Chakras are a Thing
Chakras are a Thing
As soon as my brother was old enough to employ sarcasm he started mocking my yoga practice at any chance he’d get. In his unwavering monotone he’d say, “oh did you align your chakras today?”
“Indeed!” I would proudly proclaim, dipping into a half assed dancer’s pose and tossing my head up towards the sky as if to imply, “I’m all aligned and floating on air and better than you now!”
Truth is, I didn’t really know anything about chakras then, and I still don’t know that much now. Don’t come to me for a lesson unless you’re prepared to hear a cursory introduction and have zero to three of your questions answered. Osmosis may or may not be happening now that I have a chakra screen saver on my phone. That being said, I’ve had the time recently to dig a little deeper. Being the selfish creature that I am, I revisited the chakra studies from my yoga teacher training to find precisely the one in which I am currently experiencing a blockage. Sometimes you just need another spiritual guidepost to tell you how you’re feeling aside from your mass marketed horoscope, wouldn’t you agree?
Turns out, I am having some issues with my third chakra. More on that in a minute.
Bye, New York
Two weeks ago I dipped out of my respectably salaried grown up job on a health leave. My psychiatrist was all too accommodating and whipped up a signed paper officially declaring my Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I also had an endocrinologist on hand as a back up to vouch for my accompanying “adrenal fatigue” (fancy talk for being burned the fuck out).
There’s an inherent tension in the willingness of doctors who make their living off of prescribing medications to also say steadfastly that rest and a lifestyle change is what the large majority of New Yorkers need to get their bodies and minds back in balance.
One doctor actually said, “I see this all the time in New York. I could put you on a medication for your low cortisol levels, but you will hate the side effects and might feel worse, and leaving the city and getting away from the stressors here will probably be all the treatment you need.” I paid $600 for that diagnosis. Trees and rest. And I was thrilled that she “understood me” when so many other doctors looked at me like I was nuts.
But there’s no instant fix.
I want to dissuade you from presuming that I jaunted off on a contrived Carrie Bradshaw does ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey so that I could selfishly take advantage of the system and do face masks in my underwear all day. I wasn’t ok. I was suffering. My body learned that sensory overload is the norm, that highs and lows are homeostasis and that drug-induced broken sleep is what is available now and forever.
My body learned that every New York street corner, music festival, or specialty arepa shop had the ability to draw forth painful and unresolved memories of lovers that drained my soul in a place where I craved stable companionship to soften the hard edges.
I’ve always had the unfortunate combination of being hyper vigilant about my health, knowing and researching the root causes of any condition that I might have, while also wanting to party, keep up with the pack and socialize till there ain’t no tomorrow. This developed in me, over years, the tendency to panic about the state of affairs of my health. This also led me to drink too much, encourage friends to snort cocaine off my boobs, pine after every cute artist in Bushwick, and stay up all night just so I could get out of my head where I believed I was owed a few moments of release and non-rumination. I proceeded to continue to smoke weed for 20 plus years hoping each time it would begin to do what it did for so many of my friends, calm my nerves and zonk me out. Maybe I needed to smoke it in oil form, from a vaporizer, a bong perhaps, or maybe a spliff, yah that’ll do. It never worked.
I was at odds with myself, unable to exert the self control needed to avoid unhealthy escapist behaviors while also leading the double life of a responsible professional who drinks green juice and wears t-shirt bras. My dedication to the mission of the work I was doing was waning quickly and my sense of purpose started to slip away year after year.
After every late night, I’d proceed with beating myself up for exacerbating what I knew to be my already delicate system and not giving my body the nourishment it needed to heal so that I could potentially feel more in control of my thoughts.
I just thought if I could push through one more crazy adventure, I’d come out on the other end ready to settle in with myself or someone else to a daytime routine that was rewarding. Instead, my circadian rhythms flipped upside down and backwards and hate me now and I developed a sense of being left behind in my own life.
After 15 or so years of this, the amount of time I was able to put into healing massages and yoga paled in comparison to the compounded need for rest and a macro bowl. I was fatigued, I was foggy, and I was stuck, stuck, stuck.
