Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Chakra System

If you're a practitioner of Kundalini Yoga, an avid meditator or have a strong interest in metaphysics or New Age philosophy you might have noticed that the seven psychospiritual levels of family caregiving I've posted blogs about recently bear a strong resemblance to the seven levels of spiritual development in the Hindu chakra system. I'm not a proponent of this system of belief. I grew up Jewish, lived in an Irish Catholic community on the East Coast as a child, later studied Buddhist and Taoist philosophy, and choose a very personal and somewhat eclectic form of spirituality today. However, what I learned about the chakra system was extremely beneficial at the time I wrote the previous articles and still influences some of the work I currently do.

The Chakra system is a very ancient philosophy which correlates certain parts of the body (which incidentally appear to correspond to bundles of nerve ganglia along the spine) with different sets of physical, emotional and spiritual life issues or phases of development. In Hindu culture it is thought that a person must pass through each of these phases of development on the path to enlightenment.

I first learned about the chakra system when I was a book designer and acting art director at Crossing Press. Crossing published many books on alternative healing and spirituality and we were given a copy of any book we worked on. I loved their titles and I read all the ones I designed and many more. One of my favorites was a book called The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit Through the Chakras by Anodea Judith and Selene Vega. They teach workshops internationally to psychotherapists wishing to use the insights from the chakra system with their clients and in their own lives and this book was required reading in their classes. It's still in print, very accessibly written, and has lots of great exercises and down to earth examples of how to apply these insights to your everyday life. I loved it and I recommend it highly to all of you.

The Sevenfold Journey
may not be specifically about family caregiving but one thing I discovered in my work is that family caregiving can serve as a catalyst for whatever phase of spiritual development you happen to be working on. For example, if you need healing in regards to your relationship with survival and physical life (finances, housing, etc.) you'll be forced to face those issues first in your work as a family caregiver. That's the work of Chakra 1. If your finances are mostly squared away, you have plenty of savings, a roof over your head and plenty to eat but you struggle with issues of personal power and self-esteem, that's Chakra 3. And so on.

Furthermore, it doesn't matter what religion or spiritual background you happen to be from. You can think of the chakras as levels of psychological development (which they are) and use the lessons in that context as well. I use this approach in my work as a spiritual counselor and throughout my own book. However, in The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving, I never even mention the word "chakra'. It's unimportant. Still, since I do use the word "spiritual," I thought it might be helpful for you to know the influences that led me to see spiritual significance in all the things we do. And to know what spiritual background I'm seeing the world from.

You can buy The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit Through the Chakras by clicking this link.

You can buy The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving by clicking here.

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