A VERY BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO SUBTLE ENERGY FOR THOSE LISTENING TO 'GROUNDING AND SETTLING.'
Western science and medicine are, on the whole, very scathing about the idea of subtle energy but 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.
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.
In fact, over the over the last four decades in the west there has been an explosion of interest in working with subtle energy whether it be via:
Many forms of chi gong including tai chi
tapping methods like EFT
many of the martial arts
and, of course, acupuncture.
So, hundreds of thousands of western professionals now use subtle energy practices in their work. We don't yet understand subtle energy from a western perspective but we 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.
In the visualisation ‘Grounding and Settling,’ I use a model derived primarily from a traditional Indian perspective.
In the first part of the visualisation, I’ll be taking you through a process relaxing and that will be followed by a process of grounding.
Grounding here simply means connecting the subtle energy of our our bodies to the subtle energy of the earth.
Now, that may sound strange but the experience is very ordinary.
When we ground ourselves, we find that we feel much more ‘in our bodies,’ we feel 'solid' and we have a far better sense of balance.
Those of you who are familiar with yoga will find, for example, that, if you ground before doing, say, the tree pose, your sense of balance will be considerably improved.
Now, when we are grounded, we also tend to feel more solid and secure. And, feeling solid and secure are two characteristics of what is known as the base or root 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.
This fits well with my own experience.
The base chakra
The base chakra also known as the first or root chakra - has its center in the region of the base of the spine.
For the purposes of our work, I have found that it works well when men regard this chakra as having its center at the perineum - the area between the genitals and the anus.
And, for women, I have found that it works well when the cervix is taken as the center of this chakra.
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.
The visualisation ‘Grounding and Settling Your Subtle Energy’ is also very helpful in this regard.
Another aspect that helps balance the base chakra is resting (and a balanced base chakra helps us to rest properly).
This is important because rest is the only state in which we restore ourselves fully – both mentally and physically.
Resting is something that we tend not do do nearly enough of in modern life.
It is important because a balanced base chakra will give a solid foundation to your whole life.
The second chakra
Now, once survival needs are met, most animals will turn their attention to the attainment of pleasure.
And, the prime motivation of the second chakra is pleasure.
Now, pleasure includes many things:
the experience of beauty
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 of being mesmerised by a beautiful sunset.
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.
Now, 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
Now, 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:
or dependant, unsure and ashamed.
So, to summarise, the first three chakras are concerned with personal issues of:
safety and security
and personal power.
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, you can see that the first three chakras describe our biological drives – drive that are common to all mammals (and many other animal groups besides). It’s hard to imagine a troop of apes, for example, where safety, sex and dominance are not important issues.
Now, in moving to the fourth chakra, we move out of the realm of the purely personal.
The fourth chakra
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 ourselves and 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
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 great art or Martin Luther King's dream speech as good examples.
The sixth chakra
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.
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
The seventh chakra is at the crown and it is through this chakra that we connect directly with a mystery beyond the everyday experience of life.
Of course you are welcome to use any term that points towards this mystery that works for you.
Here are a few:
Heaven (in the Taoist sense)
However you name the pointers to this mystery, it remains a mystery.
Many people find this this mystery difficult to accept. But, consider this: modern science has a fairly good grasp of the material universe - what we call 'matter' and 'energy.'
The rest of the universe is thought by scientists to be made up of 'dark matter' and 'dark energy.' But, what 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' are remains a mystery - even to science. Yet we know that 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' make up more than 95% of the universe. Most of the universe is a mystery even to hard science!
So, going back to the chakra model, the issues associated with each of the chakras can be summarised as:
Chakra 1: Survival and safety
Chakra 2: The pursuit of pleasure
Chakra 3: One’s personal power
Chakra 4: Transpersonal Love
Chakra 5: Authentic, truthful expression
Chakra 6: Insight and vision
Chakra 7: Connection to mystery
Now, in the visualisation, you will come across all of the chakras.
And you will also come across the notion of a central subtle energy channel in the body that connects all the chakras.
This channel is sometimes referred to as Sushumna.
Sushumna can connect with the subtle energy of the earth through the base chakra.
If the channels are open, the energy travels from the earth, through the balls of the feet, through the feet, the ankles and the legs and up through the base chakra and into the central channel.
This is the process of ‘grounding.'
At the crown, the central channel can open up to the mystery I talked about in relation to the seventh chakra.
In the visualisation, I use the Taoist term for the mystery – i.e. ‘Heaven.’
Now, in the visualisation, we go through several processes:
First there is a process of bringing our attention down into the body.
Then there is the process of relaxing the body.
Next, there is the process of ‘grounding.'
Then we do a brief chakra balancing exercise.
And, lastly, we connect the subtle energy from above (Heaven) to the subtle energy of the earth.
This is a Taoist practice called ‘Connecting Heaven and Earth’.
Enjoy the visualisation and remember that, if you are skeptical, that’s just fine.
Just treat the visualisation as a guided journey into imagination and it will work just as well.