Wheels of Fortune
The word “Chakra” means "wheel" in Sanskrit, and the idea of the human chakra system entered India's sacred texts between 1800 and 800 B.C. According to the yogic sages who first described the system, a set of seven invisible energy centers animates each person's physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual body. These vortexes aren't physiological, though they correspond to specific locations along the spine and are associated with particular physical as well as emotional functions.
Just like the physical body, the human energy body is an interdependent multisystem. Each of the human energy body systems is related to the systems of the physical body. They are interdependent and connected to one another via the neurological and endocrine systems. Just as the physical body has layers such as tbeskin, tissue, muscle, and bone, the human energy body has layers—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The main energy systems are called cbakras.
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Each chakra represents an aspect of living, and is arranged in a progression that mirrors human evolution: The lower chakras are concerned with primal issues such as survival, procreation, and power; the upper centers deal with phenomena like love, creativity, and insight. The first chakra encompasses our most basic needs: food, shelter, and safety. The second addresses sexual energy and reproduction. The third governs personal power and assertiveness. The fourth, or heart, chakra is about love, compassion, and kindness; it's at the center of all the chakras. The fifth chakra (the one involved in my showerful song stylings) affects communication and personal expression. The sixth Intuition. And the seventh is about spiritual connection and enlightenment. Thus, as we "move up" through the chakras, our consciousness advances.
Working with the chakras can be beneficial to anyone striving for a truly unified life, in which a strong foundation anchors the more elevated achievements. Each chakra is about integrating upward and downward currents of energy — and the heart is all about integration, including the integration of spirit and matter.
The chakra framework represents "the sacred architecture of the soul, it's an archetype for wholeness, a template from which we can address our lives." (Campbell, 1999)
When all the chakras are open and functioning optimally, they allow energy to flow unimpeded from the base of the spine to the tip of the head in an expression of the boundless power of life. When they're not functioning properly — when they're over-or underactive — the chakras present "blockages" to that energy flow, or manifest imbalances in our health and in our lives. (Prince, 2000)
Think of each chakra as the juncture of a tree trunk and one of its limbs, suggests Hervieu-Leger: The Science of Spiritual Transformation. When a chakra is balanced, he says, "You're at the center, in the trunk, so you can move upward." But if it's blocked or imbalanced, you "go out on a limb." (Hervieu-Leger, 2000) For example, in the third chakra — located in the solar plexus and associated with power, assertiveness, and will — an excess of energy leads to aggression, bossiness, and ultra-competitiveness, while a deficiency manifests as passivity, submissiveness, and avoidance. Those whose third chakra is balanced are forthrightly assertive: "They dearly and directly state what their needs and opinions are, and are able to dialogue thoughtfully and peaceably about them." (Hervieu-Leger, 2000)
This balance, then, can be seen as a model for the importance of virtue. "In the chakra system, Virtue' is an integration of the two poles of personality at each chakra's themes. It indicates a healthy, aware, balanced personality that can deal with a variety of circumstances in a calm, effective way," (Wauters, 2002) "It's how to keep your cool!" (Wauters, 2002)
Maintaining the equilibrium of the chakras also has health benefits. Each chakra is linked with certain organ systems: For example, that solar plexus chakra is associated with digestion, and imbalance can lead to a host of problems, from indigestion to irritable bowel syndrome. Could an excess of third-chakra energy be why Type A personalities suffer so much digestive distress? Certainly a little chakra-balancing offers an attractive alternative to a lifelong dependence on Zantac or Tums.
Always on Time
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Because the chakras address multiple aspects of existence, we can work with them mentally, spiritually, and physically. In fact, yoga's asanas (poses) are designed to activate and balance the chakras. "It's like a gentler version of Rolfing or bioenergetics," (Lovelock , 1982) A longtime yogi, Gore once was in Shoulder stand — a pose associated with the throat chakra — when he felt like he was being choked. The feeling evoked an incident from his high school years, and practicing the pose regularly over time allowed him to clear away his residual emotions on the subject.
Gore, a psychiatrist who also practices general medicine, has become adept at finding the links between health problems and specific chakras. Noting the high rate of heart disease among men, he says, "Many men can't rise above their solar plexus; they can't exercise the right manipulation of power. And so their heart chakra — and heart — suffers." (Eden, 1998) Gore's knowledge of the chakras and his background in psychiatry inform his multifaceted approach to wellness, which includes exercise, nutrition, homeopathy, breath work, meditation, stress reduction, and yoga.
Thirsty or not, you too can make use of the chakra system to balance your energy centers and "tune up" your life — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The lower chakras are concerned with worldly security and maintaining the viability of the species.
The third and fourth chakras govern our relationships with others, allowing us to set personal boundaries yet stay open to love.
The upper chakras expand the spirit; the seventh links us to the divine.
When that difficult truth must be voiced, a fully functioning throat chakra enables you to say it without malice or reticence. You also freely express your innate gifts, whether creative (art, music, writing, sculpture, crafts) or personal (life stories, wisdom, amusement, wonder). In real life a dispute or misunderstanding arises, and your free-flowing sixth chakra enables you to envision a solution that benefits all parties at the expense of none. Combining wisdom and compassion with insight and clarity, your resolution requires no one be wronged or demeaned and lessens the chances the problem will recur.
Truthfully, few of us — apart from saints and bona fide sages such as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama — spend much time here. But with an open seventh chakra, you may catch glimpses of a mental state beyond ego, power games, greed, aggression, and fear. These moments of "residing" in the seventh chakra reveal the truth behind the meaning of the salutation namaste: There is only one of us.
Campbell, Colin 1999 “The Easternisation of the West.” In New Religious Movements: Challenge and response, ed. Bryan Wilson and Jamie Cresswell, London and New York: Routledge, 35-48.
Eden D, Finklestein D. Energy Medicine. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc; 1998:133-137.
Hervieu-Leger, Daniele 2000 Religion as a Chain of Memory. Oxford: Polity Press.
Lovelock, James E. 1982 Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Prince, Ruth, and David Riches 2000 The New Age in Glastonbury: The Construction of Religious Movements. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.
Wauters A. The Book of Chakras, Discover the Hidden Forces Within You. London, England: Quatro Inc; 2002.