Review: Eastern Body, Western Mind – Anodea Judith

eastern bodyEastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self – Anodea Judith
Celestial Arts. 1996. 502pp. 9780890878156.

I’ll confess, I’ve had this book for years now but could never bring myself around to reading it. I suspected it would be horrible and newagey. Currently though a friend of mine attends Naropa University, and apparently it’s used in one of eir psychology courses, so I decided to give it a chance.

The basic premise of the book is to relate the chakra system to Western psychology. Anodea Judith doesn’t really focus on one school of thought, shifting from Jung to Reich to Freud and others, but her main focus is on developmental theory. Each chakra is given an entire chapter, which is then broken down with basic explanations of what the chakra does on a physical, energetic, and mental level, as well as looking at the period of life it represents what traumas may be present, what these traumas do to the person on all levels, how the chakras react, and of course what can be done to help fix this. She does what I have to consider a very thorough and good job of exploring the chakras and linking them to the psychological model.

Her explanations are well constructed and seem consistent in themselves and with my experience. What impressed me though was how realistic she was. She give examples of people who had been through the traumas, how it affected them, what it did to their body, mind, and energy, and she talked about what advice she gave them to help deal with these issues. Nowhere does she proclaim how amazing she is for having cured these people, in fact she next mentions them being “fixed”. A lot of books that deal with energetic diagnosis and healing read more like bragging rights “I could tell by the way he held his hands he had cancer and abandonment issues, so we sang Kumbaya and he was healed.” Not only are these examples unrealistic, but they’re not helpful, and probably damaging. But Judith never went there, she acknowledges that even when handling a trauma on all levels at once you still have a lot of work to do, it will take a lot of time and effort, and may never be truly fixed, only better. To me it was great to see a more realistic approach and an acknowledgement of the limitation of the techniques.

Now trauma can be a strong word, so I should clarify this isn’t just a book about dealing with the energy system of people who have been abused (for an example of trauma), but traumas include various disruptive events that all of us have experienced some of. Premature birth, physical injury, emotionally dominating or absent parents, continual criticism, and a lot more, I can guarantee that everyone has had some of the traumas listed, and could see themselves somewhere in the descriptions. She makes a few factual mistakes, attributing “Tat Tvam Asi” to Buddhism, or saying the mantras are only supposed to be silent, but she also has a good understanding of many other aspects, in fact this work is the first time I saw a model of the criss-crossing Ida and Pingala that actually made sense. The information and interpretation is of great use if you’re just looking to understand yourself, your partner, your parents, or anyone, and it’s even better if you’re looking to navigate or improve these issues. I’m glad I got over my concerns about the book and actually gave it a read, it was worth it.

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