Saturday, January 27, 2007

My Thoughts After the Chakra Workshop

I'm not sure when this change started happening to me, but every year I am becoming less concerned about what is true, and more interested in what is right.

Today we had a Chakra Workshop at the studio, and I eagerly attended, as I don't know much about that aspect of yoga and Indian spirituality.
I know a little more now, and I will try to explain it, in the absolutely non-technical and poorly referenced style that drives my discussion group members crazy in my graduate school program.

According to the Indian tradition, our bodies are kind of conduits of energy. Energy is divided into two types, the cool, feminine, moon type, and the hot, masculine, sun type. In our bodies these two wavelengths of energy come together in 7 places.

The interaction between the two energies creates a swirling wheel (actually a funnel) of concentrated energy. In Sanskrit the word for wheel is cakra, which, which over time becomes Chakra.

The 7 Chakras each have a different area of the body, mind, and spirit, to take care of. For example, the base Chakra...
...has to do with our basic survival and security instincts, while a few Chakras up the Heart Chakrais the agent of love, compassion and healing. (If you want to know more about the exact function of each chakra, you can check this excellent site out)

With stress, unresolved emotions, poor diet, bad habits, etc... one or more of the Chakras can become "blocked", I guess meaning it doesn't conduct the energy very well. So, if you're having trouble saying what you mean, your throat Chakra might be out of wack.

And that's only the preamble. If you succeed in really opening all of your Chakras, through a variety of methods you can begin to tease out your spirit's true power, which is visualized as a coiled snake at the base of your spine. This is the famous Kundalini energy, which if you can get it up through all the Chakras (it gets harder the higher you go) will unite you with the universe, the Brahman.

Here's Shanel explaining all this much better than me. Thanks for an awesome workshop Shanel!)

I am a very skeptical person by nature , and I'm not at all sure that I have spinning funnels of energy inside me. The Chakra system has a number of things which we could point out as nonsensical and inconsistent. And a few years ago I might have taken a kind of cynical delight in doing just that.

But the more I learn about these ancient systems the more overlap I'm seeing. Here for example, are two images of the Chinese Grand Chi Circulation system. This one goes down the body towards the tip of the spine...

And this one goes up to the top of the head...

According to the Taoist idea, our life force (chi) leaks out in our day to day activities, and when our supply is gone, we kick the bucket. But by learning to draw the chi up from the base of the pelvis and back towards the crown of the head we can conserve this resource and have happier healthier lives.

Here we have two highly advanced ancient cultures, operating thousands of miles away from each other, who come up with a system of alternating energies (in the Chakra system, Ida/Pingala, in Taoism, Yin/Yang) which conduct the essential energy (prana/chi) of the universe. Furthermore, this energy can be coaxed up through the spine area for better health.

I spend about 20 hours a week teaching, studying, and doing yoga and meditation, which makes me something of an "expert" in our world. But the people into this stuff in old India and China might spend 20 hours a day on it. And I'm going to tear down these ideas because I've read some science books and a Wikipedia article? No way man.

But more importantly, at today's workshop, the Chakra system totally worked for some of the students. Using it they were able to come closer to themselves, to relax, and to heal. For others it's tai chi, still others find that in a pew at church, or on a prayer mat facing Mecca. For me it's on a meditation cushion looking a wall. And, when you really think about it, these things are all ridiculous, but that doesn't make them any less right. We're all trying to make sense of the world, and in the end I think that all of these practices are metaphors pointing to the same thing.

This is a lesson I am glad to have learned. Because running around trying to prove everyone else wrong is exhausting!

Thanks to all who attended the workshop!

Yoga Garden

Here are some other websites that made getting all my facts straight for this blog much easier: