Mindfulness is the practice intentional, non-judgmental awareness. When in meditation, we practice by bringing awareness to the breath, the sound-scape, or, in my case, I often focus on the color display that I see as I meditate. When I become aware that my mind has wandered, I return my awareness to the gentle bursts of indigo blue, purple, or magenta unfolding before my closed eyes. The wandering mind is the friend of the meditator because it allows us to notice that our mind has wandered, and to return our attention to the point of awareness.
This activity of wandering, noticing, and returning builds a stronger, healthier brain. This is the activity that creates brain differences in meditators found in all the neurological research being done with those who meditate.
We can bring this same practice of awareness to what is happening in our bodies. When we begin to take notice of what we are feeling in our bodies, we get a lot of helpful information. I’m not thinking here of, “my knee hurts.” Although that gives us a certain kind of helpful information. I’m more interested in what happens when we bring our awareness to the chakra system and the information it is constantly sending to us, if we will bring our awareness to gather the information.
The chakras are not simply a bunch of woo-woo stuff that the new age community likes to talk about. There is actually some science attached to this. These centers run through the middle of our bodies, a central energetic core, if you will. The third and fourth chakras, the belly and the heart-space, have the largest nerve networks in our bodies outside of the brain. We are truly wired to sense through these energy centers. This is ancient wisdom, recognized in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
I’ll write more about each chakra in upcoming posts. For now, here are some brief descriptions.
The first chakra is the root. Located at the base of the pelvic floor, it deals with material needs, like a foundation. Are we safe? Do we have a community? Enough to eat? Shelter?
The second chakra is the sacral chakra. Located in the pelvic area, this deals with money, creativity, relationships, sexuality.
The third chakra is the solar plexus. It is in the belly and relates to the ego, personality, and self-esteem. I like to say that this is where our sense of self sits.
The fourth chakra is the heart chakra. It is the center of love, forgiveness, and compassion.
The fifth chakra is the throat. Think of this as the “voice.” It is related to the will, self-expression, and personal power.
The sixth chakra is the third eye, located just above and centered between the eyebrows. This is the seat of wisdom and intuition.
The seventh chakra is the crown. It is located at the crown of the head and is the divine connection. Often when in meditation the crown of my head is tingling. Once when I was praying for my son he texted me to ask if I was praying for him because the crown of his head was tingling while he was studying.
I strongly believe that we receive powerful guidance through our chakras. The western way of being is all up in the mind, particularly the analytical left brain. We have to figure things out. Most of our decisions are based on mental evaluation. But I strongly believe that our body never lies to us, that its guidance is clear, and that if we lived from that guidance we would have greater abundance in every area of our lives and more peace.
We have to listen to our bodies to glean that wisdom found there. You’ve heard of “going with your gut.” Or you’ve heard people say, “I just knew in my heart.” They are talking about third and fourth chakra guidance.
A few years ago I was planning to go to nursing school. I’d been accepted into Belmont University’s program, done all the prerequisites, and went to the day-long orientation. Well, through the whole orientation, my stomach just felt in a swirl. I’m not talking here about an actual digestive upset. Rather it was a subtler feeling, a “churning” that was my body’s way of letting me know that I was on the wrong path. I’d been making the decision completely from my head, that day my body caught my attention. This was a different sensation from fear, which I primarily experience in a constriction in my heart-space. This was in my third chakra, my sense of self, telling me that nursing school is not “me.”
Consider for yourself times when you have said “yes” to something you really wanted to say, “No” to. How did your stomach area feel?
The heart is our guide to love. When our heart space is open and humming along, we are feeling happy and have a flow of love in the fourth chakra. Fear, being the opposite of love, sits in the heart-space. Think back to a time when you were afraid and recall the constriction you felt in the fourth chakra. Now think of someone you love, freely. The heart feels open and warm.
Happiness and satisfaction can join as we feel a warmth creep up through our third chakra and into our heart.
The practice of awareness of these two vital chakras can give us great guidance, just as it did the day I decided to not go to nursing school.
This awareness can be beneficial in many ways. When we are struggling, this type of awareness can guide us, even when we are having heavy feelings. A friend of mine is going through some changes in her relationship with her mother. Patterns are changing and my friend is making strong choices on her own behalf. But this is hard work and my friend is very uncomfortable. She wants to feel better, which takes time in these circumstances. These are the times when we can use food, alcohol, shopping, etc., to feel differently. And she noticed yesterday an impulse to shoplift. She didn’t do it, of course, but because she has the ability to bring awareness, she can tune into her gut and her heart and ask herself, “what am I really feeling and what is THAT about?”
This takes practice. Meditation practice trains the brain to tune-in. We can take that ability to bring awareness to our bodies to guide us in both small and large decisions in our lives.
When have you been guided by your gut or heart? When have you ignored this guidance?
© 2015 Janet Tuck