Flourishing in Times of Transition

Start by shoring up your first chakra

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Emotional Well-being
Flourishing in Times of Transition
A strong first chakra is linked to a sense of safety, security, and well being.

Do you remember the first time you were away from home and got sick? Maybe it was going off to camp or college, or on a sleepover at a friend’s home. In addition to feeling physically ill, you may have had a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach or felt like you were all alone in the world. This isn’t a coincidence. It has to do with the health of your first chakra, the energy center in your body that affects your bones, joints, bone marrow, blood, and immune system. (Both your red blood cells and your immune system cells develop in the bone marrow.) Your first-chakra health is influenced by your connection to the people, places, and things that have formed your identity, with your family being the most potent influence. First-chakra health is determined by how well you can balance trust versus mistrust, independence versus dependence, and standing alone versus belonging to groups. It’s also affected by your sense of safety and security in the world.

Your first-chakra health is “wired in” by your sense of belonging. If you had a loving family and were close to them, chances are good that your immune system will function well. Why? During your early years, when your immune system was developing, you were imprinted with the knowledge that someone was there for you, that you always had a safety net no matter what happened. Medical intuitive Caroline Myss says that illnesses involving the immune system are generally related to family issues.

The truth is that we are herd creatures. We need each other and are not meant to be loners. I’ve often said that community equals immunity. That’s because it’s been well documented that those individuals with the most robust and functional social networks are the ones most likely to stay healthy and resist catching things like the common cold. During times of transition, like leaving home for college, moving to a new location, or embarking on a new job or career, you are forced to establish new relationships. For most of us, this loss of belonging and support presents a challenge to our immune systems.

Transitioning to College Life

When you go to college, there’s no one telling you when to get up, study, or go to bed. You have to create a whole new routine to support and nurture yourself just to get your basic needs met. If it’s the first time you’ve ever been on your own, this can be very stressful. It’s been my experience that the sophomore year of college is particularly challenging. The novelty of being away from home has worn off and the reality that you are heading for adulthood has set in. If you have no idea how you’re going to support yourself after school, it’s frightening. Hence, sophomore slump—and in some cases, chronic fatigue, a bad case of mononucleosis, or the need for a semester off. Why does this happen? Because the young person who is no longer home, but not yet solidly planted in his or her adult life, has a “shaky” first chakra.

When you leave home (especially as a young adult), you have to create your identity anew. No one knows you or your family. You have to prove yourself in a new social milieu. If you are to maintain a sense of safety and security, you must find some groups of people other than your family with whom you experience a sense of belonging.

Some people join the military right out of high school, perhaps realizing on some level that being a member of the military can shore up your first chakra. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “band of brothers.” Although obviously not for everyone, the military provides structure and social support to its members, sometimes acting as a surrogate family. Ironically, many gangs in cities continue to exist simply because of the first chakra support and sense of belonging that they engender in their members.

A First Chakra the Size of Iowa

Your first-chakra health is also about your connection to the earth. This has played out in my life, supporting me time and time again. I was recently visiting the farm where I grew up to see my mother and sister give a presentation on their trip to Mt. Everest Base Camp. My Dad was born in Ellicottville, New York, where I grew up. Though I’ve been in Maine for over 30 years, it’s Ellicottville and the family farm that will always be “home.”

My daughters, mom, sister, brothers, brother-in-law, and I all went for a family hike the day after the lecture. We stopped at “The Big Pine,” a huge evergreen that has been there longer than I can remember. We used to have a rope swing on it from which we’d swing in a wide arc over the steep slope below.

As we all stood there, my mom told the story of when she and my dad were first engaged to be married, right after WWII. He took her up to the Big Pine, looked down on the farmhouse that was there, and said, “How would you like to live there?” As a young woman who had grown up in South Buffalo, New York, and stood in breadlines during the depression, that sight was heaven on earth to my mother. Obviously she was thrilled.

As I was standing there with my daughters, I was struck by the strength and diversity of their first chakra connections. They can always come home to Maine to the house in which they grew up. They have my childhood home where my brother, his wife, and my mother still live; my other brother and their cousin and his wife live with two young daughters nearby. My daughters are also welcome at the Sag Harbor home of my childhood best friend, with whom I have enjoyed over 50 years of love and laughter. Plus they feel welcome and “at home” with their father, who currently resides with his wife and young daughter in London. If this weren’t enough, they also have large and varied social circles that are not related to our family.

Talk about a huge first chakra! And along with it, a deeply ingrained sense of safety, security, and well being that goes right down to the bone. It’s little wonder that they rarely get sick and aren’t afraid of germs or life in general.

Shoring Up Your First Chakra

What about you? Take a moment right now and count the number of people you can count on. If you find that all of your eggs are in one basket, for example the only person you spend time with is your mother or a family member, then it’s time to broaden your support system. This may require some effort on your part, but it’s well worth it. Churches (and other houses of worship) function as first chakra support as much as spiritual centers for many people. So do Twelve-step meetings. And they’re free!

If you’re looking to shore up your first-chakra health, there is much you can do! Here are some suggestions.

  1. Be gentle with yourself. Understand that the immune system “memory” is very long. If you experienced abandonment or trauma as a child, it leaves an imprint, pure and simple. And that means that new surroundings where you feel you have no influence or control might trigger increased susceptibility to illness. This doesn’t need to happen if you learn how to mother yourself well!
  2. Get enough sleep. Sleep is, bar none, the most effective way to digest excess stress hormones and preserve immunity.
  3. Beautify and organize your living areas. If you’ve going off to college, take time to arrange your dorm room in a way that nurtures you. If you’re moving to a new city or new home, give yourself plenty of time to settle in.

    Years ago, right after having my first baby, we moved to Maine where my husband and I started our practices shortly afterward. We ate off a hotplate in an upstairs bedroom. And there were unpacked boxes that remained in the basement for 20 years. I never really took the time to create a home until years later. It’s little wonder I got a huge breast abscess shortly thereafter! Let my experience serve as a warning.

    Over the years, I’ve recreated and reorganized my home using Feng Shui principles. Feng Shui will help you bring joy, organization, and a sense of calm into your life—plus it’s fun. Two of my favorite books are The Western Guide to Feng Shui, by Terah Kathryn Collins and Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston.

  4. Eat regular meals. Nourish your body regularly. Take good quality supplements to boost your immune system. This includes omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and a good multi-vitamin/mineral formula with plenty of antioxidants.
  5. Breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Mouth breathing is a stress response. Deep breaths through your nose engage the parasympathetic (rest and restore) nervous system. You’ll feel better almost immediately.
  6. Make an effort to become part of your new community. Volunteer, take a dance class, join a congregation. You get the idea.

Now that you know more about your first chakra and how your health may be affected in times of transition, look lovingly at your own first-chakra health. Can you benefit from the pointers I just shared? Know that wherever you are, is fine! I’ve seen many women with a shaky first-chakra transform their lives—and truly flourish.

Learn More — Additional Resources

Last Updated: August 15, 2010

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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