Pocket Guide to Chakras

Excerpt from Pocket Guide to The Chakras

Development of the Chakras

Let's look at the development of the chakras throughout the prenatal period, infancy, childhood and adolescence. What causes the chakras to open or to close? Are you born with all your chakras open, or closed, or some combination of both? As you read this section, take note of possible problem areas for yourself or people you care about. Once you have identified the areas that need work, Chapters Three and Four will give you tools for strengthening chakras that may be weak.

Karma and incarnation.

The first chakra is strongly influenced by the circumstances of your birth and early childhood. Karma plays a primary role in the selection of your parents, your prenatal period, and the health of your body at birth and during your early years. Eastern religions teach that the soul goes on indefinitely and that each lifetime is another rung in a continuous spiral which offers a fresh opportunity to learn another set of lessons on the stage of material existence. Karma means that "as you reap, so shall you sow." Whatever you do shall be done unto you. It may take lifetimes, but eventually all of your actions will catch up with you.

By contrast, the straight-line thinking of Western culture teaches us that our parents, our prenatal period, and the health our bodies are mere chance and coincidence. We are told that we have this one lifetime and none other in which to set ourselves up for eternal happiness in Heaven or damnation in Hell. A prime example of this can be seen with those who are born with severe physical problems . I knew a Vietnamese couple who came to this country just as the war was ending. The woman was seven months' pregnant. Two months later, her baby boy was born severely jaundiced. I could see that his third chakra was muddy. The doctors saved his life by draining his blood and infusing his tiny body with new blood. In my meditation I asked, "Why must this child suffer such torture?"

I was shown that the baby had been an American pilot who cold-bloodedly bombed Vietnamese villages, killing hundreds of women and children. Now he himself was a Vietnamese infant, being tortured by the Americans. The blood-letting that this child experienced was purging him of a huge karmic debt. Presumably the pilot felt extreme remorse for his actions when he died, and he contracted for this karmic payment before he was reborn. When the baby recovered, his third chakra shined brightly. He grew up to be a considerate, thoughtful young man.

Opening and closing of the chakras.

I believe that when our spirits enter our bodies, usually when the body is still in the womb, all our chakras are open. Newborn babies who are truly wanted and which experience a natural birth tend to be unarmored, energetic, and completely in tune with All That Is. But even in the womb, many of us experience a closing off of these energy centers. Rejection can be experienced even before birth. The chakras tend to close from the top downward.

In my work, I have seen that most of my clients closed the top three chakras by the time they were three years old, as a reaction to the disbelief of their parents and society (disbelief in nature spirits, in spirit friends, and in past lives). During the teen-age years, the heart chakra often closed or became imbalanced because of pain and rejection from parents, peers, and lovers. The third chakra often closed or became imbalanced)when parents and society forced teens into molds that didn't fit. By the time they entered adulthood, many of them had closed down all but the first two chakras.

The closure of a chakra doesn't ordinarily occur in response to a single event; rather it's the repetition of similar events without relief that eventually leads to a relative closing of the chakra. After high school, there is often less pressure to conform. Some young people began to reverse the process and started opening their chakras. Usually the third chakra opened before the fourth, and all the chakras opened in succession going upward. But that isn't always true. For example, I've worked with people who were spiritually developed (because of work they did in past lives) who came from difficult family situations and who had little sense of self-worth. These people didn't need to work on their higher chakras to become whole; they needed to work on their lower chakras. In reality, the concept of open or closed chakras is an oversimplification, since there are various degrees of openness that can be experienced at different chakras. According to Swami Tayumanavar, there are seven stages of openness for each chakra, and all the chakras are at least slightly open (the first one-seventh) in every living human being. So when I speak about a chakra being closed or open, bear in mind that these are only relative terms.

