I am an avid meditator, and given that the eastern meditative techniques are so prevalent, I have grown accustomed to doing certain "chakra meditations." However, the Chakras are an eastern concept, and Judaism has the sefirot. So for a Jewish soul, do the Chakras exist? Or, do we use the sefirot instead because our souls and bodies resonate with a different divine energy altogether?
Personally, my meditation practice is an area of growth. As a rabbinical student I attended meditation retreats and found great meaning in chant-meditation. That part of my spiritual practice is still strong. However, I have had less personal success with silent meditation practices. When I sit for a meditation, that part of my Jewish soul which yearns for God is calling out for language that relates to my experience as a Jew.
Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (alav hashalom) taught that all cultural traditions shared truth (with an intentionally non-capitalized “t”). Rather than believe that our tradition had the only Truth, which is part of the theology behind chosenness language in the Jewish liturgy, it made more sense that each tradition was seeking the same truth and had different language of expressing their beliefs based on their varied cultural norms and world experiences. I believe strongly in that part of Kaplan’s theology and it fits in to this discussion well.
If what we are seeking a source of energy within the human body (a chakra) then we can look to the sefirot as a Jewish lens through which to seek the same experience. Because our tradition’s mystics were interested in the emanations of God’s presence through the world, they developed the sefirot. In the end, I would argue that both the chakra system and the sefirotic tree are all seeking to experience the divine presence through a mindfulness practice. Although we use different language we are sharing the same conversation.
In my mind, the question is not whether chakra exists within a Jewish soul. Rather, we should be asking how we might distinguish and discern God’s presence in a uniquely and authentically Jewish way.
Before answering the question of a possible kabbalistic correlation to chakra meditation, I suggest first clarifying what exactly is meant by "chakras". Are chakras a nebulous metaphysical concept derived from Far Eastern religion and popularized in New Age Movements? Or can they be corroborated in scientific understanding?
Chakras are considered to be "energy centers" or focal-points of consciousness within the "subtle body". These are located on ascending points on the spinal column corresponding to stages on the path to enlightenment. Ascending the chakra steps is known as "raising the kundalini". Skeptical critics assert that because these "subtle energies" are not detectable in scientific labs therefore they contradict empirical understandings of Western medicine. To complicate matters, one finds contradictory ideas about the number of chakras, their nature, form and location.
So why is the Hindu-Buddhist tradition of chakras so popular in the West? The reason is that chakra theory plays a major role in New Age healing modalities and mind-body practices such as meditation, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, acupuncture, acupressure, Reiki, chromotherapy, aromatherapy, Shiatsu, T'ai Chi, Qigong, yoga and breathing exercises of pranayama. As a leading researcher of the New Age writes: "In many healing practices, these chakras function as the conceptual foundation both for the unity of mind and body (because as 'subtle centres' they are in between both), and for the unity of healing and spiritual growth (because successively 'opening the chakras' is synonymous with attaining enlightenment)".
But the question remains. Are chakrassimply inexplicable "centers of metaphysical energy" or can they be explained from some sort of objective or medical perspective?Continuous subjective reports of the success of chakra related healing have stimulated some researchers into exploring new scientific explanations. Richard Maxwell, a clinical neuropsychologist, suggests that chakras are intercellular gap junction connections. Maxwell assumes that subtle systems using gap junctions are activated, changing energetic states in groups of cells and opening connections between different compartments within the glial syncytium. Chakra meditation thus functions "to increase the prevalence of gap junctions and integrate compartments within the glial network, ultimately allowing a full electrical unification of the spine and brain".
So now to answer your question. If you are practicing chakra meditation in an alternative healing setting or within a quasi medical perspective then it is not necessarily wise to try and replace them with sefirot. Although such parallels have been suggested, there are significant differences in both the epistemological meaning and theological context, and the two cannot be simply interchanged. However, if you are using chakra meditation to raise kundalini as a way to enlightenment and you are looking for a Jewish spiritual-religious practice then indeed I would recommend Jewish meditation.
