You have to be a certain age to understand the joke I made in the title of this blog post. When I was a teenager, Chaka Khan’s most famous song “I feel for you” was released and while I usually didn’t love pop music that sounded like hers, I did like this song. I couldn’t deny how catchy it was, and that she was all kinds of fabulous. But really, she has little to do with this blog post except that her name can be contorted into today’s question. Is the idea of a system of chakras a con?
You see, it’s one of the most common questions that I get as a reiki practitioner. You work with chakras, right? That’s what reiki is, isn’t it? It’s also one of the most common issues that clients come for. They tell me that they feel their chakras are blocked or unbalanced. If I ask them how they know this, they have often been told this by a clairvoyant or psychic, or by a friend or stranger, or they have looked it up themselves on the internet, and their symptoms (lack of energy, not feeling great, romantic problems, not feeling fulfilled) match up to a website that says that the reason may be because their is a blockage at a chakra: at the throat or heart, the third eye, or head, the navel or root.
Someone on one of my reiki Facebook groups posted a link to an article about chakras, written by Christopher Wallis, a scholar and researcher who looks into meditation, yoga, tantra and other practices. The Real Story on the Chakras is honestly not an easy read, as it goes into careful and detailed descriptions of the six most important things that you never knew about the chakras.
But I think this is part of the point. How did a system about the subtle body and energy centres from 1000 CE or earlier from Tantrik Yoga get translated to what is understood or believed today?
If you are interested, I do encourage you to read the article yourself, but some of the things that I found particularly interesting are:
- While most Western sources use a system of seven chakras, there were in fact many systems of chakras, using 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 21 or other counts.
- While many present the chakra system as an ancient one, the way they are described in the West comes from a more modern time.
- Rather than the chakras being descriptive (“your root chakra is at the base of your spine and is red”), chakras were envisioned as a focal point for achieving a goal, to meditate on or to visualise something at that place.
- Most of the way that the West understands chakras seem to come from a 1987 book, Anodea Judith’s Wheels of Life, in which she assigns an association with each chakra to “a certain bodily gland, certain bodily malfunctions, certain foods, a certain metal, a mineral, an herb, a planet, a path of yoga, a suit of the tarot, a sephira of Jewish mysticism, and an archangel of Christianity!”. Others associate each chakra with different crystals, colours, emotions and essential oils. These seem like modern inventions. Now, it may be that there is some truth to these associations. Or they may be completely made up! You might have heard about a writer named Louise Hay who became very popular for her self-affirmations. Her ideas were very widespread that diseases came from bad emotions or attitudes (which meant that you could be at fault for being sick, for not being positive enough). I was shocked to read a number of years ago that she basically made up all of these theories herself, which have no scientific evidence. But, like the ideas of chakras, her ideas are widely believed and popular.
I’m not saying that in order to believe something is true, you need to research it and understand it completely. In fact, that would really be shooting myself in the foot, as I don’t think clients need to know everything or a lot about reiki in order for it to be beneficial for them. But I do think that if you have taken on a set of ideas, like chakras, and you are applying them to your own sense of self and well-being, then you might want to look into where those ideas come from, and whether they really ring true for you or not.
I don’t think it’s useful for clients to believe reiki is about the chakras, nor for clients to believe that they have chakras aligned with their energetic bodies that are “blocked” or “out of balance”. As I’ve said in another blog post, I don’t think your energy is blocked.
I do think that most people can benefit from reiki, and the best way to come to a treatment is with an open mind, without set ideas about what it is, or self-diagnoses of your energetic problems. My aim is for the treatment to bring you what you need at this place and time.