The first chakra is governed by whether you received unconditional love and affection during the first three years of your life and prenatally. Did your parents want you? Did your father or mother want a boy and you turned out to be a girl—or vice versa? Did your parents speak to you when you were in the womb, and stroke your mama's belly and sing to you? Did you have a good birth? Was your mama awake and excited to see you, or was she given drugs which also made you groggy? When you were born, were you gently cleaned and then placed in your mama's arms to be suckled? Or were you slapped on the butt, handled roughy, and taken away from your mother? Were you able to gaze into the eyes of loving parents, family and friends, or were you handled by doctors and nurses who didn't really care much about you?

When the circumstances of your mother's pregnancy and birth are loving, then you are likely to have a strong first chakra. If you received unconditional love and affection from your parents and/or grandparents, you will enjoy being in your body, so it will be easy for you to get grounded. Even a faithful dog can give you that sense of being loved. Some children find real comfort in companions or fairies who are invisible to the grown-ups.

If you did not receive love and affection as a child, you may develop excessive energy at the first chakra, constantly demanding attention and trying to fill your emptiness with material possessions. Or you may have deficient energy at the first chakra, which means that you may be ineffectual and unable to take an interest in life. In the beginning, we are dependent upon others for love and affection, but as we grow older, we become capable of nurturing the inner child that we carry around in our subconscious mind.

The physical body is governed by the first and second chakras. You nourish those chakras when you take good care of your body through regular exercise, eating healthy food, spending time outdoors in nature, and having a healthy attitude toward sexuality. A man's sexual organs are located primarily in his first chakra, so male sexual energy tends to be predominantly physical. Second chakra. The emotions are expressed through the second, third and fourth chakras. A woman's sexual organs are located primarily in her second chakra, so female sexual energy is usually emotional. Their uterus, tubes and ovaries are located in this area. The second chakra holds the energy of sexuality, sociability, friendliness and desire. The development or lack of it at your second chakra will be influenced by your parent's attitude toward sexuality, and by their attitude toward other people. Even in the womb, it has been shown that a fetus will touch its genitals. This is also quite common in infants and small children. The way your parents respond to such innocent gestures will have its mark upon your ability to feel comfortable with your own genitals. Something as simple as your parents' feelings when they change your diapers can make a significant imprint on you. And certainly during adolescence, your parents' reaction to your almost inevitable interest in members of the opposite sex (or the same sex) will make its mark on your subconscious. Other factors include the physical affection that is—or is not—expressed by your parents toward each other, and toward you. And the relative appropriateness of that expression, given the moral values of the society you grow up in.

Having worked with thousands of clients, I am sad to say that very few people are blessed with a healthy attitude toward their own bodies and their own sexuality. Very few people have a satisfying love life or sex life. A shocking percentage of women and some men were forced into sexual activity when they were children and unable to defend themselves or to make a conscious choice. Many women and some men were raped as adults. It is extremely difficult for most people to release the pain and wounding that accompanies these experiences. Far too many people move into a permanent attitude of being a victim. The work of Carolyn Myss (see bibliography) has been extremely effective for helping people to move out of this emotional prison. The tendency is for women who have experienced sexual abuse to develop a chronic distrust of all men. And men who have similar experiences tend to develop a chronic distrust of all women.

Ironically, the real culprit goes unnoticed. Our society is primitive in regard to sexuality. Our dominant religions teach us that sexuality is a bad thing. Men who approach their daughters sexually are almost always married to women who are sexually shut down, usually because of early religious training which teaches them to shun sex. Men who approach young boys are often men who have artificially tried to suppress their sexuality. There is a source of child abuse that is not discussed in our society. It is the abuse which is perpetrated by fundamentalist religions which tell children that their genitals are dirty and that they will rot in hell for touching them. They call the act of pleasuring yourself "self-abuse." They say that just thinking about sexual pleasures (outside of marriage) is "polluting the mind." They tell children that sex is bad, that women are evil, and they will go to hell for having "impure thoughts." The clients I have worked with who were raised in these religions are rarely capable of having fulfilling sexual relationships without going through years and years of basic reprogramming.

