Exploring the Three Centres
A number of spiritual traditions and disciplines recognise that humans have three core centres of intelligence, or perhaps energies might be a better way to describe them. These are the head, the heart and the body (or gut / belly). This idea is certainly central to my own area of interest, – the Enneagram. All three centres have distinctive ways of experiencing the world, and they all have intelligence and memory. In the West, we have tended to prioritise the head or thinking centre to the detriment of the others.
The body centre is the area of the life force, of energy, of feeling grounded and rooted. It is where we find resolve and determination, and where we sense injustice. This centre can have a shadow side, that of experiencing anger, and whilst this emotion is certainly potentially unhelpful and even destructive, it may also provide the necessary motivation for action to change things for the better. Whereas the heart and head can ‘wander off’ in imagination, the body is always ‘present’, and may usually be the first point of attention in any mindfulness practice.
The heart centre is very important and requires much attention, since its energies can be subtle. One enneagram teacher wonderfully describes human beings as ‘custodians and guardians of the heart.’ The heart is the area where we place value on ourselves and others. When we feel regret, it is sometimes a sign that we have done something we know to be out of step with the heart. Although we can sometimes ignore our feelings or push them aside, the pathway to growth and maturity involves honouring and fully integrating our heart space and emotions.
The head centre needs to involve more than thinking. It is the place of curiosity as well as clarity and penetrating insight. The ancient Greek word ‘gnosis’ (usually translated knowledge) is a helpful way to describe the head centre at its best. It means not just gaining information, but a profound inner knowing or understanding of reality. The danger for the mind is that it can become overwhelmed with thoughts which may lead to confusion, fantasy ideas and even fears.
Our personality types tend to lead us to give most attention to one or other of these centres, whilst ignoring the others. We kind of ‘live’ in that space. Meditation or attention practices can help us to pause and consider each of them since in truth we have access to all three. Try breathing ‘into’ each of these centres and notice what you find there.