top of page
  • Writer's pictureRev. Ani

Crafting the Life You Want (part two)

Updated: Apr 15

Musings of an Alonester



Chakra One: Attuning to the Physical and Self-Preservation


When my husband died, the floor dropped out from beneath me. I felt untethered, without a sense of home. He had been my home, and our union was the foundation for all that gave meaning to my life. I didn’t know who I was without him. That is not to say that I didn’t have a separate identity, but rather that all the work that I did in the world was grown from the fertile ground of his love for me and his positive mirroring. Our daily rituals, simple and yet extraordinary in their beauty, anchored my life to a holy rhythm that made no sense when performed by only one of us.


The first chakra relates to one’s sense of grounding and having a reliable and hospitable field in which roots can dig deep. It also involves our right to be here and occupy space. After the death of my husband, I experienced a pervasive and nebulous notion that occupying space didn’t make sense. I didn’t want to be alive, but I didn’t want to kill myself. Having the desire to be here was not something I knew how to foster.


Eventually it happened on its own — and gradually — as I rested in present moment awareness and gratitude. I had to run, like Forrest Gump, before I could identify and claim my home. This running took the form of a solo, four-month RV adventure that led me from my house in Louisiana through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado up to Wyoming and Yellowstone; then back through Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas again.


When I was ready to go back to Louisiana, it happened in a flash. I had been feeling a motivation to return as an undercurrent of restlessness, and it reached critical mass when on a random Tuesday afternoon, I decided to pack up and hit the road. It was a relief to return to that physical location because I was finally open to building a new home.


Questions that Facilitate Attunement to the Physical and Self-Preservation

What do I need to feel physically safe? What do I need financially? How can I promote health in my body? What is my body telling me about my needs?


Establishing my safety measures meant that I would need a hospitable place to live, adequate provisions, a healthy body, and appropriate boundaries, according to my agency. Standing in my house, I felt a bursting forth of intuition that laid out the possibilities of crafting my own homey-home. Following that inspiration, I reduced my living area by closing off the front of the house, remodeled the guestroom to be my sleeping quarters (using reclaimed wood that my husband had collected and stored), had shutter blinds mounted in my new bedroom, had deadbolts placed in appropriate locations, and revamped the look of my living space to be more a reflection of me as an alonester. My husband and I had recently installed a security system in our house, so that was already in place. With these changes, I felt rooted and grounded, allowing me to relax my armoring and be still.


Along with establishing a secure home environment, I needed to address my finances. My mom died four and a half months after my husband, and I am the sole heir to the assets of each of them (except for mineral rights my husband owned prior to our marriage). Additionally, they both had life insurance policies designating me as the beneficiary. Finding myself in this extremely privileged, if not happy, situation, I paid off debt and created a budget. I am calculating my monthly expenses on an ongoing basis using an app that charts out the ratio of my income to expenses. This investigation is allowing me to determine how much I want/have to work to earn money.


Part of my agency also involves doing what I can to promote health in my body. This is not a new enterprise for me because from an early age, I began dedicating myself to exercise and mindful eating. This commitment evolved in large part from the fact that my dad and paternal grandmother were obese. I didn’t want to end up at the destination where it seemed that my genes would be leading me. So, I altered my course where I had power: in the way I approached food and by engaging in health-enhancing activity. For many years, I used my will to restrict food intake and sometimes purge with laxatives — the evidence of a false use of power. But through introspection and burgeoning awareness over time, I began to cultivate a healthy relationship with food, one that endures to this day.


Security needs affirmed, attuning to the body is also about recognizing that my body is an information processing center which is constantly relaying data to me. For example, the body has two cogent information processing centers, in addition to the brain. These are the heart-brain axis and the gut-brain axis.


