This week I tried chakra meditation, focusing on one of the seven chakras each day. As a scientist/engineer I was immediately skeptical of this concept of “chakra”, but in the spirit of learning and trying new things, I threw myself headfirst into a practice that takes a lifetime to master. The amount of information on the internet is totally overwhelming but I learned quite a bit and spent a total of 3.5 hours meditating over the course of the wek. The concept of chakra meditation centers around having specific energy points located throughout your body, each responsible for certain positive/negative behaviors/emotions. It is believed that when all of these energy points are aligned and emitting energy at the same frequency (often visualized as light) then life is good and everything is well balanced. However, this is rarely the case because life isn’t perfect. Therefore, people in many traditions practice chakra meditation daily for most of their lives as a way to heal their energy zones and reach a higher state of consciousness: Hinduism, Buddhism, Indian Tantra (has branches in both Hinduism and Buddhism), Jewish kabbalists, Sufi dervishes, and Taoists are a few examples that practice energy-centric meditation techniques.
It is believed that certain chakras correspond to particular problems, ailments or issues (I’ll explain these below). To me this is not an entirely outrageous claim. What most people don’t understand is that the human body is really just an electromagnetic machine, albeit a very complicated and organic one. When our hearts beat, when our nerves fire, when our muscles contract, when our subcellular components like proteins or DNA form, and even down to the basic atomic elements we are made up of, it is all governed by a series of +/- charges. The human body is constantly buzzing with energy from its very core (the atom) up through it’s organ systems (heart for example) and ultimately the entire body is a resonating electrical machine. So for some of these older religions and traditions to have linked the body with the concept of energy is pretty interesting now that we know a little more about how the body functions.
As I said, I spent a week trying to learn about chakra meditation by focusing on one energy center each day. I learned enough to know that it’s very complicated and it would take years of dedicated practice to even start understanding and applying the practice. Despite my utter lack of knowledge and expertise in this meditation practice, here’s an outline of my experience over the past week:
- First Chakra (aka Muladhara or Root Chakra, color = red) – this energy center is located at the base of your spine/tailbone and is related to foundational issues that are core to your life: food, money, security, shelter and other survival issues. If your root chakra is not aligned or healthy then you might have issues like not feeling a sense of belonging or a constant worry about things like finances or dieting. So I spent 30 minutes sitting with my eyes closed contemplating who I am, where I belong, how grounded my life is, and other basic issues like student loan payments for example. Throughout the meditation I tried to keep my breath steady and to visualize a strong red light emanating forward from the base of my spine. This is common to all the chakra meditations, breathing in white healing light and breathing out through your chakra, thus cleansing its impurities. Again, the goal for me was to try and connect the energy from my root chakra to strong and balanced thoughts emitting themselves as red light.
- Second Chakra (aka Swadhisthana or sacral chakra, color = orange) – this chakra is located in your lower abdomen a few inches below your naval. It is believed to be associated with creativity, procreation, and the sensual aspects of our lives. If this chakra is closed or weakened you may feel ashamed of yoru body, emotionally disconnected, or sexually inhibited. I spent most of this meditation session distracted because my hips are so tight when I sit cross legged. My hips, knees, and ankles were all bothering me after about ten minutes so I just laid them out straight and sat up against a wall for support. This seemed to work well, I’m pretty sure you don’t have to sit in lotus to be meditating.
- Third Chakra (aka Manipura or solar plexus chakra, color = yellow) – this meditation was a bit different from the others because it involved breathing exercises. The solar plexus chakra is located just below the diaphragm so to open it up you can use various breathing techniques, I chose to use “Breath of Fire” which is a series of rapid inhales and exhales, really forcing air from your diaphragm out of your lungs. They say that this is a good way to wake you up and that it’s very healthy. I found it to be pretty silly because you can get the same feeling from exercising. I’m wondering how many zen masters are actually physically fit individuals. It seems like if you spend so much time sitting down in your own head you probably don’t have too much time for exercise. I don’t see the 3rd chakra meditation as being a viable replacement for daily exercise.
