The trouble with Chakras

I’m going to come right out and say it: I do not have any chakras. I was first introduced to them as a concept when I was sixteen, and nothing at all happened. Since then (twenty years!) I’ve been meditating, visualising, working with my body’s energy, and every so often being talked into having another go. I am entirely certain that nothing resembling chakras is happening down the front of my person. No one is going to persuade me otherwise.

The trouble with chakras is that they are treated as a universal truth. What was originally a feature of Hindu belief, has been embraced wholesale and turns up everywhere. It doesn’t seem to matter what path you claim to follow, someone will be waving it at you. The New Age Movement treats chakras as fact, as indisputably how your body works and I cannot begin to tell you how sick I am of finding it thrown casually into all kinds of books where really it has no place or point.

Other ways of thinking about bodily energy are available. I was exposed to Tai Chi fairly early on (I was about 20). There are no chakras in Taoism. Instead I was introduced to ideas of energy flow, of the circular nature of energy as it moves through the body. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve listened to Theo Wildcroft ( talking about physical structures in the body, creating flows and connections in ways that, while I don’t grasp visually too well, make a lot of emotional sense to me. Acupuncture works on a theory of energy meridians in the body, and those aren’t lined up down your middle like the standard ruddy chakras.

But then, actual, Hindu chakras don’t have much to do with New Age chakras either. What the original idea of chakras offers is a complex and subtle system of body energy, and when you start looking at that it compares rather coherently to the meridians and flows that I’ve run into other places. ( for a quick sense of what’s really out there).

What has happened is that the western New Age movement has latched onto a complex ancient system, picked on the ‘important’ bit – those ‘main’ seven chakras, hauled them out of context and proceeded to deal with them with no reference to the systems, bodily and spiritual that they actually pertain to. We in the Pagan community are all too guilty of picking up the western seven chakra rubbish and passing it on as an absolute truth, without even knowing properly where it comes from or how it works. This is shoddy in every way.

If you’re going to do chakras, throw away the books that tell you how there are seven of them, and how to clean them, and flowers to associate with them, and precious little else. Go back to the original culture, and learn this stuff properly. If you want to do body energy, you have a body, and energy, and sitting down with what you’ve got, to contemplate it, ponder, study, experience and investigate it will serve you perfectly well. And if it turns out that you do not feel like you have chakras, and that you see and understand your body in some other way, you are not alone!

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

26 responses to “The trouble with Chakras

  • Helen Wood

    Ah, there you go again, talking sense. It may not be popular.

    You should see what a flap people get into when I tell them I don’t reincarnate. 😀

  • manonbicycle

    I recently read your book-Spirituality Without Structure, I found it empowering, I have become a radical agnostic in all these matters. I don’t unquestionably believe everything, neither do I unquestionably disregard everything, I do not know, but I keep an open mind. It’s good to see these holy cows, like chakras and karma, re-examined and reviewed.

  • Treeshrew

    Well said! I get so frustrated at the New-Age approach of taking bits from ‘exotic’ cultures and commercialising them without respecting the historical context from which they originate. I must admit to rolling my eyes whenever I come across some book on ‘Celtic Chakras’ or some such.

  • Suzanne Thomas

    Well said, we could be in danger of opening up things that just arent there, and causing all sorts of problems for ourselves. Our bodies are just that, OUR bodies, each individual, and while meditating and focusing on them is maybe a good thing to do, applying something that we dont connect to is not good for us, it would be like eating the wrong food.

    I find I had trouble with the OBOD light body exercise and with Reiki, it was the names, and the structure. Then I started to see the energy with no name or branding flow as a golden light , a bit like the healing glow of Rapunzel’s hair in Tangled, (Yes I know it’s Disney, but each person uses what they can work with) and I find I can work with this and see it going around my body, that works for me.

