Since the emergence of "yoga studios" and public yoga class offerings in the early 70's yoga has slowly but surely come from obscurity, past main stream, to center stage, to what's hot, hip, cool, and oh by the way, an ancient spiritual practice! I've been teaching public yoga classes since the 90's, placing me in the third generation of American yoga teachers. It's been a wild ride being immersed in the throes of yoga's awkward growth spurt from relative obscurity in the 90s to saturation in the 2000s and now verging on over-kill in the 2010s. Amidst the power brands, fast and flowy glows, yoga clubs, clicks and tribes, something sweet, cute and sort of peculiar is materializing: heart-felt zeal. Heart chakra colloquy abounds on yoga blogs, studio slogans, workshop adverts, and yogis’ Facebook posts. In truth, I am in full agreement, sporting a bumper sticker on my VW love bug that says, "I love love" illustrated with the letter "I" followed by two hearts. However, this seemingly wholesome message is now being used to sell yoga merchandise and the iconographic heart symbol is fashioned into the logos of entrepreneurs. As the amorous declarations abound I am beginning to wonder that if all the lovey-buzz is indeed wholesomely heart felt, would it be necessary to constantly and copiously expound upon it? Is this trend actually stemming from some deeper feeling of need for love, recognizing it's universal appeal and the utter truth of who and what we are, yet some how feeling out of touch? Does the very fact that the idea is being displayed ad nauseum somehow indicate that it’s not really being felt but the desire to feel it is there?
My sense is that there is a deeper well to be dug. The vast chronicles of wisdom teachings of Yoga, Taoism, and other traditions suggest that the bright, balanced energy of the heart center, burning unconditional love, is supported by the stable ground of more earthy energy centers. Various traditions have different theories on how many energy centers run along the spine and thru the body, from 3 to 7 to 12 or more. The powers of the belly/abdomen in the eastern view hold the potential for one to feel stable, safe, allowed, welcome, able, adaptable, individualized, met, nourished, and basically, inherently good. The suggestion is these qualities must be present before love (of self and other) and inclusion can be fully developed in a healthy balanced way. It is knowing this basic goodness and the ability to stand in one’s safe self-expression (as the yogic belly chakra/2nd chakra is called svadhisthana, “to stand in one’s self”), that allows the heart to open to give and receive love unconditionally. In eastern Asian traditions this part of the body is called "hara" or "dan tien", meaning "elixir field", "sea of chi", or "the golden stove pipe". The belly is where it all begins and where it is ultimately held in truth and continuity! We gotta get down in there! ...then flow up and out.
Basic goodness is something we are born with, it’s our original seat. The open, soft, free and beautiful vibe of a baby is universally undeniable: the sweetness of their eyes, the purity of their smiles and innocence of their cooing attracts grown-ups to a new-born like bees to pollen. The ground of our being is established in open, basic primordeal goodness. It’s only when for whatever reason our emotional needs are not met by those we are interacting with that we begin to withdraw from this innate perfection. Early, somewhere along our childhood journey we were led to believe that it was not ok to feel...something. Some particular need (to cry, to be held, to be seen, to be played with, to be praised, to be redirected) was not tended to. To our callow brains this feeling of being unmet, and the pain/heartbreak that came with it, was interpreted to mean that some how we were not OK! From that point on we learned to turn away from those feelings that were unmet and caused us to mistakingly feel inadequate. It unfortunately becomes a learned behavior, to turn away from our inherent goodness and openness, as this is where the pain of not being met happened. At the time of our youth we not only didn’t know how to deal with not being met, we didn’t know there were other options besides turning away from the pain of it! Not knowing or remembering our basic goodness becomes a wound in our adult life; a repeated injury every time we turn away from the pain of it. Turning outward now to find acceptance, to be met, exacerbates the original wound of having to turn away from the pain in the first place. All the subtle body wants/needs now is to sit down in itself and feel the basic goodness. Perhaps it’s such that our precious human condition of innate goodness and clarity must be clouded at some point along our journey, invoking us to ponder the essence of our broken heart. This invocation starts the journey inward to ultimate Self-discovery, self-healing and self-love! To quote a spiritual leader in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Chogyum Trungpa, “One of the biggest problems in the world today is people don’t know how to feel themselves properly.”
In my life lately, turning toward the feeling body has exposed strengths and acceptance within my being that while appear to be new tools for navigating this life, feel ancient, timeless and true. The simple act of drawing the energy (aka Prana, Chi) down from the “blah, blah, blah” of the head, past the expansive, expressive power of the heart, down into the belly and feeling with my subtle body what is there is grounding and nourishing. The energy there doesn’t lie: it’s pure feeling, before concept or discourse. It’s like immersing myself in a stream....sometimes slow, fresh and warm, other times fast moving, and challenging. However, if I stay the course, keep moving downward, earthward, I can feel the groundless ground of innate wholesomeness. I can meet myself there! I can be met in whatever I am feeling, being both the parent and child, the healer and the hurt, the love and beloved. We can all feel met there ourselves, and know that no amount of striving, self-proclaiming, or propping up of identities will change our inherent state of goodness and love! When I am operating in the world from the feeling of basic goodness, I feel grounded in love, inherently held, open-hearted, and expressive of that love. I can feel the universal goodness of all beings, even ones who may behave nasty towards me or threaten me. I can stand under the truth of connectivity and still feel the spectrum of human emotion without identifying with any of it.
The potential to embody this basic goodness is universal. It is my wish for all beings to know their basic goodness, to know the Self knowing love. This (d)evolution back to the belly just might be the earthward momentum that could spur the head-in-the-clouds and heart-on-a-string yoga scene back to the basics of union with Self, so that ultimately we can be in union with life as it unfolds, moment by blissful, painful, delightful, uncomfortable, undeniable moment.