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  • Bill Petrie

Why is it Important to Take Good Care of Your Subtle Energy?

Updated: Jan 9, 2020

The state of your subtle energy affects every aspect of your being.

Eastern and other cultures have accepted this for thousands of years but Western science and medicine have generally been very scathing about the idea of subtle energy.

That having been said, a series of events in 1971 began to erode that skepticism.

In that year, a reporter for the New York Times - James Reston - was visiting China ahead of Henry Kissinger’s groundbreaking trip that took place a few weeks later.

Reston became seriously ill with an acute appendicitis and was successfully operated on in China.

After the operation, Reston was in a great deal of pain and that pain was successfully relieved - not by painkillers - but by acupuncture.

Reston was so impressed by this that he wrote an article about it in the New York Times.

He also told Henry Kissinger who then went on to tell President Nixon who invited Chinese doctors to share their knowledge and skills with American doctors.

Now, Traditional Chinese Medicine (which includes acupuncture) is based on an understanding of subtle energy.

Since 1971 acupuncture and other elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine have become relatively commonplace in the west and numerous western doctors have trained in acupuncture.

But, the interest in the west in subtle energy has extended way beyond acupuncture so much so that, over the over the last four decades there has been an explosion of interest in working with subtle energy in the west whether it be via:

  • yoga

  • Tai chi

  • Other forms of Chi Gong

  • Energy healing

  • Tapping methods like EFT

  • Many of the martial arts

  • Tantric practices

  • and, of course, acupuncture

Literally hundreds of thousands of western professionals now use subtle energy practices in their work in one way or another.

Although we have to admit that we don't yet understand subtle energy from a western perspective, we do know that many practices that are based on an understanding of subtle energy are effective and worthy of respect.

Now, there are many different subtle energy models besides the traditional Chinese ones.

A traditional Indian model, for example, uses the idea of a chakra.

So, what is a chakra?

Well a chakra is a major subtle energy centre in the body and in the most common understanding, there are seven chakras, each with it’s own set of associated characteristics.

So, let’s start with the base chakra - also known as the first or root chakra.

The base chakra has its center in the region of the base of the spine.

Now, the base chakra resonates with our safety and survival needs.

So, when our base chakra is balanced, we feel solid, safe and secure.

And, when the base chakra is out of balance, we tend to feel insecure, unsafe - even fearful.

So, any threat:

  • to our survival

  • to our safety

  • to our health

  • to our home

  • or to our financial well-being

is going to tend to generate fear and imbalance in the base chakra.

The element associated with the base chakra is earth and so it should come as no surprise that a strong relationship to the earth - and, more generally, to nature – helps to balance the base chakra.

This connection to the earth is the essence of grounding.

Standing barefoot on the earth, walking in nature and mindful physical activities like climbing and yoga are particularly helpful in balancing this chakra.

Another aspect that helps balance the base chakra is resting (and a balanced base chakra helps us to rest properly).

This is vitally important because rest is the only state in which we restore ourselves fully – both mentally and physically - and resting is something that we tend not do do nearly enough of in modern life.

A balanced base chakra will give you a solid foundation to your whole life.

So, what about the second chakra?

Well, once survival and safety needs are met, most animals will turn their attention to the attainment of pleasure.

And, the prime motivation of the second chakra is pleasure.

And, pleasure includes many things:

  • laughter

  • play

  • creativity

  • sensuality

  • and, of course, intimate sexuality.

All of these - in a healthy form - leave us feeling peaceful and content.

Remember, for example, how content you felt after laughing deeply in your belly with a friend on one of those special nights.

Think of the contentment that follows a burst of creative activity.

And, think of the wonderful deep peace of post-coital lassitude.

Peace and contentment are the result of healthy pleasure and pleasure is very important for our sense of wellbeing.

The element associated with the second chakra is water and water is symbolic of the flowing nature of sensuality and sexuality.

And, if you imagine water slopping from side to side in a bath, you get the sense of a second chakra’s fluid dance with life.

Part of this fluidity is a healthy emotional life.

When we have a healthy relationship with our emotions, we experience our emotions coming and going in a very fluid way.

But if we resist our negative emotions, we will have a stunted experience of all of our emotions - both positive and negative.

Life comes with both good and bad emotions - there is no way around that – and we need to feel both good and bad or our experience of our emotions will suffer and so will our experience of pleasure.

Another negative effect of suppressing our emotions is that we will tend to lose touch with what our emotions are trying to tell us. Emotions give us important information. If we feel hurt by someone, we need to check and see what that’s about. If we feel sad, we can know that there is some sort of loss that has happened for us. If we feel anxious or fearful, we need to check if there is some real threat. Emotions can be very helpful indeed and health means experiencing it all!

But, it’s also true that it’s important for us not to over-identify with our emotions. If we over-identify with our emotions, we will be ruled by your emotions and life will then become a perpetual drama for us and there will be little peace or contentment in our lives.

So, a healthy second chakra involves a healthy relationship with your emotions and a healthy experience of pleasure.

So, where is the second chakra?

Well, the center of the second chakra is at the level of the top of the pubic hairline.

So, that’s the second chakra, the chakra of pleasure!

The third chakra:

The third chakra extends from just below the bellybutton up to the ribs (front and back).

Its colour is an exquisite citron yellow and its main quality is one’s personal power.

Personal power – simply put - is the ability to make things happen.

If, there is balance in this chakra, we will tend to feel self-confident, independent and strong.

