Waking into a new day often brings a sense of confusion or “lostness,” reminiscent of our first moments of consciousness, both as evolving creatures—when we were all fish or other aquatic beings—but also as newborns taking our first breaths. This initial or even ongoing disorientation is recognized by all psycho-spiritual traditions, highlighting our need for grounding and integration at the start of the day, as well as when feeling overwhelmed.
The concept of integration implies the idea of different parts or psychic structures within us, various systems of consciousness or organic intelligence, which can become dominant or recessive, causing imbalance. When off-balance, thinking, feeling, and acting in ways that are beneficial for ourselves and others become challenging.
Inspired by Russ Hudson’s 10-minute Body, Heart, Mind recalibration, I’ve recently tried to encapsulate the essence of this grounding + heart-expanding + mind settling practice into a just handful of minutes, which I like to call my “Rescue Remedy” after Bach. You can read more about that here, or just try the practice itself below:
My desire was to create a practice that connects all three “centres” within us. Additionally, I also wanted this practice to resonate with the grand narrative of our human experience, our evolutionary story, assisted or not by divine intervention dependent on your spiritual beliefs.
Four Billion Years of Being “You”: An Introduction to The Three Centres
1) Embodied Creatures – The Body Centre (3-4 Billion Years Ago):
In the primordial waters, life began as minuscule single-celled organisms, evolving over time into fish—a transition still vividly echoed in our own anatomy. The structure of our rib cages, the arrangement of our vertebrae, as well as the blueprint of our central nervous system are all reminiscent of our aquatic ancestors. As we move, breathe, and interact with our environment, the foundational elements of our limbs, the rhythmic pulsing of our multi-chambered heart, and the intricate connections within our brain all whisper tales of our fishy past. Even in our earliest stages of development, the temporary appearance of structures that resemble fish gills speaks to our aquatic heritage. These subtle yet profound connections are a living testament to our evolutionary journey, a tangible link to the ancient waters from which we emerged.
This phase of our development also marked the formation of our Body Centre, the most rudimentary, felt-sense of being alive, a feeling that is primarily instinctual and sensory. Driven by attraction to pleasant stimuli and aversion to the unpleasant, these early organisms laid the groundwork for our core self-preservation, a necessary focus on physical well-being, resource acquisition, and environmental adaptation. Such a purely embodied instinct was thus fundamental for the survival and evolution of increasingly complex life forms like the human animal reading these words from a screen right now. From an evolutionary psychology perspective, this stage of life represents the development of our basic survival mechanism, our basic drive for “well-being” and homeostasis, laying the foundation for more advanced cognitive and emotional processes to follow.
How The Body Centre Serves Us:
The Body Centre represents our primal connection to Earth and nature, embodying the intelligence that enables harmonious living within and derived from natural processes. This centre is the foundation of our being-ness, providing a felt sense of existence without concepts or stories about or focused on self, grounding us in the present moment in a way that is satisfying and complete. The Body Centre serves as the vehicle through which consciousness accomplishes various tasks, harmonizing the different ingredients of our lives, as well as all our internal state. This Centre is thus crucial for maintaining balance, allowing us, when we connect with it, to feel grounded and whole. The body, both in psychotherapy and spirituality, could be said to act as a kind of alchemical crucible for all our inner work, emphasizing the importance of honouring our bodily functions and needs for overall well-being.
2) Social Creatures – The Heart Centre (100 Million Years Ago):
Our evolutionary narrative took a significant turn with the advent of mammals about 100 million years ago, marking the development of the Heart Centre. This era also saw the emergence of a Sexual and Social Instinct, mechanisms pivotal for fostering relatedness, belonging, and community. As we mammals evolved, intricate social bonds and emotional connections became essential for our survival, contributing to a sense of personal value and accomplishment. The Heart Centre, might also be called our Hope Centre as it harbours the source of all our aspirations and dreams for a better or different experience of being alive. When coupled with Body Intelligence, this propels organisms towards adaptive actions and behaviours, as well as more fine-tuned ways of looking after ourselves and each other, paving the way for advanced social structures and interactions. This stage in evolution signifies the development of emotional intelligence, our capacity for social bonding, crucial for the survival and thriving of a mammalian species like us.
