In her previous column, Tao Minister and mind-body strength expert Tammy Wise introduced us to the Psyche-Muscular Blueprint. Here she begins the process of working step-by-step through our bodies, our emotions, and how we can coordinate our own internal systems to achieve our best selves. First stop? The abdominal muscles, where we find our center of gravity – and learn literally to get ahold of ourselves.
By Tammy Wise
You feel like you’re spinning out of control—unhinged and disparate, as if you aren’t in command of your own destiny. Your mind is racing, your body restless; you’re anxious and agitated. You want to stop but you can’t! There are countless deadlines, expectations, and promises to meet before you can give yourself the luxury of a time-out.
Hold up, pun intended. You can take that much-needed “break,” because a time-out doesn’t actually ask you to stop. Rather, it asks you to change.
Remember those childhood time-outs? If yours were anything like mine, you’d be put in a chair in front of a wall and told, “Think about your behavior. When you’re sorry and want to share why and apologize, you can come back.” And if you were like me, you’d stomp off with furrowed brows only to quickly return open-hearted and solemn.
As grown-ups, it’s the same idea: Time-outs serve to help us adjust our attention toward our activity so that we can shift our approach to it in a more positive direction. Time-outs ask us to dig beneath the surface of our emotional reactions and learn what other choices there are. They ask us to briefly reserve time to:
- Recognize the difference between acting and reacting
- Be accountable, realistic, and gracious
But as adults, we don’t need to face a blank wall to regroup. When you feel your sense of self or purpose or belonging slipping away, all you have to do for a time-out before you spin out is bring your focus back to your center of gravity. This is known in the East as your Dan Tien (also spelled dantian).
DAN TIEN: YOUR CENTER POINT
Your Dan Tien lives three finger widths below your belly button, between the front and back planes of your body, nestled beneath the low abdominal muscles where your lumbar spine meets the fused vertebrae of your sacrum. This energy center is the pivotal focal point for all your movement. Think of your Dan Tien as the sun of your personal solar system; it keeps its planets (your mind and body) from spinning off into outer space. By aligning with and strengthening your relationship to your Dan Tien, you can stay on course with your life, no matter how hectic or complicated things get.
How to recognize when your center of gravity is out of whack:
Eastern thought believes every muscle group corresponds to an aspect of the Self. Because the abdominal muscles support the central placement of the Dan Tien, the abdominal muscles correspond with your Spirit Self (a concept I explained in my previous article on the Psyche-Muscular Blueprint). Compromise your skeletal alignment, and you compromise the sanctuary of your Dan Tien.
This compromise starts when you lose your lower abdominal support and begin to rely instead on the muscles of your lower back to keep you upright and balanced. Your low back muscles correspond with your fears. When you draw your support from your low back, before long you become engulfed in the grip of worry and trepidation, even panic. The more your low back muscles engage, the less your low abdominal muscles assert themselves—your connection with your Dan Tien is gone. But all is not lost…
How to align with your Dan Tien:
Use the framework of your bones to lead your attention to the stillness found in your Dan Tien. Acknowledge the need for action or surrender, and then quietly let the uncertainty of fear-based emotions in your low back melt away. Embody the essential power of your Spirit Self as you return to the central support of your abdominal muscles. Notice how mind and body become tranquil as they come together in the abdomen’s central sanctuary. You are in a safe haven where you can take a time-out.
Personally, my workout’s abdominal exercises have become slower, smaller, and more isolated since connecting with my Dan Tien. I no longer feel hip flexor or low back pain and fatigue! Drop your defenses through this breathing exercise and meditation:
- Sit with your low abdomen completely relaxed and expanded outward. Breathe in. Fill the abdomen like a billow. Allow your breath to guide your abdominal muscles to let go of their tension-forming grip.
- Gently contract the low abdominal muscles inward with your exhale. Push your breath out slowly. Allow the abdominal muscles to guide your breath to release liberated tension. You are creating change by surrendering what initiated you into a downward spiral.
- Maintain skeletal alignment to support your Dan Tien’s central stillness. Insist on a central bond of oneness between mind and body in its sanctuary. Your center of gravity is actively involved with, and quietly reflective of, your character and temperament. Create a peaceful reliance with your abdominal center and listen for the quieter Spirit voice that lives in the Dan Tien. (My Spirit voice always welcomes my attention, first and foremost. Then insights surface!)
How to strengthen your center of gravity:
As your muscular center of gravity, the abdominal muscles stabilize every move you make. They support your spinal column—the protector of your central nervous system—aligning all the thoughts you compose. Practice challenging the abdominals to focus inward on what is essentially you—to appreciate who you are now and who you are becoming. Recognize any resistance to connect with your Dan Tien as a disagreement between your body and mind. This is an opportunity to connect with yourself honestly and renew alignment. Each moment of your life is yours to create. Use your time-out to become self-possessed with the help of these movements and meditations:
- When challenging the abdominal muscles in exercise, meditate inwardly. Create a greater connection with all that is you—your body’s weight, your mind’s influence, and spiritual significance. Be with the weight of your power. Relax in your abdominals’ command. Stay aware of each moment of movement.
- When elongating the abdominal muscles in posture, stretch outwardly. By stretching away from what you know in yourself and toward what is less familiar in the world, your center becomes obvious. The more you stretch from the quietude of your Dan Tien through your skeletal alignment, the more you begin trusting that the connection between you and the outside world will be one of safety, belonging, and enlightenment. You are awakening an innate trust in Universal Spirit.
Strength is measured by your ability to connect both inwardly and outwardly, so by connecting to your Dan Tien, you are optimally positioning yourself to live a full life. Physical strength is infused with emotional contemplation. Learn to recognize the precursors to spinning out so you can take a time-out. You will begin to decipher your body’s posture and performance as a language, and recognize that this language comes from the authority of your inner being—your Spirit Self. By paying attention to posture, breath, and relaxed strength, you can find meaning that goes far beyond the size and shape of your muscles.
To learn more about the Dan Tien, specifically its relationship with pregnancy, visit bodylogos.com/blog.
Tammy Wise is a Tao Minister, mind-body strength expert, and founder of the BodyLogos holistic fitness method. Her writing and methodology has been widely featured in media including New York, TimeOut New York, Fitness, Shape, and Natural Health magazines. She is currently writing and producing a BodyLogos book and 3-D video system for online. Learn more about her training, holistic treatments, and products at bodylogos.com, or follow her on Twitter at @BodyLogos.