Swadhisthana or Sacral Chakra
The Dwelling Place of "Me"
Swadhisthana Chakra translates into "a dwelling place of the self." Also spelled svadhisthana chakra or swadisthana chakra, this is where the Id resides. If the ego and super-ego reside in the brain, then the Id resides in the sacral chakra.
This is not surprising because this second chakra (swadhisthana) helps the mooladhara (muladhara chakra or root chakra) in its awakening. As we know, the mooladhara occupies a crucial place in the pattern of the chakras.
The representative place of this energy center corresponds to the urinary and reproductive systems in the gross physical body. (Anatomically, it is quite close to muladhara chakra in both the female and male bodies.) A balanced sacral chakra is viewed from the front just below the navel. Additionally, the lower abdomen and the organs associated with it are connected to this chakra of the Chakras System. Not surprisingly, anyone who has a paunch has a severely blocked swadhisthana chakra. Also, while some hormones may influence the chakras, this particular chakra helps in hormone regulation.
Traditionally, swadhisthana is symbolized by a 6-petalled, orange-red lotus flower. In modern terms, this chakra has qualities of the Id so it lies in the subconscious domain. Within the 36 Shaiva Tattvas, this chakra is classified as a water element tattva. In Tantra - as in most ancient texts - reality gets represented through mythological symbols. The symbolism of one era or one culture may not be comprehensible in another era or another culture. However, there is an archetype of the human mind that Tantra captures: In Jungian Theory, it is a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious.
Not unlike the Id, this chakra manifests as our reptilian brain. Strong emotions and passions are controlled by it so any kind of emotional instability is a contra-indication (overactive sacral chakra). Not surprisingly, meditation plays an important role here and prana visualization happens through water flowing in the body. The tattvas of smell and taste are associated with this chakra which therefore includes the tongue. This chakra also includes the sexual organs so food, sex, and sexuality predominate within it. Thus, awakening this chakra liberates you from lust and gluttony (two of the seven cardinal sins). Here is a chakra that is one more example of, "We are what we eat!" By craving certain foods or "tastes" we create a personality type that revolves around food and sex life.
Root, Heart and Animal Instincts
Remember, all chakras are working continuously either positively or negatively depending on the environment that we happen to be in. In this context, it's possible that you are not a lustful or gluttonous person. However, active participation in Hatha Yoga exercises will ensure that you are aware of the direction Kundalini is traveling. All animal instincts arising with swadhisthana and muladhara are controlled through this chakra. Since it lies between the anahata chakra and the muladhara chakra, it controls many aspects of both. It's kind of obvious because if we control our diet, we can actually control many negative moods that may arise. If our food is tamasic, then we become tamasic!
Ayurveda uses the healing power of diet control largely to control this specific chakra.
We call these food and sex cravings animal instincts and the person who conquers these animal instincts then becomes the Lord of these instincts. In Sanskrit, this is Pashupati - another name for Shiva and there's a temple in Nepal devoted to this avatar of Shiva. The temple is a residence for all animals because it's the abode of their master Lord Shiva!
I've said this earlier: the tantric idea of the unconscious should not be confused for dormant! In other words, the muladhara manifests our instincts while the swadhisthana manifests our subconscious or unconscious state of mind. Instincts may operate in the unconscious mind but it is not the same as other unconscious behavior. We are born with instincts (a child born blind smiles out of instinct) but our sub-conscious and unconscious thoughts are acquired, often without our wakeful mind's knowledge.
Any event that may have changed your mood (temporarily) or your personality (permanently) has affected the swadhisthana without you being aware of it. For example, an inconsequential incident that may not attract any attention from you may put you in a good mood; the death of a dear one may change your personality in a way that you don't even realize. In some cases, this is so obvious: people who are in severe depression vehemently deny it! Thus, our consciousness is often controlled by our unconscious!
In Tantra, every single perception, experience, and event is recorded. We also know this from neuroscience. Some instances are merely recorded and stored away and others are analyzed and therefore easier to recall. Once upon a time, our memory was compared to the RAM (temporary storage), and the Hard Disk - short-term memory went to the RAM and long-term memory was stored in the Hard Disk. However, Tantra has already documented that all memory is stored permanently. It's just that we have easy recall of some and not of others. Tantric exercises change that tremendously: you begin to recall memories that you never thought you could have stored away!
Since we are exploring the unconscious in this chakra, let's see how deep this unconsciousness goes: most humans are afraid of snakes; this is not simply a human thing, not just a thing with all primates, but a mammalian thing.
All mammals are afraid of snakes! It is an instinctive fear in all mammals!
Thus, using animals as symbols for our conscious and unconscious facets makes sense and this is evident in all cultures throughout the ages. Should it come as a surprise then that a serpent represents Kundalini!
Barriers to Awakening
ln Kundalini Yoga, the unconsciousness presents many barriers to awakening. After awakening in muladhara, swadhisthana awakening is quite difficult because we have to deal with our ghosts - our sub-conscious and unconscious mind. Just like ghosts, we can't see what we're dealing with. If this block is huge, then I would suggest an "exorcism." Don't worry, I mean that in jest. This exorcism is nothing but a radical change in your diet. Go vegetarian - better still, go vegan - and you will see how these blocks are removed. Please note that this is not a prescription, it's only a suggestion. By making such a radical change in your diet, you will easily be able to awaken this chakra.