I believe that the root cause of most child molesting, frigidity, sexual impotence and obsession with pornography is sexual repression. Ironically, societies that have significant problems in these areas are apt to try to prevent them by increasing sexual repression. Yet sexually permissive countries like the Netherlands and Sweden have far less sexual crime.

The second chakra is also about desire. We tend to associate this word with the desire for sex, but desire is a fuel which enables you to effectively reach out for what you want in life and to draw it toward you. The desire center is at the second chakra, so people who are sexually potent are often more adept at achieving a wide variety of desires. This is not to be confused with people who are obsessed with sexuality, and who use their sexual energies to manipulate other people to do things for them (though this is an example of excessive second chakra energy).

Religions and governments that control people's sexuality are also controlling their desire energy. Dancing is a joyous activity which is fueled by second chakra energy, and many cultures that are sexually repressed discourage dancing. In Hitler's Germany, the gypsies were killed along with the Jews, because they were too free to be controlled. The free and open expression of sexuality tends to go hand-in-hand with a free and open expression of the emotions. Whether or not you were allowed to express your emotions, and whether your parents were capable of expressing theirs—without doing damage to you or to other people—will be a key factor in the development of your second, third and fourth chakras.

A person who is raised with a healthy attitude toward sexuality will enjoy their own body and will be able to have fulfilling sexual and emotional relationships without having to control and manipulate their partners. A person who was sexually repressed may react by having deficient second chakra energy, being insecure, self-conscious, guilt-ridden and subtly demanding. A person who rebels against sexual repression is liable to wear rings in various body parts, take a liking to chains, and revel in sado-masochism.

Third chakra. There are two basic approaches to child-rearing. One is that children are wild like weeds and need to be controlled and pruned and set in the proper direction, for their own good and for the good of society. This approach is characterized by clichés such as "Children are to be seen and not heard," or "Idle hands are the Devil's workplace," and "Do as I say and not as I do."

Some societies will actually put an implement in the newborn's hand, which they believe will imprint that child with the desire to follow that particular trade or profession. Some families exert a great deal of pressure upon John Jr. to follow in the footsteps of his father and his father's father. There is another approach to child-rearing, which regards an infant like the bud of an unknown flower; that sees the parents as custodians of this new life and looks with curiosity and appreciation upon the unfoldment of that child. This second approach watches carefully for signs of what or whom this child might become.

Some societies will not name their children until the child has distinguished him or herself by some act which shows special talents or abilities. I know a woman who grew up in a family of gypsies. When she was five years old, her mother took her to a ramshackle house at the far edge of a small town, to visit a distant uncle. The old man told the girl to run out into the field behind the house to gather leaves and flowers. The child came back clutching a bouquet in her chubby little hand. The wizened old man did not put the bouquet in water. Instead, he carefully placed each plant upon the kitchen table. "You see," he said to her mother, "they are all red. He pointed with his gnarled finger to three of the plants. "These ones are poisonous." He shook his head. "She will never be a healer. She must watch her temper. But she will be a fine card-reader." At the age of nine, the girl started reading Tarot cards. Because of the uncle's advice, her mother encouraged her. When she became an adult, people traveled great distances to receive readings from her. The energy at her third chakra was balanced. I was deeply moved by this woman's story because I felt that if my parents had the wisdom to see who I was when I was young, they could have saved me years of grief, trying unsuccessfully to fit into molds that were inappropriate for me.

I have always felt a sense of mission about my life, and I would pray for direction about what I should be doing. Though I loved to read and to write, I was frustrated by a academic system which would not give me time to pursue the things I felt passionate about. So my grades were mediocre and I felt like a failure, even though my term papers were brilliant. As I grew older, my love of writing converged with my interest in healing, and I felt an incredible sense of elation. Suddenly I knew that what I should do and what I wanted to do were one and the same! It was suddenly obvious that if there was a work that I was born to do, then this would be the work which I would long to do, more than anything else in the world!

