By Beth O'Hara - July 2009
Ego, Mind, Heart, Gut, Body, Essence…We know we have all of these aspects in ourselves, but what do they mean?
The ego is an aspect of the mind that develops in childhood as an attempt to reduce our pain and to help us navigate in the world. The gut center, heart center, and mind center are all housed within the body along with Essence. The gut, heart, and mind centers give us information about the here and now. The Essence is the invisible driving force behind our lives and our connection within a world of duality and separation to the unity of all that is.
Each center gives us information, and the integration of these aspects, to create the whole of our being. We have to listen to, and take care of, all the centers to be balanced. When we learn to listen and balance all of them, we experience ourselves as complete, whole, and without suffering.
The ego can be very helpful to us. However, it also often creates suffering for us in the long term. The ego creates comparisons, memories, judgments, fantasies, and numerous other strategies to help us avoid pain. These strategies are a distortion of reality. The habitual reactivity of the ego creates suffering through its avoidance of perceived pain. These strategies become overused and mechanical.
Through habituated reactivity, we make assumptions that life is much, much worse than it is in actuality. We then live in a nightmarish fantasy, running away from assumptions made based on the fear that something might hurt. This flight creates immense suffering for us. This is like running in a hamster wheel with a gigantic ball gaining speed behind your back. We are so habituated to running on the wheel that it never occurs to us to try a different strategy – like jumping off the wheel – or to be curious about the ball. Perhaps the ball is made of Styrofoam and wouldn’t hurt if it touched us. It is because the ego is always avoiding what it fears most, that it is unable to stay in the present moment. When we aren’t in the present, we don’t experience ourselves as fully alive and engaged. We lose connection to the wholeness of our being.
The gut center is felt in the lower abdomen. This is the seat of our gut reactions and gives us information about our environment, safety and survival. Being present to this area of ourselves gives us a sense of security, stability, vitality and grounding. We know where we are and where we stand.
The heart center is the space in the center of the chest, behind the sternum, and is the center of our emotions. When we are fully in our hearts, we experience a sense of compassion, boundless love for ourselves and others, and truly know who we are.
The mind center is located behind the center of the eyebrows and is where thoughts originate. When we are fully present in the body and the heart, we experience the mind as spacious and still, giving us access to pure information without judgments and clear perception. We know reality clearly – we know what we are about.
We are constantly receiving excellent information through the gut, heart, and mind centers.
When we filter our gut reactions through the ego, though, it becomes distorted and we forget ourselves. When we aren’t fully present to the gut center we feel threatened by the world. We become ungrounded, uncentered, and fearful for our survival. We experience anger because we perceive the world as pushing in on us, controlling us, making requirements, and never showing up the way it should. We see the world as an imposition and forget our worthiness.
When we lose connection to the heart center, we close off our hearts and lose our sense of value. We forget who we are and that we are always lovable. We filter our pure emotions through the ego which develop into feelings. When we assign meaning to the emotions, we take things personally. We experience envy and create a false self-image to protect ourselves.
When we lose connection to the pure awareness of mind, the monkey mind of incessant chatter takes over, tinting all we perceive with comparisons, judgment, and anxiety. We experience insecurity because we are unable to discern what is real and what isn’t. We forget our competency and adequacy.
When we are identified with the ego, we live our lives out of anger, envy, and fear. This reactivity is so ingrained within us, that it takes constant practice to shift our lives. How can we instead live our lives from grounded presence, boundless love, and clarity? It is essential that we develop the ability to observe ourselves through a meditation practice and study the aspects of the ego in detail so that we can identify when reactivity arises. When we are meditating, we can practice listening to the gut center, heart center, and mind center and observing the information without assigning meaning.
The Higher Self is as an aspect of individuated consciousness (a drop of water in the ocean of collective consciousness) that goes out and has experiences in many forms and brings those experiences back to the collective consciousness. The collective consciousness has many names – Essence, the Divine, Oneness, God, Universal Presence.
The body is the vehicle for the individuated Essence and provides the physical expression. This energy can be related to the breath and also vibration and light.
All these aspects – Body, Gut, Heart, Mind, and Higher Self - are the physical manifestation of Essence and Consciousness. From that perspective, we are all whole and we are all One.
It is important to recognize that there are no "right" answers to these explorations. Our ideas about these aspects continue to expand as humanity evolves and the way we think about ourselves expands as we experience more. It is the exploration that is most important.