HOW UNDERSTANDING THE CHAKRAS CAN BE USEFUL FOR
A HUMAN SERVICES PRACTITIONER
THE HISTORY. In the past, knowledge of the chakras was used mainly within the context of spiritual development. Gurus and their followers sought to help people become more ethical, more caring with each other, more conscious of their own mental processes, and more blissful in their daily lives.
A SIMILIARITY TO MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS. Psychologist Abraham Maslow showed how his conception of a “hierarchy of needs,” has much in common with the chakra system, and can be useful in psychology and psychotherapy. But Maslow’s self-identification was as a humanistic and existential psychologist, a branch of the discipline that never quite made it into the psychological mainstream in the way that psychoanalysis, behavioral, and cognitive behavioral psychology did. Existential and humanistic approaches did make it into the psychotherapeutic mainstream in the work of Carl Rogers, and later Ervin Yalom, but Maslow’s work was not part of that. His hierarchy is mentioned in many introductory psychology texts (often with the misconception that Maslow viewed it as a pyramid, which was not the case), but then the texts go on to something else and seldom make any effective use of the Maslow’s hierarchy.
THE RUSSIAN TRANSPERSONAL TEACHER GEORGE GURDJIEFF referred to identifying a person’s “Chief Feature.” This is closely related to perceiving a person’s dominant chakra and how he or she uses it. But Gurdjieff emphasized a training program, whereas in Awakening we emphasize development of a highly differentiated individual awareness of not only the chief feature but also the qualities of each of the other chakras, of how their dynamics are causing a person problems, and of how to transform his or her thoughts, feelings, and even sensations in order to live a more secure, satisfying, and happier, life.
A CENTRAL ELEMENT IN BOTH CHAKRA WORK AND IN GESTALT THERAPY, COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGY, AND PSYCHOANALYSIS is the development of a capacity for moment-by-moment awarenss of a person’s inner dynamics and processes. This includes mind, body, emotions, and spirit. Among psychoanalysts, only Wilhelm Reich, and his followers such as Stanley Keleman, make physical sensations a central part of their work. Psychoanalysis emphasized the mind and emotions, but in a manner that included a measure of distance from them. The gestalt therapy that Fritz Perls and his colleagues created emphasized developing immediate moment-by-moment awareness in each moment of what a person is experiencing. Aaron Beck’s version of cognitive behavior therapy did something similar, asking patients to listen to what their inner voice was saying (such as thoughts about how the therapist might be viewing them) at the same time their outer voice and behavior might be saying something else.
THE CHAKRA SYSTEM ADDS TO THIS the “witness consciousness” or “mindfulness” element of direct self-awareness of the person’s own process of noticing what his or her thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations are doing. A unique contribution lies in also providing a “map” that helps a human services professional or a client pinpoint dominant energies, and suppressed energies the client is likely to benefit from developing. This allows a faster zeroing-in on areas where problems and opportunities lie, and illuminates pathways for working on them that even most skilled therapists would otherwise require more time to trace out.
FINALLY, MOST THERAPY AND COUNSELING ARE ORIENTED TOWARD HELPING PEOPLE WHO FEEL TROUBLED. A common goal is to help clients become “normal.” That means like the norm, the average — i.e. no more or less screwed up than everybody else, so they can function in society. THE CHAKRA SYSTEM IS EXPLICTLY TRANSPERSONAL OR SPIRITUAL (your choice of terms.) It aspires to help people transcend many of the dilemmas of “normal” everyday life and develop a fuller, richer, deeper consciousness that leads in the directions of greater self-realization than most people ever achieve.