The release I needed couldn’t be found in any of the meditative nooks and crannies of NYC. There were sound baths, there was my 200-hour yoga teacher training, there were meditation centers, retreats, facials, spas, etc…, all places that beckoned but only on the other side of a mad scramble through hordes of people, spending a whole paycheck on the associated fees, and scheduling delicately around my 9-5. For someone who stands in the chip section of the bodega poring over which brand of jalapeno chip will be the best purchase, the barrage of choices for relaxation and mindfulness made the whole picture blurry and balance seem utterly impossible.
I had to leave the city. It was not courageous, or brave, or an adventure to seek out a new beginning so I could write about it here on my blog, it was purely for survival. I couldn’t process the input and I was kidding myself in trying to find a fleeting hobby that would be my outlet.
Let me go, New York
New York holds on though. And New York held onto me tightly, wrapped its tentacles around me, up until the moment I crawled over state lines in bumper to bumper traffic alone in a uhaul. In order to procure this Uhaul it was not simply enough to make an online reservation three weeks in advance. I also had to wait two hours on the phone the day before pickup to convince customer service that I did in fact need the truck at the time I had scheduled and not the next day at 5pm. Once that task was complete, I was instructed to jaunt over to a collision company in Long Island City run out of a junkyard. The “office” was a trailer with one computer that would only work upon cranking a generator deep in the junkyard. Customers couldn’t help with the generator, because it was positioned next to a rabid pitbull that hadn’t been fed in three days. It was a fun morning.
The generator kept purring to a stop just as we were about to confirm and print my truck details, starting the whole ridiculous process over again. This went on for an hour. Meanwhile, one of the other frustrated customers and I convinced the gentleman checking us in that his phone could likely do the same work as the desktop computer because it was, in fact, “a tiny computer.” This led him to attempt to force his Samsung into landscape mode for 12 minutes before he would even try inputting any information, because “The dang thing just did it yesterday. Maybe if I just go to ‘Settings’...”
I was relatively chill, but the guy next to me who was moving into another NYC apartment looked like he was about to blow a gasket. He almost took me up on it when I offered him a Klonopin.
Like James Murphy sings, “New York I love you, but you're bringing me down…”
All Better in Two Weeks
When I finally got to Providence, my oasis, my zen destination of healthy living, unstructured time, and intellectual pursuit, did I actually chill out? Nope. I did everything but spend the first two weeks relaxing. I threw myself headfirst into a whirlwind of healing processes in an attempt to shake the last decade and a half off.
I went to acupuncture three times, did a two hour shamanic drum journey and connected with my spirit animals and plants (yes, plant totems). I went to yoga class, went on four jogs, wrote journal entries, made morning smoothies. I participated in a three hour cacao ceremony on the beach where I sobbed for an hour in front of a group of strangers. The reiki practitioner leading the cacao ceremony came over to me and said she could tell I had a lot to let go of and that I was extra intuitive and taking on other people's energy. "Yessss,” I sobbed. I tried to calm down as she attempted to ground some of my heady energy in my womb. It seemed like the right move. I’d better learn about Reiki next week.
Other activities during that frenetic fortnight of wellness included camping on a hidden rocky beach in Block Island without a blanket, tending to the community garden, and starting two 500-page books on holistic healing practices. I researched and began a new type of therapy called neurofeedback and listened to approximately 12 meditation and hypnosis podcasts. I also cooked dinner twice for my housemates, found the whole foods and the specialty markets, purchased some organic lipstick and visited five area beaches.
I learned the basics of farming from my extremely patient roommates who are smart and know actual things about vegetables. Please refer to the hit reality show The Simple Life with Paris and Nicole for an accurate depiction of my own farming prowess. Apparently, rain is good, cause, you know, it makes vegetables grow.
In the midst of all of this I of course found time to remind myself that it was pretty crazy that I was still fatigued and that I had terrible insomnia. I was doing wellness like a champ! How could I be tired! Couldn’t I just get on with the rest of my life already?!
But Really, Chakras
After reading this, you’re probably asking yourself, does this girl seriously only have one chakra blockage?