 The subtle body is said to consist of elements or organs such as chakras, nadis (channels) and even deities and cosmic correspondences. For a comparison of how different spiritual traditions understand the "subtle body" see http://www.kheper.net/topics/subtlebody/correspondences.html where ancient Egyptian, Indian Vedanta, Neoplatonic-Hermetic classifications, Theosophy and Anthroposophy traditions are compared.
 See Michael York, "Chakras", The Historical Dictionary of New Age Movements, Lanham, Maryland, 2004, pp. 42-43. The idea of the subtle vital force (prana) and the channels along which it flows (nadis) appear in the earliest Upanishads (7th-8th century BCE). In the later Upanishads (2nd century BCE – 2nd century CE) reference is first made to Tantric concepts such as chakras and mantras.
 See for example Arvan Harvat, "The difficulty of a unified chakra science"
 Wouter J. Hanegraaff, "The New Age Movement and Western Esotericism," in Daren Kemp and James R. Lewis (eds.), Handbook of New Age, Leiden and Boston, 2007, pp. 25-50.
 Richard Maxwell, "The Physiological Foundation of Yoga Chakra Expression", Zygon, Journal of Religion and Science, December 2009, vol. 44, issue 4, pp. 807-824. This chakra hypothesis differs from other theories proposed in neuropsychology because it deemphasizes the role of networks of chemical synapses and instead looks at the electrical networks and endocrine effects.
 For one of the earliest attempts by someone with Rabbinical training at comparing tantric chakras and "the sephirot system" see William T. Blank, Torah, Tarot & Tantra: A Guide to Jewish Spiritual Growth, Boston, 1991, ch. 8, The Experience of God, pp. 106-109.
I am glad that you have found meditation to be a meaningful spiritual activity for you. You ask whether the chakras exist for a Jewish soul, or if the sefirot concept would be a better one for you to use. Both Sefirot and chakras serve a similar purpose, to help us align ourselves with God, and you can find several schemas which match up the various chakras with the appropriate sefira. (See the chart below for an example).
I do not think you need to worry about whether the chakras or the sefirot actually “exist.” If they work for you, then use them. Is a “Jewish soul” different from another person’s soul? Are there different soul energies which will work better with different kinds of spiritual intervention? I think the answers depends entirely on your own theology and understanding of what these concepts mean.
As a Jew, if you are more comfortable using the names of the sephirot, since they add meaning to your practice by connecting you to your own tradition, then I would recommend doing so. For further exploration in these matters, I would direct you to look at the Jewish Lights Publishing house www.jewishlights.com. They publish many books with wonderful teachings about kabbalah and Jewish spirituality.
As one who meditates and who teaches meditation I appreciate your question. I have found that meditation enhances my Jewish life in a variety of ways. It allows me to enter more deeply into prayer. It gives me a way to dwell on my Jewish learning in a way that reveals layers of understanding I might otherwise miss. Most importantly, it gives me a regular place for spiritual retreat.
Chakras, like the sefirot, are a way to embody our spirituality, to map our spiritual energies onto the body. Since I do not believe that a Jewish soul is different from a non-Jewish soul, I do not believe that there is a necessary conflict between the language of chakras or sefirot.
I do believe that the sefirot allow us a way to embody not only our spirituality, but our moral values. For example, consider the pair of sefirot known as Din, strength, and Hesed, lovingkindness. These match one another both spiritually and in the ways we behave in the world. As we contemplate the ways these sefirot balance themselves in our spiritual life, we reshape our behavior in the physical world as well. Contemplating the sefirot connects the spirituality of the Hasidic world which celebrates the joy in our lives with that of the Musar movement which focuses on character development.
There are many sources available to help one better understand the various approaches to Jewish meditation. Aryeh Kaplan's books describe the connection between the sefirot and meditation in detail, particularly in Meditation and Kabbalah. Jay Michaelson, in his book God in Your Body, suggests ways to incorporate the sefirot into your meditation in his chapter on embodied emotions and in one on mirroring the Divine. His practical approach makes it easy to add this element to your meditation.
I wish you much success as you continue in your practice of meditation.
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