“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
This week we are looking at the concept of hridaya- or the true heart. Hridaya comes from the roots of hri (give) and da (take) which beautifully explains the power of the heart both anatomically and metaphorically. With the world burning down (literally) crawling into the cave of our hearts is essential, and in order to make it through the fog we need to slow down and restore balance. We are seeing widespread mental health repercussions from isolation, the stress of uncertainty, job loss and general malaise leading to unhealthy eating and movement patterns that can all culminate in decreased heart health and overall health. With so much heart break and uncertainty, it seems our true hearts are shriveling like the Grinch… so what can we do about it?
First, let’s look at the anatomy of the heart. The heart has four chambers, two on the right and two on the left. The right side of your heart receives oxygen-poor blood from your veins and pumps it to your lungs, where it picks up oxygen and gets rid of carbon dioxide. The left side of your heart receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it through your arteries to the rest of your body.
The heart, as discussed with Shannon K in this week’s podcast episode (linked below), is a pump. A pump is something that in order to work functionally must receive energy to give energy.
In summary, it gives and it takes. Dive more into the anatomy with our beloved 300 hour instructor Shannon Kuhn in this week’s podcast episode:
Now, let’s look at the subtle anatomy of the heart. If examining the heart through the lens of the 7 chakra system (the heart here is known as anahata- the unstruck cord) the heart serves as the bridge between the matter self (3 lower chakras) and the higher consciousness Self (the upper 3 chakras). As the bridge, the heart is the space where the matter self and the higher consciousness Self meet in order to create balance and stability through the system. Not unlike the physical anatomy of the heart, this center is a space of exchange between give and take, earth and sky, feeling/thinking and action.
Finally, let’s look at the metaphorical space of the heart. The heart is often the center where we store our deepest hopes, dreams, fears, etc. as well as the place that we give unrelentingly from. The heart is where Hanuman takes his gravity defying leap from- the heart of deep devotion and unwaivering faith. The heart represents love and lust, heartache and devotion, it is the epicenter for our deepest feelings, and is romanticized time and again as the space we call and come home to.
So where does that leave us in the midst of a pandemic, global environmental crisis, economic crisis and on and on and on? It’s finding the balance of the true heart and letting it guide us between earth and sky, fear and love, feeling and action.
This week, take an audit first- what are you receiving? What inputs are you taking in? Start from the basic building blocks of nutrition (for example: are you eating nourishing food or food that leave you feeling depleted?). Are you drinking enough water? Are you receiving rest and moments of stillness? Are you doing things for your strict pleasure of them? What’s the level of your media consumption? Is it causing too much stress and strain on your heart, or do you feel you need to be engaged more? Are you taking in enough social interaction (in whatever way is safe and appropriate) for your heart to feel fed? How are you receiving love from those in your life (furry creatures, trees and people all count). Are you listening as much as you are talking?
Next, take an audit of what you are giving… Are you putting out a little sweat and moving your body- even for 5 minutes- every day? Are you reaching out to folks you know are struggling? Are you giving back to organizations or causes you believe in (financially, time wise, energetically?). Are you giving back to the earth by planting seeds, composting, recycling, etc.? Are you sharing as much as you are listening? Are you showing up for those in your life by responding to their messages (when appropriate) being present when asked, etc.
Write out these lists/ journal on these thoughts and then do an audit of both. Are your inputs greater, less than or equal to your outputs? There is no right answer, and everyone’s balance in any given point of your life will look differently, however working towards balance is the goal. Perhaps you’re feeling a little bit more tamasic (entropic, slow, sluggish) and need some motivation. Perhaps reaching out to a friend or investing time into a cause might help give you some motivation. Perhaps you’re feeling more rajasic (stressed, anxious, always on edge) and need to cool off a bit. Perhaps some quiet time, gentle movement or time in nature would be a welcome break. Take the time to do this audit and then sit for a moment. Listen to the cave of your heart. What is it telling you? Where do you feel an imbalance that you can correct by renegotiating the balance between your inputs and your outputs?
This week, let’s dive into hridaya- the true heart. As we join together on our mats, let’s explore what balance might look like now and how we can optimize the anatomical, energetic and metaphorical heart that helps bring guidance and clarity to us all.