The spiritual psychology of the chakrasJune 19, 2008 at 11:18 am | Posted in Pearls of wisdom | Leave a comment
The Spiritual Psychology of the Chakras: The Window to the Soul
by Grace Ross RN MSc
Chakras, auras, subtle bodies and energy healing have become common topics of discussion. What once was considered esoteric or fringe spirituality has become increasingly mainstream. In line with this more people are developing a new awareness of their own body energy – some from a desire for inner growth, others from a scientific (quantum physics) perspective and still others from a renewed sense of the sacred.
Much of the language and teaching about energy is not new. Throughout the ages many cultures have described energetic connections between the mind, body and spirit. Chinese medicine relies on energy meridians that correspond to psycho-physiological states. Vedic scholars, centuries ago described the seven energy centres of the body (chakras) from a spiritual context. It is interesting to note that the qualities, attributes and characteristics of the chakras have continued to be described with often surprising coherence among widely differing cultures and religious traditions over centuries of time.
More recently, esoteric philosopher/scientists such as Alice Bailey, Anodea Judith and Carolyn Myss have sparked a renewed interest in the physical, psychological and spiritual interaction of the chakras. They describe the chakras as having not only physical landmarks, nerve meridians and specific endocrine glands associated with them, but also unique psychological attributes, emotional issues and spiritual qualities.
To some degree, most people already have an intuitive, culturally defined sense of the spiritual psychology of the chakras. Visual artists, for instance paint “halos” of energy to represent the crown chakras of spiritual teachers or mystical individuals. We are familiar with euphemisms that tend to locate energy in particular areas of the body. We speak of having a “broken heart” and feel actual pain in the chest when we lose someone we love (heart chakra). We criticize others for being “unrooted”, or “pulling the rug out from under us” (root chakra). When a situation threatens our self-confidence we feel “butterflies in our stomach” (solar plexus chakra), and get a “lump in our throat” when grief remains unexpressed (throat chakra).
Scientists are now confirming these intuitive sensations from the perspective of quantum physics. They are able to measure the presence and speed of energetic vibrations within the DNA – the very vibrations that we intuitively sense as our chakras and that clairvoyants “read” when they scan the human energy field. Energy healers and medical intuitives believe that if one can manipulate these energies and somehow change their frequency or patterning it is possible that physical, emotional and spiritual healing effects might be observed.
For those who can clairvoyantly “see” energy, disease, distress and physical or emotional pain may show up as blockages, disruptions or cloudiness in the normal patterns of the chakra. Those who do energy healing can help pinpoint and identify these disruptions and train their clients to do the same. By developing an inner awareness of the chakras it is possible to begin a process that includes transforming and reconfiguring these energies. Additionally, by increasing awareness of the spiritual psychology of the chakras it is possible to help achieve a more balanced, energized and meaningful life.
What follows is a brief description of each of the chakras from the perspective of spiritual psychology.
Root Chakra (located at the base of the spine) At birth, we experience an acute sense of disorientation and disconnection. Not only are we cut off from the physical security of the womb, but existentially we experience separation from Spirit as we find ourselves embodied in a human form. As the umbilical cord is cut we find ourselves thrust into a dangerous, insecure and vulnerable world.
Our human incarnation means we have a dense, sensate, physical body made up of carbon and hydrogen – the constituent elements of the earth. In our attempt to re-establish a sense of spiritual connection, the root chakra becomes activated at birth – a connection that flows downward, and energetically connects deeply with the “sacred matter” of the earth. We cannot survive if we do not feed and nurture the physical body – making our relationship with the earth both necessary and integral to our survival. Part of that survival means also that we belong to a family or clan – a group that can ensure that we are fed from the earth and protected from the elements. Early cave dwellers soon learned that they could not survive without a sense of belonging and protection from the family or “clan.”
If our early needs for security and belonging are not met, if disruption and fear are the norm, or if our connection to nature is tenuous, we end up feeling unrooted, anxious and insecure about our right to be here. Psychological symptoms may surface – neuroses, chronic anxiety, fears of becoming ill or dying, feeling vulnerable, ungrounded and afraid of getting one’s hands dirty.
When root chakra issues arise, they can be addressed through compassionate self-healing techniques. These include finding ways to reconnect to the earth – “rooting” in nature through walks, gardening or camping; honoring the sacred in the Earth – (Indigenous people have much to teach us here); caring for the earth through addressing litter and pollution; healing estrangement from family or friends or joining groups or associations that foster a sense of belonging and security.
