Last summer, when I went through instructor training for Yoga, it was explained to me that there is the physical body, and then, coupled with the physical, but distinct from it, there is the subtle body. The subtle body has no mass. It is rather the embodiment of emotion, mind, energy, and dreaming. It’s similar in understanding to the spirit, or soul, some concept or another being found in nearly every major religious tradition.
In this subtle body, there is a flow of life energy. It flows along conduits, called nadi, and when these nadi intersect, the energy forms a sort of vortex called a chakra. There are many thousands of these intersections, with a handful of major ones, the “spaghetti junctions” of the soul if you will. The highest of these, the Sahasrara, or “crown chakra” is located just above the top of one’s head and is believed to be the point of connection between the individual and the universe, the self and the divine.
Too much flow of energy through the Sahasrara, can weaken the boundary between the soul and, well, everything else. Such a person might become metaphorically one with the universe, abandoning all concept of self or worldly concern, or convinced of absolute ethereal truth.
I realized quickly in these lessons, that I am what you might call, “underactive” in my crown chakra.
Case in point, I can’t really bring myself to believe in chakras in the first place.
As an engineer and a scientist, I have trained carefully for many years specifically to eliminate the bias of what I would like to believe, from investigations of what is actually true. I have read far too many psychological case studies to ever set aside humankind’s penchant for self hypnosis. I know too well how easily it is to bend our perceptions and even alter our memories.
Our brains are wired up to see patterns, even when they’re not really there. This is because it’s better to be afraid of some plants that look kind of like a tiger, than it is to ignore a tiger that kind of looks like some plants.
And that’s great and all for survival, but when you ask a brain like that to intuit the nature of life, the universe, and everything, well… you might get all sorts of answers.
But where does that leave me? Shall I accept that I am but an interesting arrangement of carbon and water? That there is no more and no less to me than what I can quantify? No deeper meaning? No spiritual purpose? If I can’t see those things, can I really not accept even their possibility?
This is not an easy question, and I do not claim to know the answer, nor even if there is a, “the answer”. What I have learned though, is to be able to appreciate the questions themselves, regardless of the answers. As with so much in life, it could be that it is the journey rather than the destination, that is the important part.
Wonder, for me at least, is the place between blind acceptance and blind rejection of faith. It is both what drives me to seek to better understand the universe, and what keeps me from ever accepting that I finally do. I ask questions because they are fascinating to ask, accepting that I might never truly know the truth.
And so in the end, it doesn’t matter if the chakras are vortexes of swirling energy, or if they’re mystical mumbo-jumbo. Or perhaps they’re a flawed – but largely accurate – model that effectively simplifies the complexities of emotion and desire and the rest of human existence. Because learning all about them can be just one more step along the way as I continue on this journey.