There are ancient techniques that describe the gentle coordination of belly, heart and head to make the self a peaceful place. In this short article, we discuss a modern approach to their use…
(1000 words; a five minute read)
The philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff rose to prominence in the first half of the last century. This enigmatic Armenian created a no-nonsense system of self development that incorporated the ancient wisdom of how to observe and balance belly, head and heart.
Modern schools of mystical self-development, like the Silent Eye, have carried on this work. Here, we present a simple technique for the balancing of ‘gut-reactions’, emotions and intellect; something of great value in these times of upheaval and shifting identities.
It’s relatively easy to locate these three ‘centres’ of self-activity in our physical makeup. The belly, or ‘gut’ can be thought of as centred in the stomach, a place we are all familiar with, if only through the needs of eating and the occasional upset through tension.
Even a few minutes of sending gentle kindness to this part of us may ease present tensions. Once discomfort is removed, continuing this may also being up associations of the gut with our instinctive reactions to life. These are there to protect us. They have been with us for a very long time.
There is a problem with how they fit into modern ‘civilisation, in that the fight or flight reaction they engender may, literally, have ‘nowhere to go’ in our modern lives, thus leading to a draining of our vital energies.
Test your own gut, now. Is your stomach in a knot? We may find we live that way most of the time. Awareness is everything in such self-discovery. When we are aware of this tension, we can, by continually returning to it for a few seconds of loving presence, reassure it that it need not maintain that tense vigilance. That makes it sound like we are dealing with a separate ‘being’ within ourselves… and, in many ways, this is true. These three powerful centres have a high degree of autonomy, designed to free up the composite ‘self’ and let it perform higher functions. We will return to what these might be, later in this article.
Now we move up our spine and come to the heart region. A simple question will suffice: are we feeling any love? Not just for our partner, if we are lucky enough to have one, but for others in our life and our care. How about pets? Those who have cats or dogs know the unconditional love which which they gaze up at us… That kind of feeling is a good one to take inwards at this stage.
We can easily bring that feeling into our heart centre. If it’s not already present, then we know that our regular life may be colder in this regard than we would like. With this awareness, bring love into your heart, now. Add it to the calm and now purposeful belly, letting each of these two centres be acknowledged and appreciated for the magnificent work they do for our ‘wholeness’.
Now we move up through the throat and neck into the head, the traditional seat of thought and the mind. The gut is associated with our instinctive powers. The heart has a vast potential for nurturing relationships, caring for others, and extending our actual presence out into a group of people… or even into the world. The heart can radiate kindness, and doesn’t need a target; it can just BE.
The head centre is slightly different. It has a complex role to fulfil. The brain filters our experience so that we are not overwhelmed by its intensity and the sheer volume of events. The mind learns what parts of that flow are connected, making pictures of concepts that can work for us like an army of sensing machines. Test your own head now… is it a mass of buzzing, whirling concerns? What might its other functions be?
One in particular is of the greatest value… and sadly, largely forgotten. The head centre allows us to remember ourselves. Gurdjieff called it ‘Self Remembering’, and stressed how essential it was to the truly balanced human.
At first, this sounds trivial. We react by saying, “Of course I know myself, I don’t need to remember it all the time!” But this is not the heart of the matter. In the constant exercise of filtering the world, we have forgotten what lies at its centre – our selves. We can never truly know the external world. But there is a place of calmness in the middle of that engine of perception, and when the attention is, gently and kindly, directed to it, the busy and noisy world drops away in the fascination and power of what we had forgotten…
Perhaps we can can try that now? We don’t have to enter a meditation, though that is perfect when we can. We simply have to remember the ‘me’ in the middle of the storm of our thoughts. When we do, we may feel the immediate engagement of the gut, as it wrestles itself into tension to protect us from all the demons that are associated with our ‘present’. Tell the gut that we are engaged in something higher, and that we will return to its vigilance in a moment. Let it melt, with a feeling of gold and the gentle colours of the sunrise…
Now return to the head and the self, again. Find the place that is simply you. Don’t judge or quantify it… just find it, and hold your loving gentleness on it. The spinning world is a reaction; a complex set of millions of responses to which we have granted a fixed reality.
The real world is not so. Its is inextricably linked to how and, in a mystical sense, where, we are…
The the journey of true reality begins with that self within. Find it again, and, this time let the heart centre engage with the feelings of green and pink, climbing like roses to embrace the head in a sea of calm attention, devoid of the noise and any sense of panic. Let the roots of that rose wrap around the tensions of the gut and, in the centre of the head, let the rose flower bloom, as our inner eye is lost in the rapture of its petals…and its fragrance and value.