Back to all stories


Words by Michelle Spina

Fear is a symptom of imbalance in the first chakra, Muladhara. Similarly, in both Mayan medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) fear is seen as a cause of disease.


In the chakra system, Muladhara, the first chakra is the root it grounds us to the Earth, giving us stability. The first chakra represents our survival center, where fight or flight resides. This chakra is most closely associated with the physical body. It is said to regulate the adrenal glands (which sit atop the kidneys). It supports strength and determination. The first chakra holds vital importance in forming the physical and psychological foundations for life. It physically stops our energy from descending beyond our foundation. Psychologically it regulates primal needs and physical existence. It helps us persevere to harness and direct energy needed to endure and thrive. It keeps us connected to the present moment. In health, it keeps us grounded and moving forward with life. When unbalanced or weak, fear is the driving force, preventing us from advancing. Emotional symptoms of imbalance include anxiety, fear, stress, loss of connection, insecurities, phobias, depression and panic attacks.


Similarly this same theme is seen with susto. Susto is one of the four major kinds of spiritual disease in Mayan medicine. Susto relates to fright. Susto is the most common of the spiritual diseases. It is a manifestation of soul loss, in the sense of having been frightened out of the body through a traumatic event. Everyone is susceptible to susto but infants and children are the most vulnerable. Susto can develop in utero, as trauma to the mother can be passed to the child. Emotional, spiritual and physical health are affected by susto. Sufferers report the feeling that nothing is right in their life and have a plethora of symptoms with no exact diagnosis. Fright steals energy and sends a deep shock through the body. This disruption weakens the immune system, disturbs digestion, causes headaches, nightmares, oversensitizes the nervous system and causes panic attacks. Adults with susto are easily frightened, anxious and may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Susto in infants manifests as colic, poor digestion, terrible sleep, cranky disposition, skin issues and so on. A child with susto is prone to tantrums, exhibits poor behavior at school, has poor sleep patterns, reports nightmares and has difficulty making friends. A key hallmark of susto is a rapid, bouncing pulse.


In TCM, fear is one of the seven emotions. The seven emotions are the internal causes of disease. Fear makes qi descend and affects the kidneys by depleting the kidney qi. In children, fear makes qi descend, which causes bedwetting. This common problem in children is often linked to fear, insecurity and family disruption. In adults, fear is commonly expressed as kidney yin deficiency with empty fire, translating as a rapid, bouncing pulse and giving rise to anxiety, mental restlessness, palpitations and insomnia. The kidneys are seen as the root of life in TCM – they store essence and have a strong influence on both vitality and the mind. Willpower, determination and physical and mental strength all reside in the kidneys. When they are weak, this translates as feeling lackluster, depressed and generally unhappy.


Fear is a common cause of disease running though these three systems of health emanating from around the globe. This is no accident or coincidence. Their commonality is self-evident. Fear needs to be addressed and conquered to live a healthy, happy, productive, engaged life.


There are several ways to unblock your root chakra, expel susto and strengthen your kidneys. My personal favorite comes from the Mayan tradition and consists of a spiritual bath. Water is an excellent conduit for vibration and cleansing. Fresh herbs and flowers are ideal to incorporate into the bath. Basil, marigold, rue and rosemary are traditionally used for susto, but any flower that resonates with you can be used. Numerology is key in Mayan healing, so 4, 7 and 9 are key when picking your plants and flowers. Use your intuition. Ask the plants for assistance and be kind while picking their leaves and flowers. Most importantly thank the plants for their role in your healing. While you assemble the bath, macerate the herbs while praying your intentions into the water. Ideally baths are performed outside so the water and plants can be left for a few hours under the sun to absorb the light while the essence of the plants, water and prayers blend. When you bathe, burn incense like copal, sage, palo santo or sweet grass. Don’t rinse off after the bath. Several baths will be needed for the optimal effect. Fuck fear.


Michelle Spina L.Ac. MTOM is a healer by birth and a practitioner of TCM, NAET, Mayan Massage & Spiritual healing by education. She is a mother, wife, confidant and outlaw with a side of fertility goddess.