This blog is an excerpt from Karla’s book, The Chakras in Grief & Trauma. Release date April 18, 2019.
Excerpts from Chapter 4, “Anahata, The Heart Chakra“
Anahata, the Sanskrit for the heart chakra, is the very center of the chakra system. Located in the middle of the chest on the breast bone, it is the midpoint of all the chakras. While the organ of the physical heart is located slightly left of center, Anahata chakra holds place at true center. It is the balance and the bridge between the lower three chakras—those which represent and are connected with the physical world—and the upper three—those connected with the unseen and intangible. Anahata is the link between, and the joining of, internal and external, masculine and feminine, Earth and sky, above and below, Shiva and Shakti within.
When Our Hearts Are Broken
The metaphor of a broken heart is not merely cliché or so much symbolic language. Our hearts feel and experience the pain of grief and loss physically, emotionally, energetically and spiritually. Broken Heart Syndrome is a known medical condition in which the heart’s pumping function is temporarily disrupted, and sudden chest pain occurs; people report feeling as if they are having a heart attack. Blood tests show no signs of heart damage, no blockage of the arteries and there is ballooning and unusual movement in the left ventricle. The condition occurs generally following extremely stressful experiences. There is little that Western medicine can do. The heart and the energy field surrounding the heart are deeply affected and disturbed by the stress and pain of grief and loss.
Unobstructed, Anahata is the gateway to unconditional love and connection with the Source of all love. Anahata is the place where all passion and compassion, all suffering, as well as joy, all sympathy and empathy, all beauty, all love, and all of grief can co-exist. We each have the ability to tune into the heart energy of others around us and to the heart energy of the Universe. The heart chakra is the gateway to sensing the pulsing vitality inherent in all matter and Spirit, connecting us to each other, as well as to our beloved dead, to Spirit, the Divine and to the Universe as a whole. Anahata chakra is the key as well as the gateway to all love, including Divine love.
In grief and post-trauma, it is a struggle to keep our hearts open, unobstructed and undefended when, in so many ways, all we wish is to stop feeling this seemingly bottomless pain. Often we might feel we would do whatever it takes to stop the pain of a broken heart. But to stop the pain would also be to stop the love, and grief is an expression of love. Anahata in grief is in pain and in love. It is a passionate mix.
The Passion of the Heart
Some may think it strange to equate grief with passion, but the word itself comes from the Latin roots pati, passio, and passionem, all meaning “to suffer.” The word “patient” has the same root. Grief’s passion is not static; it is dynamic, ongoing, infused with energy, as well as life and love. Passion, and its suffering requires patience. It can be difficult to have patience in and with grief. It is exhausting and depleting. We grow tired of the suffering. We wish for the pain to be gone, for the unpredictability to cease.
Others also become impatient with those in grief, they wish for an end to the pain that they must incessantly witness, the pain of having to deal with all the changes grief has wrought. They become weary and irritated of having to hear about and see it all the time. They become impatient for the griever to finally just get back to “normal”—a state that no longer exists. The irony is that nobody knows better than the bereaved how wearisome and irritating the walk and talk of grief can be. This is one of the most exasperating things about grief: it is never-ending and ever-changing. Enduring such passion with patience is difficult.
The French in the tenth century began using the word “passion” to describe the suffering of Christ in his last days— at the Last Supper, in the garden, on the cross, in his death. Over the next two centuries, passion came to describe also the suffering and endurance of sainted martyrs. From passion we also have “compassion,” the prefix “com” meaning “with.” Compassion means to suffer, and to have patience with, pain—our own and that of others. Our hearts feel passion, the effects of suffering, as well as love. The love and the pain can be very difficult to separate, but when we can allow ourselves to feel both, we see that the pain can shift and it can change. When we allow Anahata to open to all the qualities it holds, we understand that they can exist together: in love, and in pain.
Deep grief exists because of deep love. If we never loved, we would never grieve. How many would relinquish love to be free of grief? I would wager not many. The place of deep love and longing for our beloved dead is sacred. It is through love in that sacred space that transformation occurs. It is transformation we never asked for, but we are changed nonetheless. Grief and love are equally transformative.
Grief is an Expression of Love
Embracing grief as love’s expression opens the way for transformation. Pain as love can be endured, even willingly approached. Pain melting into love can soothe and ease, gently opening guarded, wounded spaces within. With love, the heart expands to allow grief a sacred space. The transformation of pain includes not only seeing grief as love, but finding within us the strength to approach it, to sit with it, to examine it, to be immersed in it, even if we feel afraid, sick, pained, or in a thousand other ways averse to the experience. In all relationships, love grows, love evolves, love changes.
This love also exists for our beloveds as well as for ourselves. Having compassion toward our own broken hearts, caring for our own tender and bruised selves in grief is an act of compassion. In order to be able to approach our pain, we me must first begin with compassion and gentleness toward ourselves. We must have compassion toward ourselves to be able to withstand pain in a healthy and meaningful way. We must cultivate self-compassion and self-love.
Want to learn more?
Join Karla Helbert to learn more about the chakras and practices to support the energy system in grief and trauma during Strengthen Your Container: Yoga for Grief and Loss, February 7–10.