The heart-brain axis is referred to as the cardiac nervous system. Three important facts about the cardiac nervous system are:


  1. It is a bi-directional system — the heart reports to the brain, and the brain reports to the heart.

  2. The heart’s electromagnetic field gives and receives information.

  3. The state of the heart affects cognitive and emotional wellbeing.


According to Rollin McCraty, executive vice president and director of research at the HeartMath Institute,

The heart is the most powerful source of electromagnetic energy in the human body, producing the largest rhythmic electromagnetic field of any of the body’s organs. The heart’s electrical field is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain. . . and can be detected up to 3 feet away from the body. . . Information about a person’s emotional state is encoded in the heart’s magnetic field and is communicated throughout the body and into the external environment. (McCraty, 2015)

One significant way that heart health and system adaptability are determined is by assessing heart rate variability (HRV), which is the difference in time between heartbeats. A greater variation in the space between beats reflects the body’s ability to adjust and respond to present moment circumstances. According to McCraty (2015), increased HRV is correlated with resilience and emotional regulation.


McCraty’s (2015) research has shown that heart coherence reflects a system’s optimal level of functioning. He and Zayas (2014) defined coherence as, “[the] experience of internal and external intra and interpersonal connectedness” (p. 1). Not surprisingly, decades of investigation by the HeartMath Institute have revealed that positive emotions facilitate coherence.


Traveling lower in the system, the gut-brain axis is referred to as the enteric nervous system. Three important facts about the enteric nervous system are:


  1. It is a bi-directional system: the gut reports to the brain, and the brain reports to the gut.

  2. The brain records and stores our gut feelings — somatic memories.

  3. The state of the gut affects cognitive and emotional wellbeing.

Interestingly, Emeran Mayer, M.D. (2016), founding director of the UCLA Brain Gut Microbiome Center and author of The Mind-Gut Connection, stated,

Emotions always have a mirror image in our gut.” (p. 50, Kindle edition)

Mayer further explained that the gut has more immune cells than either your bone marrow or your blood, meaning it has a fundamental role in the body’s immune response. Ninety-five percent of the body’s serotonin — the feel-good neurotransmitter — is provided by the gut; therefore, the health of the gut is important in mood regulation. And diversity in the microbiome (your resident bacteria) increases adaptability and resilience.


Considering all of this knowledge, some key takeaways for me in respecting my body’s information processing centers are:


1. My heart is always conversing with my environment, so honoring feelings of good and bad vibrations, so to speak, is valid.


2. Cultivating positive emotional states is good for me.


3. While I may not cognitively be aware of my stress level, my gut is constantly registering and reflecting my emotional responses. So, I can trust my gut!


How many times have some of us practiced only a top-down approach, ignoring the body’s signals of hunger, thirst, the need to move, or the need to eliminate in favor of completing one more task? On how many occasions have we received a pain alert from the body and chosen to discount it? Part of using the first chakra as a guide is enacting a commitment to acknowledge, honor, and trust my body’s messages and respond to them with care. Combined with addressing my sense of stability, financial security, and physical health, this commitment is providing the fertile soil for my roots to dig deep.


In part three of this series, I examine what it means to attune to emotions and self-gratification.


 

Dear friend,


May your mind be peaceful and calm,

may your body be relaxed and comfortable,

and may your heart be filled with love.

Thank you for reading.


Blessings and gratitude,

Ani


 

References


Mayer, E. A., & Burns, T. (2016). The mind-gut connection: How the hidden conversation within our bodies impacts our mood, our choices, and our overall health. New York: Harper Wave.


McCraty, R. (2015, November). Science of the heart, vol. 2. HeartMath Institute. https://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/


McCraty, R., & Zayas, M. A. (2014). Cardiac coherence, self-regulation, autonomic stability, and psychosocial well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(1090), 1–13. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01090

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Crafting the Life You Want (part three)

Musings of an Alonester https://www.danamanly.com/gallery-ii Chakra Two: Attuning to Emotions and Self-Gratification Historically, I have been out-of-touch with my emotions, seeing them as inconvenien

Comments


bottom of page