Contrary to what our parents and teachers often tell us, we should follow our deepest desires. If we follow a path that others have laid out for us, we will always have a sense of frustration, and when we die, we will feel that our lives have been wasted. If parents and teachers understood this, they could be of great help to their children. A child who has a great love of music should be asked which instrument she or he is attracted to. A music teacher should find out which music the child wants to play. If a child adores tricycles and later bicycles and then wants to take them apart, give them the tools and supervision to do it. Let that child spend time with a friendly mechanic. If a child adores looking at the stars, take that child to an observatory, get star maps, buy a telescope.

Children know what they like, and what they like will give you clues about who they will become. If children are given the proper materials and encouragement and support, they will develop their own natural skills, and by following their desires they will find their life's work, which will be deeply fulfilling to them. This is the most rewarding investment you can possibly make, and the finest gift you can give to your children. Kids who are forced into molds that don't fit them may become resentful, hateful, and rebellious against authority. When the normal channels of expression are blocked, the energy becomes excessive and explosive.

Sadly, those in authority believe it is their job to break the spirits of the young, like wild horses. Yet the spirit is the essence of the third chakra, and once it is broken into submission, it is difficult to regain that sense of youthful enthusiasm. People whose spirits have been broken will have the characteristics of deficient energy at the third chakra, which may include depression, lack of energy, and lack of self worth. If such people want to find their inner source of power, they may have to go through a period of up to several years of doing nothing in particular, even watching a lot of television, giving themselves permission to just follow their whims and fancies until they find something that gives them deep pleasure and fulfillment. It may help to remember what they liked to do as children. And then there is no guarantee that that which gives them deep pleasure and fulfillment will also bring a decent income!

Unfortunately, most people cannot afford this luxury. In fact, those who are best able to do this are the wives of successful third chakra achievers. Their husbands are often at the helms of thriving businesses which they feel they cannot afford to neglect. They are not inclined to spend time dallying in the waters of self-exploration. Eventually their wives find them lacking in emotional and spiritual presence, and divorce is a common outcome. When acquiring money becomes an end in itself, a person becomes trapped in their third chakra. Millionaires are rarely happy people. (Another version of third chakra excess.)

On the other hand, if money is used as a tool which enables one to create the leisure time for self-exploration, and if the work itself is fulfilling, then a third chakra person can become balanced and begin to open up their higher chakras, thereby enriching their life. Ironically, if a man in our society wants to stop working in order to find his gift—even if his wife is supportive—a man who does not actively contribute to the family's finances is considered lazy and reprehensible.

I know one man who was a mechanic, but he hated his work and he felt strongly that he was supposed to do something else. But he had not a clue what it might be. He told his wife and child that he had to find out what it was, and they supported him in his decision to lock himself up in a room alone until he could find the answer to this burning question. After three days, he emerged from the room. He had spent most of his time alone doodling. After three days his doodles began to take shape, and he felt that even though he had never received any training as an artist, he was meant to produce art. He promptly went out and purchased the materials he needed, and started producing exquisite visionary art which was highly marketable.

Another aspect of the third chakra is the ego. It is sad that in our society when people feel openly good about themselves and about the work they do they are often labeled "egotistic." People who are spiritual are not supposed to have a strong ego. I take exception to this idea. Your ego is the face you show to the world. You do not have to be self-effacing to have a strong connection with spirit (seventh chakra). I think the confusion occurs because so often people who have a strong ego become so attached to their outer personna and the accumulation of material wealth that they have no time for spiritual quests. Though it is unusual to find a person who is strong in both areas, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and there are examples of wealthy and successful individuals who are also spiritually evolved.

Fourth chakra. Before adolescence, the same factors which influence the openness of the first chakra will also affect the fourth. When a boy or girl enters adolescence and the hormones kick in, there is a tendency to develop crushes or attachments to people of the opposite (or the same) sex. This is just the beginning of "falling in love." How the beloved object of one's affections responds or fails to respond will tend to have an influence on one's sense of self-worth (third chakra) and the openness of one's heart. A heart that never dares to risk in the first place (probably because of past-life trauma) will tend to remain semi-closed. This is one version of a deficient fourth chakra. When love is experienced and returned, the heart spreads its wings and flies. The eyes open wide and the spirit soars (sixth chakra). One feels so very good about oneself (third chakra). But if one feels rejected—particularly after the beloved has apparently returned one's affections—the shock to the heart is enormous. The wounding to the sense of self-worth is profound. Even the spirit feels betrayed. A similar shock occurs when the beloved moves away or, even worse, dies. How the heart adapts, or fails to adapt, to these traumas will govern the relative openness or closedness of the heart chakra.

