|The Inner Playroom|
The chakra metaphor introduced in this excerpt from Yoga and Psychotherapy provides an organizing framework for understanding experience. Each of the seven levels represents a way I focus and express energy in the world. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 56)
If one is to explore the world of inner experiences, his thoughts, his emotions, and learn about himself, he must have some framework within which to do this. He must have a "playroom" - a sort of workshop or laboratory within which he can experiment with experiencing and expressing different aspects of his being and different reactions to the world. The framework provided by understanding the centers of consciousness gives him a place to do this. It provides the student with a structured inner space in which he can play.
The more one studies these centers, their nature, and their interrelationships, the more he comes to understand the difference between various psychologies and therapeutic points of view. He becomes more able to understand and put in perspective different aspects of personality and to grasp in a first hand way what goes on during the evolution of consciousness. Many things can be simplified and understood in a coherent, orderly way by understanding the various centers of consciousness and how they function. . . .
These centers we will describe are seven in number. They are called chakras. Their positions correspond, in the physical body, to points along the spinal cord. The first is located at the base of the spine near the tiny little bone that lies at the lowest extreme of the vertebral column (coccyx). The second center is just a few inches up above that at the level of the genitals (in the region of the sacrum). The third is located at the level of the navel, and is associated with the solar plexus. The fourth center is near the area of the heart. It lies at a point of intersection between a line drawn through the arms and shoulders and one through the trunk.
These centers are all in a vertical line when one is sitting erectly. This is one reason for sitting straight during meditation: the centers are aligned. The fifth center is at the base of the throat. The sixth center lies at the point between the two eyebrows, while the seventh and last is at the topmost point of the skull, at the "crown" of the head. The highest or crown chakra has to do with the highest state of consciousness - while the lowest chakras are more closely tied to the animal or instinct-based side of human nature. Developing the capacity to concentrate more energy, attention and awareness at the higher centers is one aspect of what happens as one's growth proceeds and consciousness evolves.
The word chakra itself means "wheel" in Sanskrit. At the outer circumference of a wheel there is more space, more material, more diversity, more movement. When one focuses on the rim of the wheel, it flies by in a blur, like the variegated world of material phenomena. This outermost aspect of the chakra relates to the grossest sheath, the physical body and material world. As one moves inward, the spokes of the wheel converge, and the dizzying movement slows. The inner aspects of the chakra correspond to the higher sheaths, energy, mental, etc. At the center is the center of consciousness - purusha, or Self.