All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth
You owe me.
With a love like that,
It lights the
Hafiz knows. The sun doesn’t illuminate the sky for a paycheck. It doesn’t warm our bodies for praise. It doesn’t transform solid earth into living abundance for bragging rights.
The sun grants countless creatures light, heat and energy because that’s what it does.
You can think of Chakra 3 as your inner sun. Its Sanskrit name is manipura, which means “the jewel in the city.” When it functions properly this “jewel” is to the rest of the chakra system as the sun is to the solar system. It is the center of ACTION, and this big action generates a fire power that keeps the rest of the chakras functioning properly.
When it's healthy, the third chakra encourages us to rise and shine like the sun and cheerfully attend to our work. It brightens with a healthy sense of pride when our work hits its mark and takes full responsibility without shame when we err. Seated at the core of the torso, its heat is responsible for digestion, detoxification and purification--it processes the bulk, sorting it into what is useful and what must be left behind.
Think of someone who strides right into the work that must be done, consistently producing and providing without a fuss. Someone whom you admire for their charisma, confidence, courage, clarity and strength. That's someone with a bright, healthy manipura chakra.
The problem is that this center is often unhealthy. That inner sun can burn way too hot, causing us to be constantly doing without meaning and without necessary rest. This leads us to feel irritable, anxious, and burnt out. We might suffer from an overly-quick metabolism, chronic muscle tension, frayed nerves and sleep issues.
Or the sun can grow cold, not generating enough activity to bring warmth, propulsion and transformation into our lives. We feel sluggish, depressed, indifferent, frigid or numb. The mind feels dull, the body slack, the metabolism weak and the nervous system undercharged. Getting out of bed? Not so much.
Most of us go back and forth between these two. Burning too hot, burning out, falling cold, then ramping ourselves up to hyper speed again as if we have fallen behind in some imagined marathon. This is not a good cycle to be stuck in. When our actions fail to excite and energize us, they take on a dry obligatoriness which easily leads to resentment. Then we become the foil for the Sun of Hafiz's poem--one who has forgotten that doing its brilliant work is actually the very source a joyful, easeful existence. One who has forgotten that it must act, connect and give to be what it is. One who sends heartbroken Earth a bitter letter and a hefty bill for back-payment.
chakra 3 mix: run by sun
WORKING WITH MANIPURA CHAKRA
The first two chakras brought stability and mobility. They are the homes of our yin elements, earth and water. While these forces are powerful, necessary, and very much alive, they are raw, passive and subject to gravity.
Chakra Three comes along with our first yang element: fire. It is big action, always seeking something to act upon, to warm, to propel, to process, to take responsibility for. Fire defies gravity, transforming heaviness into light and heat, and then into smoke and ash. This action sends the energy of the lower chakras upward.
Chakra One’s motivation is to survive and avoid suffering. Chakra Two’s is to procreate and pursue pleasure. They are focused on the most basic human needs. Chakra Three’s motivation is to change. Its light illuminates the world’s problems and its great energy provides fuel for us to create solutions. Manipura wants to fix what appears broken, to refine what feels stagnant, to burn through what’s stuck. Without this force, everything is fine as it is. We would never run after our next meal or fight off someone looking to make a meal out of us. We would never be compelled to stand up and help others, clean up our messes, put words on a blank page or bring music into the quiet air.
This healthy urge to improve the world can slip into a hot, burning drive to conquer and manipulate that ends up, not just changing our world, but razing it to the ground. Beware of this energy turning into a blind ambition or a compulsive need to act. If our actions are not connected back to a greater purpose and higher values, its flames can end up destroying the very things that they are meant to improve: our world, our selves, the beings around us. A healthy balancing effort coming from the other chakras ensures that this fiercely positive energy does not turn destructive.
This urge will remain compulsive and unsatisfying unless mainpura has a healthy connection to the upper chakras. Chakra Four is most important. It is home to a deep sense of care for the beings around us and ensures that the actions we take come from respect and love, not selfishness. Chakra Five helps us access and appreciate our unique gifts and callings. Chakra Six cures us of shortsightendness, for it shows us how we everything is interconnected, that our actions are part of a more comprehensive story. And Chakra Seven aligns our individual purpose with the wholeness of the universe.
