*MEDITATION: Introduction to the Chakras and Chakra Meditation
By:Lisa Erickson

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.

Here is a description of each of the chakras in the most common 7-chakra system, with their physical location and themes, from top to bottom:

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.

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.

Lisa Erickson is a teacher and writer, specializing in the chakras, metaphysics, and women's spirituality. Please visit her blog http://www.MommyMystic.com for more information on these topics.