- Fourth Chakra (aka Anahata or heart chakra, color = green/emerald) – the fourth chakra is located near your heart and is responsible for sadness, fear, compassion, forgiveness, and love. I did this meditation at the train station while I was waiting for my train. I arrived a half hour early and spent 30 minutes reflecting on what brings me sadness, what I am afraid of, what I’m compassionate toward, and what I love. This was the toughest meditation to do thus far because it’s easy to lie to yourself about things like fear. Sure, I’ll admit it, I’m afraid of water and swimming in open water. I’m a terrible swimmer and nearly drowned in a triathlon last summer. However, this wasn’t a hard decision to come to. Things got real deep, real fast about the life things that truly scare me. I flashed forward to a person in their 40’s who has a cubicle desk job, is unhappily married, and spends his weekends doing mundane things like going to home depot so he could remodel the kitchen. The vague possibility of this happening to me is frightening so I spent a lot of time thinking about how I didn’t want my adult life to look like. Before I knew it, the 30 minutes was over and I realized that I was finally starting to get used to the act of meditation. Without even knowing it several people had crowded the train platform and I hadn’t even noticed them.
- Fifth Chakra (aka Vishuddha or throat chakra) – I was a bit frustrated with this meditation because it still hurts for me to sit cross-legged for that long. My knees start to ache and my bones are driven into the ground. I blame this on my extremely tight hips. I’ve also been biking a lot more these days and I’m sure my utter lack of stretching has contributed to that. I ended up laying down toward the end of my meditation because I found that the physical discomfort was detracting from my focus. This chakra is located in the center of the throat and it deals with issues of honesty, self-expression, and the sharing of feelings. As a typical male I find it hard to express my emotions, I either forget about them or say, “Eh, whatever” and choose not to deal with them. This is certainly not a good habit to get into so it’s something that I consciously try to do.
- Sixth Chakra (aka Anja or third eye chakra) – typically when people meditate they are exercising the sixth chakra. It is located between and slightly above your eyebrows, the location where you typically go to when you shut your eyes and try to picture something. It is associated with intellectual clarity, intuition, and personal vision. During this meditation I tried to think clearly about the vision I have for my life. What do my 1, 2, and 5 year time horizons look like? What are my goals? I also reflected back on some insights that I’ve had recently concerning work and some side projects that I am working on. I went back to a few of those “aha” moments and tried to figure out where they came from. Like I said, for most people this chakra gets the most attention so it is recommended that people make sure to spend as much or more time on the other chakras.
- Seventh Chakra (aka Sahasrara or crown chakra, color = violet or white) – this final chakra is where the level of spirituality reaches its ultimate climax, pure consciousness. It is at this moment that you are closest to the creator/universe/God(s) depending on the tradition. It is common to ask for guidance, truth, and spiritual cleansing. Some traditions view the energy as a snake residing coiled up at the root chakra and after a full chakra meditation the snake bursts through the crown, reaching a state of complete euphoria. I however, had a hard time with this meditation. I did it late at night after a full day of work and errands post-work so I was over-tired and had a lot of various things on my mind. I couldn’t focus on the meditation and eventually I fell asleep, waking up with 5 minutes left in the meditation. I’m not sure if sleeping is cheating but my body definitely needed the rest and I think it helped to clear my mind out from the day’s clutter.
I can’t say that I’m now a chakra meditation zen master but I definitely used this style as a vehicle to reflect on various aspects of my life; past, present, future, good, bad, and indifferent. The amount of information scattered throughout the internet is pretty overwhelming so I tried to keep things as simple as possible, reflecting on one or two aspects of my life and trying to imagine each chakra radiating strong light. During my next week of meditation I’ll be in Colorado backpacking in the Rockies so I plan to do what is called Vipassana meditation. In this style you try to come to peace with what “is”. You try to clear the mind to accept your current existence. For me this will be freeing my mind of thought and focusing on the sounds of nature around me. I can’t wait for this trip and the meditation experience that’ll come with it.