One of the core elements of spiritual work is the transmutation of lower energies into higher ones. A simple way to define lower energy is a force that weighs you down and entangles you in stress and tension. It’s the force that causes you to contract around a limited sense of identity, aka the ego-mind.

The tantric yogis discovered that there is a dominant element expressing within each of the chakras. Different lineages of tantra have slightly different maps of the subtle body, some recognizing only five major chakras, others seven, some as many as twelve or more. In the yoga I teach there are seven main chakras emphasized, but others are used as well.

Elements associated with the chakras:

Root chakra: earth
Sex chakra: water
Navel chakra: fire
Heart chakra: air
Throat chakra (and above): space

As higher creative energy comes down into human form it condenses further and further, from space into air, from air into fire, from fire into water, and from water into earth. Spiritual work is about reversing this process. It involves the transmutation of denser, heavier energy into something lighter and more refined.

When you become quiet inside and centered within the navel chakra you can begin to feel the heat generated there. Not only is this area the center of physical digestion, it’s also where the energy of your life experiences are broken down and assimilated.

Life experiences that are too intense to take in and digest become stored within the subtle body as samskaras (psychic impressions). These samskaras lead to blockages that prevent the free flow of life-force. And those blockages show up in the personality as illogical fears, attachments, and neurotic behaviors.

In other words, you are being weighed down by your past experiences, by all the baggage you’ve accumulated throughout your journey.

Becoming centered in the navel chakra helps you to build a strong inner fire that allows you to deal with situations as they arise, rather than stuffing them in your suitcase and lugging them around everywhere you go.

How does this work on a practical level?

If you’ve ever done any work in the retail industry, or customer service of any kind, you’ve no doubt experienced frustrated or angry customers. It’s easy to get sucked into their energy field.

Someone may come up to the counter and start complaining about something you had nothing to do with, and your normal reaction is to slide into defense mode. The emotions the customer is projecting come in and trigger a similar emotion in you. They press your buttons, your samskaras.

If you express from the level of those samskaras, the emotions you project are going to hit their tensions, and this is going to bounce off them and return to you with even greater force… and on and on until the situation escalates and spirals out of control. But if you remain open and centered you can take in their anger and transmute it into compassion. You can take in hatred and give back love.

You do this by taking a deep breath and relaxing the tensions in the chest and stomach. You breathe in and open in those areas, bringing your awareness out of the mind and centering yourself within your body and environment. You draw in and open to the energy of the moment and begin to relate to it from a deeper place.

Then, something interesting begins to happen. It may take a few moments of venting, but nine times out of ten the customer will start to relax. Even if you can’t provide them with what they want. There’s no feedback loop for their negativity, so it eventually wears itself out.

You’ve probably met someone who mastered this process – a waitress at a crowded chain restaurant, a hotel clerk, or maybe even a TSA agent. Chances are, that person probably had no understanding of esoteric energy work. Maybe you came to them filled with anger about a mistake on your bill or about a defective product you purchased, and they sent you away in a better mood.

Unfortunately, people like this are far from the norm. Most, it seems, have learned to retain a thin veneer of politeness while seething inside. They’ve managed to suppress their feelings because their job requires a certain level of professionalism. They might be saying the right things, but their energy is telling you something different.

It’s no wonder so many people in this society are on antidepressants or addicted to some form of mind-numbing substance.

No matter what kind of work you do, tensions can accumulate overtime. Most people don’t notice the pressure-build until an eruption is imminent.

If you don’t have a way of releasing pressure it will inevitably spill over into the rest of your life. Too many families have been broken up by tensions carried home from work.

The good news is that you can learn to work consciously inside and break down that coarse energy. Instead of being weighed down by it, you can transmute it into vitality. In this way, the stress of modern daily life becomes fuel for your spiritual growth.

The first step is to bring awareness into the body and into the chakra system. To someone holding a lot of tension, this is uncomfortable. But it reveals where your blockages are. It shows you where the pressure is building and allows you to open the relief valve before you blow.

A daily meditation practice is indispensable. But most of this practice is carried out during your normal everyday activities. In fact, you won’t be able to reach all of your samskaras just by sitting in meditation. You need the friction that comes from bumping up against other personalities and from working through challenges and obstacles. It’s that resistance that shows you where your samskaras are hidden.

Your spiritual practice and the work you do in the world go hand in hand. The more outer work you do, the more inner work you need in order to stay balanced and centered. And the more inner work you do, the more outer work you need to help you integrate the higher states you experience in meditation.

Unless you are living in a Himalayan cave, you are going to come up against some form of resistance every day. You have a choice. Let resistance stress you out, or relax and release tensions as they arise.

If you stay open and conscious you will be energized by the flow of shakti through your system. The level and quality of work you do will increase as you grow in your capacity to stay open to this flow.

Instead of leaving the shop or office feeling stressed and angry, you’ll walk out in a higher state than when you arrived. You won’t need to reach for a beer when you get home or zone out in front of the TV just to “unwind”. And you won’t yell at your spouse or kids because you had a hard day.

How to Transmute Stress into Serenity

Step 1)

Begin the day with meditation, even if you only have time for a five minute session. Go inside and open from your center. Become aware of Awareness. Decide to abide in that state as you go about your day. Decide to open and expand rather than close and contract.

Step 2)

As you carry out your daily activities:

  • Remember to breathe.
  • Do regular body scans and notice areas of tension.
  • Relax your forehead.
  • Soften your gaze.
  • When you encounter a person or situation that you would rather avoid, or that causes you to contract, choose to open and surrender.
  • Every hour or so, take a deep breath into the heart and navel area. Draw in the energy of the moment, releasing your attachments to the past and expectations of the future.
  • Open to what is in front of you.
  • Feel gratitude for all you experience.

As you choose to relax and surrender to whatever Life presents, lower energies begin to break down, become absorbed within your chakra system, and rise.

This is an alchemical process in which denser elemental forces expand into finer ones. Working in this way involves using what’s around you to help you grow. Eventually you learn to move more freely through the world, both grounded in the here and now, and abiding in what the great sage Bhagwan Nityananda called “the sky of the Heart.”

Let go and rise.