Love and Chakras in the Time of a Pandemic
By Thomas Amelio
All You Need is Love?
The Beatles sang “All You Need is Love.” But is Love enough? Especially in these scary pandemic times? Do we also need a sense of safety, strength, confidence, creativity, vision, and spiritual connection—perhaps rooted in, and in service of, love? And by love I mean the kind not based on attachment, but on that profound sense we are actually interdependent on each other, our community, and the physical and spiritual ecosystem that supports us all.
We are Full Spectrum Humans
In the yoga and tantric teachings of India there has long been an energetic, spiritual and psychological system based on the idea of centers in the “subtle body” of human beings, that represent the full spectrum of human expression and impulse. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, these centers are called chakras (wheels) as those with clairvoyant ability saw them as spinning circles of color and energy.
These chakras direct our instincts, impulses and longings along certain directions. They are different schools of thought, with different variations and numbers of chakras, but using the most popular seven-chakra system, the first center, at the base of the spine, is the impulse for safety and security; the second, in the pelvis/reproductive area, represents water, sensuality, and comfort; the third, near the navel, include our energy capacity, our confidence, power to make things happen; the fourth, in the chest-lungs-heart area, lies our relational sense, and impulse to connect with the ecosystem and community around us; the fifth, at the throat, is our self-expression, truth-telling, calling/vocation; the sixth, “the third eye,” is seat of intuition and higher intellect; and the seventh—not actually a “chakra” or wheel—but is represented by a lotus of a thousand (implying countless) petals, in which the individuated “wave” of separate human consciousness realizes its unity with the vast “ocean” of cosmic consciousness.
The Centers have a Psychological and Energetic Reality
The yogis did not just talk about chakras in a philosophical way, but believed they were realities that exist first in the subtle body (energetic and dream state) and the causal body (dreamless sleep and the seeds of thought before clothed in concept and image.) These chakras are affected and hampered by negative life experiences (karmas.)
The chakras are colored by our own karma—including our past experiences, beliefs, suffering, trauma, societal conditioning. These karmas effect the optimal functioning of our centers. Being told as a child we are stupid (or can’t sing) and should just “shut up” can lead to a suppression of speech in the sixth center that hampers our voice and self-expression. If we grew up poor or homeless, our first center of security might cause us to always worry about loss of money, job etc. Having been given the message we are lazy and do nothing right, can lead to a lack of confidence, procrastination, and a sense of powerlessness in the third center.
Having suffered a rejection, and a broken heart, might cause the first center of security to draw us into the familiar and safe—and cause the second center to indulge in pleasures—e.g food, drugs, and pornography—that, however harmful, will at least help us avoid further rejection and heartache. And yes, this is how many addictions are born.
The permutations our endless.
Pandemic, Protest, Powerlessness and Anger?
During this time of the pandemic and protest, our sense of security (first center) is undermined, and we may feel powerlessness (third center.) If you feel powerless, anger is actually a healthy and empowering response! Anger arises from the fire element of the third chakra. It awakens us out of compliance, hopelessness and frailty, to spurs us into action. But once anger has awakened us from our sense of inadequacy, we need to engage the other centers: the love, compassion and community-building of the fourth chakra, the powerful truth-telling, and wild, creative ideas of the fifth, and so forth.
Over-Sensitizing the Empathic Role of the Chakra
The chakras have both a receiving (empathic) and broadcasting function. Doing inward-gazing, peaceful, stress-reducing practice is indeed, a source of great solace, but this may also magnify the sensitivity of the receiving, empathic role of the chakras. We are not safely nestled in caves—we have to fortify the “broadcasting” capacity—enabling us to send out, from our centers, a sense of safety and security, comfort, empowerment, love, creative awakening, and enlightenment. Amazingly this practice of “broadcasting” not only strengthens us, but empowers our sense of mission and action! We need that from each other—especially now.
Good News! (And How to Fortify our System).
But now the good news! There are yogic practices that can help us clear these karmas that hamper full functioning of our centers. These include breath techniques, mantra, sound healing, concentration, posture, mudra (healing hand techniques), meditation, kriyas (purifying actions) and inquiry.
The yogis of old were fiery and strong. They understood that in order to bear the vicissitudes of life we need not just inward contemplation, but practices that fortify our body, mind, nerves and soul. Inward practices that help us to feel a sense of sanctuary are important, but not enough. We need to engage pranabrabalya—the magnifying and strengthening of life force—to meet the demands of our calling in these momentous times.
All We Need is Love
Okay. So maybe Love is enough, IF it served by the full, uninhibited, empowered span of our human potencies— as expressed by this ancient yogic system. And, as a final note, remember love is always associated with the “heart,” and the heart is also associated with courage—which comes from the Latin word for “heart.” Let’s awaken our love and courage and let it spur us to actions that will better our lives, the lives of our loved ones, our world community, and all sentient beings. May we all be blessed and successful in these noble endeavors.
Thomas Amelio intensely studied yogic disciplines and philosophy in India, where he edited Rajarshi Muni’s classic, Yoga–The Ultimate Spiritual Path. He is a founding member of, and has been a senior teacher at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health for over 40 years, and is President Emeritus of the NY Open Center in New York City. His latest CD is Mantra Darshan–Vedic and Tantric invocations for meditative absorption.
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