Last month I was reflecting on my second chakra and pondering Schrodinger’s Cat. So, it’s amusing that while digging in to my third chakra, I found myself pondering the mischievous Cheshire cat, made popular in Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Remember him? From time to time, his body would completely disappear, except for his big grin. On some occasions, he’d even jokingly dislocate his head from his body…
Likewise, it seems this month that my third chakra has been playing hide and seek with me. I certainly know that I have a third chakra. I see its impact in my life: I have a healthy sense of self; I’m able to act autonomously and with purpose; I’m independent and can move plans easily from idea into action. But for the life of me I could not locate the damn thing in my body. As I’ve been studying the chakra system for the past few months, I’ve been able to easily find the prior chakras—Muladhara (root) and Svadhisthana (sacral). All I needed to do was think about one and I could feel its location. But when I started my journey to feel the Manipura, or third chakra, I was s*!t out of luck...
With reflection, this isn’t surprising. The third chakra has a lot to do with willpower and action. In my formative years, I often felt powerless, and unable to act in a way that felt authentic to me. Then in recovery, I learned a new definition for powerless… that action needed to come with a connection from a Higher Power rather than just from within me. This topic always brought confusion within me, as it raised the topics of "God’s Will” (words I always hear in a large booming voice), free will, predestination, dharma… you see where this is headed. Or consider conflict: My will differs from your will, and !BOOM!
So, to work with my third chakra I had to park the word willpower and focus instead on this superb description from Anodea Judith in her workbook Chakra Balancing:
“From earth to water to fire. With your body grounded and your emotions flowing, you now begin to generate energy. As this energy rises into the third chakra it has the potential to become power.”
This week, I had a medical procedure to resolve an issue that I believed was messing with my second chakra energy. I was in some discomfort and pondering this during my Thursday driving meditation—and its possible relation to my missing third chakra—when I passed a sign that said “Cheshire, MA”, triggering my Cheshire cat AHA moment. And I decided to dig in deeper.
Some of my best digging happens in art museums. By moving from a thinking environment to a sensing environment, I’m able to disconnect my analytical brain, and focus in on random thoughts and feelings. So, I headed to MASS MoCA in search of my third chakra. In gallery after gallery, as I alternated between pacing and bench sitting, I brought my awareness to the area of my body between my navel and breastbone. But my awareness just floated around, unable to land and stay put.
Next thing I knew, I was standing in front of a virtual reality exhibit by renowned American multimedia artist Laurie Anderson and Taiwanese new media artist Hsin-Chien Huang called Chalkboard. I was taken in a room darkened of all light except black light. Graffiti-style writing covered every inch of the walls, floor, and ceiling. As I sat on a cube, which was capable of spinning 360 degrees, the attendant placed a VR rig on my head and instructed me how to attach a controller to each hand. Once complete, I heard a soothing voice coo through the headphones, “Now we’ll take you to the center of the chalkroom.” I noticed I had heard center of the chakra not center of the chalkroom, and giggled. The voice continued, “Remember there are things to see behind you and all around you.” Then my field of vision opened up and I was in what looked like a post-apocalyptic city with buildings of various heights. Every surface of the buildings—inside and out—were covered with the same graffiti script. Off in the distance was a hazy sun through the dimness.
For the next few minutes I was literally able to fly in and through the buildings, slowing down to read the writings on the wall. I kept checking back in with my body to see if my third chakra was feeling anything. It was exhilarating. My brain was processing the virtual reality as reality. And then I saw it—a bright white glowing cube in the distance. And I knew. It was my third chakra. I flew towards it, stopping abruptly right at its base. Then I walked right smack into it. My field of vision glowed full white-hot light. I sat there in the whiteness. It hummed and resonated a tone. And, yes, I felt it right in my third chakra.
For the remaining time I had in this new reality, I found other cubes, explored them, and not surprisingly they resonated in some of my other chakras. Then, disappointingly, the attendant came to tell me my time was over. She inquired, “How was it?” I replied, “I don’t want to ever leave.” And for a moment I meant it. It was a truly spiritual experience, the second strongest I have ever had. I had touched a dark mysterious bliss. My consciousness had expanded again. This was no mere art exhibit. No game for tweens. I was forever changed.
As I wandered through the rest of the museum, everything else paled in comparison. I felt as if I was now in the un-reality, in a dream state. I thought again of the Cheshire cat, “I’m not crazy. My reality is just different than yours.” (from Alice in Wonderland)
It took a while for me to sync back up to this reality. But when I did, I found, intriguingly, that I was now able to find my third chakra at any time, on command. My energy was now flowing unhindered through my body—perhaps for the first time in decades. My Cheshire third chakra was now whole.
Sometimes I now can hear him whisper yet another line from Wonderland: “You just go where your high-top sneakers sneak, and don't forget to use your head.”
Read more from Sarah Bowen in Void if Detached: Seeking Modern Spirituality Through My Father's Old Sermons.
Learn more about MASS MoCA's Chalkroom.