I believe that the healthiest response to emotional loss is to grieve fully. When a person can allow him or herself to feel the depth of their pain and to express their anger as well as their tears, they will eventually reach a place of acceptance and the ability to go on with their lives (balanced fourth chakra). Those who do not allow themselves to grieve tend to build brick walls in front of their hearts. "I never want to feel that much pain again," they tell themselves as they pile up the bricks of their fortress. But after awhile they feel lonely, and they don't know how to escape from their own prison. This is the profile of a person with a deficient heart chakra. I help people to remove those walls by encouraging them to feel their tears and their rage. I help them to come to a place where they feel ready and able to remove the walls.

So many clients have come to me saying, "I've cried and cried, but it doesn't do any good!"

Then I ask, "Have you allowed yourself to feel your anger?" and they will admit that they have not.

Other people come to me saying, "I've yelled at my wife and broken bottles, but I still feel so angry!"

Then I'll ask, "Have you allowed yourself to cry?" and they'll admit that this is very difficult for them. I encourage my clients to feel all of their feelings. The heart is a feeling place, and it cannot open fully when some feelings are acceptable and others are not. When a person can feel both the sorrow and the rage of any loss, it becomes easier for them to accept their loss and go on with their life. When this has been accomplished, I do not counsel people to go back into the world with their hearts wide open. In many respects, the world is a dangerous place. Our hearts do need protection. I think of the pupil of the eye as the perfect model for protection. When we feel safe, this tiny diaphragm opens wide and becomes a window to the soul. But no one goes around that way all the time unless they are on drugs! Without even thinking about it, the pupil has the ability to shut down or open up in response to how safe it feels.

When you are just getting to know someone, this aperture opens just a moderate amount. But if your trust grows, the pupil tends to open more and more. If great love is felt, it opens way up. Yet it is capable of clamping down at a moment's notice. You might think of a gateway in front of your heart that functions like the pupil of your eye, allowing you to respond to the circumstances of the moment by closing down and protecting your heart when that feels appropriate, or to open up and be vulnerable. A three-dimensional version of the pupil can be seen in the sea anemone, which has tentacles like a small octopus. Their colorful tentacles radiate out from a central mouth, like the colorful iris that surrounds the pupil. But if anything threatens the sea anemone, these tentacles instantly fold in and not a bit of color can be seen. As the threat subsides, it will open its tentacles just a little, then a bit more, then even further, until you begin to see the color and the tentacles spread out again. I like to think of a sea anemone behind my heart, with its tentacles protecting my heart, like the clam protects its pearl. When I feel safe, the tentacles spread open, and they are very attractive indeed. But as soon as I feel threatened, I just enfold my heart in those tentacles and I feel safe.

Unfortunately, when a person feels unloved, they also tend to feel unloveable. Such a person would have deficent heart chakra energy and would be openly fearful and shy. Another person who feels unloved may react by becoming demanding and hyperactive. This individual would have excessive heart chakra energy and would be likely to suffer from extreme emotional swings.

Another factor that influences the openness of the heart chakra is universal love, or cosmic consciousness. People sometimes have heart-opening experiences that change their lives forever. Such an experience may occur during childbirth, or during a long fast, or with a high fever. It may occur when someone has a near-death experience, or an encounter with a life-threatening illness. It may be experienced on substances such as peyote, LSD or ayahuasca, or during extreme exertion such as long-distance running. Whatever the catalyst for the experience, the sensation is that of merging with All and Everything, of seeing yourself as an integral part of All That Is. This is the ultimate spiritual experience, and it has a profound effect on all of the chakras, particularly the higher chakras, from the heart to the crown.

