Unfortunately, for the ‘developed’ Western world, our knowledge about chakras and energy has been largely forgotten. Instead it has been replaced by a materialistic view of he world and a growing loss of spirituality. Alongside this has been an increase in people’s general dissatisfaction with this life. Yet the energy principle remains the foundation of eastern thinking.
In Chinese traditional medicine, for example the principle of chi is central. Chi (ki in Japanese) is the invisible life-force or energy that moves around the body freely when we are well. When there is an obstruction or a weak flow of this life-force, we become ill on a physical, emotional or spiritual level. Ancient Chinese exercise systems, such as Tai Chi and Chi Gong, are designed to promote the flow of chi around the body. Although, int he past, chi-based therapies, such as acupuncture, have been dismissed as a nonsense in the West, they are now increasingly accepted, and often used side-by-side with conventional western medical techniques.
The delay in the acceptance of eastern principles is largely owing to the way in which western medicine operates. We like to see how things work, whether it is the functioning of an organ in the body or a new drug that has been tested in the laboratory, using a placebo to guarantee that the effect is purely physical and not manipulated by the mind. The eastern approach to healing is very different: there is little you can see; and the mind is seen as an equal partner to the body, both as a cause of problems and as a solution to them.
Chakras and energy have played a long and crucial role in the Buddhist, Hindu and Yogic understanding of how the body, mind and spirit interact with each other. From these ancient eastern perspectives, bringing the chakras to their full potential and into balance with each other is seen as essential for both physical health and spiritual enlightenment. Yet, understanding – even accepting the existence of – the chakras can post a challenge for the Western mind, because the chakras are not usually visible to the eye (although there are people who are believed to be able to see chakras, as well as the auras that are closely linked to them). One way of understanding the chakras from a western viewpoint is to see them as a symbolic way to understand our minds, bodies and spirits.