Love & Compassion: Anahata Chakra/ Heart
The color that is related to the heart chakra is a bright, vibrant green. It is said that the velocity in which these wheels of energy, the chakras, that swirl through everybody move at a specific speed that gives off a certain color. Each chakra does not actually have a physical color or shape but over time and tradition the colors associated with each chakra have been passed down along with other knowledge of folk’s experience working with them. Like when someone says they can see your aura, it might mean that they truly can see a certain color emanating from your body, maybe even one color specifically sticks out. While I am not one of these aura seeing people, I’d like to believe that there truly are folks who can see this energetic field and colors brighten their world. And in some sense, this is my experience. Like when I see yellow, an association of brightness, lightness, sunshine, or lemons or when I see green I think grass, moss, ferns, nature; I think Mother Earth. And when I think mother, I think love. I think the kind of love that is deep and natural and sometimes ugly. I think of a warm embrace and chicken noodle soup and sprite when I am sick. The heart chakra, or in Sanskrit, Anahata, governs love, our ability to be in relation, to be empathetic and compassionate not only to others, but ourselves as well. Air is the element of the heart chakra keeping things light and spacious when balanced.
I’ve thought of the heart chakra as this space where little meetings take place between different parts of yourself and sometimes others. When faced with a problem, your mind lets different parts of you share in dialogue and the version that wins shows victory through your decisions, actions, and words. In teaching about this chakra I offer a writing exercise found in Anodea Judith’s book, Eastern Body Western Mind, that encourages bonding between unintegrated parts of yourself. You start by listing different parts of yourself (critic, goofball, adventurer, inner child, workaholic, etc.) and then check in with how these parts interact with one another. You can continue with the writing by adding a dialogue between two parts of yourself that seem to be at odds and explore that conversation. The goal is to keep writing until there is some kind of resolution, some sort of understanding. In my own writing I found this to be a very humbling practice of self-compassion. In resolution, I recognized that all parts of myself are welcome. In her book, The Yamas & Niyamas, Deborah Adele says, “We learn compassion when we stop trying to change ourselves and others and choose instead to soften the boundaries that keep us separated from what we don’t understand.”
If we can’t build an attitude of love and compassion towards ourselves, it is easy to look outward towards others for blame, fixing, or the love that we lack. Starting a practice of compassion for yourself is the path towards a place where compassion towards others becomes natural and generous and visa versa. Being at home more often with my partner, Ethan, during the pandemic has taught me a great deal about the heart chakra and my ability to soften boundaries of my strict expectations of myself and, in turn, Ethan as well. For example, I’ve been working on perfectionism and my unhealthy relationship to it. Perfectionist is one side of myself that I have battled for years. When it gets the best of me I see myself drifting into a mentality that expects this high level of productivity and flawlessness that gravitates outward towards Ethan too. Instead of getting upset with Ethan for his imperfections, I have put an effort into embracing the perfectionist part of me for what it’s worth and letting my spontaneous side of me set limitations on it. Like setting due dates or time limits for pieces of writing I am working on and being done with them when the date comes; letting go of needing every word, phrase, and transition to be perfect. By softening my tight grip on how I think things should be, I have been able to be present, open to surprises, and truly enjoy more moments of my life. I’ve been able to relate from my wholeness instead of separation.
Anodea Judith says, “To heal the heart is to reunite mind and body, the mystical and the mundane, self and other into an integrated whole.” When you can see yourself in others, compassion gets a whole lot easier. When inner complexity is acknowledged, accepted, and explored there’s more graciousness that moves through our interactions with others; previously severed connections can be bridged. The lightness that arises in body, mind and spirit in these moments feel like a deep breath to me. Like expansion, release, and connection all in one. Balance in the chakras is said to be found in practices like awareness, breath work, yoga asanas, writing meditation, and changes to old patterns. Bringing awareness to breath filling the belly, lungs and chest and then fully exhaling to empty air from the lungs is a way to balance energy in the heart chakra. Welcoming the air element in and learning to let go at the same time; a gesture of open-heartedness. Here is a brief meditation and pranayama practice with the intention of balancing the heart chakra. I would recommend recording yourself reading this meditation and practice listening to the sound of your own voice as your guide. <3
Lie down where the chest can be spacious and open (seated or lying down can feel nice for this practice) Bring a gentle awareness to the chest, softening the chest cavity from the inside out. (pause for a few breaths) Bring a gentle awareness to the shoulders, softening at the shoulders from the inside out. Welcome in a soothing, melting sensation down both shoulders, like ice melting to water or water to gas. (pause for a few breaths)
Notice your breathing pattern just as it is. Is your breathing fast or slow? Rigid or fluid? Steady or jagged? What other qualities do you notice? (pause for a few breaths)
Start to imagine your torso in 3 separate sections; belly, lungs, and chest.
Take a long breath in filling up your belly, expanding your lungs and side ribs, and finishing your inhale by elevating & filling your chest, expanding in all directions. Pause at the top of your inhale. Slowly exhale and empty the chest, then the ribs/ lungs, and finally the belly. Letting go of all the air you took in, emptying the torso. Pause at the bottom on your exhale briefly. Allow your inhale to come naturally and start the slow 3 part inhale begin again. Pause briefly at the top of your inhale and exhale slowly, emptying each section one at a time.
(pause for 5-10 rounds of slow breaths)
Let the movement of your breath and the softening of the heart space spread throughout the rest of your body enveloping you in loving awareness. Gently ease into a more natural breathing pattern and flutter your eyes open if they were closed.
Notice the effects of your practice for a few moments.