There is a lot of information about chakras swimming around out there. From it’s Eastern roots, the concept has been brought West and grown in meaning and use. Originally, the chakra system, in esoteric Buddhist thought had three-six centers, in Hindu thought they had seven. In the Tantric tradition of Buddhism and Hinduism, these energy centers are thought to be sources of power and energy in the body that can lead to enlightenment.

What do the Chakras have to do with life today?

But what does this have to do with life today in the West? Are chakras relevant on a spiritual path for those who aren’t necessarily yogis or tantric buddhists? The chakras seem magical and abstruse, but they originated from meditation traditions, meaning they originated through observation. Acute, dedicated centuries of observation.

This is what the Dali Lama means when he says Buddhism isn’t a religion but a science of mind. It isn’t about believe, or the “what” of existence but he how. How does our energy move through our body? If you believe in a spirit, how does the spirit electrify our body and interact with our mind and emotions? Where is the mind? What is the mind? What is the effect of certain thoughts on the body and the mind? Where is body? Where are what are emotions?

Start at the beginning, the wonder of your own body and mind

You could start with these questions, at the beginning. You also could start with the open-minded conviction (combined with your own practice) that the practitioners of tantra have discovered something important. The chakras describe a very real experience of the human condition. When someone insults you in a way that sticks, where do you feel it? When you sit and observe your feelings, you will probably realize that they cause real body sensations. These sensations are rarely subtle. While sometimes we feel such hurts in unique places, it is nearly universal to feel “punched in the stomach” (third chakra, the center of self-esteem) or “pressure in the heart or chest” (fourth chakra, the heart and center of higher love).

It is common to feel our legs heavy (first chakra, tribal belonging, stability) or pain in our lower back (first or second chakra). We feel tired and have brain fog (third eye). When we experience emotional upheaval, if we do the opposite of what we want to do (avoid) and sit with anything present, our conscious experience can teach us deeply. It can show us not only what, exactly, we are feeling, but the deeper subconscious origins of our feelings.

Reveal deeper patterns with chakra knowledge

Where and how we experience emotion can help us quickly understand ourselves, leading to personal, and sometimes even universal, insights. In Buddhism, universal insights are those insights common to every human experience, insights which lead to liberation from the cycle of hurting and then denial, which adds to the hurt. But it’s enough to simply have personal insight into our psyche. If a pattern goes unnoticed, it cannot be changed. Thus, by learning about the chakras, you can begin to undo negative patterns in your life quickly and intelligently, when combined with reflection and mindfulness.