Painting the Chakras

Article Text:   “Painting the Chakras”  by Leah Fanning Mebane

As I stapled seven large sheets of raw canvas to my Ashland studio walls to create a series of chakra paintings, I had no idea what would emerge.

The main chakra colors were a given: red for the root, orange for the sacral womb, yellow for the solar plexus, green for the heart, blue for the throat, indigo for the third eye and violet for the crown. But what images?

I had set a simple goal: to study each chakra’s interpretations by different cultures and then to experience meditations, yoga poses, essential oils and visualizations for each chakra. Finally, I would stand before the canvas with an open heart, holding out my brush for whatever would come. Priming the surfaces to begin, I could not foresee that immersing myself into these seven swirling energy centers would not only reveal life-changing personal insight, but also uncover a plan for global healing.

Beginning with the root chakra, located in the area of the perineum, I moved one-by-one upward through the spectrum to the crown chakra at the top of the head. Moving from the root up to the sacral womb chakra was invigorating and the painting came out fast and freely. Energy healers say this is our center for creativity, child-like playfulness, imagination, joy and sexuality among other wonderful things, and I immediately resonated with this color.

When this painting finished itself and I looked ahead to the yellow solar plexus, I was caught off guard by a strong resistance to painting it. I skipped ahead to the next paintings, wondering why I felt utter discomfort.

Over the next four months, I painted the heart, throat, third eye and crown chakras. The process of each painting brought endless insights into compassion, self-expression, communication and spiritual connection. As the series neared completion, the dreaded yellow chakra painting loomed. Curious about my procrastination, I researched the solar plexus extensively until one day a flood gate of tears broke open.

The solar plexus, I learned, is where our individual identity, personal ego, power and self-esteem are formed and maintained. It says, “This is who I am. This is who I want to be. This is how I want to be seen.”

Authoritative and parental judgments are stored here. Cultural messages and criticisms greatly impact the third chakra. Out of all the chakras, our Western culture has unfortunately chosen to glorify this one. We’re obsessed with individuality rather than community.

I learned that if the solar plexus chakra is unbalanced, it can commonly block the innocent and child-like sacral orange chakra that I so enjoyed painting. Most artistic people have an extraordinary, but incredibly delicate sacral chakra that is susceptible to judgment and manipulation, especially in childhood. This can cause low self esteem, self-doubt and stress among other issues. But if the solar plexus is clear, healthy and strong, it can give us a profound personal power that is not ego- or aggression-driven, and actually supports the sacral chakra with the power to be a unique individual while celebrating our continuing connection with all of humanity.

As I studied the solar plexus chakra, which is developed between ages 11 to 18, images of my overly strict pre-professional ballet school (and later, professional ballet companies) flooded my head. My ballet instructors drilled their values into me for four hours a day, seven days a week, from the ages of eight to 18: the only path to becoming a successful, worthwhile person is a professional ballet career, which requires an anorexic body, perfect technical ability and a competitive drive. Any enjoyment of play, creative expression and imagination that had developed in my sacral chakra must have withered as my solar plexus took over in these developmental years.

As I painted the final large yellow image, I felt a subtle shift inside as this color filled me with a sense of strength and comfort. The canvas turned into an earthy golden yellow world with swirling browns and coppers that at once soothed and empowered me. After dreading going into this chakra, I realized that by strengthening and stimulating it, you can reach a state in which you shake off the fears of rejection, criticism and standing apart from the group to create your own unique identity – one that is founded on self-acceptance, self-respect and the ability to take risks in the knowledge that you can handle any situation with which you are faced. By clearing the connection between this personal power and the creative, playful sacral chakra, you become balanced, whole and joyful.

As I delved even deeper, these personal insights brought to light a more universal truth. What would shift if everyone on this planet worked with their solar plexus – to clear it and redefine what power means? Would building communities and working for the good of the planet and humanity become a priority over our personal concerns? What would happen if every person released all parental, authoritative and societal judgments, and felt strength and personal power only from the inside? Would fear dissipate and connectedness spread? What would happen in a world without fear?

Dozens of possibilities and questions filled me with hope and the drive to spread the word about this little ball of energy above the navel that I had always planned to ignore.