When all of the chakras are functioning properly, Chakra Three is a bright shining jewel in deed. It is becomes the home of a deep sense of purpose and gives us the courage to do what's right, even if it's challenging.
To work with manipura, we will go through the steps of HONORING, EXPLORING, HEALING and INTEGRATING.
H O N O R
To honor something means to make an offering of your time and attention.
Give some time and attention to the physical home of manipura chakra, the belly, and to the physical processes that occur there. Give some time and attention to the gifts that fire and sun bring to our world. Give some time and attention to people who inspire you with their strong and healthy inner sun. Look for shining examples of confidence, courage, clarity and strength in yourself and others. Celebrate them!
As you give your time and attention, you may feel inspired to give offerings of gratitude as well. I recommend that you make a practice of saying, “thank you,” to the fire in your belly, to the bright sun in the sky, to the warmth in the pipes that heat your home, to the flame beneath your cooking pot. Say “thanks” to the fiery forces for good in this world.
You can offer your gratitude in plain words, in prayer, in song, in movement—Sun Salutations, anyone? The form the offering takes is not important. The sincerity of the offering is all that matters.
Ideally the time you spend honoring maniupura chakra creates an atmosphere of deep respect. In this sacred space of honoring, we will gain access to the profoundly transformational gifts of Chakra Three.
E X P L O R E
Now that you’ve begun to honor manipura chakra, you have a safe and dynamic environment in which to EXPLORE how it is functioning in your own life. I recommend that you begin your EXPLORATION of Chakra Three by reading up on it below, or using whatever resources you have at your disposal.
Then, if you’re inspired to do deeper exploration, choose a few issues that jump out at you and try the exercises. If you try to work on all of these issues at once you’re likely to loose fuel and focus, so it’s best to start with one, two or three pointed efforts.
Everything here is meant to inspire exploration of Chakra Three, not to narrowly define it. Stay open, playful and alert, explorer!
Chakra 3 is the center of the physical body (as opposed to the energetic body, whose center is the heart). It is our "core" the place where, if we're not physically toned enough, the rest of the body greatly suffers. On the other hand, when we become too fixated on strength, hardness and endurance we lose the suppleness necessary for fluid movement, the ease required for rest and enjoyment.
Metal is tempered by heating it up and then cooling it down again. We do a similar process to build muscle strength. How do you create a strong center for your life? What are you strengthening? How do you face up to challenges? Do you run from hot situations or do you allow yourself to see what you're capable of by staying with it?
LIVING FROM THE CORE > Wherever you are right now, pull your belly back to your spine. Feel everything lengthening out from the center of your body. Notice how it effects you, physically, emotionally, mentally. Try engaging the core at different moments throughout the day and see how it effects things.
SUN SALUTES > Try doing a few sun salutations first thing in the morning. Or 100 sit-ups. Something that honors and awakens the fire within you.
DIGESTION / PROCESSING
In ayurveda the fire in the belly is called agni, and attending to it is pivotal for our health. What’s going on with your digestive fire?
If there are issues here, study up on nutrition from a trusted source. Look at what you're eating and at what times of day (aka how does your inner sun relate to the outer sun?) Do you ever dump a bunch of logs on your fire, putting it out, by trying to burn up more than you could possibly need? Do you ever run on empty and create anxiety and exhaustion in the body?
We know that the belly is the center of detoxing, cleansing, purifying physically. But manipura can help us process more than food. Stale energies, painful emotions, immature stories and half-baked ideas must be cycled through for us to feel clean and clear. How do you process? What tools do you have for working through your bulk to sort out what’s useful and what’s not?
CLEANSE > Do a detox, fast or cleanse. It doesn’t have to be extreme. I do a mini-fast most days a week by eating an early dinner (say around 5 or 6pm), then having hot lemon water in the morning, possibly followed by juice. By the time I eat for lunch I have gone about 18 hours without food and feel cleansed and energized and hungry for something nutritious!
