Introduction to the Chakras and Chakra Meditation
There are many different chakra mappings and methods for working with the chakras. What follows is a basic introduction to the chakras, how I like to work with them, and a basic chakra meditation that anyone can try.
The chakras are best described as energy centers in the body – part of our energy anatomy. They are sometimes also described as intersections of mind, body and spirit, and thus operate on all of these levels.
Chakra systems and mappings exist in many different cultures and spiritual traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism, Indian/Hindu Yoga systems, Native and Central American Shamanic traditions, some Sufi (Islamic mystical) traditions, and Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism). Some Christian Theologians also feel there is veiled reference to them in the writings of certain mystics.
Chakra mappings are used for both energy healing and spiritual realization. In many traditions, they are associated with particular colors, chants, and elements, but these vary between traditions, as do the exact locations. Because of the prevalence of yoga in the West, most of us here are first introduced to the Indian/Hindu Yogic chakra system. The one I use in my own teaching aligns more closely with Tibetan systems, although I use and teach techniques from a variety of different traditions.
There are 3 main modes of working with the chakras:
- Clearing and balancing individual chakras, through color visualizations, mantras, rituals, foods, and various energy healing techniques.
- Yogic breathing (pranayama) and visualization techniques designed to raise the kundalini up from the lower into the upper chakras.
- Meditation on particular chakras as a ‘doorway’ into a particular state of being.
The picture below is of a chakra mapping common to many Indian and some Tibetan traditions. It differs slightly from the system many people are familiar with in that the 3rd chakra focal point is just below the navel, instead of at the solar plexus. However, in both systems this chakra represents the same themes and energies. The winding ‘serpents’ are nadis, or channels, that the ‘kundalini’ energy travels through as it rises from the root to the crown. To the right I’ve listed the location and major themes and drives associated with each chakra (it’s actually best read bottom to top, from #1 to #7.)
7. Crown Center – Top of head towards back; Connection to divinity, spirit, bliss; Drive to transcend.
6. Third Eye – Slightly above midpoint between eyes; Intuition, metaphysical wisdom, stillness; Drive to know.
5. Throat Chakra – Center of throat; Self-expression, speaking truth; Drive to communicate.
4. Heart Chakra – Center of chest at breastbone; Love, compassion, beauty, joy, balance; Drive to connect.
3. Navel Chakra – Just below navel; Personal power, self-definition, boundaries; Drive to act successfully.
2. Sacral Chakra – Internal reproductive organs; Sensuality, creativity, abundance, passion; Drive to create.
1. Root Chakra – Tailbone; Connection to earth, nature, physicality; Drive to survive.
The introductory meditation technique below combines the principles of all three of the modes listed above for working with the chakras into a basic approach anyone can try on their own. Feel free to combine it with other meditation approaches that you enjoy. Below it I’ve included some audio files of other guided chakra meditations.
1. Start with 10 minutes and gradually increase the time if you feel OK with it.
2. Find a position in which you can sit with a straight back. Although the traditional position is cross-legged on a floor cushion, use a chair if needed.
3. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths through your nose.
4. Divide your meditation time into thirds. Spend the first third picturing a white light about 1 inch below your navel (navel chakra). Spend the second third picturing the light in the center of your breastbone (heart chakra). Spend the last third picturing light between your eyebrows and a little above (third eye). If you like, you can end with a couple minutes on your crown chakra.
5. Each time you find your mind has wandered, gently pull your attention back to the vision of the white light.
6. If you feel a sensation in any of the centers, you can focus on that instead. The visualizations are just meant to be a tool for connecting with the chakras, and work better for some than others.
7. Don’t force it! Try to relax into the concentration.
8. Don’t worry about the thoughts you have, or judge yourself – it is all part of the process. Each time you pull your mind back, you are building awareness.
If you’d prefer a meditation that cycles through all 7 chakras, try the following audio file, which includes visualization and affirmations:
7 Chakra Guided Meditation With Affirmations (click to play, right click to save to disk.)
For more guided meditations using other visualizations, and involving more chakras, try my Guided Chakra Meditations. Or for guided mantra (chanting work) with the chakras, try the first book on my Chakra Booklist. If you would like more information about each chakra, please read my online Chakra Guide Series.
Feel free to post any questions, and happy meditating!