This week’s spotlight is on the fourth or Heart Chakra — our emotional center. The awesome power to transform our lives and our world, through the energy of the heart, remains largely untapped for many of us. But it need not be.
Need catching up? Visit any of these previous entries in The Rainbow Within Chakra Series:
Questions to ponder regarding the Heart Chakra:
- What emotional memories do you still need to heal?
- What relationships need healing?
- What fears do you have about being emotionally healthy?
- Whom do you need to forgive, and what prevents you from releasing the pain you associate with these individuals?
The Heart Chakra is the home of unconditional love. It becomes imbalanced when we are unable to forgive, when we hold resentment.
Emotional and mental indicators of a heart chakra imbalance
- Resentment and bitterness
- Grief and anger
- Over protectiveness of self
- Issues with hope and trust
Physical symptoms associated with heart chakra imbalance
- Heart problems
- Lung problems, like cancer or pneumonia
- Upper back and shoulder problems
- Breast cancer
Traits of the heart chakra
- The color is green. A luscious, verdant green embodying the love of Mother Nature.
- The element is air. This chakra is airy and light, and has the energy of movement and transformation.
- The seed sound is “YUM” This is mentioned for those who meditate. This would be an appropriate chanting phoneme, since sound is a powerful primeval force.
- The verb is “I love.”
- The sense is touch.
- The associated endocrine gland is the thymus, located in the center of the chest.
- The Heart Chakra has to do with your ability to give and receive love.
- Christian Sacrament: Marriage. Honoring the need to love and care for yourself so that you can fully love another and enter into true partnership.
- Jewish Sefirot: Tif’eret. The energy of compassion, harmony and beauty.
- Healing thought: Love is Divine Power.
The Heart Chakra holds victim patterns. Caroline Myss, PhD, talks in her book, Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, about “leading with your wounds.” In a nutshell, it’s about how our hurts actually benefit us in some way. So we hang onto these hurts fiercely, even as they destroy us.
Here’s a personal example. I grew up with severe asthma. I learned pretty early on (albeit at a subconscious level) that this condition got me things and got me out of things. It got me Mom’s attention, Teacher’s attention, special handling. It got me out of vacuuming at home and out of doing the 600 yard dash in gym class. While it also brought me allergy tests and shots, asthma became part of my identity. After 2+ decades of being asthmatic, I did not know how to be otherwise.
At the end of a year in Japan during my late 20s, I returned to the States with pneumonia. Follow up care revealed places in my right lung that were damaged by an allergic reaction to mold. I was back in a dry climate, but the problems persisted. It was time to deal with this illness on a more conscious level.
Enter Ethel, a modern-day mystic. Ethel was leaving her job as program director at an adult learning network, and I was hired to replace her. During the time that she trained me in my new job (and in so much more), I began to see another way of dealing with illness and old wounds.
There’s more to the story, but for now I’ll just say that I began to release my need to cling to “my” asthma. I became aware of times when lung problems worked FOR me. Like when I was dismissed from duties (“Your sisters will rake the leaves. We don’t want you to wheeze.”) or when I got attention (“Boyfriend, I need you! I can’t breathe you must give me some TLC!”). I began to see that there were other, healthier ways that I could get my emotional needs met, if I were to simply be conscious of what I was really after.
(To head off any misunderstanding: I am NOT saying that I was faking symptoms to get attention. Asthma was a real medical condition, like many others. But I believe such real medical conditions can also be treated energetically and consciously.)
This didn’t happen in an instant, it wasn’t easy, and it’s an ongoing process. It means releasing victim patterns I’d carried my entire life. It means parting with a segment of my identity. It means being honest with myself from moment to moment. It means giving up the perks that come with my wounds. It means change, and it takes time.
Tapping into the transforming energy of your Heart Chakra. Here’s a powerful practice that uses the transformative energy of the heart. It is called tonglen, a Tibetan word meaning “taking and giving.” Practiced mystics will do this on behalf of all humanity, but I see no problem with starting small. Use it to heal yourself.
Pema Chodron says, “Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we being to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality.”
1. Get yourself into a meditative state. This can be done while sitting, while lying down, while hiking in nature, while walking (have a labyrinth nearby?) , or while creating art or music or dance. Do what allows you to lose yourself.
2. First become aware of your breathing for a few moments. Follow your breath in and out of your lungs.
3. Tonglen breathing has three parts for each breath:
- Inhales: imagine you are breathing in all the suffering there is from this condition (infertility, the loss of a child, or cancer, for example). Allow this suffering to open your heart further and awaken your compassion for all who deal with it. Ask God, Jesus, your spirit guides or whomever to bless all the suffering that you accept into your heart. This is the opposite of the avoidance of pain — it requires the welcoming of it.
- At the top of the breath, pause for just a moment to allow your heart to shift and transform the yuckiness it holds. Hold the intention to do so.
- Exhales: imagine the suffering energy being cleansed and transformed by your heart and sent from your lungs back to the world. Only now what was dark is now light, what was gunky is now clear. Envision this metamorphosis, as performed by your open and aware Heart Chakra. You willingly take in suffering, transform and release it, and joyfully send out compassion and healing. Keep up the three-part breathing, mindfully. Fill up your room, your home, your neighborhood with this magnificently pure, love energy.
4. Flow and transform for 5, 10, 20 minutes. No hard rules — just do it as long as you can stay focused on bringing in the “bad” and sending out the “good.” Don’t worry about doing this right. Make the practice yours and play with your heart’s own transforming power.
5. Pat yourself on the back for setting aside some time to be conscious and still.
Why Forgiveness is good for your heart
I’ll close with this quote from my journaling calendar that attests to the self-interest in the act of forgiving:
“You must forgive those who hurt you, even if whatever they did to you is unforgivable in your mind. You will forgive them not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you don’t want to suffer and hurt yourself every time you remember what they did to you.” —Don Miguel Ruiz
This post researched, in part, from Anatomy of the Spirit , by Caroline Myss, PhD.
The paintings for this series were created by Lisa Brown-Olsen. Her work is featured at Maitri Yoga.