Chakra #4 – The Heart Center

The heart center, or Anahata in Sanskrit, lies in a line from dead center of the sternum to a point 3” below where the neck meets the shoulders in front of the spine. It is the center of giving and releasing in all senses of the word. In the same way that the solar plexus emphasizes a perspective focused on acquisition and possessiveness, this center embodies the opposite perspective focused on selflessness and giving. It embodies the highest values of what the compassionate portion of our culture strives to emulate and project, but please note that there is an ongoing battle with the naturally selfish instinct and perspective “residing” in the solar plexus which is still acquisitive and possessive in its orientation. We are still animals and responsive to our senses, yet, due to our evolving nature we occasionally find ourselves in the heart center mind set of giving. Whether this is at the desired “higher focus” encouraged by those who operate from this center or from the direct experiential enlightenment of those who attain that preponderant perspective, it is, nevertheless, still a quality of yielding, giving, releasing, “letting go” or any attitude that lightens our personal connection to the material world.

As perceived through sex, this center’s intensity of experience can range from blissful sharing all the way to the point of fierce abandon. The quality of selflessness allows for total openness in the experience. In it is a “loss of self.”

In “letting go” there is a word of caution needed. This quality can also be used as a vehicle for escaping or avoiding one’s responsibility for themselves. An individual may “let go” of much more than what is prudent for remaining a “responsible” adult. Additionally, those who espouse to “let go and let god” may also be shirking the necessary effort required for handling their own difficulties. In this light absolution can certainly be viewed by some as a convenient escape.

In light of the fact that the center before, the solar plexus, is self oriented, this “letting go” may also be seen in the light of looking for something greater than the self in spite of the fact that the initial motivation emanates from our natural instinct to search for advantage. This encouraged searching is also a fledgling product of our curiosity and urge to know. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1943) he describes this level as indicative of aesthetic needs and our desire to understand. The word aesthetic comes from the Greek aisthanesthai “to perceive (by the senses or by the mind), to feel.” The word understanding leads us to the 14th century Latin word comprehendere from com- “completely” + prehendere ”to catch hold of, seize, unite.” The implication is that we are seeking some sort of unity or common thread that connects us to a larger “meaning,” direction or purpose. This has given rise to aestheticism which has become an avenue for self exploration and meaning through art, music and activities imitating life in a way that we are able to see the common threads of our humanity. Beauty, after all, is our wonder in seeing the perfection of form as related to the matrix of our perceived reality.

This center is also considered to be equivalent of the “disappearance of difference” (Ruumet, 2006). In that light we can say that it is the center where competition, comparison, elitism and specialness are absent and that humility is encouraged for any person feeling idealized by others through being imbued with any “special” quality. Additionally, contemporary New Age spirituality suggests the “emptying” of oneself in order that the universe may fill the individual with what is needed for the evolution of the masses. Naturally, those who appear to be in need become the ready vessels for focused releasing and the vehicle for the individual’s anticipated enlightenment. Under these circumstances the perceived meaning of a need and its definition requires clarification along with its confusion and overlap with the meanings of wants and desires.

To look at the word need and necessity, one would assume that their meanings come from the same root. However, they don’t. Need comes from the 12th century Saxon word nied meaning “a necessity, compulsion or a duty.” The word necessity comes from the 14th century Latin word necessarius, composed of ne- "not" + -cedere meaning "to withdraw, go away.” To be unnecessary then translates to a desire (12th century Old French desirrer "wish, desire, long for”) and a want (11th century Old Norse vanta, "to be lacking"). The indispensable part seems to be mostly attached to a need. In this light I perceive the words need and necessity relating to the survival of the individual. I then see a desire or a want as the product of a real or imagined lack. They can be necessary or not, but that determination is specific to the individual’s own experience. This may seem like splitting hairs but the meanings of the words in our contemporary vernacular have become so distorted by time and differing influences that it has lead to radically different assumptions about their meanings. How words are interpreted depends on the varied history of who you speak with. Let’s move on to their application.

To neither want nor need anything from others we are essentially incoercible by them and, barring any external circumstances, are free to choose our life path of action to the fullest extent possible. For us to be susceptible to coercion designed by others there must be a need or want that others can use as a bargaining point for their coercion. To begin to understand the dynamics, let’s look at the difference between a need and a want.