How The Heart Centre Serves Us:
The Heart Centre is the core of our emotional being, housing qualities like kindness, patience, peace, and empathy, all of which make life more rich and meaningful. It is the source of our truest desires and hopes for growth and enlightenment. While the heart can be vulnerable and reactive, needing protection which it often shows via emotional reactivity, it is also where we are most affected and moved, initiating deep transformation. The Heart Centre represents our wish to understand our identity and essence, navigating the balance between self-discovery and narcissistic conundrums. It allows us to feel and appreciate emotions without an immediate need for action or narrative, offering a space for vulnerability and wholeheartedness.
3) Cognitive/Self-Conscious Creatures – The Mind or Head Centre (300,000 Years Ago):
The final act of our evolutionary journey unfolded with the emergence of Homo sapiens, signifying the blossoming of the Head or Mind Centre. This period was characterised by a significant leap in cognitive abilities, including language development, abstract thought, self-awareness, and reflective consciousness. The human brain, with its highly developed prefrontal cortex, facilitated the formation of intricate social structures and the communication of complex ideas, leading to the birth of culture, art, religion, and science.
The Head or Mind Centre thus became the hub of our advanced cognitive functions and thought-focused consciousness, enabling unprecedented adaptation, innovation, and a rich, multifaceted metacognitive experience: that sense of a “me” experiencing a “you” or something else in my environment.
However, this cognitive evolution also introduced the capacity for conscious suffering. It has only really been in this final stage of human evolution (the last few hundred thousand years) that we have developed a symbolic, storied, time-constrained self, with a conceptual past/present/future outlook, consciously grappling with the complexities and challenges of existence. Psycho-spiritual practices and rituals of the last 300,000 years might be seen as representing our collective and ongoing efforts to address the “hard problem” of being these incredibly weird, often quite insane, suffering creatures who struggle at a conceptual or emotional level rather than a phsyical one for the most part, to live.
How The Head Centre Serves Us:
The Head Centre is the realm of knowledge and understanding, providing guidance and healing through symbolic language. It plays a pivotal role in navigation and decision-making, presenting options and aiding in discernment to see through illusions/delusions and cognitive biases.
The Head Centre embraces the complexities, paradoxes, and dualities of life, encouraging the expansion of horizons and the breakdown of limiting paradigms. In this light, it might also be called The Game Master, adept at delving deeply into the matrix of our lives, discerning the various “games” we are being invited to play, and strategizing on how to optimise these engagements (cf. Life As A Game: The Manual).
When aligned with the Heart and Body Centres, our Games Master or One True Friend, can offer wisdom, common sense, and unveil pathways that are interesting and meaningful for us to follow, ensuring the desires and needs of the other centres are met in a way that is satisfying and harmonious. Characterized by its openness and flexibility, The Game Master of The Mind is essential for exploration, innovation, and adeptly navigating life’s complexities.
The Practice: Bringing Ourselves Into Alignment (Body, Heart, & Mind) at the Start of Each Day
So, how do we go about this? Well, just like the journey we’ve just been on, we might want to start each day by tuning into these different centres and see what kind of feedback or “intel” they are able to offer us for the day ahead. Think of this as a way of “clicking” or “shifting” all three centres into alignment, or holding a quick team meeting with the main leaders of your inner world to ensure everyone is on the same page before all hell breaks loose.
As previously mentioned, I am currently endeavouring to incorporate something like Russ’s 10-minute BHM alignment upon waking, often accompanied by a cup of tea. I also make an effort to quickly sketch out a Three Act Play/Life Strategy for the day, viewing each task and challenge as part of a larger game.
I’ve observed that initiating my day with additional Body-Heart-Mind work, particularly when sequenced with Body first, followed by Heart, and concluding with Mind, fosters a more harmonious flow throughout the ensuing day. In contrast, omitting any BHM alignment, or delving directly into Heart or Mind focused activities such as writing or consultations without attending to my Body Centre, tends to result in a sense of internal imbalance and chaos.
