2020 was the year of organic, “off brand” spirituality for me. I’ve been disillusioned with traditional religion since I left Lutheran (not Catholic😤) school in 7th grade, but in recent months, the lure of general spirituality has been strong. The pandemic and family problems wrecked my mental health and creative drive, but after reading books like The Untethered Soul, The Surrender Experiment and Many Lives, Many Masters, a small seed of “self” has been taking root again. However, the most surprising tool in decrypting and healing my mind has actually been a small guided journal by Amy and Chad Mercree, two New Age spirituality authors who I initially judged on the surface. The journal, entitled A Little Bit of Chakras, is cyan blue and contains prompts crafted to explore and open your seven chakras. I was hesitant at first because the book seemed cheesy and “woo woo” - how could a couple named Amy and Chad know anything about ancient Indian energy pools? But looking past their dyed blond hair and sketchy websites, I realized how useful their “little” guide was.
For some background, I’ve tried Talkspace therapy in the past, but it was hard for me to connect with a therapist virtually and through text alone. I was also embarrassed, scared and almost unwilling to be helped - being snug in my black hole of desperation and sadness was more comfortable than opening the Pandora’s Box of Macc. Also, therapy is expensive and not well covered by insurance the way a gynecologist or a general doctor’s visit are. Whenever I had issues in the past, my stubbornness and stuffing down of problems into my throat and stomach usually resolved them. But 2020 was a problem I couldn’t swallow like a birth control pill - and so instead of neutering my HSA account (which only has like $500 in it anyway), I bought this handy chakra journal for $7.99 at Barnes & Noble.
This article is intended to be half book review, half personal experience with chakras and my thoughts regarding them. If you’re leery about chakras or discount all-purpose spirituality (which I understand - reincarnation and pure consciousness are crazy ideas, somewhat like crypto but way more ancient), I recommend reading The Untethered Soul and watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. The ideas contained within both - a 2007 spirituality guide and an animated kid’s show - are beginner-friendly but poignant. 🌼
A Little Bit of Chakras: A Review
A Little Bit of Chakras comes as dual literature, either as an informative pocket guide (part of the “A Little Bit of” spiritual series) or an accompanying journal that lets the reader interact with chakra knowledge through writing. I chose the latter because I wanted to learn about chakras in a tactile and mindful way - not just rotely consuming books but actively figuring out my inner energy. The guided journal is broken out into seven chakra chapters, and each section contains a brief 2-3 page intro to the chakra and 5-6 prompts related to it. I thought learning about chakras was going to be this mystical, clandestine process understood only by enlightened gurus, but I was wrong - it turns out, you only need a few pages of instruction and intentional thinking to get a chakra’s gist.
Before jumping into the review, I want to clarify the meaning of a “chakra” - by western definitions, it is a pool of spiritual energy that swirls in specific parts of the body and is associated with certain colors, feelings and attributes. Of course, this “energy” isn’t something a microscope can see; it’s an etheric concept that stretches back to ancient Hindu and Chinese texts. Healers and other spiritual workers can purportedly “read” your energy by tuning in to your chakras and seeing which ones are dull (blocked energy) or vivacious (healthy as a plum). In the Western tradition, the seven chakras, starting from the base of the spine and extending to the head, are the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third-eye and crown chakras. I drew a lil’ diagram (with stick figure illustrations!) below that explains the chakras more deeply:
I was skeptical when I began thumbing through the Amazon journal; my gaze landed on prompts like “Who is the leader of your life?” and I rolled my eyes - might as well buy myself a 2021 inspirational quote calendar to match it. But the sample of prompts I judged wasn’t representative of the whole population. The deeper I went into the book and pondered questions like “Are you able to express yourself freely? How easy is it for you to communicate thoughts and feelings to others?,” the more I realized how relevant the journal was. Amy and Chad aren’t a silly couple looking to dupe you with spiritual hacks - if you take the teachings seriously, you discover a side of yourself otherwise hidden in the rigmarole of living.
The ratio of teachings to journaling varies with the chakra. For example, the heart chakra chapter had 3 pages of printed information and 21 pages dedicated to journaling - getting to know your energy centers this way, through writing rather than struggling with esoteric texts, is the essence of spirituality. No one ever became truly enlightened by reading about other people’s enlightenment. It’s something you have to labor through on an individual level, and confronting those difficult questions like “What areas of your life diminish the love in your life?” is the first step. Even if spirituality isn’t your thing, A Little Bit of Chakras is fantastic for getting to know your inner self with a critical eye.
