Often my turnaround point on my daily walk is a school (I like to walk in its grassy field and by the playground). However, Friday, I was approaching this school just as it was letting out so it was congested. I took a slightly different route to avoid it. Right in front of me was a building with the words:
Mind Body Fitness
I kept looking at that word, hara, and was intrigued, yet that was all I thought about it at the time. After I was home, I clicked on a link in a friend's email. It read:
"Deep within the belly, just below the navel, lies the soul center known variously in different traditions as the hara or tan tien, the womb or egg, abode of divine mother or shakti, and the seat of the feminine or mother aspect of God." - Karen Anderson and Barry Martin Snyder, LuminousSelf.com
Twice in two hours--hara. As far as I know, I'd never heard the word before. Talking with a few folks since many that have done martial arts it's a Chinese and Japanese concept.
""Hara" in Japanese is akin to the word gutsy in the English language. In English, "gut," "guts," and "gutsy" refer both to the belly and to someone who is adventurous, brave, persevering, earthy, attuned to her instinctual knowing." - Lisa Sarasohn, HonoringYourBelly.com
In case this sounds like sissy stuff, it is how the Samurais of old Japan navigated. In his book "Hara: The Vital Centre of Man," author Karlfried Graf Durkheim states that in Japanese hara means ‘belly’ and refers to a ‘state in which the individual has found his primal centre’:
"Man, as a living being, is not rooted in himself. Rather he is nourished, sustained and held in order by Nature whose laws operate without his knowledge and assistance." - Karlfried Graf Durkheim via HealingPhilosophy.com
It's tough to explain to anyone that you're "following your gut." Using any sense but thinking is seen as nonsense.
I had been feeling light-hearted and whole-belled stumbling into evidence of a somatic way of swimming the infinite currents of Infinite experience. Then yesterday, Sunday, I fell into a funk thinking about how much judgment I've endured by obeying this illogical navigation.
Oh, well, I climb underneath the covers and read a novel. It's the one I picked up so I could luxuriate my senses to a part of the world I want to live and play in: deep, rich, earthy viriditas-infused foothills crisscrossed by arteries of gurgling water.
A chapter in, there's a scene (click if you want to know the name of the book, otherwise don't if you hate spoilers) where a newcomer to a farming valley by way of marriage is struggling with feeling accepted by his family. In being integral to herself, she turns down growing tobacco. She's virtually branded as the foolish city lady. Here she's sharing with her sister-in-law's son:
"She sighed, crossing her arms across her chest and rubbing her elbows. "If there's any reason or rhyme to what I'm doing, I wish I knew it. I'm like a moth. Rickie, flying in spirals. You see how they do?" She nodded up at the lightbulb, where hordes of small, frantic wings glinted through the arc of brightness in circular paths through the air. They were everywhere once you bothered to notice them: like invisible molecules, Lusa thought, entirely filling up space with their looping trajectories. Rickie seemed surprised to realize this, that moths were everywhere. He stared upward with his mouth slightly open.
"A calf will run around that way when it's lost its mama and scared to death," he observed at last.
"They're not lost, though. Moths don't use their eyes the way we do; they use smell. They're tasting the air, taking samples from different places and comparing them, really fast. That's how they navigate. It gets them where they need to be, but it takes them forever to get there."
..."That's me. I can't seem to go in a straight line."
"Who says you have to?"
"I don't know, it's embarrassing. People are watching me. I'm figuring out how to farm by doing all the wrong things..."
. . .
They stood together watching the dizzying dance of silver wings through the cool air: tussock moths, tortricids, foresters, each one ignoring the others as it wheeled on its own path, urgent and true.
"Aunt Lusa, you worry too much."
"I'm a widow with a farm drowning in debt, standing in a barn that's about to fall on me. You're right. What, I should worry?"
He laughed. "About the family, I mean.""
She's already refused growing tobacco--the only viable means of surviving as a farmer, she's told. Yet in this conversation with Rickie, quite out of the ordinary blue, Lusa hits upon the solution. It's nothing important to your story, your life, as it was tailor-made for a city girl of Palestinian-Jewish descent that studied insects and moths at college who had just happened to live her own life trusting her gut, trusting her senses. (There's a reason I used the solution, not a solution.)
"It is the blessing of our incarnation that the body can’t be fooled; in fact, it feels the full brunt of our driven behavior." - Reginald Ray, "To Touch Enlightenment with the Body", Shambala Sun, Jan 2003
Bonus: I recall hearing Loch Kelly say that after the awakening, it was as if his brain dropped into his heart, and his heart dropped into his belly. From that perspective, this passage from Don Juan, the Toltec shaman makes much more "sense."
"Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.
I have told you that to choose a path you must be free from fear and ambition. The desire to learn is not ambition. It is our lot as men to want to know. The path without a heart will turn against men and destroy them. It does not take much to die, and to seek death is to seek nothing.
For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path that may have a heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel--looking, looking, breathlessly." - excerpted from Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castenada
art credits Forest Dryad, by Kurt Richards; OHO Rojo Silkmoth, a wall mounted sculpture made with recycled materials, by Michelle Stitzlen; going for a luna moth fairy look... Fairy Wings and Things (yes, she sells wings!) photo by Mary Danzer