I am not a spiritual person, so when I found myself sitting in a dimly lit church surrounded by whispers that spoke of vibrations, the breath of life, and spinning vortexes of energy, I felt a little out of place, to say the least.
Before attending a chakra workshop at Edmonton’s Centre for Spiritual Living, my experience with spirituality extended as far as attending the occasional yoga class and going to church camp when I was five years old. Religion and spirituality are, of course, multi-faceted practices that are often considered to be holy, sacred, and for many people, fact. For me, the ability to have faith in what we cannot see is incredibly admirable, but I do not seem to have the spiritual capacity to think this way.
My spiritual incompetence has never hindered me before, so you can probably imagine my surprise and bewilderment when our workshop facilitator requested our group of approximately twenty to connect with our chakras: the spinning energy centres that can be found along the spinal column. I personally have never noticed the seven energy centres that our “life force” supposedly flows through, but upon taking a glance around the room and noticing the subdued smiles and nods of understanding from my peers, it became clear that my fellow workshop-attendees were far more knowledgeable on the subject.
The Sanskrit word chakra translates directly to wheel. These spinning wheels of light feed off of vibrational energy, which can be created by colours, people, thoughts, movements — essentially anything in our surrounding environment. Keeping the chakras balanced is important, as energy blockages can lead to illness and emotional disturbances. Upon receiving this brief outline of chakras and their purpose, I became completely and hopelessly lost, and my confusion only worsened as the workshop progressed.
I found myself asking questions that I would have never expected to cross my mind. How does one breath into their third eye? How do I unblock my chakras? What is vibrational energy in the first place? It seems that most sacred practices come with their own set of jargon, and the beliefs surrounding the chakra system make no exception to this trend. Aside from being exposed to the complex terminology and unique concepts associated with chakras, the workshop (which focused on the second and sixth chakras) aimed to strengthen the connection with the self through a series of bell chimes, group breathing exercises, and a dialogue by the facilitator.
Labelling my experience as “weird” wouldn’t be fair. In reality, it was just different from what I am used to and what is common practice in much of the Western world. Om chanting and humming in an attempt to trigger an energy release inside of myself is not a practice that I will be incorporating into my daily life any time soon, but something can be learned from the ideologies surrounding the chakra system. I will forever identify as an inbetweener, an agnostic, and a lover of the grey area, but finding a state of equilibrium through a deep intrapersonal connection and emotional awareness is something that I can commit to without any qualms.
Listening to the animated post-workshop discussions and smiling back at the peaceful faces of those who had experienced the full effects of the chakra workshop was one of the most inspiring parts of the evening. In their simplest form, spiritual practices are meant to bring peace and comfort to those who have faith. Sitting in a church surrounded by foreign whispers was unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but being enveloped by an atmosphere of devotion, faith, and a beautiful sense of vulnerability ultimately transformed my discomfort into a shared sense of peacefulness. The overall abstract that surrounds the chakras will likely not resonate with everybody, but the concepts of breathing, feeling, and thinking deeply and profoundly are transformative to the point that they can bring peace and comfort to believers and spiritual skeptics alike.
Banner art courtesy of Serena Tang.