Fifth chakra. This is the center of communication, creativity and opening to spirituality. When a person has a transcendent experience, he or she can choose to ignore it, or it can become a stepping stone to a richer life, enabling the higher chakras to absorb more energy from the cosmos so that all of the chakras shine more brightly. This is why so many spiritual paths require devotees to fast or to dance until they trance or to use peyote to induce visions or to push the outer limits of the body's endurance deliberately until the spirit apparently pops out of the body (transcends) and the person is flung into a different perspective which is distinctly beyond the limits of the individual ego (third chakra).

When transcendence occurs, the heart opens wide (fourth chakra) and a person may become surprisingly articulate (fifth chakra). One's sexual (first and second) and power (third) centers also tend to glow more brightly (unless a person deliberately closes down that energy) and a person may find that he or she is writing, lecturing or singing with a new zest which other people find irresistibly attractive—even charismatic (fifth).

The foundation of an open or closed fifth chakra begins in childhood, when your parents either encourage or repress the expression of your thoughts and feelings. When you felt openly hurt or angry, were you told, "You shouldn't feel that way!" Were you encouraged to think for yourself and to speak out, or were you told, "Children should be seen and not heard!" If you were upset, were you allowed to cry or to scream (even into a pillow)? Or were you told that "Little boys don't cry." Were you expected to hold in your emotions like everyone else in the family, except when your mother became hysterical or your father went on a drunken tirade? What about writing, painting or drawing? Were these acceptable activities in your home or were you made to feel that you were wasting your time when you should be doing chores? If you were absorbed in a creative project of your own, did your family respect your privacy or did they come crashing in on you?

When you entered school, did your teachers encourage you to find your own source and method of creativity or were you forced to conform to the current fashion about how to draw, paint or write? Around the third grade, and throughout school, a teacher who recognizes one's talents and encourages and mentors a student can be a tremendous help in giving that child confidence in their own creative process (balanced third and fifth chakras). On the other hand, parents, teachers and peers may give prejudiced and cruel criticism that can dampen a person's enthusiasm for creativity for the rest of their life. This is one contributing factor to deficient energy at the third and fifth chakras, leading to confusion and the inability to know what you really want.

And what about singing? Did you grow up in a family that liked to sing around the piano for entertainment, or to sing songs in the car on long trips? Or did people in your family regard singing as something that was only for professionals? When you went to school, were you encouraged to sing, or did you feel inadequate because you couldn't follow the notes or because someone else had a more beautiful voice? Even worse, did someone discreetly (or bluntly) ask you to "mouth it" when you sang in groups? Have you discovered toning or sounding, which is a form of vocal expression which does not require a sense of rhythm or melody, and which can be enjoyed by anyone, even if they can't sing on key? All of these factors will influence the relative openness of your fifth chakra. A person who was not allowed to express their thoughs and feelings might accumulate excessive energy at the fifth and become dogmatic and pedantic, insisting that everyone must do things their way. Sad to say, this is a common profile for people in positions of authority in most schools, churches and government positions.

Sixth chakra. This is about your openness to metaphysical things. As a child, were you raised in a fundamentalist environment which regarded clairvoyance (the ability to see things like auras with the inner eye and to see into the future), clairaudience (the ability to hear voices in other dimensions) and clairsentience (the ability to feel energies) as being of the devil? Were you taught to distrust telepathy (the ability to read minds) and telekinesis (the ability to move objects with the mind) and a host of other unusual aptitudes? Or were you raised in a mechanistic scientific background that held to the belief that if you couldn't make it work like a machine then it couldn't be real? All of these circumstances will lead to an imbalance of the sixth chakra.