TWISTS > Set aside 10-30 minutes and do all your favorite twisting yoga poses. (The mix above makes good accompaniment!)
UJAII BREATH > Constricting the glottis creates friction in the throat and increases the detoxifying potential of the breath. Next time you do yoga make it all about the ujjaii breath. Notice how you feel after.
JOURNALING > Set a timer for 20 minutes. Write about a challenging experience that still hasn’t been totally processed. Don’t let your hand stop moving on the page. Don’t go back and edit anything. Just let it all come through and don't stop your hand's motion until the timer goes.
ENERGY / STIMULATION
The belly is also home to the solar plexus--a ganglia of nerve endings that report to the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our "fight or flight" instincts. You may have heard someone use the term, "trial by fire," or refer to an instance being "thrown into the fire." Those refer to circumstances where someone was in an emergency situation which tested his or her deepest animal instincts. What do you do when you're suddenly in an emergency? What kind of instincts come forth?
We are hooked up to be able to get great bursts of energy when the time is right: when we need to chase our next meal or escape becoming someone else's! (This all links back to the bigger manipura themes of food, work, the ability to sustain ourselves.) In emergency situations the sympathetic nervous system releases a chemical sequence that generates a sense of speed, vigilance, heightened awareness—all good things under the appropriate conditions. But a great percentage of modern humans suffer from this chemical sequence firing way too often and for too long of a time, depleting our resources and stressing us out.
Check out your energy levels and the quality of your energy. Watch it throughout the day. Notice what effects it positively and negatively. Do you stomp and fume over mundane things, like burning the toast? That sounds like excess fire. Maybe you need better rest rituals. Do you have a hard time getting excited about facing your day? That sounds like not enough fire when it's most important.
GOOD MORNING > Early morning energy tends to burn clean and bright. Check in on your morning routine and make sure that you are using that precious time wisely.
GOODNIGHT > If you’re overly energetic at night, create a bedtime ritual. Go through it really slowly. Restorative or yin yoga poses are great for this time of day. Technology/media are not. Breathing with your legs up the wall for
TECHNOLOGY/MEDIA CLEANSE > Look at your technology use and how it effects your nerves. Notice what kind of media content you’re ingesting and how it effects your stress levels. Decide to do a technology/media cleanse. Maybe try to give yourself the first 30 minutes every morning and the last 60 minutes of every night screen free. Maybe do a whole day or a whole week.
SPEED / UPWARD MOMENTUM
Whereas earth and water are inert and subject to gravity, fire moves upward. Think about the fire of the hot air balloon, powering the basket's lift off the earth. What do you do when you feel too heavy? How do you experience upward momentum?
This power can also work like a motor, propelling us forward at incredible speeds. Do you ever feel slow, depressed, left behind by others or behind on your own goals? Do you sometimes get ahead of yourself, trying to be 3 steps ahead of the present moment?
VIGOROUS EXERCISE > When I feel mentally or emotionally stuck, it’s helpful to know that I am not so physically! Do something that builds up a sweat!
BANDHA WORK > The bandhas bring energy upward. Go for it next time you’re in a yoga class and see what happens.
RESTFUL EFFORT > Next time you’re doing something that requires a lot of effort or will, see if you can soften and relax into it. Whether it’s a hard yoga pose or a difficult conversation, I bet you’ll find more strength underneath the ease!
What's your relationship with ACTION? How many of your actions every day feel meaningful? How many feel empty? Are you afraid of action, tending to hide from work? Are you constantly moving, not knowing how to sit still? Do you actually manage to both avoid real work AND never rest? Keeping yourself entertained but never actually accomplishing anything? Maybe even distracting yourself because you are afraid of doing the real work of your life?
INTENTION > Next time you want to take a powerful action, pause and get very clear on your intention for taking the action in the first place. Align yourself with that and then more forward.