But, if there is imbalance, we will tend to feel:

  • either arrogant

  • or dependant, unsure, ashamed or like a victim.

So, if we are influenced mainly by the base chakra, we will tend to experience most of our life as involving issues of safety and security.

If – on the other hand - we are influenced mainly by the second chakra, we will be influenced primarily by Freud’s pleasure principal – the instinctive search for pleasure and the instinctive avoidance of pain.

If we are influenced mainly by the third chakra, issues of personal power (or powerlessness) will tend to dominate.

So, ask yourself the following questions: Do you feel solid and secure in your life?

Are you getting enough pleasure in your life?

Do you feel confident and strong?

If the answer to any one of these is 'No!' there is work to do on one of more of your lower chakras (and I will give some suggestions later).

Now, in moving to the fourth chakra, we move away from the realm of the purely personal.

The fourth chakra is centered at the heart so it’s easy to understand that, with this chakra, we have moved into the realm of love and joy.

Joy and love open our hearts and connect us to others.

In Buddhism, joy and love are reflected in three ways:

  • as compassion – the desire for all beings to be relieved of suffering

  • as loving-kindness – the desire for all beings to be happy

  • And as altruistic joy – the joy of experiencing the happiness of others.​

Now, we are beings too and so it's very important that we feel compassion and loving-kindness for ourselves too.

Self-compassion is a vital part of a healthy self.

The heart chakra is considered to be the center of our consciousness and we can see this symbolically expressed in the symbol of this chakra:

The two intersecting triangles connect above and below - one pointing down to the lower three chakras and one pointing up to the upmost three chakras.

The colour associated with the heart chakra is green and the element associated with it is air and the experience of a balanced heart chakra is one of deep peace – a peace that I would love you to have!

The fifth chakra is at the level of the throat and the colour associated with it is blue and the element associated with it is sound.

The fifth chakra is a kind of gateway or portal of expression.

A balanced fifth chakra allows us to speak our deepest truth and to express our most authentic selves – something that most people struggle to do.

The fifth chakra is also a portal through which creative expression comes.

Many creative people will tell you that it is as if things are expressed - not so much by them - as through them.

This is the experience of the fifth chakra and, at it's deepest, it has profound power. Think of Martin Luther King's 'Dream speech' as one example.

The sixth chakra is centered between the eyebrows - at the so-called ‘third eye.’

Intuitive insight is perhaps the most common of the sixth chakra experiences.

These are the great ‘aha’ moments.

Great vision is also associated with the sixth chakra.

Think of moments when things suddenly became very clear and you could see the road ahead in a way that inspired you.

That is a sixth chakra experience.

The sixth chakra is also associated with several more unusual experiences like:

  • Clairvoyance - the ability to see things in the future

  • And clairsentience - the ability to feel the feelings of others in your own body

Clairsentience is probably much more common than most people think. Many good psychotherapists, for example, use this ability to understand their clients all of the time.

The colour associated with the sixth chakra is indigo and it is easy to see why this chakra is associated with light.

Think of expressions we use in English like:​

  • a ‘light bulb’ moment

  • an ‘enlightening’ discussion

  • she ‘to threw light on’ something

  • and he had a ‘flash’ of inspiration

All of these are sixth chakra experiences!

The seventh chakra is at the crown and it is through this chakra that we connect directly with Awareness as the formless. This Awake awareness is pointed to by many names:

  • Buddha mind

  • The Tao

  • Consciousness

are but a few. In essence, this Awareness is a mystery.

So, to summarise, the issues associated with each of the chakras are as follows:

  • Chakra 1: Survival and safety

  • Chakra 2: The pursuit of pleasure

  • Chakra 3: One’s personal power

  • Chakra 4: Transpersonal Love

  • Chakra 5: Expression

  • Chakra 6: Intuitive insight and vision

  • Chakra 7: Connection to Awareness as the formless

As an addendum, here are some suggestions about strengthening your chakras:

To strengthen chakra 1:

  • Try to ensure your physical safety

  • Take good care of your finances

  • Look after your health

  • Create a refuge in your home

  • Ground yourself (by, say, walking barefoot on the earth or doing the tree pose in yoga)

  • Make sure that you rest often and well

To strengthen chakra 2:

  • Play more

  • Laugh more

  • Be creative

  • Enjoy sensual pleasures

To strengthen chakra 3:

  • Do not evaluate yourself through other's eyes

  • Pay attention to your strengths and develop them

  • Notice and relish times when you do feel strong and able

  • Try never to fall into feeling like you are a victim

  • Get help with issues like a lack of self-confidence, shame and guilt  

To strengthen chakra 4:

  • Learn to be kind and loving towards yourself

  • Realise that the critical voice in your head is just the conditioning of your childhood. It has no more value than the noise of a donkey.

To strengthen chakra 5

  • Find ways to express yourself creatively

  • Speak your truth in a way that also cares for others

To strengthen chakra 6:

  • Find ways to settle your mind so that deep insights can come to you

To strengthen chakra 7:

  • Find ways to connect to Awareness

The state of your subtle energy affects almost every aspect of your being so it’s wise to take good care of it.

It is called by many names.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this energy is called ‘chi.’

In Japanese traditional medicine and martial arts, this energy is called ‘ki.’

In the chakra system and in Ayurveda, subtle energy is called ‘prana.’

In Taoism, there is also an understanding of chi.

Now, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the vast world of subtle energy but I hope that gives you a toe-hold in this fascinating world.

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