First Chakra: Body Work

Just as last month's self-help flavor was learned optimism, so this month it looks like it is going to be chakra work. Appropriately, I kept myself up until 3am this morning denying my body the sleep that it most definitely needed and instead reading in a book that my sister recommended, Anodea Judith's Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self (revised edition, 2004).

Based on what I have read thus far, I am (as, it seems many of us in the modern world are) most definitely blocked in a number of ways in my first chakra (the red one at the bottom). According to Judith, this chakra is located at the base of the spine at the coccygeal plexus and is typically associated with our physical identity and feelings of self-preservation. When it is open, we feel ourselves grounded, comfortable in our bodies, and able to relax and be still. We trust the world to provide us with the things that we need to exist and generally feel safe and secure. When it is blocked, either by excess or deficiencies, however, we spend our lives feeling anxious, fearful and insecure for reasons that we can never identify. Physically, imbalances in this chakra exhibit themselves as problems with our weight and physical energy. We may feel disconnected from our bodies, either anxious or sluggish, and have trouble with discipline. Those who have experienced trauma to this chakra, particularly through lack of physical nurturing, are often highly creative, while at the same time being overly focused on the powers of the sixth and seventh chakras, respectively, imagination and awareness.

"That's me," I thought when I read the description of what it is like to be deficient at one's root. I doubt constantly my right to exist, never mind my right to have the things that I need to survive. I live almost wholly in my head, even when I am exercising. I struggle with a lack of self-love (no surprise there), often talk too much in order to feel safe. I think constantly in symbols and archetypes (thus my interest in scriptural exegesis in my research), while at the same time functioning poorly under pressure (try backing me into a corner by asking me to do something now) and tending to adhere rigidly to routines. And I have a lot of trouble staying on topic, as any of my students who have suffered one of my long "footnotes" knows. There are other things that feel a little personal to admit here, including having trouble showing affection and lacking trust in my physical relationships. For example, I've never been one of those women who likes exchanging lots of hugs; I find it hard to be physically close to people whom I don't know very well. Make that, very, very well. I guess that I have to admit to being strongly intellectual, but I also tend to interrupt people when they're talking. And while I like thinking about the spiritual world, I feel sometimes like my body isn't really mine (see yesterday's post).

So what to do? Well, ironically, the first thing it feels like I should do is make a plan, but perhaps that is simply feeding the imbalance: even doing my yoga, I can feel like it's all happening solely in my head. I end up worrying more about keeping to my schedule than I do feeling the way in which my body is responding. So I won't make a plan. But I will try to hold a few thoughts.

1. I am allowed to exist. Even better, I have a right to exist. (Oh, that's a hard one. I feel anxious just putting it that way.)

2. I have a right to spend time each day taking care of my body, including showering and doing my yoga. (Argh! Harder again: isn't doing my yoga just a hippy-dippy way of avoiding my "real" work? Exercise is a waste of time that I could be using to get more writing done.)

3. I need to allow myself to be touched so as to learn what it is like to feel grounded and cared for. (Judith recommends massages for those who have an imbalance of this sort. And indeed, I had a massage on Friday because my upper back had seized up so badly last Monday that I could barely move. I've made another appointment for this coming Friday, but, again, it's hard to feel like this isn't just playing pretend. At being, I don't know, worth caring for. See? And yet maybe Judith is right: if I allowed myself to be cared for in this way regularly, perhaps I wouldn't end up with my back in so much pain.)

4. I am allowed to eat whatever I want. (You know I've been working on this one, but it's still a struggle. I have such a hard time trusting my body not to choose the wrong things. Ha! As if my head has done such a great job over the years.)

5. I am going to enjoy wearing all of my new shoes, especially the red ones. (Because our feet are also our ground. Isn't it interesting that I just bought all those new boots?)

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