's) cousin, was a much-admired lady, supremely efficient, very independent and orderly. Family members looked upon her with a certain amount of awe. “Nothing was impossible for Sheela,” was the general consensus. However, over a period of time, the very traits that were admirable in her began working against her. Being efficient, she was intolerant of those who were not. Taking pride in her independence, she took on everything as a personal challenge, trying to prove that she did not need anybody. Ultimately, however, she alienated herself from her family, friends and colleagues. The net result was loneliness, bitterness and depression. And the greatest tragedy was that she never really understood where she had gone wrong.
Can there be real love without freedom? In fact, most relationships flounder because of the disconnect between love and restriction of freedom. Quite appropriately, the element associated with this chakra is ‘air’ and the sense associated with this chakra is touch which enables us to connect with the world. To balance the heart chakra, meditate upon it and bathe it with the colour green. It is equally important for you to open your heart by getting in touch with your feelings, and maybe meditating on loving kindness.
“I used to feel helpless with regard to my boyfriend because I could never tell him what was going on within me. He would either make fun of me, or dismiss the issue as unimportant. It was only after we broke up that I gathered the strength to confront him and express myself fully. The moment I did that a lot of the power he had over me dissolved,” says Varsha, a 20-year-old law student.
Communication is not easy and it is this challenge that the vishudha or throat chakra stands for.
We all know that what we want and what we say can often be at variance. Very often all we want from the other is an apology, but what comes out of our mouth propelled by hurt is "You are an idiot."
Even with the best of intentions, it is difficult to convey what we want to others. A friend was wooed by a swain who simply would not take no for an answer. “I know that you like me,” was his infuriating refrain until the friend decided to take responsibility for the communication and worded out her refusal so clearly that he simply had to buy it.
This is true in all areas of our lives particularly at home and at work. Unless we can communicate clearly and without reactivity and take responsibility for the other understanding us, we will be swamped by relationship problems.
On knowing the vishuddha is all about communication, a friend immediately concluded the sense must be speech. When told it was listening, she was quite stunned. Yes, we must understand that the more we listen, the better communicators we will be. Whether the tool we use is writing, speaking or the arts, it is listening well that enables us to convey what we wish to. A balanced vishudha chakra expresses our sense of clarity and self-control which alone can help us to say what we want without hurting the other and indeed, even enhancing the relationship. The element associated with this chakra is akasha or ether.
Imbalance in this area either causes a sense of feeling choked or inability to penetrate the dynamics that govern human interaction. The other extreme is to express oneself too volubly, without restraint. To balance this chakra meditate upon it and visualise the colour blue over it.
I (Jamuna) instinctly knew I would gravitate toward Life Positive the moment I met the present editor many years ago. The place and time was quite different from what I envisaged but my gut feeling was right.
Many of us use rational thinking to arrive at decision making, by analysing options and then rating them by their perceived utility. However, there is another method that bypasses this lengthy procedure and gives us answers and insights instantly. This is the zone of the intuition or higher intelligence which is governed by the ajna chakra, located between our eyebrows where the bindi is applied. The ajna chakra also governs our capacity to discriminate, to be able to separate the real from the unreal. The ajna chakra is the command centre of the human psyche, and when balanced is the mark of the one who has mastered life.
The ajna chakra gives us the capacity to go beyond emotional and sense-ridden impulses and to negotiate our way through life with our intellect firmly in command. Virtuous and auspicious life becomes a natural corollary.
When we understand the importance of intuition, we will also understand why the element associated with the ajna chakra is inner sound, the sound one hears inside that does not depend upon events outside. To balance this chakra visualize the colour indigo over it. You could also consciously cultivate your intuition and discriminating intelligence.
If the mooladhara chakra stands for security symbolised by the mother figure, the sahashara or crown chakra stands for father or the direction and guidance we get in life.
“I can never forgive my father,” said Leena (name changed), whose father had been an alcoholic and often got fired from his job, as a result. She had an issue with all men, and never could understand why she could also never stick to jobs. It was only when she reconciled to her family and father that things started improving on all counts. “I now understand that my father did try hard to overcome alcoholism and respect him for that,” she says.
In reality, our connection with our biological father becomes the model for our relationship with authority, and ultimately, with God.
The element associated with this sense is inner light, which is what one experiences when one is in the deepest part of one’s being.
The sahashara chakra is the apex of the spiritual or personal growth ladder. When we balance this chakra we will be able to complete the journey that began with the heart, for we will have completely skimmed past our ego limitations and arrived at oneness. This stage is the ultimate goal of all seekers for here there is no difference between you and me – we are both one. This is the stage of unconditional love, acceptance, and everlasting peace. Nothing and no one can disturb our tranquility because there is no personal need to fulfil. As the Katha Upanishad puts it vividly, all desires will have been transcended and all knots in the heart untied.
To balance this chakra meditate upon it and visualise the colour violet over it. Also resolve your issues with your father, and strive to go beyond the ego.
Although the journey is considered to be vertical, all the chakras support and strengthen each other. All our growth is focussed on one or other of these needs. When all the needs are met, we lead a happy and auspicious life that will eventually lead us to enlightenment.
See more articles on Personal Growth at: http://www.lifepositive.com/articles/PersonalGrowth
Subject: Balanced Holistic Living for Vision & Mission - 18 December 2010
As per Vedantic principle we need to sensitise / make healthy use of all energy centres this is first step but later steps of Karma,Jnana,Bhakti & Raja yogas are to be exercised followed by understanding yourself/Maya/& doing succession planning for Vanprashta followed by Gunatita balanced use of More...
by: Mahesh Bhatt
Subject: Third Eye - 18 December 2010
Twelve years ago I experienced the opening of the Third Eye that has shown me reality and answers many questions.Can you test me on this level of spirituality?Just as sharpening requires a stone so does spirituality requires to be sharpened to help others at this time. Love Tom. More...
by: Thomas Glen
Subject: Kundalini - 7 July 2010
Jamuna Rangachari ji In your article, Chakras: An inbuilt growth detector You says We are talking about the ancient indian body of knowledge called Chakra systems, but, it is Universal and The Source of Origin there is no starting nor ending. and also you said energy system networking the body More...
Thanks for your comments. I have been meditating - my guru Promila Gurtu, is no longer with us. However, Kundalini is something i have not explored...I realise Chakras has many dimensions and personal growth is what we have explored. Jamuna
Subject: chakras - 1 July 2010
very well written article please write more on chakra balancing
Thanks . We will keep your suggestion in mind.
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