In the last article, we looked at the root chakra, Muladhara, which is associated with the earth element. Earth, more than any of the other elements of nature, exemplifies stability. Thus, this chakra governs the experience of stability in life, having our basic needs met, knowing which way is down, and a fundamental sense of trust. As we move up to the second chakra, there is more movement, like the flow of the water element associated with it.
Chakra two, called Svadhishthana, is located at the level of the reproductive organs, and it governs sexuality, creativity, pleasure, relationships, and reproduction. Whereas the first chakra has an energy of holding things together (and in many ways is all about me, me, me), the second directs us outward, toward connection and creation, and the dynamics that result from this interaction. While the first chakra relates to the deep belonging and programming we get from our tribe, as we develop into our second chakra it brings about the individuation that comes with forging our own personal relationships – which may even trump our allegiance to tribal authority. 5
Like the first chakra’s drive for survival, the second chakra’s drive for procreation often has a huge amount of energy behind it – particularly because “procreation” is shorthand for many related drives: sex, desire, courtship, reproduction, family, companionship, etc. Both chakras are rather animalistic in their base natures, though while the first is purely about survival, the second goes a bit further in that it prompts the seeking of pleasure.
This center also empowers other forms of creativity. In this way, it’s related to another Tantrik concept called iccha shakti, the creative impulse. In Tantrik philosophy, iccha shakti is considered one of the five ways in which we experience the power of God (along with consciousness, bliss, knowing, and action).
As author Christopher Wallis explains, it is “the precognitive urge toward creative self-expression. It is the impulse behind the manifestation of a universe and behind all artistic expression that is done for its own sake. If you are tapping into iccha shakti in your pursuits in life, be they dancing or computer repair, you will have a vast reservoir of energy to draw on. This is because when you are pursuing an activity as a form of self-expression, it replenishes you instead of draining you.” 7
As with all the chakras (particularly the lower ones), when this energetic center is healthy and open, it engenders greater freedom, wisdom, and fulfillment; when it is blocked or imbalanced, it seems to be a curse. In the same way that our fears and neuroses can dominate our consciousness – and thus, our personality and the trajectory of our life – when an individual is strongly imbalanced in a particular chakra, it is sometimes said that the person is ruled by that chakra. It’s pretty accurate verbiage. How else would one explain why they could hurt someone – and in so doing, jeopardize their own career, family, or freedom – through a compulsion to act out their sexual desires? Take someone like Harvey Weinstein: while his psychological presentation is undoubtedly complex, we can clearly see that this is a man ruled by his second chakra.
I first learned about the second chakra from my spiritual mentor – a Sikh man named Sirinam Singh with a long salt-and-pepper beard – whom I met at the ripe age of 21. I sat in his kitchen one day, talking about my girlfriend troubles rather than reporting on the self-exploration tasks he had given me. It was a rather exciting time in my life, when I felt I was virtually surrounded by beautiful young women. I had a hard time choosing, though, and I explained that I kept jumping from one relationship to the next.
He finished the process of wrapping yards of turban cloth on his head, and pulled up a chair directly in front of me. He looked at me piercingly with his nearly-black eyes, not speaking. Nearly a minute passed. I squirmed. I sensed he was enjoying the discomfort. Though the corners of his mouth turned up a bit, I knew he was serious when he pronounced, “Well!” The word felt rather like a fist hitting my chest. Well, what? After another weighty pause, he continued: “Are you going to just follow your penis around then?”
It was a big question for a 21-year-old college boy. I guess it’s a big question for a lot of men of any age. I knew my teacher wasn’t implying there’s anything wrong with sex; he was asking me, “Who’s in charge?”
Although I don’t think I answered “No” as emphatically as he may have liked, it felt like the question went to the core of my soul and it has never shut up. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t just an inquiry about relinquishing my power to my libido; it was about relinquishing my power, period.
The ability to recognize choice – seeing the behaviors that rob us of freedom and power, and choosing to empower our consciousness rather than giving ourselves over to our impulses – is what sets us apart from other animals. And it’s the core challenge of the lower three chakras.
Sex can be really amazing. It can be a means for powerful connection and incredible pleasure. But in the end, it’s a “peak experience” – and like going to a Tony Robbins seminar or taking a psychedelic drug – you eventually return to everyday life. And there – here – is where you live with yourself, your choices and beliefs, and you discover whether that’s a peaceful, free, and fulfilling experience . . . or one that makes you squirm, and avoid, and suppress, and escape.
There’s nothing wrong with sex, but there’s definitely something wrong with being at the mercy of your libido. Imbalance of the second chakra can produce a life run by sexual desire. Fear of this drive can make us suppress it, perhaps also suppressing our creative energy. A mature reckoning of this power reveals its transmutability. It can be aligned with our iccha shakti – our urge for expression – and channeled into great works.
Here are some other ways in which imbalance or blockage at the Svadhishthana level might manifest: (Keep in mind that these issues might also result from imbalances of other chakras or challenges unrelated to the chakra system.)
- Excessive sex drive, harmful aberrations of sexuality, sex addiction
- Other forms of addiction
- Lack of libido; inhibition around exchange of touch
- Blocked creative expression
- Tendency to control others (or to attempt to)
- Difficulty with boundaries
- Excessively influenced by the moon (as the water element on Earth is)
- Behavior dominated by short-sighted pleasure-seeking
- Guilt or shame about experiencing pleasure
- Physical issues with the reproductive system, urinary tract, and lower back
Just as there is nothing intrinsically wrong with sex, neither is there anything intrinsically wrong with pleasure-seeking behavior. Pleasure-seeking is wired into our nervous system, as most pleasurable activities – sleeping, eating, having sex, etc. – help us survive and/or further our species. Experiencing pleasure also facilitates stress relief, relaxation, and healing. One of the virtues of the second chakra is to enable us to go beyond animalistic pleasure-seeking and find deeper, more enduring forms of pleasure, like embodying our creativity, learning to be at peace in the world, forming stable, supportive relationships, serving, and connecting with nature. At first, these may just sound like nice ideas (which pale in comparison to some good sex and a delicious dinner), but when really, truly lived, their potential for gratification is monumentally greater than sensory pleasure.
Keep this in mind as you investigate and heal second chakra issues; even the most arduous work, if it’s leading you in the direction of freedom, love, and healing, has an element of pleasure. Spend some time in a bathtub or (even better) a natural body of water this week, connecting with the water element and your second chakra, and feel free to share about your experiences in the comments section.
Dr. Peter Borten
- Johari, H. (1987). Chakras. Energy Centers of Transformation. Destiny Books.
- Judith, A. (2004). Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
- Judith, A. (1999). Wheels of Life: The Classic Guide to the Chakra System. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
- Khalsa, G. K. (1991). Energy Maps: A Journey Through the Chakras. La Crescenta, CA: CyberScribe.
- Myss, C. M. (1996). Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Svoboda, R. E. (1995). Aghora II: Kundalini. Albuquerque, NM: Brotherhood of Life Publishing.
- Wallis, C. D. (2013). Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition. Petaluma, CA: Mattamayūra Press.
- White, J. W. (1990). Kundalini, Evolution, and Enlightenment. New York: Paragon House.
- Woodroffe, J. G., & P. (1931). The Serpent Power: Being the Shat-chakra-nirūpana and Pādukā-panchaka; Two Works on Laya yoga. Madras: Ganesh.