STIMULANT SWAP > If you are not feeling genuinely pumped about something that needs to get done you might find yourself abusing stimulants—from coffee to sugar to technology to ritalin to cigarettes to cocaine, stimulants tend to give us a big boost followed by a big crash. It’s a painful cycle, whereby the seeking out of peak energy creates a great energy valley each and every time. Try substituting an energizing activity for that cup of coffee: A brisk walk, a headstand, 50 jumping jacks.
RADIATION / TEMPERATURE / PROXIMITY
Energy radiates out, effecting everything around it with its heat. This brings in the important issue of proximity. If this planet were closer to the sun, it would burn up the potential for life here. And if it were further away, life would be frozen out.
Pay attention to how your energy radiates out from you and from others. Notice how you physically navigate your world. What energies are you drawn toward? Do you huddle into them, or stand confidently next to them? Are you always running hot or cold? Not just physically, but emotionally? Do you tend toward irritability or anger? Or do you tend to retreat emotionally? What warms you and makes you comfortable? What burns you up? What leaves you cold? How do you interact with other people's warmth? Do you spend a lot of time in the center of the action, or far removed?
QI GONG WARMUP > To increase circulation shake out the limbs and move the fire around. Pat up and down the limbs. Then vigorously rub.
INNER SUN MEDITATION > sit and feel into a bright yellow sun at the center of your belly. feel how its heat radiates out in all directions, bringing warmth, goodness and light to every thing around
SOCIAL SUN > Next time you are about to interact with a difficult person, prepare with a few moments of INNER SUN MEDITATION. Try to maintain that connection to your strong, bright center as you approach and interact with this difficult person. Keep your confidence and your light beaming and, if you're generous with your light it might start to burn through their difficult energy.
TRANSFORMATION / DEATH / BIRTH
Whatever the heat of fire touches, is powerfully transformed. What is being worked on by fire ceases to be what it was and reemerges as something new. This is death and rebirth.
Pay attention to this. What is your relationship to all kinds of transformation, release of the old, bringing in of the new?
DEATH BIRTH MANTRA > Death is to life, as the exahle is to breath. It is an equally important aspect of the cycle. You can’t have one without the other. As you exhale say to yourself, “Letting go of the old” On the inhale say, “Inviting the new.”
BLESS YOUR FOOD > Something died for you to have this meal. Yes, even if you are a vegetarian. Plants must die for us to eat them. Honor the life left behind on your plate for what it truly is: the ultimate sacrifice by another being.
LIGHT / DARK / DUALITY / CONFLICT
Fire not only throws off heat, but light. Light is great of course! But it also always comes with its partner, darkness. Whatever lies outside the reach of the camp fire is not only cold, but invisible to the eye. So with this chakra we are introduced to duality: light v. dark, inside the circle v. outside, us v. them, good v. bad.
How do you deal with duality? Do you have a tendency to see things as black and white? Do you love the light but revile the dark?
It’s the friction between two things that creates energy. Think of two sticks rubbing to make a spark, or a piston firing. Yes, everything is ends up in harmony, but conflict, friction and challenges are part of that harmony!
Do you avoid conflict at all costs? Or are you always seeking it out? Is there a healthy balance to strike? How do you handle tension? Is there a way to be comfortable when tension arises inside or outside?
MEDITATION FOR CONFLICT > Next time that you feel conflicted, sit still and connect to a strong place in the belly that is centered and steady. Do your best to watch the ups and downs from this place, aware but unchanged.
LIGHT + DARK ALTAR > make an altar that honors life and death. Collect objects that say life to you. Collect objects that say death. Arrange them on the altar.
SEPARATENESS / AUTONOMY / RESPONSIBILITY
Duality introduces the idea of separateness. There is here an idea that I am a separate being from you, and from my environment. While this is not the whole truth, it is part of the truth (1/7 you could say.) And it's an important way to see the world at times. Now there is an autonomous ME who can take responsibility for my actions. Who can choose to transform, to warm, to light up and change the world. Or who can choose not to do those things.