A need is a requirement or something that we believe that we cannot do without. A want is described as a wish or a preference. A need would then hold much more potential for the individual wishing to manipulate someone. Generally accepted among needs are air, water, food and shelter. The result of the absence of air and water are easily understandable. These are things without which we will eventually die. However, there is, for example, a very large difference between eating raw vegetables or veal cordon bleu and living in a cave or a million dollar mansion. All these things can nourish and protect us but do so in varying degrees. The “style of life” that we are accustomed to usually determines how we differ in what we consider to be a want or a need. For example, someone who has never done without the million dollar mansion or veal cordon bleu would swear that they need these things for their survival. Yet, after going without these things and being forced to live in a cave on raw vegetables, they would come to realize that they need less than they thought they did because they have never lived through the challenge of doing so previously. They may now want or prefer these things but know that they are not necessary or required for their survival. In this way we can say that challenge is a catalyst for developing self confidence and self sufficiency. For most people, this is a common dynamic. Conversely, the person who has lived in a cave and eaten raw vegetables all their lives would never miss the mansion or the veal cordon bleu and would realize, after having them, that they might be pleasurable but that they really didn’t need them for their survival. They might also look at the person who thought they were needs with puzzlement.

So, the difference between need and want is generally the product of an individual’s perception, experience and how it is applied. This is true of both the one having the need or the want and the observer. The heart often misinterprets this difference simply due to the fact that they may have had little or no experience or understanding concerning the history of the individual appearing to have what they perceive as a need. The heart center individual is an easy target for those who are accustomed to coercing others to provide what they profess to need but in reality only want, so as not to have to exert any effort in attaining it. Others may really believe that they have a need or they may consciously coerce heart center individuals into becoming their providers even if they are fully capable of providing for themselves. In either case, the heart center individual often becomes the “gift that keeps on giving” unless they still retain a strong component of the solar plexus perspective or have an “understanding” that the throat center provides.

An important aspect of the seven chakra center matrix is that everyone has the potential to operate from all the centers in varying combinations and at varying times in their lives but that there is always a perspective that the individual is most consistent in thereby indicating which center the individual’s perspective on life primarily “resides.” While the centers operate in conjunction with each other, the individual’s immediate circumstance, assimilated experience and current outlook usually determines which one is dominant at any particular time. The most common combinations are those of any two centers “next” to each other indicating a potential position of growth for that individual. For example, if the individual is struggling with inclinations of being either giving or possessive, their current point of developing would reside between the heart center and solar plexus center. Generally, one center would be dominant depending on any given situation but the individual would oscillate between the two perspectives until one set of values or understandings gained a dominant foot hold empowering one center over the other. The laws of energy dictate that empowerment is accomplished by the consistent focusing of our attention. Energy always follows attention. So, whichever quality was most focused on would eventually become the dominant influence. Additionally, regressing from one center “down” to another may just as easily occur as moving “up,” especially, if the external pressure to do so is more powerful than their dedication to their “values” of the higher center. In this case, locus of control plays an extremely important part in terms of how they will respond to external influences.

It should also be noted that motivation toward action is much less visible to those operating from the “lower” or “materially oriented” centers. Those are the centers located below the heart center. Someone operating from the solar plexus center would have no understanding as to why the heart center person does what they do, especially, if their action was dictated by the throat center or higher. With the heart center being imbued with a lighter and more subtle capacity for awareness, the heart center person would have a broader perspective in their understanding of others due to the inclusive nature of selflessness, whereas, the solar plexus person would only see others as a reflection of their own needs and possessiveness. To a solar plexus center person, someone operating from the heart center may be seen as weak and impotent due to the yielding nature of the heart center and they would never understand why the heart center person didn’t “take” what they needed. To the solar plexus center person, any person that is internally focused or that does not appear to create external action toward their own advantage would be interpreted as having inherent weakness. However, just because someone doesn’t create external action from an internal motivation, we must not assume that they are directed by an internal locus of control.

The breadth of perspective for each center is separated by their ability to distinguish between different levels of subtle difference. One of the ways of exemplifying the differing subtleties between the centers is to look at the different states of water. An ice cube has a limited range in terms of movement and perspective. Whatever shape it is in is the only perspective that is available to it. Water in its liquid state is much more adaptable and can morph itself into different perspectives surrounding the ice cube from all sides and having three hundred and sixty degrees worth of vantage points. Water vapor has the variability of both but also possesses the ability to also permeate the other two adding another dimension. When we move from ice to liquid and then to gas, it is a similar change as we move from one center to the next in an ascending direction. Each center yields an extra dimension allowing a broader perspective than the one preceding it.

So, at this point we can say that the heart center, devoid of all other influences (if that is possible) is totally receptive, yielding, selfless and giving. It is mindless.  Any action taken in its interest will be directed by either the solar plexus or the throat center. It will also be important to know that the heart center is the pivotal point between the upper and the lower centers.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Maerz, John L., (2012). A Mile in Your Shoes: The Road to Self-Actualization Through Compassion. Port Charlotte, Florida. Lulu Publishers.

Additional References:

Maslow, A. H. (1943). “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Ruumet, Hillevi, PhD., (2006). Pathways of the Soul: Exploring the Human Journey. Trafford Pub., Victoria, BC, Canada. ISBN# 1412-092-361.