What would life be without pleasure? Enjoying a delicious meal, relaxing into the warm embrace of a lover, breathing in the scent of flowers, gazing at the golden hue of a mid-summer sunset, listening to your favourite artist and getting lost in the music…
It’s hard to imagine a life without these simple joys provided through the physical senses of taste, touch, smell, sight.
Unfortunately, when embarking on a path of awakening, there’s a risk that sensory pleasure is viewed as bad or wrong. A lot of spiritual practices emphasize the need for fulfilment outside of “simpler” pleasures, which become addictive or lead to the never-ending thirst of desire.
So while it’s true that attachment to sensory pleasures is what the Buddha identified as a cause of suffering, it doesn’t mean there’s no place for desire and enjoyment through the senses.
Using the chakra system as a guide — the psychic energy flow running through the body — this article will clarify the role of pleasure in the path of wholeness by focusing on one of our favorites of the seven chakras: the sacral chakra.
What is the sacral chakra?
The sacral chakra, or Svadhishthana in Sanskrit. It’s the second chakra in the seven-chakra system and one of the “lower” chakras, aligned with Earthy, human qualities.
The sacral chakra is one of the energy centers located just above the root chakra, below the belly button and above the pubic bone. It is strongly linked with the sense of taste (the tongue) and reproduction (the genitals). A balanced sacral chakra is thought to be responsible for qualities such as creativity, sexuality, and sensuality. In other words, the sacral chakra awakens and is associated with pleasure.
The second chakra: the dwelling place of the self
Two beautiful translations of the original Sanskrit term — “dwelling place of the Self” or “where your being is established” — give a better understanding of the sacral chakra’s role.
It’s responsible for feelings of safety and belonging, and the way you identify with the world and others. It plays a big role in intimacy and the expression of needs and desires.
In Anodea Judith’s comparison between the chakras and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the sacral chakra is linked to safety and security, a level above survival. It’s the pivotal bridge of connection between the self and the world.
The sacral chakra is also an energy center associated with qualities such as movement, fun, and feeling. It’s represented by the colour orange and the element of water, a symbol for the quality of flow and harmony experienced when the chakra is aligned. Even orange foods are associated with the sacral chakra!
Signs of a blocked sacral chakra
Desire, particularly sexual desire, is one of the easiest energies to suppress. Self-judgement and shame are two common causes of a blocked or imbalanced sacral chakra, along with a belief that sensory pleasure is somehow “wrong.”
For people who have experienced addiction or an over-indulgence in sensory pleasure, it can take time to harmonize and balance this chakra and regain your emotional and physical health in this domain.
Anodea Judith, the author of Eastern Body, Western Mind, notes guilt as one of the main symptoms of a blocked sacral chakra. Deficiency in the sacral chakra can lead to numb or blunt emotions, while an excessive sacral chakra leads to promiscuity, indulgence, or excessive emotions.
Other common symptoms (which include physical symptoms) of a blocked or underactive sacral chakra include:
- Fear, particularly the fear of death
- A lack of sexual desire or disconnect from libido
- Disconnect from true feelings and desire
- Difficulty in expressing needs to others
- Emotionally reactive or over-sensitive
- A lack of creativity
There is an important distinction to note between needs and desire. As Judith explains, “needs are necessities, and desires are accessories.” Needs are fundamental to wellbeing and health, while desires are enjoyable additions.
Understanding the distinction between the two plays a significant role in healing and finding ways to balance your sacral chakra.
The benefits of aligning the sacral chakra
When the sacral chakra is aligned and in harmony, it cultivates qualities such as playfulness, humor, and fun. When there is a good energy flowing through the sacral chakra, it can also affect relationships. It’s the portal to greater depth and intimacy, and embodied sexuality.
Plus, it’s a vital buffer between understanding your authentic needs and desires and expressing them in the world. For that reason, it has an important role in manifestation, the process of bringing desires into reality.
Intimacy doesn’t only exist in relationships with other people, but the whole world. When the sacral chakra is aligned and alive, there’s a more intimate connection with the Earth and nature itself, accompanied by a certain level of reverence of the sacred quality of the physical world.
And, of course, once aligned the sacral chakra acts as a powerful vessel to unlock your creative potential. That doesn’t only mean in artistic endeavors, such as making music, painting, or writing, but it applies to life itself. Life is art, and the sacral chakra is the palette from which your inner artist creates the life you want. An unbalanced sacral chakra can take away from that.
How to regain a balanced sacral chakra
As guilt is one of the biggest blocks to the sacral chakra, a great starting point is to rediscover your innocence. That’s why play is such a vital component in healing and unblocking the chakra — it reminds us to remain lighthearted, that the process of healing doesn’t always have to be serious or stoic.
The emotional work of balancing the sacral chakra includes developing self-awareness to create clarity around your emotional landscape, not just in your physical body. With clarity comes self-understanding, and with self-understanding comes the ability to accurately express your needs and desires. Along with self-awareness, there is an element of emotional intelligence required in handling big emotions.
That involves doing the necessary trauma work. The ethos of the sacral chakra is safety, and without healing and integrating difficult experiences, the body itself can feel unsafe or on high alert. As Bessel van der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score:
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”
Relationships as bridge
Relationships are the bridge between self-understanding and safety. We all need nourishing, intimate relationships. That might require having the courage to open your heart, to be vulnerable, to take steps to move beyond fear, to trust others. These are all meaningful and challenging areas of work.
Additionally, balancing the sacral chakra involves connecting with sensuality. Can you treat yourself sensually? The social media age of Photoshopped bodily “perfection” and body image issues can create an objectified, impersonal relationship with the body. Sensuality is an antidote to this, a way to treat the body with respect through the senses — such as taking a warm bath or treating yourself to a massage.
Get in touch with your desires
This extends to sexual relationships. Balancing the sacral chakra might involve a reassessment of how you’re investing your sexual energy. Are you cultivating healthy, nourishing sexual interactions? Are you connecting emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically? Are you in touch with, and embrace, your own sexual needs and desires?
Re-ignite your creative energy center
Lastly, balancing the sacral chakra involves re-igniting your creativity. As children, we’re all creative geniuses, but this spark tends to fade over the years. Practicing creativity under the attitude of play means not judging based on output, but just enjoying the expanded feeling that comes from exploring creative qualities within.
There’s no need to withhold or deny yourself excessively, as long as desires are tempered with the wisdom to know that they don’t lead to deeper fulfillment.
You are here to have fun and play, and not take things so seriously. Awakening the sacral chakra (whether through chakra meditation techniques or other mechanisms) is a process of celebration. Celebrate the beauty life has to offer! Celebrate the wonder of the senses!
Working to heal the sacral chakra is a practice that takes time, and requires patience, like all paths of growth. But it’s a worthwhile process, for there’s an abundantly rich world out there, with opportunities for delight on every corner.
As long as the enjoyment of these delights is in check… Well, go have fun. Eat the cake. Kiss the lover. Dance the night away.