Everything begins with feeling safe.
Conversely, when we feel (or are) unsafe - we remain in a perpetual state of various shades of standing still. Safety the foundation of all that we are and most of what we do.
So why does it often take us decades of inner work to arrive in this most basic place?
For most of us, safety was never discussed.
Save for some deeply traumatic childhoods in war-torn countries or experiencing grave conditions of poverty - it's been assumed for eternity that so long as basic human needs were met, we were "safe".
Nothing could be further from the truth.
How do you define feeling safe?
Does this definition change for you across people, places, spaces, and time?
How does it feel in your body when you're safe?
What's your first memory of feeling unsafe in this world?
What's your first memory of feeling unsafe in your skin?
Since arriving on the Mayan coast with shadow therapy and womb work, I've had the distinct honour of holding space for advanced transformational healing in some of the darkest, gravest cases I largely felt entirely unprepared to hold. I mean, how do you offer transformative healing to a UN global field worker stationed in the Human Sex Trafficking unit? Bearing daily witness to some of the most horrifying cases of abuse and terror, trained to be ready for any attack at any moment - how do you offer solace and reprieve?
It starts with safety.
It's why I begin every single one of my sessions, circles, and workshops, with closing our eyes and breathing together. When who I'm with disconnects from the outside world and tunes into the sound of my voice, when they close their eyes and slow their breath, they're telling their body, "I am safe." We're telling their mind, "You are here." Because, as we all arrive careening in sideways from the chaos and fast-paced hectic nature of our days, it's easy to remain entirely subconsciously in a persistent state of panic.
Truth is, we don't need to be witnessing human sex crimes to experience root-level, life-shifting, instability that inadvertently impacts pretty much every facet of our lives. It's enough that we come from an under-mothered/under-parented home - a childhood where our emotional needs weren't nurtured or met - and we're likely to carry a bone-deep disturbance in our sense of safety and security in the world.
Have you met your root chakra, yet?
This core energetic center is located at the base of your spine (at the perineum, between the genitals and anus) - the very seat of your being.
For what it's worth, you don't so much need to "believe in chakras" to get on board with how these "ethereal energetic spaces" may or may not impact your life.
Are chakras real? Well, they are not physical entities in the sense that they can be measured and studied by modern science (say, the way equally invisible bioelectrical/biomagnetic signals can (ie brain waves)).
Do you believe in the body's energy? Frequency/vibration? (here's a blog for you on that). Chakras don't need to be any more "proven" than they can simply be seen as a symbolic representation of the mind/body connection, a more generalized map of wellness/disease in various specific regions of the body/aspects of our emotions, personality, life + inherited history, and subsequent ability to interact with the world.
So, I'm a scientist. But, I'm also an early life and inheristed trauma expert. If a client comes to me afraid to stand up for herself in her relationship I might map that onto a lack of sense of security (root chakra), shame around her sexuality (sacral), lack of willpower to uncouple (solar plex) and/or disruption of heart and throat chakra if she's uncomfortable loving /connecting/speaking her truth.... so, from a behavioral standpoint, I can easily scaffold the impact of these "alleged energetic centers" onto behaviours, or even take a step further to map how emotion "causes" disruptions in chakra functioning which leads to physical disease in associated spaces.
Chakras can be the guidemap of your wellness practice, or nothing more than a theoretical tool for enhanced understanding. You can choose to work with them or without them - making them only as proven as you need them to be.
That aside..... back to the root.
It's believed in ancient ayurvedic medicine that the root chakra, or Muladhara, is activated in the womb and responsible for the most primal sense of "I am", of survival, stability, vitality, groundedness and belonging. Represented by fiery red and rooted in the Earth element, the muladhara is usually the first of our chakras to become imbalanced/blocked in this life.
Think back to how it was for you in the womb: soft, squishy, safe and secure. The temperature was ideal. The sounds were gently muffled. You felt fed all the time without having to think about it and gently rocked and swayed throughout the day. This was your first limbic imprint of life.
Limbic Imprinting: "The process by which prenatal, perinatal, and post-natal experiences imprint upon the brain's emotional/memory/arousal centers (limbic system) causing lifelong effects on psychological development. Radical changes in your limbic imprints began the moment your mother began experiencing labour contractions. What emotional state was she in? Was she relaxed, safe, and ready to welcome you into the world? Was the frightened, alone? Did you arrive earthside in a cool, calm, dark, candlelit space or in a bright, white, sterile and chaotic hospital room? A baby's first moments of life are marked with its first experience of every sensation: smell, sight, taste, touch, sound.. even gravity (for this reason, perinatal neuropsychologists argue that dark, quiet, gentle, home births - ideally into water - are the most natural and least traumatic transitions from womb to world).
So not only are most patriarchal, conventional medicine births inherently traumatic for baby, a disturbing number of them are incredibly traumatic for mothers as well. The Journal of Perinatal Education cited back in 2018 that up to one half of mothers report experiencing a physically and/or emotionally traumatic birth. What happens to that woman's wellness as she moves into her postpartum months? Is she miraculously healed and offers her newborn a fully-attuned and wholly-present experience of life? or is she usually navigating her new life's role alongside relationship challenges, a lack of social support, isolation, physical complications, and often financial and/or emotional hardship?
