While meditating recently, a beautiful image of a steaming cup of tea came to me. Breathing deeply into my lower hara center (the place 2-3 finger widths below the navel) I was contemplating the difference between self-worth and self-esteem. We hear these terms used interchangeably in the world of self-development, but there is a different dynamic around each word.
The practice of Reiki works with three energy centers (the lower, middle and upper hara centers) and the yogic tradition works with seven main energy centers (Chakras 1-7). However, as our healing process and spiritual awakening begin, the lower energy centers (lower hara in Reiki and Chakras 1-3 in yoga) are emphasized. Just as the tree can only grow as tall as its roots reach into the earth, our own awakening can only go as far as we are anchored into our connection with the earth and our personal power. So much of our culture emphasizes what is happening in our external world that we often times forget to place value on how we feel about ourselves and our life experiences. Over time this conditioning leads to our personal power getting lost. It is no wonder that as people begin the self-awakening process, they lose interest (and patience) with tabloids and mainstream media.
In working with the Chakras, the lower three anchor us into our bodies so we can fully receive the blessings of life while simultaneously expending our energy to co-create with the universe. Chakra 1 which embodies the element of earth is where our personal energy rests, coiled at the bottom of the spine. Its Sanskrit name is Muladhara which means “root support”. It is where we house our energy and personal power, and own our self-worth. Just as a mountain stands tall and unmoved by what the elements do around it, when we fully own our self-worth, nothing can undermine how we value ourselves. As children, some people experienced their self-worth being worn down because of situations that stirred up fear for their safety. Children are vulnerable because of their need to rely on others to care for them and feel loved. When their sense of safety or feeling loved is threatened, a pattern of compromising their self-worth can develop. Fear is also an emotion associated with Chakra 1. In the system of Reiki, one of the first precepts we reflect on asks us to not worry or, in other words, not allow fear to have power over us. When we step onto a path of self-awakening and healing, the greater the experience of our whole and complete self, also referred to as the Higher Self, the more our self-worth can be expressed with ease in everyday life.
As I reflect on that image of the tea cup in my mind’s eye, I think of the cup itself representing Chakra 1. It is made of material from the earth, and it is the vessel that holds the tea. Chakra 1 holds the space for us to have and experience the blessings of life. The actual tea held within the cup represents the element of water embodied in Chakra 2. Chakra 2 or Svadhisthana, which means “sweetness”, is the energy center where we embrace the pleasures of life such as the indulgent aromas and tastes we find within a delicious cup of tea! Chakra 2 is where we begin to let go and relax into the present moment, taking in all that is good about life with a sense of appreciation. In the practice of Reiki, another precept we reflect on is a statement about gratitude and appreciation.
When we move up into Chakra 3, Manipura, we are connected with the element of fire, the spark of passion that inspires us to be seen in the world. Manipura means “sparkling jewel”. When we heat the water to make tea, we create steam. Chakra 3 is where our self-worth finds its outward expression in the form of self-esteem. It is the energy center where our power is expressed in a healthy way, neither relying on the acceptance of others nor needing to have power over others in order to keep its fires stoked. Without first anchoring self-worth into our being, self-esteem cannot be sustained. Our energy and power dissipate as quickly as they are attained. We are unable to set healthy boundaries, as we compromise our time, energy and money to please others, feel accepted or gain approval.
The Japanese system of Reiki doesn’t work with the Chakras. However there are energetic and conceptual overlaps between the two systems. In Reiki we have the Joshin Kokyu ho which focuses the breath, and hence the mind, on the lower hara center in order to stay grounded and keep our inner fires stoked. Just as chakras 1-3 work in conjunction, Joshin Kokyu ho keeps us grounded and helps us sustain a balanced flow of energy in the physical, emotional and auric layers of the body.
While breathing deeply into my lower hara center and visualizing this beautiful cup of tea, I could feel the gentle flow of energy moving through each of the chakra centers. There was such a buoyant quality to it that I started laughing. I realized that in many ways, self-esteem is like the frosting on the cake. As our self-worth grows stronger and develops, the sweeter our own life experience becomes and the more inspired we become to share our joy and passion with world in meaningful ways.