June 4, 2013

Center Yourself.

Whether you call it hara, core, or mula bandha, it’s time to get centered.

I find when I tell folks I am going to the Shambhala Center here in Madison for a program—to teach, to study or simply to meditate, that I say, most often: “I am going to the center.”

Only yesterday, in thinking about this post, which I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, did I realize the potency of that statement. The Center.  I am announcing that I am going inwards.

Center is not a place; center is a state.

An opening in your body/mind.

Engaging the mula bandha is probably one of the most important lessons I have gotten from practicing yoga over the years. At first, I thought it was the same as “core strength” and saw it as an althetic thing to build up.

A student/friend of mine told me to imagine a line connecting my perineum and my belly button. The idea, she said, is simply to feel that connection.

Aha. The one area of my body I hate the most, front and back: my lower belly, my abdomen.

That hatred, that wish to disengage, is my center.

Thinking about it brings attention to my sex and to my body issues—weight, shape, etc.

Engaging with it brings sensation to those places—which is even more intense.

Realizing its power means understanding how much I have shut off from myself.

The Taoist teachings on the hara sometimes help when yoga feels too direct. Intuitively, we know we need more centering, but let’s face it: we don’t do it because we are scared.

Of what?

Returning to running recently, the Sakyong’s book Running With the Mind of Meditation has been quite helpful for me.

Running is a rage-releaser, a lung-washer, a spare-energy-consumer. But if I do it in an off-center way, it’s also an easy way to get injured.

Sakyong Mipham discusses the importance of visualizing a connection from the bottom of your feet, up through what is often called hara or mula bandha, up the chest and into the neck and head. Knowing that when we run, we are always connected to our core is very helpful: it aids posture, aids energy use, helps mind and keeps body from as much injury. This visualization stretches the core of ourselves out from physical center into even our limbs.

Center isn’t a place, it’s a state.

We are afraid of that energy, of that state. We are afraid of what will happen when we engage with it, dance with it—run, do yoga, have sex, live with it.

But lest we think it’s doing nothing when we ignore it, it isn’t.

When we are not centered in our centers, they spill.

We make physical “Freudian slips,” we get clumsy in seemingly-unrelated zones of our bodies—but it always comes back to center.

It turns out that 95% of the Serotonin receptors in our entire body are in our stomach.

Now you know for sure that centering isn’t just about mind, as something separate from body.

Core strength isn’t just about exercise.

Hara isn’t just a way to become more hardcore.

Feel your center and you feel it all.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: via Dan on Pinterest}


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