Chakra 2 - Swadhisthana

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The river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future….
— Siddhartha

Years ago, I spent a few December days in Laguna Beach, diving through winter waves, immersed in what felt like the beginning of everything. I was full of energy, and I would wake up early to walk down and watch the sunrise on the beach. It was always dark and always cold, and I carried a blanket and coffee, snuggling into a little indented sand nest to watch the water as the first light reflected like an hallucination on the horizon.

On the second morning, as I was watching the sun hover, I saw something leap from the water. I got up to get a closer look, and several more creatures surfaced from the sea line, cavorting through the waves. When I saw flippers and flukes, I knew these were dolphins at play, plunging and rising, breaching and striking, looping like a dream—or an omen.

A couple months ago, I invited a shamanic healer into my home. She brought flowers, herbs, branches and twigs, and she introduced me to ritual movement in a Limpia ceremony, releasing whatever block impedes change. When she left, I followed her instructions to bury the remains and wait for growth.

This week, I sat in a women’s moon circle, and I attended my first private session with a spiritual adviser.

I sound like a woman in crisis.

My documentary filmmaker friend says that erotic thrillers are about women in crisis. He says Americans are uncomfortable watching women on screen unless they’re sexualized, but that’s not what these films are really about.

Americans are uncomfortable with a lot of things.

I like to think I’m a person who is comfortable with discomfort, likely because I’ve lived long enough to know all sensations pass. When I run a trail near my house in the early mornings, particularly when its cold out, or on days I haven’t slept, or when the voices in my head are angry and unkind, I close my eyes on the trail, deliberately slow down my breathing, and repeat in my head over and over, “flow like water.”

I picture myself immersed, flowing downstream.

I like thinking about water.

Chakras can be perceived primarily as metaphor, but it’s still useful to find a place in your body to feel the seed of energy you want to explore.

The second chakra, the region of pleasure, emotion, and creativity, is symbolized as water. It is located in our lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel and two inches in, which for women, is the womb space. When this chakra is healthy, it is the pathway through which we experience a sense of abundance, well-being, and delight in sexuality. When our energy is flowing freely through this channel, we generate authentic human connection and an ability to welcome others and new experiences. When our second chakra is blocked, we feel cold, disconnected and apathetic, afraid to take risks, afraid to trust, afraid to change.

I remind myself that change is the only constant, that change is chemically necessary to life, that passion arises from engagement and that we can’t engage if we aren’t open. But that doesn’t quell my discomfort with change.

Vicki was a student of mine many years ago, in many classes. When I met her, she was bright, vibrant, charismatic, hard-working, beautiful and pregnant. I adored her and she soaked up everything I offered. After graduating from our college, she asked me to meet her for coffee to pick my brain. She continued to pick my brain throughout graduate school and her early career, over many lunches where we talked about the publication process, her decision to teach or not to teach, how to get hired, how to juggle children and a partner, how to compete as a woman in a man’s world. We emerged from these exchanges without hierarchy. We rose to the surface as friends. Vicki is now my colleague, and does many of the things I do or used to do, with a grace and charm that exceed mine. Sometimes after she has orchestrated a public program at our college, male colleagues will say to me, “you better watch out” or ask how it feels to have competition, or whether I feel “threatened” or “sickened” by her success. Usually I look at them, puzzled, as if I don’t understand the question. Very rarely do I tell them the truth, which is, every time she shines, I feel so full of pride, I can barely contain the radiance. This is why I do what I do. This is how the river flows. Only a poor teacher has students who don’t surpass her.

Yogi Seane Corn has a deal she makes with women who ask to pick her brain. She says she will answer anything they ask her, as authentically and generously as she can, but only if the mentee promises to do the same for a younger women who approaches her some day, particularly if she is intimidated or insecure by this rising woman’s intelligence, beauty or charm. Corn suggests that when we recognize a contraction of fear in our body (for instance, when we worry a younger woman will usurp or outshine us), we have the opportunity to open ourselves further. She says our bodies are telling us to give her more. Because being generous takes away the power of lack. The moment we stop being generous, we stop the flow of energy and we begin to die.

The truth is, I love to watch Vicki dive in head first. I love to watch her swim in warm waters. And I let her know, as often as possible, that if she’s tired or wants a break or needs an extra oar to row, I’m here, in whatever capacity she requires. I want my students to surpass me, just as I want my children to. And when I operate from this place of abundance, I can feel my second chakra open, the energy flowing toward new experiences, toward openness, toward change.

I think of Gloria Steinem’s prayer for “the courage to walk naked at any age, to wear red and purple, to be unladylike, inappropriate, scandalous and incorrect, to the very end.”

Over the years, I have watched dolphins from the shore, and have looked down or across at them from various boats, but I haven’t yet found the right moment to dive in. I have been many places, danced in many waters, but I have not yet swum with dolphins.


Michelle Dowd