Written by Allen Caldeira
You’re walking down a dark city street somewhere in Brazil. The brothels are around this neighborhood, and each person is a potential threat. Your awareness of this causes your body to tense, especially the neck and stomach. You see a man step out of a building up ahead and you instinctively jolt back just a bit. You imagine him stabbing you, threatening you, pushing you into the doorway to take your money.
Then you realize that you are holding tension in your body.
You begin to focus on releasing the tension, and wave hello. He waves back. You talk. It’s good.
This is a real situation (slightly dramatized), described to me by a shaman. He often encountered people he felt might threaten someone else, but connecting to the earth and treating people as humans first helped him immeasurably in these situations. His awareness of his body has helped him to see new ways in which we can look at the body as a system of tension, energy, and potentially compassionate presence.
Photo By Joshua Newton
Shamans, from the Ineen tradition take their reality to truly be relative. No one paradigm or way of seeing is the “right” one. Still, they maintain certain values, such as “to come from the heart has more power than to come from the gut.” They don’t deny the gut, but they feel that to translate ideas through the heart and hands is more effective than to do so through the solar plexus alone.
Consistently the advice from these shamans is to “ground out energy.” What is this literally? It is paying attention to the feet/trunk* and releasing whatever emotion that would remove you from the moment. This comes with the intention of being fully present.
We encounter various situations in life that make us feel uncomfortable, that make some part of our body tense. In the language of chakras, you get a block in the chakras because of a perceived threat. There becomes a tension and less information can move through the cluster of nerve cells at that point in the body. You have a perception of potential threat there because of preconceived notions, ideas about how things are that are stuck inside your energy centers, directing you towards or away from any particular situation.**
People notice subtle tension inside your body. People notice if you believe they might hurt you or steal from you. People notice more than they are aware they notice.
The recommended practice to deal with tension is to connect to the earth. Imagine you are grounded and at peace even inside of an uncomfortable situation. The shaman was able to have genuine, polite conversations with people who he believed would have robbed someone else. He did this by grounding out his fear and replacing it with compassionate presence.
This Can Go Deeper
We all have various loops – habitual tendencies – inside us that cause tension. Something as simple as seeing a person or hearing water fall in a particular way may cause a feeling of unease. The tensions we carry have become so normalized, so much part of our being, that we would never consider them abnormal. And, tension is fine, the question is more of whether you have control over that tension, if you want that tension or not.
Most of us do not control our tensions – they control us, creating patterns and habituations that occur without end. How do you stop the painful patterns? By grounding through them, being present, and releasing. If we know that it is actually our own interpretation of a situation that directs its outcome, then changing our response to any given situation would lead us out of the negative pattern connected to it.
Photo by Brannon Naito
Be Aware Of Pain, Then Working With It
There are numerous ways to do this, but the underlying mechanism seems to be the relaying of the upper brain, the crown chakra, into the survival system of the brain, from the solar plexus to the root – tailbone, perineum, and feet.^* Translating the above to the below. To do this, one has to be able to free oneself of tension in literally any situation.
In the most general sense there is one method of action and one of cessation. To be active is to clear tension no matter what situation approaches you, and often produces and is produced by a more wild kind of being, much more connected to human tendencies. That is to say that when we become masters of our instinctual responses we can use them to be active in the world in a very direct way, which expresses itself differently for everyone. Cessation is much more what we hear about from various masters, you meditate for an extended period of time in a secluded space to gain mastery over the physical body.
Ultimately, these produce the same result: your energy body and physical body come into a state of peace with one another.
Let’s Re-orient Back To The Shamans
The practices of the shamans include calling down a celestial, white or blue light which covers their bodies and creates a pure field. They often describe the light as being connected to the highest self, able to provide happiness and peace to a person’s deepest being. It makes energy flow more easily. And to connect that to the root chakra would be to find peace in life.
The tension that occurs in the body is what prevents the energy from traveling through the body freely – tension blocks flow. Tension is doubt, fear, anger, regret, sadness, etc. They aren’t necessarily bad, but they tend to block up energy flows. If you look for health and happiness it’s a good idea to clean them out. Qi gong practitioners have been doing it for centuries.^^
You can have clean energy centers all the time, and this would imply a very visceral experience of reality, one where you are receiving all of the information originating from the surrounding environment and internal environment. If one has the intent to come from the level of the heart, then that compassion will get translated down automatically through the nervous system. If there is dis-ease in the lower centers, the heart will have a harder time getting through in a clean way.
A simple practice to try is to let the white light come down on your body. Some describe it as blue-white or purple-white. I like to use pink. See what color comes to you! Stay under it with your focus until it feels right to finish.
Take note of the difference in body feeling.
* Root chakra and all connected body parts – thighs, calves, feet, perineum, tailbone.
** You could say that this is how chakras (or even your energy field) becomes clogged up, something sticks. Why does it stick? Lack of letting go, lack of compassion, lack of asserting yourself, etc. I feel like it has to do with taking care of the physical body at a very deep level, listening to what it needs in terms of recurring constellations or patterns.
^* From experience, it seems that the tailbone, perineum, and feet at the primary points of energy focus. I have noticed huge amounts of electricity being released through the trunks of the legs as I release various fears, and this tends to come with varying levels of ecstasy. But the focus for me has primarily been at the bottoms of the feet and the tailbone/perineum. A friend suggests the big toes are the most direct link from the crown chakra to the root (it’s logical) and another suggests that it’s wise the give the heels just as much focus to maintain ground while moving forward.
^^ Qi gong has not been around for centuries, I refer to ‘Chinese energy workers’ – now typically Qi gong and tai Qi practitioners.