The early trauma grows. We have gone from a world in the womb where all of our needs were immediately fulfilled, to a place where we cry to get our caregivers' attention - hope they can figure out what we need - and in their own inherent emotional life difficulties and struggles, they are unable to satisfy the emotional voids created within us each time we're put down when we want to be held, fed instead of being cooed over, left to cry when our mothers face inevitable (and entirely understandable) total emotional breakdown.
It's a wild world - that newborn life - for everyone involved. The more unhealed pain our mothers and fathers carry in their own lives, the deeper the wounds left behind by those earliest childhood years.
But, I mean... humans are RESILIENT. If we weren't, if we could barely survive the challenges of labour, being born, and being alive for the first years, our species would be toast. We are, by nature, designed, to survive a tremendous amount of difficult and hardship - it's why we've survived.... but it hasn't come without a cost. Most of us don't realize we're walking around with an imbalanced root chakra and it's wreaking havoc on our wellbeing.
Causes of Root Chakra imbalance / blockage: - threat to survival (real or perceived)
- fear and various forms of trauma (from early life and/or inherited)
- early life needs not being met (physical and/or emotional)
Signs of an imbalanced root chakra:
- inherent fear that basic needs aren't being / won't be met
- feeling fearful, mistrusting, empty, anxious, restless, sluggish
- panic attacks, worry, overthinking, depression, nightmares
- disconnect from emotions and from the body, anger/rage
- inability to create and hold boundaries
- disconnection from nature
- sense of being ungrounded
- prominent family issues
- over/underweight, often ill
- constantly worried about money
Common physical ailments believed to be associated with an imbalance in the root chakra include problems in the feet, legs, rectum, and tailbone, reproductive system and fertility, weak overall immunity, degenerative arthritic, sciatica, knee pain, eating disorders, constipation. -- seems like a far stretch, right? "How can [Sarah's] knee pain (i.e. from years of running marathons) have anything to do with her sense of safety and security in this world?"
Well. The shadowy truth is that Sarah began running as a way to obsessively, compulsively lose weight. She's always been wildly insecure about her body and was desperate to be thinner... but her tumultuous adolescent years of depression and an eating disorder (see above!) made her adult-self disinterested in self-starving... so she moved her unhealed emotional state in another direction: impulsive exercise without proper prep, care, or rest. So.... why did Sarah have symptoms of depression and an eating disorder as a teen? They crept up a few years after she stopped being sexually abused (in secret, as her family was too emotionally disconnected to ever hold space for her truth).
-- and there you have it. How simply the earliest threat of survival, in the form of emotional neglect, physical poverty, or abuse in any form, can spill over into widespread, shockingly universal states of human dysfunction. And it all begins at the root. There's a real density, heaviness, almost persistent darkness associated with root chakra imbalance. These disturbances tend to occur so early in life that we end up building upon a place of pain, grief, and imbalance - which only begets more pain, grief, and imbalance. This is precisely why shadow therapy involves beginning at the root.
So, how can I - as a therapist - possibly hold space for severely complex trauma and an adult life riddled with grief, pain, and fear? First, we create safety. First, you need to trust that I am here - with you - unconditionally (and for most of us, unconditional love is not a state we're attuned to).
I often joke that I'm really just an expert at loving the sh*t out of peoples' Inner Childs.... but my jest isn't actually all that far from the truth. Safety in our work together begins with stepping into a deeply profound understanding of the world from which your Inner Child was born: your parents, their parents, and their parents before that. What were your early years like? How did you learn about being a boy or a girl in this world? What did you learn about money and security and abundance? Did your parents love each other? What were the family secrets, lies, and shame of which no one spoke?
In shadow therapy, you share with me your whole truth - everything you've kept from the rest of the world: your grief, guilt, anger, blame, and shame. And you're loved unconditionally for it.
When we allow your shadows to come out to play, it's truly incredible to see how quickly they go away. It's in the darkness and density that we end up finding light. - and profound transformation happens INCREDIBLY fast!
Signs of a balanced root chakra: - a pervasive sense of safety, security, wellbeing
- trust that your needs are being met (food, shelter, clothing, money, connection)
- healthy relationships rooted in authenticity and strong boundaries - connected to nature
- feeling grounded, vibrant, peaceful - positive family connections
- physically fit, with a strong immune system
- feeling empowered to manifest abundance and maintaining a sense of safety regardless of financial means
Simply Daily Practices for Healing / Balancing your Root Chakra:
Colour Therapy: RED. - red clothes, red foods, visualizing the colour red during meditation
Crystals: Smoky quartz, black tourmaline, black onyx, bloodstone, carnelian, jasper, ruby, garnet.
Essential Oils: Sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, patchouli, ginger, clove, myrrh. Nature + Embodiment: walking barefoot outdoors (earthing), breathing, meditation, visualization, gratitude.
Activate your own, spontaneous Rooted photoshoot!
- adorn yourself in red garb, put a grounding stone around your neck or slip on a grounding-oil-soaked bracelet. Walk barefoot outside and connect with a tree. Take the time to breathe deep and affirm what you're grateful for.