Your body knows everything before you even know. Before your thinking mind comprehends what is happening, energetically your body is responding. The more we learn to listen, the faster our mind catches up. Some people have very good ears.
Sometimes, we forget how to listen.
Life is not an easy journey. We accumulate scars from trips and falls and wrong turns. Instinctively, the body responds by hardening. We get lost in the numbing, the coping mechanisms, and forget the sensation of living vibrantly. It is an incredible act of courage to soften, to be vulnerable, in the face of adversity.
Today, our journey leads us to the heart chakra. You have the choice to harden against the world or to soften through forgiveness, compassion, and joy.
The Heart Chakra
Color: Emerald Green
Mantra: I feel
This is the center of your unconditional love, joy, and compassion, for others but also for YOURSELF.
Too much feels like: co-dependence, constant need of validation from others,
Too little feels like: unworthiness, not able to trust self or others, manipulative
Anahata translates to unstruck, unhurt, unbeaten.
Let that sink in for a moment.
The very translation of the sanskrit to english can evoke powerful feelings and thoughts. Bringing some more depth to the translation, we call fourth chakara Anahata because, as yogis, believe we are all born pure love. We accumulate scars as we age, BUT underneath the baggage, the hurt, the scars, the coping mechanisms, there still exists that pure pool of potential, compassion and unconditional love.
It is this concept, more than anything else, that drew me to the practice.
I remember feeling like damaged goods, like I was broken and no one could fix or love me because of that. It is one of the most isolating mindsets to be in. AND IT IS NOT USEFUL. The pity, the feelings of unworthiness, the isolation does not change what happened. It infects the present with the limiting beliefs of the past. The work we do when we begin to explore Anahata is to encounter our feelings of worthlessness, ugliness, and un-lovability. The healing must start from within.
In one of my ABSOLUTE favorite books, No Mud No Lotus, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about true compassion and empathy. In order to be compassionate, we must reach down into the darkness places of ourselves and learn to forgive and love the things we see as our monsters. Each and every one of us has monster, parts of ourself that we deem too ugly for the rest of the world to see. When we learn to love and forgive ourselves for our imperfections, then can we start to radiate joy and compassion for others. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important. It is the blueprint for all other relationships we have. If we can't love the darkest parts of ourselves then how can we love someone else's darkness? This is what I refer to as "heartwork".
The other side of Anahata, the aspects that most people associate with the heart chakra, is love, compassion, and empathy for others. Love is one of those things that the more you give, the more you receive. When we think about the postures that stimulate this energy, all heart openers and backbends, it seems obvious. We describe people as "open-hearted". We see them radiate joy. We know that they have compassion for self and others. These qualities, in the form of action, look like forgiveness, acts of kindness, vulnerability. All of these actions are inspired by empathy. We know what it's like to be human, to be flawed, to make mistakes despite our best efforts. Even if we don't know he specifics of each other's baggage, we understand that it effects them in the same way our own life experiences effect us. We understand how hard it can be, and from that place we offer out a ray of kindness.
To be clear, acting from this place of compassion and understanding does not mean people walk all over you. In fact, this is a great example of how and why we start from the bottom (now we're here) of the chakra ladder. Chakra two dealt with boundaries. Establishing healthy boundaries protects our heart. Know that taking care of self is just as important as caring for others. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
When empathy is hard or when I am stuck in a place of overwhelming sadness, I get out my journal and I write down at least ten things I am grateful for and WHY. The why is a big part of this. When you can pinpoint the reasons behind the gratitude, it tends to shift the perspective from "this life is horrible" to "even though I am facing some adversity now, I am incredibly privileged to be alive". Gratitude journaling can be uncomfortable at first. If gratitude is not something you actively practice, it can feel like there is nothing in life that is worth gratitude. Keep going. Keep writing. The first month of my gratitude journal I kept hearing my self-editor say how stupid everything I wrote was. Turn up the volume on the gratitude and turn down the volume on the critic.
The evolution of my gratitude journal went from things like " I am grateful for this large coffee because I need the caffeine and I haven't slept and don't have a day off for the next 14 days" to " I am incredibly grateful for seeing Steph smile today because I know that our relationship, the way that we show up for each other, contributes to each other's happiness and well being".
No one comes out of this life unscathed. Each and every one of us will get hurt or let down or damaged. The battle scars we accumulate do not have to define us. They are a part of us, but we can choose to live from the pureness of our joy. By cultivating a balanced heart chakra, we can turn a hard and cruel world into a sanctuary
J O U R N A L I N G
- Close your eyes. Place your hands on your heart. Start to notice all of the thoughts and sensations that rise just from bringing attention to this place. Write down as many as you can remember.
- Do you feel worthy of love? Why or why not?
- What does joy mean to you?
- In what ways do you judge yourself? How can you offer forgiveness to yourself for being human?
- What are some small acts of kindness you can do without expecting or asking for anything in return?
- What are ways you can practice self care? How can you replenish your own well so that you can be there for others?
- What do you see as the greatest gift you can give or receive? What are tiny ways you can give this gift to the people you care about?
- Write down 10 things you are grateful for and why.
- Flip the script on situations of adversity. Take a challenging situation and write down what you have learned from it. Bonus points if you can pinpoint the ways in which it will soften your interactions with others.
- What does love and compassion mean to you?
Remember there are no stupid answers to the questions. As much as possible, out-write your critic. Go back, read what you have put down on the page and notice what your thoughts are when they aren't stifled by judgment. What comes up for you? Sometimes the best way for me to understand my relationship to my heart chakra is through movement. Later this week, I'll take you through a flow that will churn up these questions and more.