The Chakras as a Map of Consciousness, and: Don’t Skip Manipura!
The chakra system is not just a poetic way of describing different qualities of the human being, but an actual map of consciousness. When using the descriptors to ‘lift your consciousness’ or someone experienced ‘a drop in consciousness’, this can be quite literally seen in the chakra system. Let’s briefly go through them all:
Muladhara Chakra – the root chakra. This chakra governs energy, instinct, survival. In today’s world this means money, resources and abundance. A person who’s consciousness is dominantly at this level is one who’s main struggle in life is merely to survive. This might mean Syrian refugees, for example, or a battered housewife who is just struggling to live. A very loose approximation of 10% of the population of the Earth is at this level of consciousness.
Svadisthana Chakra – the sacral chakra. This chakra governs desires, including sexual desire, but also social instinct and socializing, romance, as well as imagination, creativity and as previously mentioned delusion. This is the dominant consciousness of the planet, with perhaps 80% of all of the people on Earth at this level. This probably means you.
Manipura Chakra – the navel chakra. This chakra governs willpower, discipline, courage, honor, integrity and loyalty. It is the seat of the ego. Maybe 10% of humans are at this level of consciousness. Examples of people who’s dominant level of consciousness is at Manipura are all the powerful people that you know; politicians, Wall Street brokers, martial artists, samurai, Arthurian knights, and heros.
Anahata Chakra – the heart chakra. This chakra governs love, forgiveness and humility. Love here is not romantic love, but unconditional love. Romantic love is mainly generated from Svadisthana, while love from Anahata is the type of love Jesus exemplified when he said, of those people that were torturing and killing him, ‘Forgive them, for they do not know’. As Manipura is the seat of the ego, the self, at this level of consciousness we begin to transcend self. Less than 1% of humans are dominantly at the level of Anahata, and someone who is, is already what we would describe as a saint – examples being Mother Theresa and St. Francis of Assissi, the Dalai Lama, or Ma Anandamayi.
Vishuddha Chakra – the throat chakra. This chakra literally means ‘very pure’ and therefore governs purity, as well as abstract understandings of time and space, aesthetics, and intuition. Less than 1% of humans dominantly are at this level of consciousness. Examples being those who play with notions of time and space, like Albert Einstein, or the best artists the world has ever seen, like Michelangelo, or Yogi hermits living in caves.
Ajna Chakra – the third eye. This chakra governs pure mind, high levels of intellect and abstract thinking. Less than 1% of humans are dominantly at this level of consciousness, and those who are are geniuses, have a way of understanding reality that is just beyond what most of can even imagine. Examples being Gurdieff, Swami Vivekenanda the Great and many Tibetan masters.
Sahasrara Chakra – the crown chakra. This chakra is the chakra of oneness – pure spirituality and devotion. Less than 1% of 1% of humans are dominantly at this level of consciousness, and those people are said to be enlightened. Examples being the Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, or Lao Tzu.
This map of the chakras is brilliant in demonstrating where we are on this spectrum of consciousness.
Take a moment and think over your last week, and be honest. How often were your thoughts and actions engaged in the ultimate oneness of existence? Or enraptured by the hauntingly simple and yet paradoxical laws of time, space and beauty? How often were you acting from a place of full compassion, from complete forgiveness and love. Or even, how often were your thoughts disciplined and coming from a place of integrity?
For most of us, our thoughts are dominated by what we want, and what we don’t want. And our actions follow that. How often did you do what you wanted, or felt like, even if you knew that it wasn’t for your highest good? Have that cup of coffee when you knew you shouldn’t? Have those extra French fries when you promised yourself that you would be on a diet. Which means that our consciousness is usually at the level of Svadisthana, the 2nd chakra.
However, this doesn’t mean that our consciousness is fixed at this point. Consciousness is fluid. Each of us moves through this spectrum from root to crown, throughout our day. So when you are incredibly hungry and that’s all you can think about, your consciousness is as the level of Muladhara chakra. When you are exercising your willpower, perhaps going to the gym, or confronting your boss about something, your consciousness is at the level of Manipura. When you are experiencing unconditional love – perhaps holding a newborn baby – your consciousness is at the level of Anahata. When laying upon your back looking up at the stars and imagining the endlessness of the cosmos – Vishuddha. And so on. We all experience all of these states of consciousness, but where our thoughts and energy are usually, is our dominant level of consciousness.
For many people, the ultimate goal of spirituality is to be more loving, and the ultimate expression of Spirit is love.
The chakra that is associated with love and being loving is Anahata Chakra – the Heart Chakra. So it’s obvious, just focus there and that’s all you need to do. Be nice, sing devotional kirtan, practice tantric partner meditations with your hands upon the other’s heart.
Except that, if this is you, you’re fooling yourself. This is not Anahata. This is still Svadisthana Chakra – the sacral chakra or the sexual chakra, which amongst the other things it governs, governs delusion. This chakra has been called the ‘Great Faker’ for its ability to resemble the other chakras, to fool one into thinking that they are at that level of consciousness, when in actuality it’s still a Svadisthana level of consciousness.