The Sacral Chakra (located at the base of the belly and sexual organs) Having established a secure connection to physical reality, the next energetic challenge for the newborn arises in the second chakra – the centre of relationship energy. The second chakra holds the energy of all relationships we encounter in our lives – the nurturing or rejection of our parents; the give and take of sibling rivalry; the devotion or betrayals of friendship; the intimacy and vulnerability of sexual attraction; and the ability to produce and nurture our own children.
If we do not learn to connect to others through emotional intimacy we remain alone, estranged or dissociated. When our early needs for intimacy and love are thwarted through abandonment, abuse or neglect, we find it hard to trust and begin to doubt our ability to attract love or find passion and joy in life. Second chakra issues include avoidance of emotional intimacy; accepting or perpetrating abuse in relationships; sexual dysfunction; parenting problems and a lack of life passion.
Healing the second chakra involves learning to recognize and respond to our wounded “inner child”; uncovering and healing painful memories of abuse or neglect; learning to forgive; and releasing blame and guilt. It means gently finding the courage to open ourselves to emotional intimacy. Often a wise and trusted counselor or healer can facilitate this process. Developing self-compassion and self-nurturing is key.
The Solar Plexus (located around the upper abdomen just under the rib cage) Having established some success with relationships, the next psycho-spiritual challenge is to create a sense of self in relationship to the world in which we live. The psycho/spiritual qualities of the solar plexus chakra include self-worth, self-esteem, mastery, empowerment, humility, self-control, and awareness of life meaning and purpose.
When our desire to develop a strong sense of ourselves is met with controlling, shaming, authoritarian or intentional ego-damaging behaviors we are left with a debilitated and wounded solar plexus chakra. This manifests as a sense of unworthiness and guilt; lack of confidence and poor self-esteem; a feeling of being disempowered, victimized or lacking a sense of purpose. Conversely, in response to feeling deprived of power, we may ourselves resort to controlling, manipulative or tyrannical behaviors.
Healing the solar plexus comes about through restoring a sense of personal power, self-respect, courage, humility and grace. Learning to identify and respond compassionately to our own painful stories is empowering, as is using love to heal fears. Issues of guilt and shame can be transformed through healing work that nurtures a sense of innate goodness, while awareness of co-creatorship with the Divine instills a sense of power. Finally, becoming aware of the deep spiritual qualities of our own nature helps us to act responsibly and move forward with self-initiative, meaning and purpose.
The Heart Chakra (located in the chest) As we come to experience ourselves as safe, connected and respected, the energy begins to shift from a focus on the individual self towards a more generous and altruistic outlook. We notice that we feel grateful for the opportunity to live life, and want to give back. The heart chakra now becomes activated as the centre of love, compassion, devotion and generosity. The direction of energy in the body begins to move upwards in its desire to reconnect to the greater source of Divine love. We begin to experience universal compassion – the sense that we are connected to all beings on the planet. We may feel our hearts touched by images of young children a world away playing amongst the rubble of war. We know and have a sense of caring both for ourselves and others and feel compelled to take this love out into action.
If however, we have not experienced security, intimacy and self-esteem in the lower chakras, the heart chakra will remain closed and shielded. Issues such as lack of compassion, anger, hatred, stinginess, being overly concerned with self protection, fear of loving too much, grief and heart-ache may all indicate wounding in the heart chakra.
Healing the heart chakra involves paying attention first to the wounds that are still lurking in the lower chakras. Learning to love ourselves and our shadow places is the first step towards creating a sense of love and compassion for others. The gift of forgiveness allows deep healing within the heart chakra – forgiveness both for ourselves and others. Visualisation, devotional chanting, yoga, prayers and Buddhist Metta or Tonglen meditation are powerful vehicles for opening the heart. Many people find that compassionate encounters with the suffering of others is a means to open their own heart. Important also is becoming aware of our own divine nature and beginning an intimate, sacred process of surrender to the Divine order.
The Throat Chakra (located around the throat, mouth and ears) As we grow into deeper awareness and opening of all the chakras, we also begin to expand our ability to tap into the vibrational energy field around us. The patterns of sound are our connection to the world. The throat chakra is the centre for making sense of these vibrations, for communication, self-expression, creativity, speaking our truth, and at the subtlest levels, telepathy, channeling and clairaudience (ability to perceive sounds outside the physical realm).