Although some prompts were odd (i.e. a sentence about activating the crown chakra was in the third-eye chapter) and belonged on inspirational napkins, the most cringey aspects of spirituality were kept to a minimum 1. There are dozens of self-discovery journals on the market, but this one has the benefit of learning ancient concepts and applying them.
The final third of the journal is devoted to blank notebook pages where the writer can scrawl, ruminate, meditate and free associate on their chakras or anything else. While the white spaces are daunting, I filled mine with LCW article drafts, daily journal entries and peculiar ideas that popped into my head (i.e. an app that allows cooks to open mini restaurants out of their living rooms, jam recipes & LLC names, etc). The binding on the book might be low quality - the strap broke after a few weeks of bringing it to Precita Park - but it gets the job done. Overall, I’d rate this notebook a 4.5/5 stars on Goodreads; the content is exploratory rather than sappy and encourages independent thinking. As always, you get out what effort you put into exposing your inner self to this little cyan book. At the end, the reader will have a sense of their healthy and not so free-flowing chakras and a firm grasp on what chakras mean holistically. Spirituality shouldn’t be closeted in monasteries or dingy psychic rooms - as Micky Singer wrote,
“You’re floating in empty space in a universe that goes on forever. If you have to be here, at least be happy and enjoy the experience.”
Macc in her Chakra Feels
The cat’s out of the bag - I cried several afternoons while writing in this journal. Since I’m a dreadfully emotional woman (ENFJ🤙🏽), the notebook forced me to examine areas of my life I stuffed under a rug or into the “unread” messages on my phone. I was confident in certain chakras like the solar plexus or sacral and sheepish in others. My heart and throat chakras need the most help - without diving into the details, I realized how restricted the love in my life is and my inability to communicate clearly with those I love. I remember sitting in a socially distanced circle in Precita Park and talking about these issues with Nikhil - the sun was licking my face and ponytail and the atmosphere was a warm, lucid brown (thank you Rayban tint). The journal laid my problems under a magnifying glass and gave them a spiritually clear overtone. My heart and throat chakras are still musty and blocked, but at least I’m aware of that now - I’m not sure if the solution is “fixing” bad relationships or positioning myself in a healthy alcove, where I can observe and react calmly from on high.
What I also gleaned was that my other chakras - the root, sacral, solar plexus, third-eye and crown - are relatively stable. I can provide for myself with my (meagre) accounting salary, I feel creative and sexually liberated and my confidence butters the hardest of toasts. I also had the weird realization that I could be semi-psychic (gurus say that all of us possess psychic abilities, and it just takes spiritual awakening to recognize them). Growing up and even into adulthood, if I have to guess a particular number - like the temperature outside or a random lottery integer - I have the uncanny ability of getting it right. Conventional luck in the form of raffle tickets has always been favorable on me as well. With my third-eye chakra knowledge, I can’t help but imagine myself as an untapped psychic with abilities from “the beyond.” I’m not about to start reading people’s palms as my side hustle, but it is an interesting concept. I thought my natural intuition was a symptom of being female, but maybe there’s a hint more to it.
As with all spiritual ideas, there’s no way of truly verifying them before death. Chakras as invisible swirling pools of energy seem ridiculous, but I’m still intrigued because human scientists haven’t come close to figuring out the brain yet. What if dark energy, “a theoretical repulsive force that counteracts gravity and causes the universe to expand at an accelerating rate,” is a component of spiritual energy? I’m obviously not an astronomer, but my point is that I’m unwilling to discount ideas that have not been firmly disproven and are within the realm of possibility.
The freeform journaling towards the rear of the notebook was intimidating to me. I stopped writing in-depth journal entries because reliving emotions and experiences through tactile words was too painful. But getting into the groove again, Tom Misch style, enabled me to process these negative feelings constructively. I missed this inner dialogue between myself and a piece of paper, the only constant in life we fickle humans can rely on.
Overall, A Little Bit of Chakras revealed the naked, impressionable Mack to my waking, walking and talking self. Emotions and states of beings are messy and tangled like clumps of Spanish moss. However, segmenting them into different chakras - which are in turn associated with specific body parts, colors and adjectives - makes sorting energies easier. For the present, I need to work on unconditional love and expressing my thoughts freely without fear of reprisal/guilt from my family. So I’ll say it: I’m a brave woman who is still completely in love with Nikhil Thota and wants to live a happy, creative life with him while still being close with my nuclear family. Why is that so hard?
