Hanging on the wall of our morning room, a small, light-filled sitting room adjacent to our kitchen, are two prints of story artist Brian Andreas. They serve as daily reminders to be conscious and intentional about how to show up as I engage with all that is going on around and within me. In these unsettled times, a new daily mantra is emerging within my reflective practice: From fear to love, head to heart, start in the belly.
More about that in a moment. First, the texts from Brian Andreas’ prints. In his light yet direct-to-the-point way, both prints remind me of what our first work is, particularly in times of uncertainty and unrest.
First, there is “Invitation.”
It is not what you first think.
There is no effort of will,
no firm resolve in the face
of this thing called living.
There is only paying attention
to the quiet each morning.
While you hold your cup
in the cool air
& then that moment you choose to
spread your love like a cloth upon the table
& invite the whole day in again.
The second is “Real Hero.” You may have seen this text in my “All Is Not Well In Our Land” post a couple of weeks ago.
Anyone can slay a dragon,
but try waking up every morning
& loving the world all over again.
That’s what takes a real hero.
It’s easy to get swept up in the pervasive sense of urgency and fear these days, whether around politics, government, and elections, or around climate change, or human rights, or a crisis at work, or a family or personal challenge. Getting caught up in that urgency and fear and trying to figure out a rational solution is exhausting. I speak from experience.
However, shifting your focus from fear to love, from head to heart, and spreading your love like a cloth upon the table can create some breathing space. It makes it easier to pay attention to what the situation is trying to show you as well as what it is asking you for.
At the least, this practice can be centering and calming. As you get better at it, this shift of focus can become life-giving. The key: It doesn’t begin in the head or the heart. It begins in the belly.
So how does that work? How do you make that shift of focus?
Three Intelligences Within Us—Each is Important to Guide Us
In Transformational Presence, we listen to Three Intelligences within us: the head, belly, and heart. Each of them represents a different voice of our innate understanding. Letting these voices talk with each other, we can discover how to listen, sense, and feel through our bodies. That opens the door for the shift from fear to love, from head to heart.
So first, a brief overview of the Three Intelligences. Then we will walk through a simple five-step practice using these Intelligences to help you see any situation through the eyes of love.
The Head Intelligence
The primary job of the head intelligence is to make sure that we are safe and secure. Therefore, it analyzes, organizes, and strategizes. The head intelligence views everything from the perspective of past experiences and future outcomes. It’s easier for the head to live in the past and future than it is for it to be fully present right here, right now. The head is constantly scanning our past for context—a way to understand what is happening now based on previous knowledge or experience—and scans the future to find and analyze possible outcomes.
In order to do that, the head intelligence tends to separate everything and everyone into categories for quick and easy identification and analysis. When left on its own without the input of belly and heart, the head intelligence views the world as if everything is separate from everything else. It feels the safest when everything can fit perfectly into its own box—when everything is well organized and under control. The head prefers to leave nothing to chance.
The head intelligence tends to be the most highly developed and frequently rewarded in most Western cultures. And because its first concern is our well-being and safety, our natural tendency is to go there first when we feel threatened in any way to figure out what to do.
The Belly Intelligence
While the head dwells primarily in the past and future, the belly lives fully in this present moment. And while the head may have a lot of words and elaborate stories about what it thinks is happening, the belly usually has very few words.
The belly is all about gut feelings and emotions—what’s going on inside of us right here, right now. The belly’s response to what is happening is more primal, while the head’s response is more analytical. Sometimes the feelings and emotions in the belly are clear, supportive, or self-empowering; at other times, they are confusing and create doubt, fear, or anxiety.
When we drop beneath our gut feelings and emotions, we often discover our fundamental intuitive understanding about what is really going on. We find our intuitive sense about what is possible right now and what is not.
The belly speaks to us constantly. However, we must be in touch with it to hear. When we stay connected and engaged with this powerful intelligence, we are much more in touch not just with our gut feelings and emotions; we can tap into the deeper intuitive guidance underneath.
Because the belly intelligence is more primal in nature, it has the greatest power to quickly shift our perspectives and awareness throughout our whole system, giving us more clarity and understanding about how to proceed in any situation. Hence, the words in the title of this article, “Start in the Belly.”
The Heart Intelligence
The heart intelligence connects us to a bigger awareness, a larger truth, and a greater wisdom. The heart intelligence center, located in the center of the chest as opposed to in the heart organ, has enormous capacity to reach far out into the energy field of what is happening to gather information. It then integrates that information into our whole being.
