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  • Writer's pictureRev. Ani

Crafting the Life You Want (part five)

Musings of an Alonester


Chakra Four: Attuning to the Heart and Self-Acceptance


According to Judith (2011), “The heart chakra is the central integrating chamber of the chakra system” (p. 456). Therefore, the primary issue of this chakra is obtaining balance — between the higher and lower, the body and spirit, the masculine and feminine, self-compassion and compassion for others, and giving and receiving. The central theme of the heart chakra is love, and the fundamental invitations are self-acceptance and honoring our grief.


George Gurdjieff, a Russian spiritual seeker and teacher, synthesized his understanding of Eastern and Christian esoteric spiritual practices and presented them as The Fourth Way. In his teachings, he explicated the Law of Three, based on the work of German philosopher, G.W. Hegel. The Law of Three states that every manifestation is composed of three forces: affirming, denying, and reconciling; and these components describe aspects of relationship. Gurdjieff used the example of one’s initiative as the active force, one’s inertia as the negative component, and the introduction of novel information as an element that can neutralize the negative, thus compelling one forward.


Likewise, in considering the movements toward balance associated with the heart chakra, this relational dance may be described as unconditional love, conditional love, and reconciling love. When the heart is open, love is unconditional; but when anger, grief, self-loathing, or fear closes the heart, love becomes conditional. Reconciling love emerges when we enter a conscious relationship with ourselves, acknowledging the information being communicated by our bodies and preparing for creative expression.


Cultivating a loving relationship with myself involves choosing to behold myself with the eyes of love, to be my own sacred witness who validates and affirms my struggles and the rightness of my feelings, and to treat myself with the utmost of respect. An important part of this sacred witnessing is tending to my grief and giving myself space to process the flood of feelings as they arise. As I develop compassion for myself, I naturally am able to offer it to others. The practice of ministering to my own wounds allows me to re-enter the world as a safe place for other grieving souls to rest. This healthy self-attendance — or lack of it — forms the basis of my social identity.


Carl Rogers, humanistic psychologist, hypothesized that a necessary condition for individual growth and change is unconditional positive regard. Authors Gerald Jampolsky and Diane Cirincione spoke to this necessity in their inspiring book, Love is the Answer: Creating Positive Relationships. Jampolsky and Cirincione (1991) wrote,

The more we are able to love other people for whom they really are rather than asking them to change in order to become who we think they should be, the more we will see that we alone are responsible for the thoughts and feelings we experience in our relationships. (p. 157)

This statement, amended to reflect the personal self, seems to be the essential attitude necessary in fostering self-love. So, the revised version would read,

The more [I am] able to love [myself] for whom [I really am] rather than asking [myself] to change in order to become who [I] think [I] should be, the more [I] will see that [I] alone am responsible for the thoughts and feelings [I] experience in [my] relationship [with myself].

Powerful stuff, and I want this for myself.


The idea of our inherent goodness and lovability is prominent in various spiritual traditions. For example, in the Hebrew creation story, it is told that, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Likewise, Julian of Norwich, English mystic, discovered in her 14th century near-death experience, “God is everything that is good, and the goodness in everything is God” (2009, p. 19). This, then, is the invitation of the fourth chakra — to behold ourselves and call ourselves good.


In the Mundaka Upanishad of the Hindu tradition, it is written, “The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all. Seeing him in all creatures, the wise forget themselves in the service of all” (Easwaran, 2007, p. 190). And Christian mystic, Thomas Merton (1971) asserted, “Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name” (p. 60). To know oneself as love, means the recognition that all other beings are also made of this love.


Devotion is a practice that can facilitate the advent of reconciling love. The Latin root of the word devotion means to consecrate. In this light, devotion may be construed as an act of making sacred the object of one’s attention through love, awe, wonder, and even worship. Devotional practices do not change the manifest world; rather, engaging in them changes one’s relationship to objects, people, and events. The meaning of objects becomes how they are used in service to the divine or greater good. People are seen as holy and unique representations of the divine to be respected and honored, like Mother Teresa’s famous motto of recognizing Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. Likewise, events become opportunities to serve a higher purpose.


As well as devotion, the practice of gratitude enables the flowering of reconciling love. Simply pausing in the moment, placing my hands over my heart center, and remembering someone or something for which I am grateful can induce a state of peace for me. Practicing mindfulness throughout the day brings me into the present moment where recognizing the abundance of ordinary gifts can’t help but awaken gratitude.


