The Fire Within – Momentum And The Solar Plexus Chakra
What do you really want out of life? What would you like to achieve? What dream do you have that’s big enough to scare you? Yes, that one. The one that makes you uncomfortable. That leaves you squirming in your seat and blushing a bit. The one you wish would either go away altogether or be just a little more practical, for Pete’s sake. So you could somehow explain to others all your rational reasons for why you want this crazy thing so badly. . . in those rare moments when you are honest and open enough to admit this mad desire even exists.
Be grateful if you still have an inkling about what you want. Because many times in the treatment room, when I ask this question, a person will look at me with hollow eyes. And say something like, “I really don’t know what I want. I’m always trying to figure that out. But I truly have no clue what I should do with my life.”
Should Versus Want
Ah, that word “should”. Adults tend to fret about what they “should” do. If you ask a small child about future plans, not one of them EVER replies that they SHOULD do anything. Instead, it’s almost always a bubbly response about what they WANT to do. Like “I want to be a ballerina” or “I’m going to be a vet and take care of animals”. That is, until a child gets older and we adults start saying, “It’s time to put away foolish dreams and consider what you should realistically do with your life someday”.
In this post, notice how words like “should” are paired with words like “practical” and “rational”. While “dream” teams up with “uncomfortable” and “squirming” and “crazy” and “mad”.
Why do the “shoulds” in life seem more deserving of respect and less fear-inducing than the “desires”? How come what’s practical is preferred? And since when did chasing after one’s dreams become a crazy or foolhardy venture?
We still allow ourselves to say we have goals. Of saving money or planning for retirement or our kids’ college expenses or losing ten pounds or painting the living room or eating more green vegetables. But do any of those commendable and respectable goals have you leaping out of bed in the morning because you simply can’t wait to face the day and dive into them??
What Chinese Medicine Says Is Really Going On
From a Chinese medicine perspective, our shoulds and desires are mediated mostly by the acupuncture channels governing digestion (spleen and stomach) and movement (liver and gallbladder). Working in harmony, these channels orchestrate the taking in and the transformation of life energy, then using that energy to move forward and actualize our life’s desires. Yet this orchestration requires balance. Ideally, we should be able to move freely through the world, taking in and digesting all the rich experiences life has to offer. But when we become stressed, digestion slows and movement stalls, creating stagnation, stuckness and feelings of frustration and overwhelm. When we are thus frustrated and overwhelmed, we tend to doubt everything and begin to feel as if even the smallest goal or project takes too much effort and energy. As if we can’t even make a simple decision about it any longer. Do you tend to doubt yourself? Do you have trouble making decisions or have lots of unfinished projects or loose ends in your life? Chances are you are experiencing an imbalance in these digestion and movement channels, which correspond to the third or solar plexus chakra.
The Third Chakra – Where Dreams Become Reality
Covering most of the abdomen, from just below the breastbone to just above the navel, the third chakra in Sanskrit is known as manipura (“pearls of wisdom”), and it’s the seat of our personal identity. Of our self-assurance and self-discipline as expressed through our willpower. This chakra also governs what’s called tejas (“the fire within”) in Sanskrit. Tejas refers to the strength of our physical digestive process, but also to the spark in life that lights us up. Tejas moves us forward by marrying our will with the joy welling up from the second chakra. With taking in the most we can from life and firmly resolving, in each moment, to manifest with confidence our goals and dreams.
Or at least it does if all is relatively balanced.
Since all chakras work together as a unified system, each successive chakra builds upon and can only be as balanced as the foundation laid by those below it. Thus to reinforce the third chakra, we also need to check in with the first or root chakra’s tribal or family energy, which helps to give us a solid footing in life (if our family connections and support systems are relatively healthy). Drawing up from this base, our energy fuels the second or sacral chakra, and here the sheltering and supportive energy of our root holds and nurtures our creativity, allowing it to flourish in all its joy. . . in all its colorful, artsy and sensual forms. And then from this wellspring of creation, energy rises to the solar plexus. Where creativity moves from the drawing board and blueprint stage to the actual manifestation of an idea. Where dreams become reality, in essence, if our ability to draw from and digest or think through our plan merges with our inner Nike credo (just do it!!), and we actually decide on a course of action and take the steps necessary to make this thing happen.
Sounds pretty simple when it’s laid out like that, doesn’t it? And logical enough. I mean it’s just common sense, right?
Except common sense isn’t always so common.
Why You May Feel Stuck
The problem is most people get hung up somewhere along the way. Maybe the root chakra is weak, because someone grew up feeling neglected or unsupported. Maybe the second chakra is out of whack, because someone stopped believing in rainbows and unicorns. . . since it’s easy in our culture to forget that feeling joy is as essential to these human bodies as breathing. Or maybe the third chakra is imbalanced and therefore unable to perform its primary function of assimilating and executing. Of taking in and thinking through and planning ahead and stepping forward.
If we go back to the feeling state that allows us to realize the solar plexus needs some help. . . to the overwhelm and indecision and sense of stuckness and resulting frustration. . . these are the hallmarks of a third chakra that isn’t up to the task of assimilation and execution. That maybe can do bits and pieces here and there, as in initially getting absorbed in an idea but then having trouble putting forth the energy to execute it. Or maybe being too hasty to think something through and working feverishly for a bit to make something happen. . . then burning out way before the finish line is in sight. Both of these efforts only serve to feed the overwhelm and frustration. And also lead to lots of unfinished plans and projects, abandoned to the backs of closets. Or even relationships in limbo, left to wither because we just don’t have the wherewithal to deal with them.
When assimilation and execution team up in a more balanced solar plexus chakra, there is a sense of clarity and confidence. Of an immense sense of the right action to take. Of momentum in moving forward. From such clear intentions, we actually seem okay with slow and steady progress. Because clarity and confidence cultivate wisdom, and that type of inner knowing realizes each small step honors the larger intention while serving to strengthen and support the solar plexus in the process.
The Two-Minute Solar Plexus Solution
You might ask then what it takes to balance the solar plexus. Taoists like to say, “There’s not just one way up the mountain”, and I do believe many paths can lead to transformation and healing. But one simple balancing technique springs from committing to baby steps. Which means asking yourself honestly what tiny amount of time and effort you can commit to your goals and dreams each day. Because in the committing comes the showing up, every day, to honor yourself. And that daily attention nurtures the digestion channels while allowing the movement channels to flow.
If you can “show up” for 21 days straight, that’s how long it takes to form a new habit. So if all you can comfortably commit to your goal of exercising more or learning Spanish or creating a blog or putting together a vision board for a new career is two minutes a day, then commit to two minutes a day. But really commit! Put it into your schedule. Set a timer if you need to. And make sure you exercise or practice or write or brainstorm for that full two minutes. At this stage, resist doing more. . . because it’s all too easy to overdo it and become overwhelmed. Do your two minutes and feel great about it, since after the initial three weeks of two-minute commitments, your body, mind and soul will be in the habit of enjoying them and thus be eagerly anticipating those two minutes. Once this habit is established, then gradually add minutes to your commitment. Perhaps two minutes extends to five, which can then become seven and eventually ten. Over the course of another month or so, you will find you have carved out the time and now have the initiative to move forward with this commitment. And time plus initiative plus commitment equals momentum, which is the hallmark of a healthy, high-functioning solar plexus chakra.
Remember that big, scary, squirm-inducing dream I asked you about at the beginning of this post? Take it and break it down into two-minute commitments. Before long, you will have the momentum to make it happen. And you will have turned your “shoulds” into “shoulda done this sooner”.