The idea of, the sense of, the smell, taste and feel of…love has pre-occupied me from birth. Seriously! I came into being with an up- tight third chakra, a vunerability point for my clan. Grandfather Barnes comforted me through colic-y nights saying, “There, there, I understand.” for he too had a heaviness/tightness in the third chakra. I was eight when he died, but I remember something about pain, clots and his death coming from this part of the body. I see him in Child’s Pose in bed, doubled over this pain in his mid-section.
This chakra is called the Solar Plexus chakra, and is located in the gut. This is the chakra of will and manifestation, and it is deeply affected by shame, guilt and self-consciousness. My experience with the third chakra is as the home for grief, dread, anxiety, and feelings of deep unworthiness and shame. Who does not remember that beautiful song “Where is Love?” from the musical Oliver. Simply singing that first line can create a cavernous hole in that third chakra. It is the chakra of longing for love. At the same time, it is the home to joy, excitement, exuberance and feelings of community and connection – love in action. The difference is that the first set of feelings sinks down into the stomach, becoming a ball-like black hole that sucks everything down into it. It hurts! The other set of feelings releases, relaxes, rises up creating openness, spaciousness, and the feeling of relief. Also notice that in the first instance, there is longing for love. In the second, love just is. Important distinctions to pay attention to.
There is a symbiotic, energetic relationship between the solar plexus and the heart chakra. The heart emanates the loving vibration that the solar plexus delivers into the world. And if that third chakra gives/receives the love through filters of self-conciousness, defensiveness, need or over-sensitivity, then loving action can be inhibited or overblown or twisted in some way. Thus we see so many people acting in ways that do not seem loving, that often seem to be the opposite of love. And while the heart does not need to ask, the solar plexus does! And what exactly are the questions the solar plexus should ask?
One very important question to ask anytime you experience a powerful reaction in your gut – Is this true? Can I absolutely know what I am feeling/thinking is true? This usually pulls the rug out from under any shame, guilt, feeling of unworthiness. (These questions are effective because there is no absolute truth, we are all making it up as we go. The best bumpersticker advice I ever got was “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”.) This is the first step in waking up from the stories we tell ourselves. Those two questions (and more) are part of The Work of Byron Katie, a psycho-spiritual process that really helps ro reduce suffering and increase joy. The more I ask these questions, the more the world opens up. It gets bigger rather than smaller, and if there is one thing contemporary science has taught us it is that there is A LOT of S P A C E everywhere. When your thoughts are on your side, you build trust with and feel more comfortable in that spaciousness.
Another technique I have used to strengthen the third chakra is Emotional Freedom Technique. You often see it referred to as “the tapping solution”. I like this technique because the emotion is expressed and released in the moment of feeling it. This is very powerful and can be used with both deeply seated emotions and ones that move through quickly. There is a series of accupressure points on the head and torso that are tapped as you speak the emotion, giving it nuance and emphasis, describing it in detail. As I tap and talk, the emotion shifts – it is important to articulate those shifts as well. I am using EFT on several long term stories I tell myself that are NOT true. It has effect on any discomfort or disease.
Crying is a great relief to the heart and solar plexus chakras. Everybody has a different relationship to tears. They often overwhelm me, choke me up, and, in the past, racked me with sobs. I remember my Mother telling me she wished she could cry- this during the time when my Father’s memory was going and her Mother’s home had burned, and she was trying to get her settled in a new living situation. Why couldn’t she cry? I don’t know. She seemed to fear being out of control. There was a lot she wouldn’t talk about. I don’t know and I wish I did. What I do know is that tears well up from a heavy, cramped feeling in the center of my chest. While I have swallowed them at times, I now let them come as they will. EFT with the tears helps them move. A wise friend once told me that you can gauge your healing from old pains by noticing how quickly the tears work their way out. I have one root pain that I once cried for 24 straight hours over; and, now, all I get is two eyefuls of tears, and its gone. So if you can cry, do so. If not, don’t sweat it. Deep breathing into the chakra can be just as effective.
Meditation provides time for centering self and has a positive impact on the third chakra. Taking time each day to follow the breath in and out, in and out, until there is no more in and out. If only for a moment, to feel the tremendous expansive space inside. This space is bigger even then the cosmic heavens we can see so deeply into now. After many days and months of meditating (and not meditating), you realize that this state that you formally visit each day through your breath is actually with you all the time. We tend to get so caught up in our stories that we lose our sense of this constant companion who comes in with us, walks with us through our entire lived experience (no one else can do this) and pulls us over when it is time to leave. This realization, this knowing and hearing the guidance within, is the Balm in Gilead for the wounded third chakra.
This companion, who we let in when we are still and quiet, is the ultimate healer for depression, anxiety, worry and fear, and always comes to us on the breath. Notice how, when you are all bound up in worry and fear, a deep breath or three will cut through those bonds and make space. All the things that I fret, plan, defend, try to figure out and hope for, I turn over to that larger part of me that brought me here and is guiding me. That is where faith comes in, in that moment of turning over, of letting go. Then the most amazing thing happens – you feel lighter, more energized, and you expend that energy on appreciating something in this moment, which gives energy back to you, and the cycle of life is renewed. And that simple cycle of presence, attention and appreciation is the movement of love incarnate. Which is why you were brought here in the first place.
The companion has a very distinct voice. The voice is sure and reassuring; it is, after all, the voice of love. Any voices that create feelings of hate, fear, worry, dread, suspicion, anxiety are the ones that need to be questioned first. When those voices quiet down, the voice of love and joy that brought you here will speak loud and clear.
God is love! All the rest is human contrivance.
Addendum: And some human contrivance is useful. Here is a link to some yogic approaches to healing the third chakra. I don’t find all of these useful at the moment; they are good to know. We need a variety of maleable tools for discerning how things are with us and how they are changing. We are never done. What a relief!