Your third chakra is an important center of power. To understand it, it’s useful to see it in the context of the other chakras, so let’s start with a little review. The first chakra is associated with the earth element, which represents stability. It’s our foundation. It relates to survival, groundedness, and allegiance to one’s tribe. The second chakra is associated with water – an element that’s more mobile and flowing. It relates to our sexuality, creative expression, pleasure, and relationships. The third chakra, called Manipura, is associated with fire, an element that’s always in motion. In many ways, both literal and figurative, fire gives us mobility, power, warmth, transformation, and light. And these are the primary qualities of this chakra.
Moving up the spine, Manipura is the last of the chakras associated with a distinctly tangible element. Thus, it still has a strong connection to the physical body – specifically the digestive organs and the kidneys. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s said that we’re born with a somewhat undeveloped digestive system – we don’t yet have gut flora; we throw up a lot as children; and we often have an inconsistent appetite. But by puberty, our “digestive fire” has grown and this center facilitates the emergence of our will and our personal power.
Classical sources place Manipura directly behind the navel, and contemporary sources often place it at the solar plexus – a bundle of nerves located a few inches above the navel (aptly named for the fire chakra, “solar” refers to the ray-like spread of these nerves). Both are highly significant areas in Ayurveda and acupuncture. There’s a major acupuncture point at the level of the solar plexus called Middle Duct or Middle Controller, which relates to the stomach and other digestive organs. Wherever you feel it most prominently, this is the center of your metabolism, where food is “burned up” and converted to energy.
As Robert Svoboda explains in Kundalini, one of the challenges this chakra presents an evolving human is to balance two forms of fire or agni – bhuta agni, the “ethereal fire” which digests ideas and allows us to assimilate them into pure intelligence, and jathara agni, the digestive fire. Will our appetites be exclusively directed toward food and material acquisition, or will we learn to transmute this fire into a drive to learn and understand, to evolve and awaken?
The first chakra is associated almost exclusively with the external world and its ability to destroy us or provide for us. Anodea Judith expresses the “verb” of this chakra as “I have.”3 The second chakra is also rather externally-oriented, as it largely drives us to engage in relationships with others and to relate with the world in a way that gives us pleasure. Judith expresses the verb of this chakra as “I feel.” The orientation of the third chakra, according to Caroline Myss, is slightly more internal, “as our focus shifts from how we relate to the people around us to how we relate to and understand ourselves.”5 Judith’s verb for this chakra is “I can.”
Myss explains that at the level of the third chakra we begin to recognize that every choice we make either enmeshes us more deeply in the “illusory physical world” or invests us in the power of spirit. The sacred truth she identifies with this level of development is Honor Oneself. What emerges through a healthy third chakra, Myss states, is a sense of personal power, self-esteem, discipline, ambition, the ability to generate action, the ability to handle a crisis, the courage to take risks, generosity, and strength of character. She calls this chakra “the magnetic core of our personality and our ego.”5
Myss teaches that we progress through four stages as we grow toward self-esteem and spiritual maturity: Revolution (one or several acts that separate us from group thought and establish our own sense of authority); Involution (self-examination for the purpose of understanding oneself, healing old wounds, and learning what serves us); Narcissism (which Myss defines in a semi-positive light, as a necessary and vulnerable period of self-absorption and perhaps redefining one’s image); and Evolution (a stage of internal growth in which a person’s spirit is allowed to “take charge”).
I like Myss’s writings on this subject because they’re consistent with an ancient notion of the fire element as the agent of transformation. Fire was central to alchemy, and a remnant of this idea still exists in modern scientific notation where the symbol of fire – an upward-pointing triangle, like a flame (the Greek letter delta) – is used to indicate both heat and change. Fire gives us the capacity to refine metals, to burn away the debris, perhaps even to turn lead into gold.
In Ayurveda, it’s the fire of our digestive organs (the yang in Chinese Medicine) that gives them the ability to transform food into human. It’s really pretty miraculous. In Vedic thought, fire is said to take things from the earthly realm to the spiritual realm. Mantras and offerings thrown into a fire are said to reach the Divine. And because the tongue is also associated with the fire element, when we speak our words aloud they’re said to pass through the fire and are thus imbued with the potential for transformation.
When we choose to act, the state of our third chakra influences the likelihood that we’ll follow through to completion and that our intentions will take root in the world. A weak, insecure, or collapsed center has little power, which can make it overly controlling. Playing it safe but still wishing to exert control, it may give rise to eating disorders or the accumulation of a very large midsection. It’s a similar case when our personal will is at odds with Divine Will or the will of our soul: if we succeed at initiating the change we desire, it will occur through force rather than power. Myss’s explanation of the Evolution state of self-esteem speaks to this concept of power, and it echoes Gary Zukav’s teachings on empowerment and evolution in The Seat of the Soul. He writes, “When the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul, that is authentic empowerment.”10
How can we manage this power in a reverent way? Zukav asserts that humans have historically approached evolution as a matter of competition for external power – and that the next phase of our evolution will arise from the recognition of authentic power. Here’s a passage on this topic from Zukav (I cut and rearranged a bit, but didn’t change any words):
All of our institutions – social, economic, and political – reflect our understanding of power as external. Anything we fear to lose – a home, a car, an attractive body, an agile mind, a deep belief – is a symbol of external power. Competition for external power lies at the heart of all violence. The perception of power as external splinters the psyche, whether it is the psyche of the individual, the community, the nation, or the world.
No understanding of evolution is adequate that does not have at its core that we are on a journey toward authentic power, and that authentic empowerment is the goal of our evolutionary process and the purpose of our being. We are evolving from a species that pursues external power into a species that pursues authentic power.
Our deeper understanding leads us to a kind of power that loves life in every form that it appears, a power that does not judge what it encounters, a power that perceives meaningfulness and purpose in the smallest details upon the Earth. This is authentic power. When we align our thoughts, emotions, and actions with the highest part of ourselves, we are filled with enthusiasm, purpose, and meaning.
Beyond transforming our understanding of power as Myss and Zukav teach, here are some pragmatic recommendations for strengthening and balancing the third chakra:
- Heal your digestion and your relationship with food. Unhealthy eating patterns and digestive problems divert energy from this level of being.
- Learn to manage your stress. Stress, through activation of survival mechanisms, scatters our power and diverts energy away from our center.
- If you have adrenal fatigue, rehabilitate yourself. This requires refraining from using more energy than you have; going to bed before reaching exhaustion; avoiding stressors and stimulants; getting deep, restful sleep; and eating whole, nourishing foods.
- Strengthen your core. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are excellent for this. Holding plank pose (balancing on your forearms and toes with a straight back) is also a great core-strengthener.
- Challenge yourself to take risks (if this is something that’s difficult for you).
- Practice following through on what you start. Don’t begin anything you don’t honestly intent to finish.
- Cultivate self-discipline.
- Unearth and heal your shame.
Finally, when you feel an urge to act and you’re uncertain about it, try asking yourself, “Who wants this?” or “Where is this coming from?” See if you can quiet your mind and allow an answer to come. Is it an urge of your personality, an urge fueled by a desire for approval, security, or control? Or does it arise from a deeper part of you? Wishing you self-reflection, healing, and empowerment,
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.
- Zukav, G., with Winfrey, O., & Angelou, M. (1989). The Seat of the Soul. New York: Simon and Schuster.