If we encounter repression or attempts to stifle our innate ability for self-expression, the throat chakra closes down and energetically appears blocked. The natural flow of vibration is impeded – energy goes in but cannot go out. We are all too familiar with the childhood maxim “children should be seen and not heard”, the silencing of women’s voices in patriarchal systems and the stifling of creative talent for fear of ridicule. Other threats to the throat chakra include keeping shameful family secrets, living with chronic fear, being yelled at or shamed into silence. When the throat chakra is closed, all other chakras find their expression stifled too.
The key to healing the throat chakra is finding the place of our own truth and relearning the ability to express ourselves. We can give ourselves permission to cry, to voice our fears, share our stories and engage in active listening with others. We can honor self-expression through finding creative outlets – writing, art, gardening or music. For some people it is important to reduce the pollution of vibrational noise through meditation or silent retreat.
As the throat chakra begins to heal, the grosser vibrations of sound no longer create interference. We begin to tune into more subtle layers of vibration, including the development of psychic abilities such as telepathy and clairaudience and opening to divine revelations such as those experienced by mystics through the ages.
The Third Eye (located around the eyes, forehead and the brain) The third eye is the center of intellect, inner knowing, discernment, wisdom, and clairvoyance (intuitive seeing). It is the place where we develop our “witness consciousness”, the ability to stand back and consciously observe and make choices in our life.
This is the place where we create our beliefs and our judgments, and where, if we encounter fear-based or authoritarian belief systems, we come to doubt our own knowing and sense of ourselves. Confusion, negative beliefs, blindness to the truth, irresponsibility, close-mindedness and mental rigidity result. We may feel cut off from our emotions and become overly attached to empirical, dogmatic theories and beliefs.
Healing the third eye means first of all a willingness to see. It includes opening to the truth beyond what we can physically see, and allowing intuition and inner knowing to become our primary teacher. Healing includes accessing our fear-based belief systems, judgments and criticisms and being willing to let them go. It also means a gentle opening to the messages of the heart.
Self-healing techniques include developing inner awareness and witness consciousness; looking for the symbolic importance behind events or interactions; recording and analyzing dreams; practicing equanimity, detachment, and surrendering judgments. As we become aware of the deep spiritual qualities of our own nature, we move into a place of greater clarity, wisdom and acceptance in the third eye.
The Crown Chakra (located at the top of the head) As we grow into deeper awareness of our spiritual nature, our energy is drawn increasingly upward in its desire to reconnect to the source of our Being. This process of spiritual awakening or enlightenment is facilitated through opening the crown chakra. Energetically, an open crown chakra appears as light emerging from the top of the head.
The crown chakra indicates the extent to which we are willing to live our lives connected to Spirit and living from truth. It allows for inspirational and prophetic thought, mystical connection and devotion, ecstasy, transcendence and liberation from identification with suffering.
When we are distracted or overwhelmed by the difficulties and pain of life, we may experience loss of faith in a compassionate Divine force. Issues of doubt, disbelief and depression cloud our inner knowing and overshadow the belief that we are spirit beings. We falsely identify with the finite world and feel “existential angst”. Some may experience a period known as the “dark night of the soul” immortalized by the poetry of St. John of the Cross. For some the sense of isolation and spiritual depression may seem unbearable.
Opening and healing the crown chakra involves trust, surrender to Divine love and commitment to spiritual practice. It means living in the present, fully conscious and open to the experience that life offers. Mystics through the ages have turned to prayer, meditation, yoga and silent retreat to support their spiritual journeys. A trusted spiritual guide or teacher may offer compassionate facilitation along this path.
The chakras are an elegant window to the soul. There is much we can learn through deepening our understanding of the qualities, attributes and spiritual nuances of these amazing vortexes of energy in the human body.
References Brennon, Barbara. (1988) Hands of Light. New York: Bantam Books (1993) Light Emerging: the Experience of Healing through the Human Energy Field. New York: Bantam Books Judith, Anodea. (1999) Wheels of Life: a user’s guide to the chakra system. St. Paul’s: Llewellyn. Myss, Carolyn. (1996) Anatomy of the Spirit. New York: Harmon Achterburg, Jeanne. (1985) Imagery in Healing: Shananism and Modern Medicine. Boston: Shambhala Chopra, Deepak. (1993) Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old. New York: Harmony, Fox, Matthew and Rupert Sheldrake. (1996) Natural Grace: dialogues on creation, darkness and the soul in spirituality and science. New York: Doubleday