Meditating on your chakras
Many people associate meditations with Buddhist monks, Indian yogis and Enlightenment, but meditation actually takes many forms and serves as an effective relaxation tool. While meditation can be a part of religious practice or done with a group, it is also a very personal activity that can be done anytime and anywhere – at your desk or while waiting for a train, for example.
What is common in all types of meditation is that it is an exercise in stilling the mind. By bringing your attention inward your physical body relaxes, allowing your energies to circulate better. While in some contexts (such as in Zen Buddhism) the goal is to empty the mind, that can be a difficult thing to accomplish. Guided meditations are very helpful, there are many yoga instructors that incorporate them in their classes, and there are many recorded guides available as CDs, on the Internet and even apps, but finding the perfect one can be a time consuming task. A simple alternative is to guide your thoughts by reflecting on the chakras. It does not matter if you are new to meditation and chakras, it can be very simple.
An in-depth discussion of chakras will take up volumes, but here is a very simplified explanation of the system. Chakras are the energy centers located along your spine. The health of our chakras impact our overall wellness: how we think and feel, as well as our bodily functions. There are 7 major chakras, each associated with a set of spiritual, mental and emotional concepts, body areas, and colors of the rainbow. Chakras are rooted in Indian philosophy and traditional medicine (Ayurveda), but similar ideas about energy centers are found in many traditional, holistic medicine systems. For example, many of the important acupuncture points in Traditional Chinese Medicine are located at the same place as the chakras. Chakra theory plays an important role in most forms of energy and vibrational healing, such as sound therapy, color therapy, and Reiki.
There are many ways to refer to the individual Chakras – for example, by their Indian names, or by location. They are counted upwards, from the lowest to the highest.
• The First Chakra is commonly known as the Root Chakra, and is located at the base of the spine in the pelvic floor. It is associated with the color red, and connected to spine and coccyx, as well as internal organs such as large intestines, kidneys, blood, legs and feet. The Root Chakra represents survival instincts, the physical body, and material issues. In a state of imbalance, it can give rise to feelings of fear and insecurity.
• The Second Chakra is also known as the Sacral Chakra, and associated with the color orange. It is located in the pelvic center below the navel, and controls the reproductive system, kidneys, and bladder. It is associated with fertility, creativity, sexuality, and pleasure, and an imbalance in this chakra can be reflected as guilt and frustration.
• The Third Chakra, or the Solar Plexus Chakra, is located in your center. Associated with the color yellow, it is linked to the adrenal glands, digestive system, liver, and stomach. It serves as the emotional center, encompassing gut feelings, ego, will power, self-confidence, and control issues. Imbalances in this chakra is commonly associated with feelings of anger and low self-esteem.
• The Fourth Chakra, known as the Heart Chakra, is the bridge that connects the three lower chakras that are strongly connected with our physical existence, with the three higher chakras that relate to spiritual issues and our relationship with the world and ourselves. The fourth chakra is associated with the colors green and pink, and governs the thymus glands, heart, lungs, circulatory system, arms, and hands. It is linked to feelings of love, compassion, and joy. Imbalance in this chakra may manifest as sadness, bitterness, and issues of trust.
• The Fifth Cakrha is also known as the Throat Chakra, and is associated with bright blue. It is related to the thyroid and parathyroid glands, as well as the shoulders, neck, ears and mouth. It is associated with communication, self-expression, personal integrity and honesty. Imbalances in this chakra often takes the form of anxiety and isolation.
• The Sixth Chakra is the Third Eye Chakra, located in between the eyebrows at the center of your forehead. It is associated with the colors indigo and purple. The Sixth Chakra controls vision and the pituitary glands, and is associated with intuition, imagination and the mind generally. Imbalances in this chakra often relates to the inability to focus, such as scattered thinking and inability to see “the bigger picture”.
• The Seventh Chakra is known as the Crown Chakra, located at the top of your head. Its colors are white, violet and gold. It governs the central nervous system, cerebral cortex, and pineal glands, and is connected to spiritual well-being, awareness, and unity with higher powers. In a state of imbalance, mental fogginess and “existential” issues such as loss of faith, lack of direction may emerge.