Having a tantric teacher/guru helps! The most important thing a guru will do for you is to identify these blocks (also called unconscious Karmic barriers) and suggest techniques to overcome them.
The unconscious is awakening, suppressed emotions are being vented, and fears and desires are raising their (ugly?) heads. Undoubtedly, it's a scary experience depending on how many suppressed emotions you may have. In other words, how "crazy" you are! But seriously, any awakening is going to create a disturbance (good or bad and sometimes both alternating in quick succession). Don't be fooled into thinking that you can always handle the good - imagine laughing uncontrollably till your sides hurt and not being able to stop. It's not possible to articulate the degree of disturbance except to provide analogies.
These disturbances are similar to the discomfort of jogging or swimming. You will sweat when you jog and you will get wet when you swim. You're jogging in the street: suddenly a Rottweiler comes out of nowhere and starts barking at you! How disturbed will you be? Depending upon your fear of dogs, it will vary. You go swimming in the river: you feel something slithering past your leg. Depending upon your fear of snakes, your disturbance will vary. Regardless, such things don't happen all the time nor do they happen to everyone. Will you stop doing your favorite exercise simply because of the discomfort it may cause?! Obviously not! Some of these symptoms will not be scary but make you lethargic. You may also get terribly distracted by sexual fantasies and passions. Don't worry! Identify the symptoms correctly (a tantric guide will identify such things in an instance), and work on resolving them.
Some literature in this field talks of great turmoil and recounts hellish experiences. These are mostly exaggerations. It's the "turmoil" you will face if you find yourself attracted to your neighbor's wife or husband: if you're a puritan, it will be a sin; otherwise you will simply dismiss it as a harmless fantasy.
Our attachment to desires comes not only from the pleasures they provide but also from the feeling of incomplete satisfaction. We always desire more (in terms of degree) or with greater frequency. Incomplete satisfaction manifests in many different ways; I will use sex and food as examples (remember these aspects are controlled by this chakra):
Wanting to taste more of a delicious dish even though you are full.
Thinking of the next love-making session after just having a great orgasm.
Thinking of what to cook for dinner after just eating lunch.
You get the picture! The present moment - that instance of time - cannot be preserved forever, so the mind is either recalling past pleasures or fantasizing future ones even when engaged in the present pleasurable event.
Many tantric techniques teach us to prolong our pleasures. Kundalini Tantra teaches us to intellectualize this problem of incomplete satisfaction by guaranteeing us pleasure forever. How? By mastering tantric visualization techniques, we can "re-live" or "re-enact" any pleasurable moment, sexual or something else. These are powerful techniques that transcend space-time because you can do this from anywhere and at any time. Often these manifest as sex dreams: dreams where you are aware of being in a dream, and having sex, and controlling the dream! Once you have had such a dream, the unconscious is automatically pacified and claimed in the assurance that desires can be met anytime, anywhere, and even when one is beyond those pleasures physically. Thus all desires can be fulfilled regardless of time and space!
By practicing some amount of academic detachment towards your own feeling and emotions you can get past the barriers of swadhisthana chakra. The following story illustrates this beautifully: a tantric (in the early stages of his Kundalini practice) had a dream wherein he was having sex with his mother. He was quite disturbed and almost gave up on his practice. But his guru advised: "As a human being, do you think this is unique to you? Detach yourself from the problem and go people who have had similar experiences!"
Not having access to the Internet, this tantrik went to the local library, browsed through the Psychology section, and eventually came across the Oedipus Complex. All the guru did was to guide him in the direction of detached analysis.
Don't believe any literature on Tantra or Kundalini Tantra which states that you should exterminate your sexual feelings or any primal desires. This is absolute rubbish! The idea in Tantra is to transform or transmute the sexual energy - not into something divine or spiritual. That is crap! But into something even more pleasurable! There are many ways to do this because each individual's needs and methods will be uniquely different. (Your teacher/guru will guide you in this quest.) A simple example: ejaculation control is not about conserving energy or transforming it into something divine but to be able to have sex with greater frequency!
When this is achieved, sex will not be an obsession anymore; sexual thoughts will not be distractions, and the fear of forsaking this pleasure or "going beyond" it will not plague your spirit. (See also Tantric Sex and Vama Marga.) You don't have to give up anything forcibly - or sacrifice anything - to achieve Kundalini awakening. Whatever changes are required by your unique body and mind will come to you through your practice. If you feel that you need to give up say X and you can't give up X because you truly, passionately, obsessively, etc., etc. love X, then don't. Continue with your asanas, pranayams, and mudras and slowly you will achieve your goal - even if you never give up X or because you are now bored of X! So long as you continue your practice diligently, it will miraculously happen!
The path is simple: persist in your practice, don't fight your passions,
and dedicate your mind to detachment!