A chakra is a spinning vortex of energy created within ourselves by the interpenetration of consciousness and the physical body. Through this combination, chakras become centers of activity for the reception, assimilation and transmission of life energies. Uniting the chakras is what we experience as the "self." It is through our chakras that our self grows and changes and interacts with the world.
The word chakra comes from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or disk" and originated within the philosophy of the ancient yoga systems of India, most specifically from the Tantric texts. In this system, there are seven major chakras arranged vertically along the spine, starting at the base of the spine and ending at the top of the head. In the physical body, these seven chakras correspond to major nerve ganglia, glands of the endocrine system, and various bodily processes, such as breathing, digesting, or procreating. While the chakras do exist within the physical body, exhibiting strong influence on such things as body shape or health, they are not made of any physical components themselves. A physician could not operate on a chakra anymore than an emotion, yet both can and do affect us physically.
In the psychological realm (by which I include the mental, emotional, and spiritual), the chakras correspond to major areas of our lives, such as survival, sex, power, love, communication, perception, and understanding.
Taking the original meaning of the word chakra one step further, the chakras within us can be seen as our internal "floppy disks" that store our programming about how to function in life. The base chakra contains our survival program such as what we like to eat and when we need exercise; the second chakra—our sexuality program, including ethics and preferences; the upper chakras—our modes of perception and information storage. Our body is the computer hardware, and each of us has a slightly different model, programmed in a distinct language with unique operating systems. Ideally, one’s work on the chakras is to examine the programming we have been given on each of these levels, eliminating destructive programming and consciously recreating something more beneficial.
Philosophically, the chakras correspond to major archetypal concepts, such as the elements of earth, water, fire, air, sound, light, and thought. The elements describe the essential nature of that chakra’s function, such as earth that contains, water that flows, or fire that transforms. Numerous other correspondences, such as colors, sounds, herbs and gemstones, have also been correlated to the chakras and can be used as tools for accessing and developing them.
There are many smaller chakras throughout the body, such as those in our hands and feet. These are functioning centers like any of the others but are not usually attributed to major philosophical areas. Yet, those working with their hands are likely to have well-developed hand chakras, and a runner might have well-developed channels through their foot chakras.
As a composite system, the seven chakras describe a set of patterns that are evident through many aspects of life. In terms of cultural evolution, they describe the stages our race has been through and where we are going, from the first chakra survival consciousness of the Paleolithic era to the power-dominated (third chakra) consciousness of the present era.
In terms of individual development, the chakras describe the progression from infancy to early adulthood that repeats itself again from adulthood to old age as we establish our survival strategies, form sexual relationships, develop our personal power, communicate, plan ahead, and learn. As we understand the significance of these levels, we can better develop appropriate strategies for coping with our situations, whether personal or cultural.
Chakras are sometimes referred to as lotuses, for they open and close like a flower, and in
the Tantric system they are shown with a varying number of petals. The petals, ranging from four at the base chakra to 1,000 or more at the crown, express their vibratory rate.
When a chakra is closed, the life force energy cannot travel through that part of the body, and one might say that the programming in that chakra is locked in a restrictive pattern. If this is the case, we feel a lack in our lives in its related area (such as the ability to communicate, chakra 5), and our physical health in the chakra’s related functions may also be affected (sore throat, tight neck).
A chakra can also be "overblown" if it is out of balance with the other chakras in the system. In this case, that particular chakra uses so much of the body’s energy and the mind’s attention that other areas become deficient. An overblown third chakra causes an attachment to holding power over others hindering the ability to find the love and balance associated with the heart chakra directly above. As the chakras are discussed individually in the following pages, the results
of a chakra that is too closed or too open will be examined more closely.
With attention and understanding, we can control and influence our chakras. They can be developed like muscles, programmed like a computer, nurtured like a seed, or closed like a book. Development of the chakras occurs through understanding the system as a whole and then working directly on specific areas. Techniques may include physical exercises, processing of old traumas through therapy, visualization and meditation, chanting of mantras, working with their elements,
herbs, or gemstones, and personal ritual, as well as the general lessons that are brought to us through our daily lives.
The body is a vehicle of consciousness.
The chakras can be seen as the wheels of life that carry this vehicle through its evolutionary journey toward enlightenment. Within us, these wheels are like gears, each one appropriate for different activities or stages of life. As we open our chakras, we become more conscious and more fully alive. Our journey becomes smoother, more productive, yet more exciting as we become more fully who we are.
Together, the seven chakras form a connecting ladder between matter and consciousness, body and mind, Earth and Heaven. Each of us forms this ladder as the steps are found within us.
In order for us to be whole, the ladder must be complete. Therefore, each chakra is of equal
importance, and the blocking of one chakra can make an excess or deficiency in another part of the system.
Individually, the chakras can give us important clues about our strengths and weaknesses,
outlining areas in which we need to work on ourselves. It must be remembered, however, that the chakras form a complete system, and diagnosis or attention to any one area should always be seen in relation to the whole.
With our chakras opened and fully functioning, we ourselves form the rainbow bridge between Heaven and Earth, ever evolving towards realization and integration.