Each of us experiences the consciousness of Anahata chakra surely. But again, I challenge you to be honest with yourself; how long does it stay there before it drops. You are looking into your lovers eyes, filled with unconditional love. But how long is it unconditional before your thoughts wander and you remember being hurt by something they did or didn’t do, before you start wondering if you can get them into bed, or how to avoid that. Or perhaps you are holding a baby, filled with wonder and joy and love. But once you start remembering the bills you have to pay, or that errands you need to do, your consciousness drops. So to say that someone’s consciousness is dominantly at the level of Anahata, for example a saint like Mother Theresa, means that this is where her consciousness is at most of the time. Which is exemplified by her own words when she said, ‘if you judge someone you have no time to love them.’
So yes, singing kirtan, heart based meditations, etc may temporarily bring your consciousness to the level of Anahata chakra. And that is beautiful and important. But for lasting movement of consciousness we are talking about lifting our dominant level of consciousness. Most of us are dominated by Svadisthana chakra. So we sing kirtan, we feel good and loving and think that our consciousness is in Anahata. But that is easily tested. We get a text with unpleasant news, or leave the yoga hall and get back into our cars and how long before that drops?
The key here is Manipura chakra. First we move our dominant level of consciousness from Svadisthana chakra to Manipura chakra. And then we move it up to Anahata. This is no easy feat. To move one’s dominant level of consciousness takes incredible effort and patience, perhaps years of practice.
This is why Manipura is so important. Manipura is the chakra that gives us the discipline to practice.
The discipline to get on our knees and pray. The discipline to go to the dojo and repeat the forms again and again. The discipline to sit on the meditation cushion. The discipline to get on the Yoga mat. The discipline to keep our heart open and loving when the world around us is asking us to close it.
If we look at every single person who’s dominant level of consciousness is at Anahata or higher (with some very rare exceptions like Eckart Tolle who’s consciousness shift happened seemingly spontaneously), they have an incredible willpower. Mother Theresa devoted all of her time to prayer and caring for the sick. Christian monks and saints pray for hours and hours a day. Indian and Tibetan Yogis do hours of pranayama and meditation a day. Martial artists have this iron willpower. All of them, in their own way, are practicing something nearly every moment of their day. Practicing surrender to God, or practicing breath awareness. Even examples of people whose consciousness is at the level of Vishuddha like Albert Einstein or Michaelangelo spend the vast majority of their time immersed in wondering about light and space and how they interact, or constantly engaged in making some of the most beautiful art that has ever graced the Earth. They all have a powerful Manipura chakra.
So Manipura is the gateway to any of the higher chakras. But Manipura is not fun. Manipura is not easy. Manipura means work and discipline – things that Svadisthana chakra does not like. Manipura is the burning fire of the being, the passion, the intensity.
So yes, it’s important for us to cultivate love in our lives, becoming more and more loving. The planet needs this. But in order to really do this, and not just live in a fantasy world, we need discipline. Living from Anahata takes courage. In the words of Gangaji, ‘To avoid a broken heart, we live in a state of broken heartedness. And the willingness to let the heart be broken, a million, a billion, a trillion times – that is living in love’ – or in other words, that is living from Anahata chakra.
So go to kirtan, by all means! Do your heart chakra work, those tantric partner meditations, metta or compassion practice, etc. But cultivate your Manipura and your willpower alongside it.
How to build Manipura chakra and the willpower? Practice tapaseya, one of the Niyamas meaning to burn, connecting it to the fire of the being. Tapaseya practically manifests as giving yourself challenges, as oaths made between you and Spirit. They can be anything, but just make sure you start off small but doable, and as you succeed again and again, then you can slowly increase the difficulty. If you give yourself a too difficult tapas, you are bound to break it, and to erode your Manipura chakra. But when you succeed you will build it. An example could be “I will practice yoga 3 times a week for the next 3 weeks”. This is probably a challenge but doable for most of us (if not scale it back to twice a week or even once a week). When you accomplish this then repeat it again and again until it is no longer a challenge. At that point up the ante “I will practice yoga 4 times a week for the next 3 weeks” or “I will practice yoga for at least 90 minutes a day 3 times a week for the next 3 weeks”. Whatever you decide be serious about it, and be wise. If you fail you eat away at your Manipura chakra. You practice, and get good at, letting yourself off the hook, and in the words of a good friend of mine, ‘what a shit thing to be good at’.
A tapas doesn’t have to be yoga practice, it can be running, it can be a certain diet, it can be a commitment to write or make art for a certain amount of time, it can be anything. The important thing is that it is a challenge and yet is achievable, and that is it somehow working towards your evolution.
If you want a Yoga technique that will do this – by far the best is Uddiyana Bandha. Here and here are two parts of a video tutorial I created on how to perform this amazing technique that is unmatched in its ability to activate Manipura chakra – while simultaneously activating all of the higher chakras.
Within these practices, also focus on being a loving person. You will find that if you cultivate both the willpower and the heart, that you are able to rest in this loving space much longer and much easier than before.
Don’t skip Manipura! Recognize that it is a fundamental step in the evolution of the consciousness.
So take a moment and commit to Manipura right now! Take a moment and create a challenge for yourself that will build this aspect within your being. And share the tapas that you have created in the comments below.
Bonus points for building a tapas that also incorporate Anahata chakra such as, “I will practice metta (compassion) meditation for 20 minutes a day, everyday for 21 days”.
With love and gratitude,