I'd heard about chakras way back when I was a teenager, and associated them with "New Age" woo-woo nonsense, or perhaps a reason to collect multicolored crystals. However, I also consider myself a health adventurer: I'm often willing to try new things to understand how they might be valuable in the search for better health. As long as it doesn't involve needles, chemicals, or giving up coffee, I'm willing to try it. That's how I ended up recently on a table, getting a Reiki treatment. I say treatment rather than massage since there is no touching, just an energetic cleansing of the chakras. Since it was my 50th birthday, I thought it might be a good time to cleanse them--kind of like a car tune-up.
As I waited in the lobby to be called in to the room, I gazed out of a giant window overlooking a bucolic scene. Suddenly, a vivid little hawk flew towards the window--as if it was about to fly into it by accident--and then stopped itself, looked in at me, and flew off. "That was weird," I said to myself. I went into the room and, after a consultation with the therapist, lay down on the table and relaxed while he systematically seemed to be "working" on each chakra, starting at the bottom, or "root chakra," and ending at the top, or "crown chakra." When he got to my throat, I was deeply relaxed, although a bit disturbed, since when he had worked on a previous chakra I had felt significant pain, even though he didn't touch me at all. In my mind, I suddenly saw that little hawk again--this time, flying into the room and landing on my shoulder. It made me smile because I was on an island that had been settled by two women pirates, and the bird's lighting there made me feel like a pirate. But I didn't think much of it.
After the treatment finished, I went to the gift shop and bought a few books on chakras, since I wanted to understand more why I might have felt pain. I was stunned to see in a book called The Book of Chakras, by Ambika Wauters, that the mythological animal associated with the fifth chakra (the throat) was a sparrow hawk! So I started to read.
The most comprehensive, useful book was one called Wheels of Life, by Anodea Judith, PhD. (Yes, seems you must have a strange first name to write books on chakras!) In that book, I learned that the chakra system was developed at the same time as yoga, and by the same people (more than two thousand years ago) as a system for spiritual growth and physical healing associated with Tantra (which is, by the way, not really about sex). After reading it, I realized that a good way to think about chakras is as almost a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual inventory of your health and well-being. It's like having a therapist for your whole body, and using your body to explore what you really think, feel, and believe. Not as a substitute for other real-world solutions like exercise and eating right, but as an enhancement to help understand why certain things might be harder or easier than others.
Back to me... Why the little sparrow hawk, and what's up with my fifth chakra? Even though I have to speak a lot in my job, and I love to write and express myself, a blocked throat chakra is associated with "the silent child," the person who often hides his or her feelings or says yes when he or she means no. BUSTED! So I've been working on that, with my little sparrow hawk friend as my guide.
In fact, writing this very blog is an act of taking the twig out of my throat chakra. As the CEO of the leading health and wellness brands in the world (I just finished meeting our wonderful and diverse publishing partners from 44 different countries), I think it might be time to start talking about other aspects of health and wellness besides just body weight, muscle, and food. After all, many times the barriers to true health are more emotional and more deeply rooted in our psyches than in just our actions. In fact, I read a recent research report that said the majority of Americans know exactly how to improve their health, they feel that they just don't have the will to do it. We all have excuses. But if you are brave enough to explore new worlds, you might enjoy learning about chakras.
What do you think?
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com