Tantric Chakras and Beyond
Because this is a loopy LCW article, I wanted to touch on some fringe spirituality topics that were either mentioned directly in A Little Bit of Chakras or are related tangents.
→ Additional chakras in the tantric tradition
The tantric or Hindu/Buddhist tradition includes a boatload of chakras not recognized in the Western worldview. Besides the seven primary chakras, there are also five “transpersonal” chakras located above and below the physical body: the Earth Star, Naval, Causal, Soul Star and Divine Gateway chakras. These energies transcend the physical body and espouse exuberant phraseology like “Super Galactic Realms” and “Womb of the entire universe.” I haven’t researched these chakras extensively, but it’s commonly agreed that chakras are fluid and change definitions and locations depending on the tradition. Deep Hindu and Buddhist practices can contain more specialized chakras as well, depending on the guru and text.
→ Tantric sex
I’m not sure if this practice, now somewhat mainstream, is a blessing or a curse to spirituality. Tantric sex certainly piques interest in the more ethereal parts of consciousness, but it also has a tacky connotation. Tantric sex is not those titillating, soaking images that Malika Favre printed for the illustrated Kama Sutra in blocky zones of ruby and yellow. At its core, tantric sex is having slow, meaningful intercourse that fosters true connection with your partner. It’s simply another avenue for spirituality to find an outlet; after all, the sacral chakra (associated with “simple pleasures” and sexuality) is an integral chakra to our creativity and wellbeing.
→ Lucid dreaming & astral projection
I’m looking at you, Jinora. 👀 I touched on this briefly, but lucid dreaming, dream yoga and the astral plane are all linked to the throat chakra. The connection still mystifies me, but your voice box is supposedly a portal to the dream world. In A Little Bit of Chakras, Amy and Chad write, “Many Eastern religions believe that we exist in an elaborate dream that only appears to be real.” Whether that’s true or not, I’m not qualified to say (ask me when I’m dead!) - but the concept of lucid dreaming is certainly real and intriguing. Transcending our physical bodies and reaching this gushy, illuminated plane during sleep is the stuff of a Douglas Adams novel, but who knows? Jinora was able to solve a few pinches using the astral projection technique.
I’m specifically referring to Many Lives, Many Masters, a book that came out in 1988 by Brian Weiss, M.D. about his hypnosis treatments with his young female patient, Catherine. When hypnotized, she would have vivid recollections of her past lives, such as one as a servant in a royal Ancient Egyptian household and another as a bloody pilot during World World II. In between lifetimes, Catherine would see bright, white lights and hear intonations from the “Masters,” spiritual beings from the beyond, until descending to Earth for her next reincarnation. It’s “woo woo” to the max, but her affinity for Ancient Egypt in her present lifetime - despite never having studied Egyptian history - is fascinating. My feelings on reincarnation are still undecided and Catherine’s story is rife with holes, but the possibility is comforting (maybe I was a legionary in Ancient Rome??)
We’re ending on an easy note; meditation has become so mainstream and commercialized that everyone does it now, thanks to Andy Puddicombe. Although he’s bathing in dollar bills earned from society’s mental health gains, I think it’s a great development. Taking five minutes in the morning to focus on your breath or heart chakra sets the compass North for the day. Meditation is a gateway to spirituality and can be practiced in whatever form you choose - sitting quietly, chanting meditation mantras, doing yoga asanas or anything else. Mickey Singer, my favorite hometown hero guru, meditates like crazy and even drove to Mexico to meditate by the rancheros.
I’m not about to quit my accounting job and meditate alone in a Mexican van for a year, but I think mindfulness and chakras have a place in everyday existence. This article traversed ancient ideas, modern interpretations of them and my personal experience with tapping into obscure energies. I do think spirituality is for everyone, whether you’re following a particular religion (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) or just want to unplug with a Headspace meditation session after work. After all, the goal is peace and we could all use more of that. ✌🏽
I really loathed the sentences “Fear can prevent us from owning our lives completely. Everything you desire may be on the other side of fear,” but thankfully Amy & Chad restrained themselves most of the time. ↩︎