One answer I got in my survey about why chakras have such a bad rap is that they are a con: but a con for what? I couldn’t get an answer.
This leads me to believe that chakras deal with issues of the self and development that are not generally recognised in mainstream mass culture. Therefore their purpose seems like little more than a swindle for the weak-minded and vulnerable.
The spinning wheels of light problem
Another answer related to the fact that chakras have a reputation for being spinning wheels of light, but the problem is that no scientist has as yet detected any spinning wheels in the body. This is true.
What I propose is that we move away from this literalist definition of chakras for the moment and try to see them for the purpose for which I think they are best suited.
What chakras are not
Chakras are not any extra reality that we need to convince ourselves of in order to benefit from their usefulness. I recognise that most of the material on the internet is rife with dubious claims about the nature of the chakra system, based on nothing more than the insubstantial foundation of Indian religious traditions.
Just because someone in the past said something was true, doesn’t mean we need to believe it now.
But perhaps we might use a different criteria for judging the value of chakras, rather than whether we can unearth physical evidence for their existence. Perhaps we could ask ourselves, are they useful? Does the system make our lives better, or worse?
Our happiness levels will soon tell us whether we have made the right decision. Perhaps if we cloaked chakras in the garb of a psychological model instead of religious authority, they might become more appealing to the modern mind.
An accurate definition of chakras
If chakras aren’t for you, that’s fine – but many people may find them a useful tool for personal growth, and as such I think they’re worth defending.
I have never come across any other self-development system that covers the same ground as chakras do. The chakra system assumes that the self is not a fixed entity, but something that should be a product of continual change and effort, including real, practical ways to improve your emotional health.
Accepting the concept of the chakras can be frightening because it essentially demands the difficult admission that there are many areas in which we are not perfect and therefore must improve. It necessitates the input of extra personal effort, when we already have limited time and energy.
However, chakras create a useful, workable model that can be applied to the challenge of self-development, by providing what is essentially a guidebook for seven emotional “centres” of the self.
Thus, chakras are a model for the self – something which we are severely lacking. Models are only as valid as they are useful, and I believe chakras are useful, therefore not to be dismissed.
As a model, they are based on a set of assumptions about the self and reality: that the self has seven facets, each of which must be continually maintained and developed in order to achieve or sustain healthy balance.
They deal with the intersection between mind and body, spirit and physicality, and as such deal with the balance of the emotions which are both physical and mental.
The seven chakras
If you take a moment to just to find out what chakras are, you may see that they are based on perceivable inner realities that can be verified by common experience.
Let’s move through the chakras to see how they might have a more tangible basis in reality.
- The first “root” chakra relates to stability and grounding, the right to just “be”. We all know when we are feeling unstable in this area, as we feel off balance, anxious, frightened and insecure.
- The second “sacral” chakra relates to creativity, femininity and flow: what could be described as our joy of life. When we are off balance in this area, life feels boring, uninspiring and stultifying.
- The third, “solar plexus” chakra is related to willpower and right to have things, and when this is unbalanced we feel impotent, depressed and unable to get what we really want.
- The fourth “heart” chakra relates to our emotions, vulnerability, and self-esteem, and when this is unbalanced we feel isolated, disconnected, and unable to experience intimacy.
- The fifth “throat” chakra is related to our ability speak out about what we really want and who we are, and express ourselves authentically. When this is off balance we feel frustrated, invisible and upset.
- The sixth “third eye” chakra is related to our perception of reality and our ability to see clearly, and when this is off balance we feel confused, overwhelmed and lost.
- The seventh “crown” chakra is hardest to understand, but can be understood as our connection to the universe as a whole: as an individual in the web of totality. When this is off balance, we feel depressed, overwhelmed and terrified.
The problem with spiritualism
Anything vaguely spiritual tends to be downplayed as fanciful in modern materialist culture, lest we be thought irrational, mentally inferior or weak for needing to believe in something “beyond” what can physically be proven.
While this may be true, sometimes when we find ourselves in a deep well of seemingly incurable unhappiness and emptiness, a need for a certain “spiritual” belief system becomes hard to ignore.
How many people are willing to abandon their rationalist principles in favour of what I like to think of as spiritual pragmatism?
Perhaps – and this is controversial – it is more logical to adopt a belief system that actually works and can make us happy than to cling to a rationality of misery and desolation. What is truth if we live an unfulfilled life that we hate? Possibly only a shadow of true potential.
How to balance the chakras
First, take a chakra test to find out the health of your chakras. Then, there are many resources on the internet that deal with balancing the chakras. A good place to start is by googling “root chakra balance” and trying out some of the suggested practices.
And don’t worry. It is possible for all the chakras to be imbalanced at once, which can be a bit depressing at first! As with all things, chakras are interconnected and if we work on root chakra issues (the foundation of the other chakras), things will start to flow more easily from there.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
Catherine Julianne is a writer and digital communications professional obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature.