Recently a friend told me she had been practicing a chakra cleansing meditation. What surprised me though was how she prefaced the statement. “I know you hate these kinds of meditations but… ” I guess it is always surprising to find out just how much you’ve been misunderstood. Let me explain my position on chakra meditations. First of all, I think they’re great. But if you have limited time to meditate, is a chakra meditation the best use of that time? I don’t think so.First let’s look at the chakra system and what it means to “cleanse” it.The chakras are part of a wellness system that comes to us from India. According to this system we have an energetic body as well as a physical one. Our energetic body consists of thousands of channels (nadis) that carry energy (prana) throughout our physical body. These nadis can be thought of as streams flowing through the physical structure providing energy to the various organs, muscles and tissues of the body.This is similar to the way rivers, streams and other channels distribute water throughout the earth. If the stream becomes blocked with sticks, old leaves and other debris, the water pools and becomes stagnant. This causes a flood in one area and a water deficit in another. The same thing can happen within our own body. When a nadi becomes blocked prana pools causing physical pain in the flooded area as well as a lack of energy in the area that is normally fed by that nadi. This is the same principle as in Chinese medicine. Acupuncture, acupressure, qigong movements, etc; these are all methods of unblocking channels to allow the free flow of qi. Prana is Sanskrit while qi is Chinese. Both words mean life force or energy.
A chakra is formed when two opposite flowing lines of energy are side by side. Much like a whirlpool is formed when two streams of water pass each other going opposite directions. In some Vedic philosophies the chakras are nothing more than knots or tangles in the nadi system and our aim should be to smooth them out completely. In others they are seen as an integral part of the overall energetic body. While there are hundreds of chakras the main focus is on the seven major ones.
The seven major chakras are lined up from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Each chakra affects the functioning of the physical systems it is located by as well as different aspects of our psychology as human beings. So, the first chakra (also known as the base chakra since it sits at the base of the spine) has to do with survival issues, the second chakra (belly) with sexuality and emotions, the third (solar plexus) with power, the fourth (heart) with all kinds of love and devotion, the fifth (throat) deals with communication, the sixth (brow) with vision and intuition, and finally the seventh (crown) with intellect. These seven chakras can be seen as conduits of information. We receive information from our surroundings as well as broadcast information through the chakras. They are meant to swirl or turn like a wheel, as well as open and close. Flowing and changing freely in response to whatever is going on in our environment. However, just as the nadis can become blocked, the chakras can become blocked and unable to function. When this happens we experience physical as well as psychological symptoms. For example, a blocked throat chakra could cause problems with the thyroid gland since it sits in the same physical location. But someone with a blocked throat chakra could also experience difficulty expressing themselves. They may have trouble speaking in front of people or may be unable to say what they mean in an understandable way.
Finally we can get back to the chakra cleansing meditation! These meditations are very helpful for unblocking the chakras and allowing them to flow smoothly again. So why do I say they are not the best use of your time? Well, we need to look at what causes a chakra to become blocked in the first place.
While the chakras are located within the physical body, they themselves are not physical. They are energetic. So because they are located in the physical body, they can be affected by physical events such as injuries or traumas. Because they are energetic, they can be affected by energetic events such as habitual ways of thinking or emotional trauma. In my experience the primary cause of blocked or malfunctioning chakras is habitual ways of thinking. These thoughts may have started in response to emotional trauma such as a child being told, “Shut up! No one wants to hear what you have to say.” Or a physical trauma such as a throat injury making it difficult to speak. But the thoughts caused by these traumas become habitual. “No one is interested in what I have to say.” or “It’s too painful to speak right now.”These habitual thoughts cause the throat chakra to close up and make it impossible for that person to express him or herself. While a chakra cleansing meditation may help unblock the chakra, the habitual thoughts will just block it back up again. So a chakra meditation without the work of a mindfulness meditation is like putting a bandage on an internal wound. The pressure may make it feel better for a while but it really isn’t helping.
A daily meditation of just sitting and observing your thoughts is so simple. It’s so simple and yet so difficult. But it is the best way to become aware of the many self sabotaging thoughts we have moment by moment. Most of the time we are not aware of these thoughts but we react to them and act on them non the less. Once we become aware of these thoughts through our daily practice, we can see them, hear them, be aware of them BEFORE we act on them. That gives us the opportunity to decide whether or not to act. It gives us the opportunity to choose whether we believe these thoughts or not. It puts us in charge of our thoughts rather than our thoughts being in charge of us.
So if you only have time for one meditation, a mindfulness meditation such as Shamatha meditation will be much more beneficial then a chakra cleansing meditation. Only because with Shamatha you can get to the cause of the problem rather than just masking the symptoms.
Susan L Qualls teaches meditation, fitness techniques and qigong. You can read more of her articles at http://www.susanlq.com