Anyone who is playing the victim or the controller too often could use some work here. Anyone who is always playing powerless victim to circumstance or to other beings is not properly engaging their authority. Anyone who is being too controlling of others is failiing to respect the autonomy of others. Personally, when my fire isn't burning properly, I go back and forth between feeling victim to outer circumstances and trying desperately to control them. It's a loop that I set myself up for. Anytime I step in on one side, I end up on the other. To break this cycle, stand tall in your power, and peacefully grant power to others.
AFFIRMATIONS TO ESCAPE VICTIMHOOD> I am responsible for my own actions. No one else can force me or coerce me. I am a powerful force. I reserve the right to say no. I reserve the right to say yes. I am worthy. I am strong. I am a hot burning sun.
MEDITATION TO SEE YOU’RE NOT THE CONTROLLER > Just because we are empowered does not mean that we can or should control every aspect of reality. Sit in meditation, resting your awareness at your own strong center. Every time something arises to take you out of that center say to it: “Ok.” You don’t have to condone it or celebrate it, but neither do you have to resist it or manipulate it away. Just say, “Ok.” Give everything permission to be as it is.
WORK / PURPOSE / POWER
Finally, the transformational journey of manipura brings us to the issue of our work. This means our livelihood, our ability to put food on the table, yes. But it links up to something bigger than that—one’s purpose in this lifetime. When we are connected to this we are hooked up to the hugeness of manipura’s power while being protected from its more dangerous tendencies.
LOOK AT YOUR WORK HABITS > When do you feel the fire burning strong, allowing your work to happen almost effortlessly? When does it go cold? How do you face up to the work ahead when you know it will be difficult? Do you use stimulants to get through work? Are there better ways to inspire your fire?
IF YOU KNOW YOUR PURPOSE > We need you to live that purpose and to transform the world by it. How well your actions are aligning with that purpose? How might you bring that sense of purpose into more actions throughout your day?
IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR PURPOSE > How exciting that you’re about to explore this for yourself and unleash the great power of your inner sun. Ask yourself: “What makes me feel vital and empowered? What activities make me lose track of time when you are immersed in them? What careers of others do I most admire? What do I love the most in the world, and how might I begin to serve that?”
H E A L
Guess what? Just by honoring and exploring manipura chakra, you have been healing it. Well done! Now that your relationship with your inner sun has deepened, check in and decide if there is more pointed healing work that needs to be done.
If so, state a clear intention about what you want to heal and set aside some special time for doing this work. Perhaps you do one of the exercises above, but with an intention to HEAL rather than EXPLORE. Perhaps you reach out to a teacher, counselor, friend or group to help you with this sacred work.
Whatever is happening, I highly recommend that you do a…
<<< FIRE CEREMONY! >>>
ITEMS NEEDED: (1) a fire and (2) something to burn. The fire can be as simple as a candle in a bowl or pot. You can burn leaves or sticks or dried flower petals. You can burn little pieces of paper with writing on them. It doesn’t matter.
1. Create a sacred atmosphere. (See the section on HONORING for this.)
2. Hold your burnable object. Tell it what you are ready to let go of.
3. Blow your heartfelt wish into your burnable object.
4. Then put it in the fire and watch it being transformed.
5. Burn as many things as you need to.
6. Sit for a few moments in quiet when you’re done. Feel into the heart. Is there something nacent there? Something whose birth will be enabled by this clearing?
7. Close the ceremony by thanking the fire and anything else that you feel grateful for.
I N T E G R A T E
To integrate means to acknowledge your manipura chakra and use it to make positive changes in your life. This is the point of all of this, really. To become the best version of ourselves so that we can save the world. So don’t just sit around admiring your fire. Use it!
You can use your fiery manipura chakra to:
- Thaw out frozen parts of your heart
- Open the hardened parts of your body
- Shine life into dormant hopes so that they may come to life
- Burn away all the old shit that’s holding you back
- Fuel your next big transformation
And so much more. Let me know how it goes in the comments!