Thinking about chakras as energy centers requires thinking about the ways in which our energy is impacted. In the West, most people think about their bodies as the culminations of physical wellness and symptoms. Eastern philosophy regards the body as interconnected with the self, including past experiences, identities and beliefs. Chakras, from that perspective, are affected by our psychologies; they are interwoven with what we come to think of as personality traits. New Age guru Anodea Judith – whose epistemology and understanding of cosmology are admittedly vastly different from my own – frames and elaborates on chakras in a way that I find both useful and beautiful. (I credit her work here because I’ve not found an earlier source for the integration of chakra theory with psychology.)
In the meantime, according to Judith, each chakra is (somehow) impacted by specific emotions (which she calls “demons,” much to my chagrin) and our sense of empowerment around particular aspects of life (“rights”). While I would absolutely not turn to a discourse of the supernatural to articulate these claims, thinking about chakras in this way is very powerful. It helps cultivate an awareness of tension and flow in the body, which many of us do not have, it increases our sensitivity to the effects of past wounds, helps further an understanding of the relationships among all dimensions of experience and underscores the importance of mindfulness about these relationships. I share her frame – at least what I have read of it thus far – not to claim that these things are in fact, physically true, but to appreciate and illuminate the value of thinking about these relationships.
Chakra theory (at least this Westernized spin on it, for I have read none of the original writings on chakras) is a typology: a classification system that privileges particular aspects of items over others, in order to think about potential patterns among the items. Typologies are how we understand our world: they are systems of order that both reflect and structure the way that we think about the world. They are not, in and of themselves, objective realities, just ways of thinking about those realities. I talk about chakras in my practice and in my life, not because I believe in the “subtle body,” but because this typology has become a useful way of seeing the world. It helps me to understand what other people are going through. It helps me to connect my past with my present and thus orchestrate my future.
Like astrology or psychics and a lot of other New Age belief systems, thinking about the chakras this way probably leads many of us recognize ourselves in pretty much everything, and therefore all of our chakras are out of whack and we have all sorts of problems. Perhaps that’s the case. It may be that all of this is merely a discursive tool, a way of thinking and talking about these relationships, a way of understanding our bodies differently. Regardless of whether chakras are, on any level, a “real” thing, once your energy is flowing… once you feel right… once you feel the way you should be feeling, you come to a place where you can use this understanding as a tool to think about what is going on for you, how it is impacting all dimensions of your experience, and take action to get yourself back where you want to be.
Understanding threats to the chakras, feeling the contrasts, feeling the differences, also inspires us to live differently. Once I experience, for example, that when my energy is flowing freely through my root center, I am less flighty, forgetful, or irresponsible with my money, I become more sensitive to this relationship. I am more aware. I am, before I know it, living differently. It is a reciprocal relationship, one of consciousness, mindfulness, choice and awareness of one’s body as oneself. Reiki makes us feel right in our bodies, and when we feel right in our bodies, we want to keep it that way.