Today, we’ll have a look at the 3rd Chakra — the zone of self awareness
The 3rd Chakra is located at the solar plexus. Its zone runs from the belly button to the solar plexus, and on the back from an inch or so above the pelvis to the mid back.
The major organ contained in this zone is the stomach.
If you been following along, you might have noticed an add a couple of weeks ago for our meditation workshops. By the way, we still got a couple of slots for the 24th of May, if you’re interested. See the ad below.
Anyway, Wednesday nights are meditation teaching nights here at Casa MacAllen. A couple of weeks ago, one of the participants mentioned that her mom was visiting, that this was stressful, and that her stomach hurt. As she was walking out the door, I laughed and said, “Mom’s a bit hard to swallow, eh?” I was joking, and I wasn’t kidding.
In this zone, it’s the stomach that most often gives us trouble.
As an example, if you have to get up and make a speech, and you’re not comfortable doing that, all of a sudden, you notice that your stomach is queasy. It’s not that you’re afraid of the audience—it’s not about something external. What’s going on here is that we are not comfortable in our own skins. In this case, we think that the audience is going to see right through us.
However, as usual, it’s not about them, it’s about us.
In Carolyn Myss’ “Anatomy of the Spirit,” Myss describes this zone as the zone of self-esteem.
I’ve been thinking about that, and while I “get” the whole self esteem idea, this is one of those terms that can be badly misunderstood. Being the Zen guy that I am, I’d much rather head down the path of self acceptance — that’s what this article is going to be about.
The problem with self-esteem
North Americans tend to equate self-esteem with pride, positive thinking, and eliminating everything that could be considered “bad.”
It’s almost as if people think that the goal of life is to repress the “bad list” while magnifying the “good list.” It’s like that song lyric,
“You’ve gotta accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”
Problem is, no one has ever pulled off this trick, and it’s a surefire recipe for misery. You see,
Mr. In-Between is actually right on track, at least from a Zen perspective.
The problem with all this positive thinking nonsense is that it simply doesn’t work. Here’s how it goes:
- you might get a moment’s peace, and start to believe that all that straining to be good is a great idea.
- And then life happens, and whatever normally goes on for you pops right back to the foreground.
- Then you flip to condemning yourself, blaming yourself, making life hard to stomach.
Ben Wong and Jock McKeen have written that the ego has only two functions. The first is to say, “Try harder and you’ll be perfect.” Then, when you fail, (because perfection is impossible,) the ego says, “You are such an idiot. But if only you’d try harder, you could be perfect.” It’s an endless loop, and a no-win situation.
Carl Jung was an amazing psychotherapist, and was able to see the magic and mystery of life. He, I believe, was the first to coin the idea of The Shadow side of ourselves, which is like the “bag we drag.”
What’s hidden in the “bag you drag???”
He said that, around the time we get to be six months old, we end up with this little, tiny bag — it’s sort of the bag that society provides us with, so that we have a place to “stuff all the stuff” society tells us is unacceptable.
Parents are endlessly modifying the behavior of their children
—and do so verbally and nonverbally. The reason my Wednesday night friend is having stomach problems is that her mom continues to be her mom. Her mom shows up, and my friend sets off in herself the same reaction as when she was a child. She feels repressed and controlled—and she has a dim feeling of her Shadow Self.
In fact, she even said that she didn’t want her mother influencing her children the way she’d influenced her.
When you’re a kid, you don’t have much choice here
— parents are bigger and pretty much have their own way of making you behave. So, whole aspects of your personality, your skill set, and your emotional set gets stuffed into the bag.
I got a sack on my back, and don’t even know it…ain’t life grand!!!
And the bag gets bigger and bigger. By the time we head off to work, or go to college, the bag may be 20 or 30 feet long. We’re dragging it, and don’t even know it.
All we know is that something doesn’t feel quite right, and it feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.
Thus, the 60s question, “What’s your bag, man?” Is actually a pretty good question.
Self acceptance, on the other hand, is all about the recognition that we are whole.
In other words, the stuff in the bag is is much “us” as the stuff we show to the world.
Now, I’m not trying to argue that all the stuff in the bag is worthwhile, as some of it really should not see the light of day. It’s just that the bag that holds our stuff is sort of like any bag full of stuff.
And here’s the kicker: the stuff we stuff back in the bag, having been evaluated in the light of day and by an adult, is still us!
Self acceptance means precisely what it says. I don’t get to cherry pick who I am. If I run around, pretending that life is sweetness and light, and that I’m the sugarplum fairy, I am definitely going to trip over over the stuff I’ve stuffed, and fall flat on my face. It’s just the way it is, and we hate it, because our sensitive little illusions are getting all bruised.
The stuff we stuff has a way of oozing out.
We want to deny it, claim someone made us do it, or otherwise escape responsibility, but as I said, the kicker is that the ooze is us, and we just haven’t accepted it.
Self acceptance matches the Buddha’s Middle Path.
Really, one of the most important insights in Zen is that we have the choice to deal with our stuff, and with all of life, without judgment.
Now, this doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior. It means that, when we engage in something that gets us lousy results, we see it, accept responsibility for doing it, fix what we can, and move on.
It’s sort of like sailing a sailboat into the wind. If you watch a sailboat sail, you realize it doesn’t progress along a straight line. If tacks. Heads off in a direction, makes a course correction, heads off in another direction, makes a course correction… on and on, forever.
We don’t judge that the boat is bad because of the back-and-forthness of its path.
Self acceptance works only when paired with a total self responsibility. This is a common theme for this BLOG.
Back to the boat analogy. It would be the height of dumb to blame the wind for knocking the boat off course. Sailboats, like airplanes, are off course 95% of the time. Ultimately, minute course corrections get them to safe harbor (or the airport…) So there’s no blame involved, there’s just a simple acceptance that the way it is, is the way it is.
Course correction is always necessary.
What a perfect definition of self responsibility
and self acceptance.
Here, in no particular order, are 6 ideas for deepening your self acceptance.
Next week, on to the Heart Chakra, and loving action.