As I learned more about the Chakra system, the one that I feel I struggle with most is the Heart Chakra. The Heart Chakra is related on a physical level to the upper back, chest and shoulders. Emotionally, it’s considered to be related to universal love, the ability to feel compassion for others. Well, since I was young, I’ve slouched. I blamed it on being practically at my full height when I was about 11, but I was also a shy, introverted kid, and put the two together and you have a definite sloucher.
But I also was perplexed by this idea of “love”. “Love” is a complicated word, and one that often is used to define the Heart Chakra. I understand the idea of the love we feel for our children, our partners, our friends and family. I also love cheesecake. But what exactly does it mean to extend that feeling past the boundaries of our inner circle? I mean, I may be kind and chat with the person who hands me my Americano at Starbucks, but it’s a stretch to say I “love” them.
Recently, I read the book “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown, and felt I had a Helen Keller moment. You know, that moment when Anne Sullivan is holding Helen’s hand under a stream of running water from the pump, signing W-A-T-E-R into her other hand? Suddenly, Helen freezes, and that is the moment she understands that those motions into her hand are not just cues, but communication? Well, I had my Helen Keller moment. For me, the universal “love” that is inherently the Heart Chakra is really about “connection”.
In her book, Brené says, “After fifteen years of social work education, I was sure of one thing: connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, something about whose are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”
I bet if we really look at the decisions we’ve made in life, from where to go to college, to who to marry, to where to work, and where to live, the motivation of finding meaningful connections drives a pretty high percentage of those decisions. And, it’s also possible, that the fear of losing a connection, and feeling that pain, motivates many of our choices, and mistakes.
As Brené so eloquently says, “Emotions can feel terrible, even physically overwhelming. We can feel exposed, at risk, and uncertain in the midst of emotion. Our instinct is to run from pain. In fact, most of us were never taught how to hold discomfort, sit with it, or communicate it, only how to discharge or dump it, to to pretend that it’s not happening. If you combine that with the instinctual avoidance of pain, it’s easy to understand why off-loading becomes a habit. Both nature and nurture lead us to off load emotion and discomfort, often onto other people. The irony is that at the exact same time that we are creating distance between ourselves and the people around us by off loading onto others, we’re craving deeper emotions connection and richer emotional lives.”
If I replace the word “love” with “meaningful connections” when taking about the Heart Chakra, it feels clearer to me. I don’t believe its a dumbed down version; just one that takes out the ambiguity of the word “love”, which has many different and often conflicted meanings for people. But, we generally are more clear about our need for connection; what defines a meaningful connection, and what is simply a people-to-people connection. The connections we make with others forms the web that holds our society together; when those connections are broken, the strength of the web suffers.
In class last week, we thought about conflicts we may be having, and how they might stem from someone expressing, often in an ungraceful way, a need for connection. It can be difficult to hold space for someone when they are bidding for connection with us in a way that feels pushy, angry or accusing. Just like walking in the door from a hard day of work, and being assaulted by a jumping, squealing, lonely dog (my issue), a bid for connection can be uncomfortable. Yet, sometimes I find myself being the jumping, squealing, lonely dog! If we can step back and ask … is this conflict really a request to be seen? we may be able to head off larger conflict.
We might also observe our choices. In this decision, how much is my need for connection factoring in? Is that appropriate? Is this good for me in the long run?
The need to be truly heard and seen is an inherent need we all have. I believe this need resides in the Heart Chakra of all of us.