The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chakra #4

Now we're at the heart space, which represents emotion.  This is the fourth level, beyond survival, sexuality, and power.  In other words, when we no longer fear pain (survival), have our sensual needs satisfied, and feel that we have some control in our lives, we begin to seek deeper emotional connections with ourselves and our fellow human beings.  One really interesting thing I heard once concerning chakras was "you can awaken your Kundalini from the root up, or from the heart out, but never from the top down."  What in the world could that mean?
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To me, it means that you can build your map of the world from the most basic physical levels--survival, pain, pleasure.  When we've mastered that, and learned to please ourselves, and learned to have some control over ourselves and our environments, we have learned a huge amount about the world, and our "maps" are accurate enough to survive the turmoil of the heart.  As we learn to integrate our needs into a reciprocal relationship, combining sexual and security needs, a gigantic amount of negotiation and communication ensues.  And more importantly, I think we take our first step into a truely larger world--the world where Other is as important as Self.
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We can also begin to relate to the world on the basis of love.  That sense of connection can guide us through much of the conceptual wilderness that devils humanity: what shall I do?  What is right? Every religion I know has the answer that begins with love: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Yes, if you're suicidal or masochistic one might have a non-optimal result from such a dictate, but I can think of no other that is as widely applicable, generally healthy, and contributes to a healthy society.  Even if you said "do unto others as they would have you do unto them," in many cases you are left to wonder what the other person might want...and forced to make your best guess, based on your own needs and wants and desires. Ultimately, it comes back to knowing ourselves and extending empathy to others.
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the heart, then, is a safe place to start.  But what might it mean to never awaken our vital forces "from the top down?"  To me, that means that to attempt to directly approach spirit  is folly.  Personally, I love the "householder" vision of spiritual growth, where a man or woman completes their education, starts a business, marries, raises the family, and only then when the children are old enough to take over the business, begin an ascetic, wandering life of the spirit.  I've seen few things screw people up more than chasing spiritual enlightenment without ever having mastered the lower levels. 
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One of those few things that screws people up as badly is trying to "understand" life from an intellectual perspective...again, before the more basic levels have been mastered.  God, I spent so many years in the company of hugely intelligent, unsuccessful people who talked a great game, had all the theories about life you could want, but couldn't accomplish any of their dreams, couldn't sustain a healthy relationship, couldn't control their physical hungers.  But boy, did they ever know how to run the world!  It was so incredibly sad.  Literally, they wasted their lives because they didn't pay attention to the objective evidence that something was terribly wrong with their grasp of reality.  Any worm will try to move away from pain.  When humans fail to do this, one cannot attribute it to lack of intellect.  Something else is going on.
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Applying this idea to fictional characters is easy.  "Forrest Gump" deals with a young man of great physical gifts (his running) and an extraordinarily open and loving heart.  His intellect is negligible, but still he hobnobs with the great and powerful, becomes a multimillionare, a decorated war hero, and gets everything in life one could want...with the exception of the girl he loved his whole life.  A beautiful film, the one that made Tom Hanks' career, and one could easily look at it as an odd, comic tragedy about the strength of the human heart. 
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What is the emotional makeup of your lead character?  What do they need and want?  Or even more tellingly, what is YOUR greatest emotional need?  Wound?  Strength?  Where have some of your deepest yearnings taken you in life? What have you learned?  There isn't a single major emotional incident in your entire life that can't be used to create greater depth of character, greater unity of purpose and action in your stories.
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What stories, films, or books can you think of that seem, to you, to be dominated by emotional needs, by the heart space?

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