Category Archives: Meditation

Heart Chakra: Divine Power Within You

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.

4th chakra

Need catching up? Visit any of these previous entries in The Rainbow Within Chakra Series:

1st: Root chakra
2nd: Sacral chakra
3rd: Solar plexus chakra
4th: Heart chakra
5th: Throat chakra
6th: Third-eye chakra
7th: Crown chakra

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 positioned just behind your heart. The fourth chakra is a place of balance, located halfway between three chakras that deal with the physical/earth (root, sacral, solar plexus) and the three chakras that deal with the spiritual/heaven (throat, third eye, crown).

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
  • Self-centeredness
  • Over protectiveness of self
  • Issues with hope and trust

Physical symptoms associated with heart chakra imbalance

  • Heart problems
  • Asthma/allergies
  • 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

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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, included with permission.

Presence

I wait in the clearing for them to join me. It is my celebration, after all.

The sun is shining, bathing the lea in a warm glow. There is an entire meadow of soft greenery for us to dig our toes into. Nothing sharp, nothing dangerous, nothing to mar our time together. There is just the slightest breeze. The sky is the most pleasant timeless blue imaginable.

The first to arrive is a girl about 8 years old. Her skin has a sage tint, the downshot of difficulties in breathing. She brings me worms, leftover from when she gathered a bunch for her sister’s birthday. For some reason she thought worms would make a good gift. She is a bundle of fears, although she is well-fed and well-loved. I just want to hold her while she breathes. I want to breathe for her.

Soon, the 17-year old comes upon us, all arms and legs and attitude. She is skittish, like a colt, just waiting to be hurt. It’s because Doug, her boyfriend, has just dumped her for the 4th time. Well, they’ve broken up 4 times, but she was the dumper at least once. I think about telling her there will be many more heartbreaks, and that she’ll have ample opportunity to be on both ends of them. Each one hurts, but when it’s all said and done, she’ll be thankful that she and Doug (and the many that follow him) parted. I’d tell her, but she wouldn’t believe me. She hands me her diary, the one she just started and intends to keep for the rest of her life.

The next young woman arrives in a black gown and mortarboard and with a gold cord dangling from collar to waist. You can feel the promise that fills her. She looks both ready to tackle and tame the world and also petrified of taking her next step. She will face rejection after rejection before she comes on a job with a meager paycheck that will fulfill her emotional, if not monetary, needs. She is planning a wedding, but is having thoughts of calling the whole thing off. The burden of this thought weighs down her shoulders. I whisper to her, “listen to your gut.” She looks at me hopefully and shows me the keys to her first apartment. Where she will live alone.

A very sad woman enters our circle. She’s in her 30s and she’s been crying, crying, crying. The losses she has endured have sucked the very life out of her. She has beautiful, glorious child-bearing hips, which are going to waste. Her dreams have evaporated. She feels alone (although, still well-loved) and without hope. We instinctively move toward her, trying to sense if she will allow us to comfort her. I barely recognize this woman — the toll has been so drastic. Can’t she see that this chapter, like all the others before, will end? Her hands hold only tissues full of tears.

The next woman to grace the clearing has graying hair, still long like I knew she would. She is weary — after all, she is raising teenagers. The one knows how to trip all her wires and the other is just growing up and away too quickly. She has a peace about her…the peace that comes from repeatedly being shown that this, too, shall pass. Her eyes pierce through me, chiding me for my petty complaints about the drains of childrearing. She has brought me a watch — one that ticks twice as fast as normal.

We turn to receive our final guest. She walks toward the west and is a few inches shorter than the rest of us grown women –still a head taller than the child. She is white-gray in hair, fissured of skin, and her eyes and lips have lost several shades of their original vibrancy. For all her physical feebleness, the corners of her mouth are upturned. Her eyes are kind, and she exudes patience. Like the sky above us, there is something timeless about her. She extends only her trembling hand, representative of the enduring body that houses her immortal spirit.

These are my Selves. They have come to honor the fact that I have been on the planet for another turn around the sun. They bring me their tokens and dreams and insights. I envelope them and am enveloped by them. One by one, I welcome each into my heart, accepting the gifts they have brought. I acknowledge the gift she is, she is, she is, she is, she is, she is.

I am.

Image: C Victor Posing Studios

Mandalas: I’m Not Too Old to Color

I brought an array of colored pens and a several pages of mandalas to our family reunion.

My parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews joined me in coloring one afternoon. I find it both fun and meditative.

While I do have some talents, I’ve never considered art among them. But still, I enjoy seeing a mandala pattern emerge right before my eyes.

Here are some of my mandalas. You can get your own blank copies here.