Of course the answer is no, because chakras are complicated and they all work together creating an ebb and flow of upwards, downwards and sideways energy. Of course I know this now, and I use pretentious phrases like “of course!”, because I am feverishly referencing my half skimmed chakra book in order to sound more informed than you.
And like I learned at the Shamanic drum circle from a very spiritual middle aged man with a dad bod and khaki shorts, “Time is not time.” Negative energy in particular can be stored and unprocessed for many years and sit inside your body like a cog in a machine.
The third chakra is about personal power. It is about setting goals, taking action and manifesting ideas that come from an authentic place of joy and desire. It’s about unabashed pursuit of that which you know and truly believe will positively impact your life. As a person who starts and stops hobbies and projects on the regular, I have felt an extreme sense of inertia for years. Even while on the surface I’ve carried on getting my master’s degree and engaging in a variety of jobs that marked “success” and which looked like forward movement to the outside eye, I couldn’t catch a stride in any kind of internal sense. In the book Wheels of Life, the author states, “once we overcome inertia to the point where energy is produced easily, the third chakra “kicks in” and begins producing power with less effort and will. Doing something with ease and grace is the mark of true power.”
I guess it’s up for debate, but I feel like it’s been a while or never since I did something with “ease and grace”.
Those of us who get stuck here often feel stuck for reasons that go back to our childhoods. In the book Eastern Body, Western Mind, it is outlined that the “demon” of the third chakra is shame. That is the place where low self-esteem takes over, where your inner voice tells you that you’ll be a failure. Some of us have been conditioned to listen to this voice out of survival and circumstance. The author says, “For a healthy ego, it’s OK to make mistakes. For a shame-bound personality, there is no room to err, and expansion is severely restricted.”
It also follows that we get very stuck in our minds when self-esteem is constricted: “The greater the shame, the less we feel powerful and the harder it is for the ego to form itself. Shame blocks the liberating current and prevents energy rising from the lower chakras from forming into effective action.”
It’s unclear which came first, the physical burnout from partying and running around or feeling completely misaligned with the job I was doing every day, but the result of the two led to a frustrating stagnation of my own power and will.
I got to Providence and watched my health leave "to-do" list grow and grow and I realized I was superimposing the same scattered approach to my New York life on my vacation time. My dad laughed and said, “Hey, you think you could try actually enjoying doing nothing for a while? Screw commitments.”
As I’ve started to wind down a little bit it’s becoming clear that I can’t skip steps. Of course I want to start a new life teaching yoga and running a community art space and writing. I want to have the discipline and routines to help me focus my energy on tasks that I believe in and which I think will make a positive impact on the community around me. Of course I have felt like I couldn’t do these things for years because my basic needs were under attack. Of course I keep saying “of course” because I am still trying to convince myself that I can build some forward momentum that feels healthy and productive.
I want to expand, I want to be successful, I want to work for me and not “the man,” but right now smaller things have to be enough or I will never even begin to oil the gears of personal power and action. Right now it has to be enough to lull myself to sleep at a decent hour by watching Friends. I have to take as long as I want to write this blog post without feeling ashamed of how I’m not moving fast enough to keep up with others or design a perfectly branded Instagram.
I have to let the main activity of my day be acquiring a Stop ‘n Shop rewards card without feeling ashamed (ten cents per gallon off gas, not bad). I have to quit logging every wellness activity I complete in my journal as if I still have a full time job that requires me to account for the productivity of my day for some external entity. Thankfully, I’m not living in the show The Handmaid’s Tale, which I turned off after 15 minutes to watch Real Housewives of New York because I actually can’t handle the gravity of the former's storyline right now.
It’s a shift.
So, if my brother asks me the same question after another yoga class soon, I’ll probably respond, “Holy shit, no. I’m wiped out and I’m going to eat a bagel now and that is all I am doing today.” By casting aside the impossible task of feeling like a completely different person within three weeks, I can also shed some of the shame that’s holding me back from kindling this little fire of power in my belly.
I still probably won’t sleep tonight, but it’s ok cause I have nothing to do tomorrow. And that’s awesome.