Meditation is best done in a quiet place where you can be alone and undisturbed, but in a pinch headphones with soft music playing can help to create your personal space. While the lotus position is wonderful if you can manage, meditation can also be done laying down or sitting in a chair. If using a chair, it is important that the legs are not crossed and both feet are positioned on the floor at a comfortable, stable angle. Once you are settled in, allow your breath to slow down and your mind to calm. Tune everything out so you can tune into yourself. You will cover your chakras one by one, beginning with the 7th (Crown) Chakra and moving downwards. It is fine to move in the reverse direction by working upwards from the 1st (Root) Chakra, or to choose a single chakra to work on. However you do it, pay attention to the physical areas where the chakras are located, and reflect on “how you are right now.”
As you work through the chakras you may feel sensations of tightness, tingling, warm or cold. There is no “right sensation” but if you do this often, you will develop a sense of what feels right. The chakras serve as helpful guideposts, and the feelings, sensation, memories, images and thoughts that come up will be food for your meditation. Whatever comes up, the important thing to do is to observe them, rather than take part in them: reflect on how your observations connect with the chakras and explore your train of thought. It is fine if the thoughts seem trivial – it is normal for the mind to chatter initially. As you get settled and your breath slows down, it will become easier for your mind to key into the important aspects of your musings. You can also ask, “Why am I thinking about this now?”
It might go like this, for example: You feel a tightness around your throat and heart areas, and a thought of your friend comes to mind. She has been unhappy for the past few weeks and you have turned into an emotional sponge by offering her a shoulder to cry on. You wonder if there is a way to address this with her. You think about how you communicate (Throat Chakra) on problem issues generally, and realize that you tend to hold onto them because you hate confrontation (Heart Chakra), often because you do not feel comfortable with your feelings (Solar Plexus Chakra). Your mind thinks, “I wish …” and you develop a mental movie of how you will tell your friend that you want her to be happy and that her problems are bringing you down, and you imagine the two of you doing something fun and different. This thought eases the tensions in center area, your throat clears, and you feel a warmness in your heart area radiating and connecting its energies with other chakras, making you feel better and whole. You end your meditation on this positive note, and feel refreshed and energized. You call your friend to go kayaking over the weekend and she is thrilled.
By doing this exercise your brain will feel revitalized and more balanced, enabling clearer thinking. The right side of your brain - the intuitive, dreamy side that works with feelings, symbols, and imagery - comes to the fore, giving rest to the analytical, logic-based left side that dominates most of our waking lives. Mental chatter is brought under control and it becomes easy to filter out unproductive worries, sort out what matters and set aside the nonessentials. It is as if you grow taller mentally: you take a step back to see things from a bigger perspective, beyond and past the mental clutter that normally gets in the way. Clearer thinking enhances motivation and responsiveness, such as the ability to make decisions and take action.
You can meditate any time of the day, but mornings are particularly effective in setting a positive tone for the day and keeping you grounded and protected from daily chaos. Regardless of when you do it, shut off your phone – even vibrations can be distracting when you are in this tranquil headspace.
Slowing your breath can help to calm an overactive mind. Breathe in for a count of 3, hold gently for 4, exhale for 5, hold for 4, and repeat… You are breathing in good, clean energy, and exhaling stale energy and everything that needs to be let go. The “in between breath” is also important: feel the good energy circulating in your body and making your chakra colors brighter when you are holding your breath. You can make this shorter or longer, so long as you can do so smoothly and without strain.
If you are drawing a blank, try visualization. Imagine yourself at a waterfall, with invigorating water flushing away everything negative that doesn’t belong or you do not want (worries, other people’s problems, memories of past hurt). Detailed imagination of smells, sensations, and sounds are very effective. You now have good, strong energy that will keep you calm and grounded. Imagining the sun warming you and melting away fatigue and negativity is also effective.
There is no need to rush your meditation to cover all of your chakras in a single session. It will be easier on some days than others, but the more you do this, the more sensitive you will become to where you hold your tensions, and you will learn ways to relax them. If you get sleepy that is fine, take a power nap. Perhaps you will have an interesting dream.
Miki Iwai is a San Francisco-based Reiki practitioner, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org