The heart intelligence has access to a far greater field of information than the field that can be accessed by the head intelligence alone. Therefore, it shows us a much bigger picture and often a more multi-layered understanding of what is happening.
When the three intelligences are working well together, the belly immediately responds with gut feelings and emotions to the information that the heart gathers. At the same time, the head begins to organize and categorize that information.
The head separates, the belly feels, the heart connects
In summary, the head separates, analyzes, and categorizes. The belly puts us in touch with our gut feelings and emotions. The heart reaches far out into the energy field of the situation, connects the dots, and helps us understand what is happening within a bigger context.
When we feel fear, anxiety, or an urgent need to act, our natural reaction is often to go straight to the head to figure out what to do. We look for a way to make everything alright, to find a solution, or to find a way out of what is happening. Unfortunately, this approach usually leads to more stress and anxiety rather than effective response.
However, a simple five-step approach using the Three Intelligences can help you shift from fear to love, from head to heart in just a few moments. It can become a way of living. The more you practice, the easier it will be when challenge arises.
A Simple 5-Step Approach
Step 1—When the sense of urgency arises, pause and take a breath. Continue with several more deep breaths into the bottom of your body. If possible, literally take a step back.
Give yourself a little distance from what is happening—some breathing space. It’s ideal if you can step into another room or go for a walk. Yet when we are in the heat of the moment, that’s not always possible. Even just taking one or two steps back while taking a couple of deep breaths can make a difference.
Breathing and stepping back gives you space to listen, sense, and feel. It gives you space to shift out of reaction to what is happening and into response—space to stop talking to the situation and let it talk to you. It also gives you time and space to come back to your own center rather than being swept into the storm of what is happening. It gets you back into your body (belly and heart) where you actually have access to a bigger field of information and your intuitive senses.
Step 2—Put your hands on your lower belly below your navel and breathe into this part of your body. Notice what emotions are here. What words would best describe the feelings and emotions in your belly?
(If you find it challenging to leave your head for the moment and focus on your belly, bend over as if you are going to touch your toes. Breathe into the bottom of your body. Focus your attention here. Then slowly return to an upright position while still keeping your focus on breathing deep into the belly. Remember that this is a practice. It may take a few days of practice before you are able to keep your focus in your belly.)
Step 3—As you breathe into your belly, if the feeling is calm, then continue breathing into that calmness and let it help you become more centered and grounded.
If, on the other hand, you feel anxiety, confusion, or emotional discomfort, it’s OK. Take another breath and drop beneath whatever you are feeling. What is underneath? What is this feeling really about?
Then take another breath and drop even deeper. What is there? What more do you discover?
At the most fundamental level, there are only two emotions: love and its opposite—many people consider that fear. If down underneath you find love, breathe into that love. Reinforce it. Turn up the dial. Ground yourself in love.
If down underneath you find fear, it’s OK. You don’t have to get rid of it. Just wrap it in love.
Don’t worry about how to do that. Trust that some part of you knows how. Embrace the fear with love. Breathe in love. Pour in love. Choose love, over and over and over again. Keep choosing love until you can feel that love is the ground on which you are standing.
Step 4—Remaining grounded in love, put your hands on your heart energy center. Again, this is not actually over the heart organ, but rather right in the center of your chest. Gently massage the center of your chest as you breathe into your heart. Allow the love from your belly to flow up through you and out into the world through your heart center. Imagine spreading your love like a cloth upon the table of the situation. Imagine loving the world all over again by seeing the situation through the eyes of love.
You don’t have to love what is happening. Just look at what is happening through the eyes of love.
Notice how your perspective shifts. Notice what new awareness opens when you look at what is happening through the eyes of love. Notice what new possibilities emerge. And most of all, notice what is happening inside of you.
Step 5—As you look at the situation through the eyes of love, let the situation talk to you. Listen, sense, and feel. Let the situation show you or tell you a next step.
That’s all you need to know for now—just a next step. Then as you take that step and continue listening, sensing, and feeling, you will be shown the step after that. The feelings of fear or anxiety will probably begin to soften, and clarity will begin to emerge about what you.
When you encounter fear, anxiety, confusion, or urgency, pause and breathe. Take a step back and observe, listen, sense, and feel. Ask the situation what is important to pay attention to right now.
Use this simple five-step process with the Three Intelligences to become fully present with what is happening in your whole being. Each time you engage in this way, you will be able to meet any situation with greater clarity and more easily find your next step.
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