Kundalini, Part 3

February 22, 2017 - - 0 Comments

The practice of yoga can appear mysterious to many first-timers. While a little bit of mystery can add to one’s meditative experience, too much mystery can keep a person from engaging with the process at all. When teaching yoga and meditation for His House, I try to remove enough of the mystery so everyone feels free to participate. The first step for me is to remind people that yoga is a spiritual practice, not a religion. This means that people who do yoga are free to bring their religion with them, and they are free to bring their lack of religion with them. I do encourage people to keep in mind the idea that there is more to life than meets the eye. Next, I try to simplify yogic concepts that may at first seem strange or mysterious. When people are first introduced to an idea that seems to be “out there,” or an idea that is frequently misunderstood, they sometimes tune out; my job is to get them to tune in so they can learn a little bit about themselves. One yogic concept that comes up again and again is chakras.

 

The idea of chakras is ancient: they are thought of as circles of light that reside in a person’s subtle body. Because little of this will make sense to somebody who has not practiced or studied yoga, I use the best Western analogy I have heard: chakras can be thought of as the organs of the psyche. In much the same way that our eyes process light energy and our ears process sound energy, different chakras represent the different ways we process life’s experiences internally. In this way, the first chakra represents the way we process the energies of survival: how we feed and clothe ourselves, how we seek and find shelter, how we maintain a safe space for survival. The second chakra represents the way we process emotional and creative energies. In the practice of Kundalini yoga, we traditionally conceive of seven chakras, the rest of which we will discuss in a future post. For today, two chakras are enough to help illustrate how the concept of chakras can be helpful.

 

When our lives are in balance, the many different levels of our existence are working in harmony. Using the example of the first two chakras, when they are in balance, we have a place to live, we have enough to eat, we can safely express emotions, we can regulate our emotions, etc. However, let us imagine that these first two chakras are out of balance, so that our survival capacities are in direct conflict with our emotional capacities. Many addicts understand this imbalance well: intense emotions can lead to relapse, which can lead to many problems on the survival level, such as illness, disease, incarceration, and homelessness. The chakra system is a way to look at such inner conflicts symbolically, so that we can gain insight into our own inner processes.

 

For some people who are new to yoga and meditation, the introduction to chakras represents the first time they have conceived of themselves as something bigger than just an ego with a body. This new self-conception can lead to better awareness of how we interact with the world and the other people who inhabit it.

 

David L. Smith, Ph.D., M.F.T.T.

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