Notes on the Chakras: Manipura

So we’ve worked our way up from Muladhara to Swadhistana and now we come to Manipura. The basics are out of the way. We survive and thrive and seek creation through means both subtle and overt and so we can begin to actually develop a sense of self. We can worry with an ego and the baggage that it brings.  We survive, we thrive and we discover our boundaries.

Manipura is located behind the solar plexus and is associated the element of fire. So we’ve moved up from the earth (Muladhara) to water (Swadhistana) and now we have the fire. I find this chakra particularly interesting since this is the one a lot of the martial art traditions point to as a source of energy and power. It’s fascinating study of cross cultural references to the same thing. Yoga has prana and the various martial arts of china and japan have chi. It’s the same stuff and although the methods of manipulation of this energy vary, a lot of the philosophy is remarkably similar.

And it’s not surprising that some of the martial arts traditions consider this a source of power since that’s basically what Manipura is all about: Power. But not power in the traditional western sense. This is the power of the self, the structure of the ego. This is the force of will and the sense of individualism.

But let’s begin by looking at the idea of “power”. In the West, when someone says “power”, it is assumed that they are referring to power over something or someone. It’s an external thing mostly. A measure of someone’s mark on the world or the extent of their influence. But power can mean something else especially if approached from an eastern or shamanic viewpoint. In this version, power is internal and personal. In the West power is measured by lines on a map. The power we speak of here is more like fires in the furnace.

It’s more about the sense of self that can lead to your level of influence on the material world. The ego is a fluid and dangerous thing, inflating and deflating on the whims of fate. Some people fill up a room with their ego, their personal power. Some huddle in the corner and hide since their egos are like flickering candle flames in a breezy room. To a large degree, it’s all about how we see ourselves in relation to the world but it’s also how we think others see us as well.

It just couldn’t be simple, could it?  But one should notice that the story gets more complicated the higher we move up the chakra ladder. Survival is a pretty basic concept. Sex is definitely more complicated that survival. But we have to add a layer of identity over the survival and sex and now we have a bit of a mess since all the chakras reflect aspects of the others. That’s a mistake a lot of students of the chakra system make almost immediately. They isolate the chakras from the others and study them individually, eventually forgetting how much they influence each other.

As an example, let’s return to the analogy of the third chakra being the flaming furnace of ego. The brighter the furnace burns the more confidence we feel and the more secure we feel with our place in the world. In a sense, we can say that the other chakras can fuel or feed from this furnace. So if we feel secure in the first chakra and we feel comfortable in our physical environment as in all our needs are met, the ego is fine. It may be bolstered even. I have food. Shelter. I must be doing something right! The furnace is fed. On the contrary, a lack of resources and the onset of hunger can mess with one’s mind and seriously dampen the fires of confidence.

Same thing goes for the second chakra. Sex is gasoline to the furnace of the third chakra. If someone has sex with us we must be all right in someone’s book and that feeds the furnace. Confidence is bolstered (usually) and we feel better about our place in the world especially in relation to the creative vibe of the second chakra. Rejection and the denial of sensuality can suppress the ego and suddenly we question not only our value but also how others value and perceive us.

Security in the physical world is an underlying theme of the first three chakras. Basic needs directing our place in the world on many levels. Consider how the lack of security on any of those levels can drive behaviors and provide motivations.

From here on up is the path of the spirit, the emotions and feelings and connections to higher consciousness. But we can not deny the anchor of the first three chakras that work to give us presence in this physical world. We came here for a reason, to be in these body and experience the reality of the physical and learning how the needs and desires and the furnace of the ego dance together and make life happen is a sure path to self discovery.