Or were you raised among people who had paranormal abilities and who encouraged and supported you in exploring your own unusual talents? As a child, did you have an "invisible" companion? Did you see fairies and elves? Did you see ghosts? Children who do not have the emotional armoring which is so common in our society, and who have not yet received brain-washing about what is and is not acceptable, often have the ability to see beings on other planes (an aspect of clairvoyance). Some children have complete recall of their past lives, or of the time spent in the womb. When children reveal these things to their parents or other adults, the reaction of these authority figures will strongly color whether they will feel good or bad about their experiences. If they are told, "Don't you ever talk about that again!" it is likely that they will close down their abilities and feel guilty about what they have experienced and the sixth chakra will shrink down.

On the other hand, if the authority figure is understanding and open-minded about the possibility that the child may be telling the truth, this helps the child to trust her or his own experience. Given the latter environment, a child with extraordinary abilities may be able to develop further, and the sixth chakra can remain open and balanced throughout that person's lifetime. Presumably, this is what happened to the Dalai Lama, who is believed to have conscious memory of all his previous incarnations and to carry the knowledge of that lineage from birth.

Unfortunately, modern society tends to discourage mastery of the higher chakras, and we have produced far more notorious megalomaniacs who have excessive energy at the sixth chakra and who want to conquer and control the world. Ayatolla Khomeni [check spelling] is a classic example. Seventh chakra. I used to believe that all religions and spiritual paths led to the same goal. It was just a matter of personal preference which path you happened to choose. Then a man came to me who suffered from severe migraine headaches. There was precious little energy at the sixth and seventh chakras. When I took his personal history, he told me that he was raised as an orthodox Haasidic Jew. He was sent to a private school and forced to wear black clothes and a black hat and to let his sideburns grow long. He was never allowed to laugh and play with the other children on the street. Instead, he was kept indoors, reciting endless doctrines.

If he had chosen this path, it would have been different, but having such harsh discipline imposed on a young boy understandably led to a deep resentment toward his concept of God and toward all religion. It is not surprising that his higher chakras closed down. Over the years I found that when the crown chakra is closed down, this is usually the byproduct of a repressive religious upbringing. So I began to reconsider my own open-mindedness about different spiritual paths.

I began by asking myself, "What is a spiritual experience?" I thought of all the spiritual experiences that I have had in my lifetime, and the ones that I have heard about, and I asked, "What do all of these experiences have in common?" In each instance, a person's usual sense of being separate and apart falls away and there is a feeling of being at One with All and Everything. There is a profound sense of merging. There is a sensation of Unity that allows one to identify with the rocks, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the animals, the whales, the dolphins, the ocean, and with other human beings. The sense of compassion and love is overwhelming. There is, in essence, a feeling that All of This IS God, and I Am a part of all of this so I, too, Am God. A person who is able to sustain at least a vivid memory of such an experience will tend to be open and balanced at their crown chakra.

I asked myself, "Is this the kind of experience that people have in most churches or temples? Do organized religions promote and encourage this kind of experience?" I had to answer a resounding "No!" In fact, most organized religions (and there are rare and wonderful exceptions) encourage divisiveness. They divide one religion against another. They divide body against soul and mind against body. They divide men against women. They divide good against bad. And they thrive on guilt. No wonder so many people whose crown chakras are closed have had traumatic religious experiences. As one Catholic man remarked, "If opening the crown chakra means opening to spirituality, I don't want to have anything to do with it!" When he was a boy, this man's mother tied his hands to the sides of his bed at night so he wouldn't "soil himself." She considered herself a good Catholic. She skimped and saved to send him to a private Catholic school where the nuns taught him that his body was filthy. His crown chakra energy was predictably deficient. His brother reacted to the same parental discipline by becoming a religious fanatic who stood on street corners warning strangers about Armageddon. This brother was a classic example of excessive energy at the crown chakra I want to emphasize that I have met Catholic priests and Jewish Rabbis and leaders of other organized religions who were truly spiritual people. They were kind and loving and they brought great comfort to their congregations.

Copyright Joy Gardner 1998

No part of this excerpt may be reprinted or reproduced without permission of the author.

Joy Gardner-Gordon, Pocket Guide to the Chakras (Berkeley: The Crossing Press) 1998, pp. 17-31.