Questions that Facilitate Attunement to the Heart and Self-Acceptance


What part of me needs my love right now? What would best awaken me to love?


In his ground-breaking book, Introduction to Internal Family Systems, Richard Schwartz wrote about the importance of acknowledging and honoring all the different parts of ourselves that have developed as a result of our lifetime of conditioning. Schwartz advised,

What do parts need in order to heal? . . . Generally, all that parts need to unburden — that is, to unload the extreme beliefs and emotions that keep them locked in rigid roles — is to believe that you fully understand what happened in the past when they acquired their burdens. In other words, they need you to compassionately witness a piece of your own history. (2023, pp. 137–138)

Deliberately listening to the different voices that are taking center stage in my mind helps me to objectively notice my own internal dynamics and inquire about their origin and the need each voice is representing.


The Jesuits have a process for contacting our parts called the Examen. While St. Ignatius did not construe this brief period of daily introspection as “contacting parts,” it can be a valuable resource in that endeavor. Current day Jesuits describe five steps in the examen:


· Become aware of God’s loving presence. (Center yourself and become mindfully present.)


· Review the day with gratitude.


· Pay attention to your emotions.


· Choose one feature of the day and pray with it. (With a curious mind, open heart, and relaxed body, ponder or examine recent activating/triggering events or special, inspiring moments.)


· Look toward tomorrow with intention.


This practice has been a cornerstone for preparing me to engage mindfully and intentionally with my life and to meet myself and others with empathy and compassion. Without it, I feel disempowered, like a puppet being manipulated by my emotions.

Inherent within this practice is tending to grief. Joyce Rupp, author of Praying Our Goodbyes: A Spiritual Companion Through Life’s Losses and Sorrows, explained,

Goodbyes are a part of every single day. Sometimes we choose them, and sometimes they choose us. . . What is a goodbye? It is an empty place in us. It is any situation in which there is some kind of loss, some incompleteness, when a space is created in us that cries out to be filled. Goodbyes are any of those times when we find ourselves without a someone or a something that has given our life meaning and value, when a dimension of our life seems to be out of place or unfulfilled.” (p. 10)

I’ve begun to conceive of the deaths of a dear friend, my brother-in-law, my husband, and my mom within a single year’s time as my entry into grief school. While I have suffered other significant losses during my life, having these events occur so close to one another and losing the physical presence of my husband have been game-changers in the way I view the world.


In choosing to engage in an intense program of study, such as entering university or a demanding training academy, one can expect that there will be sacrifices required and that although the journey will not always be pleasant, the reward in its participation and completion will be well worth the effort. Aided by my friend, Julie’s, insight, I like to think of life on this planet in an analogous way. What I mean is that it helps me to imagine what a gift this life is and that I might have chosen to manifest on the Earth with a general awareness of the trials that would be involved, yet fully embraced the opportunity to take advantage of this unique learning environment. In this way, experiencing and tending to my grief become essential and sacred parts of the curriculum.


Similarly, the auspicious wisdom of badass Teresa of Avila, whom I consider to be my patron saint (role model and advocate), has been a beacon of light when I am figuratively lost at sea. Teresa wrote,

Remember: if you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love.” (2003, p. 91)

Just hearing the phrase whatever best awakens you to love makes my heart smile. This is practical wisdom that can have an immediate impact on my mood and is easy to enact. From playing a song on the piano to going for a brief stroll outside, these simple gestures help me to reset and recenter as I connect to the love within me.


In part six of this series, I examine what it means to attune to the voice and self-expression.


 

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


Avila, T. O. (2003). The interior castle (M. Starr, Trans.). Riverhead Books.


Gurdjieff, G. I. (2021). In search of being: The fourth way to consciousness. Shambhala Publications.


Jampolsky, G. G., & Cirincione, D. V. (1991). Love is the answer: Creating positive relationships. Bantam.


Judith, A. (2011). Eastern body, western mind: Psychology and the chakra system as a path to the self. Celestial Arts.


Julian of Norwich. (2009). Revelations of divine love. (H.C. Halcyon & R. Pipe, Eds.). Hodder & Stoughton.


Schwartz, R. C. (2023). Introduction to internal family systems. Sounds True.

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1 Comment


adupre
Apr 25

What a beautiful, inspiring, and soul-nourishing piece. Thank you for this!!! I think the concept of being an alonester resonates in all of us. Your encouragement to embrace that with unconditional self love makes my soul sing. I'm so grateful to you for sharing your grief school experience as well as your boundless love, which is evident in all that you do. ❤️

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