    Fabulous post again Nimue xx Thanks

  • Running Elk

    lol Made the mistake of assuming (duh) that a recent publication on Celtic chakras may have revealed some mysterious western system that had some level of equivalency with the Hindu one. How stupid was I? Incredibly… the druids worked with chakras, each is associated with a tree, and … *duck* :p

    • Nimue Brown

      I’m not aware of any real evidence for that line of thought 🙂 I have nothing against innovating, but rather feel if you are going to make something up, it’s so much more fun to start from scratch, and just go with the personal gnosis.

  • ohnwentsya

    Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    Thank you for pointing out the silliness of hypersimplification. Colonized culture runs on turning everything into a bite sized hypersimplified commodity. McDonaldization of culture is creepy and worse than useless-its designed to create helplessness and confusion. 
    There really is an interesting correspondence between all ancient teachings but it cannot be found by boiling everything into an unrecognizable soup that “matches”. 
    Our ancestors surely all noticed and worked with the energy systems of the body and the planet but they most certainly were influenced by the obvious individuality not only of humans bodies but of Earth’s different locations-and the interactions between humans and the land and waters they were parts of.

  • Eilif Verney-Elliott

    Love this. People ask me, “what should I do in meditation” or “what is meditation about” – when they find out I spent a month in a Japanese Soto Zen monastery. I tell them the point of meditation is this – “sit down and shut up” – LOL ain’t no thing. Thank you for de-Disney-ing the richness of many historical traditions, and the ways in which people muddle them up or cram them down (for commercial purposes, ah?)

  • Eilif Verney-Elliott

    I like the idea that we don’t “have” a body a body “has” us.

  • treegod

    A friend of mine is fond os saying “chakras aren’t little lights found up and down the body, but a mnemonic of our psychological structure.”
    If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it follows a similar strucutre (oh, an colouring!) but without imagining little lights in the body!
    On the other hand, you don’t need this Hindu “psychological structure” to work with energy flows around the body. 🙂

  • dragonfae

    I had to chuckle while reading this. As a Reiki practitioner I routinely work with chakras (all of them, not just the 7 everyone wants to talk to) and it’s clear to me that they more closely relate to vortices in a meridian type system than anything else. That’s the way I think of them anyway.

    Thank you for so eloquently describing some of the frustrations I run into when I’m stuck listening to the New Agers and the silliness they spew. 🙂

  • Léithin Cluan

    Awesome 🙂 As a Gaelic pagan I have no tradition that’s anything like chakras, but you should see how people respond when I mention it. (I don’t believe in reincarnation either!)

  • Ffraid

    Once again, thank you for a refreshing post!

  • Andi |

    I never felt connected to the chakra system since I am not a Hindu. However, the “Three Cauldrons” as written about by Erynn Laurie was a big part of my inward and outward energy working when I was doing such things. I’ve often wondered why it never received more attention.

  • Blodeuwedd

    Are you actually reading my mind just recently? I only ask because you have hit several of my pet peeves squarely on the head and made me think I may actually have a valid place in the Pagan community rather than being some sort of annoying outsider who is pretending.
    I get particularly cross at books that mention angels, chakras and the otherworld in the same sentence. My own spirituality is firmly rooted in one branch of Hinduism (Its not really accurate to refer to Hinduism as if it is only one religion…some areas of Hindu thought leave me cold) and it is quite irritating when people pick up deities or ideas/beliefs and run with them without the first idea what they actually are or mean or how they relate to the rest of the network or cluster of beliefs that surround them.
    Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with ‘pick and mix’ spirituality…I very much do it myself…but it does seem to me to be very important to know what something originally was before you incorporate it into something new.

    You may even have inspired me to get off my backside and write something in my own blog today! Thank you.

    • Nimue Brown

      Using my magic powers to pull concepts from other people’s heads, again 🙂 I know just enough about Hinduism to realise it’s a big umbrella term, but, knowing none of the terms under the umbrella… that’s about my limit!

  • mindfulecotherapy

    Made it 57 years without ever needing chakras. 🙂

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