Body Centre Practice:
My current Body Centre practice involves 20 minutes of yoga (when I do it, I do a routine created for me by Chat GPT) whilst listening to some solo piano Bach like the French Suites or Partitas, which due to their polyphonic nature, seem to help facilitate left-right hemisphere synchronization in the brain, adding a bit more focus to the yoga as well as creating a slightly more harmonious mental state. This is then followed by ten minutes of Wim Hof breathing and a 4-5 minute Lumi-plunge, or cold shower. Later on in the day, I try to do about 15 minutes on the spin bike (my least favourite part of my daily exercise routine) as current medical consensus would suggest that our bodies and minds benefit from both muscular elongation (stretching, yoga) as well as aerobic activity.
If you predominantly identify as a body type (Enneagram 8,9,1) and find yourself prone to seeking control and resisting vulnerability, you might want to consider incorporating some of the heart and head practices suggested. Engaging in focused activities can help cultivate presence and acceptance. Additionally, practicing the expression of your needs and vulnerabilities in safe environments can contribute to building emotional resilience.
Heart Centre Practice:
My Heart Centre practice at the moment primarily revolves around One True Friend writing/journalling. I am also very lucky to be able to deeply engage this centre during our 50-minute discussions. Playing or listening to music also proves beneficial for nurturing the Heart Centre, as well as spending time in nature. Being a “Heart Type,” and so more prone to dysregulation in this centre, I try to remain vigilant of my emotional reactivity throughout the day, incorporating body and mind grounding/orienting strategies to manage the frequent fluctuations of my hurt or frustrated heart. Admittedly, I sometimes resort to less wholesome, immediate solutions when experiencing hurt or heart-ache, actions that often lead to regret and a measure of shame.
Head Centre Practice:
My current Head Centred Practice (mainly for anxiety) involves some kind of 3-minute quick realignment of Body-Heart-Mind when feeling lost, off-course, out of sorts. Also reading or listening to texts that feed my curiosity and interests, listening to podcasts, as well as other heady distractions. Again, probably much like you, I occasionally resort to less healthy, immediate remedies or gratifications when feeling anxious or lost. While I often regret these choices and they bring a tinge of shame, I try to recognize and accept my imperfections when these arise, and crack on as best I can with The Game.
If you predominantly identify as a head type (Enneagram 5,6,7) and find yourself prone to overthinking and detaching from emotions, you might want to place a greater emphasis on exploring various grounding exercises (refer to the Body Section above) to foster a connection with your embodied being. Additionally, engaging in activities that evoke joy and passion can help you connect with your heart. Setting aside time for reflection is also beneficial to explore and integrate your emotions and thoughts.
If you like, at some point, let’s talk more about creating a good Body/Heart/Mind routine for you during the day, something that works well for your personality style as life circumstances.
Body Centre Reflective Questions
- What physical sensations do you notice upon waking? Are there any areas of tension or discomfort?
- How does your body respond to different types of movement, such as stretching, aerobic exercise, or relaxation techniques?
- What are some physical activities that make you feel grounded and present?
- How do you currently honour your body’s needs for nourishment, rest, and activity?
- Are there any specific times during the day when you feel disconnected from your body? What triggers this?
Heart Centre Reflective Questions
- What emotions are most prevalent for you in the morning? How do these emotions shift throughout the day?
- How do you currently attend to your emotional well-being? Are there practices or activities that evoke a sense of peace or joy?
- What are some challenges you face in maintaining emotional balance? Are there specific triggers?
- Are there moments when you feel emotionally reactive? What grounding techniques have you tried to manage these fluctuations?
Head Centre Reflective Questions
- What are the first thoughts that come to mind upon waking? How do these thoughts influence your mood and actions?
- How do you currently engage your cognitive faculties in a way that is both stimulating and grounding?
- Are there specific times or situations when you find yourself lost in thought or disconnected from your body and emotions?
- What are some practices that help you integrate cognitive understanding with emotional and physical experience?
- How do you navigate the balance between analytical thinking and intuitive knowing?
Integration Reflective Questions
- How do you currently align your Body, Heart, and Mind centres in your daily routine?
- Are there specific practices that help you integrate these centres? What are they?
- What challenges do you face in maintaining this alignment? Are there any recurring patterns?
- How does your daily routine reflect your evolutionary and psycho-spiritual understanding of these centres?
- What are some ways you can adapt your routine to better serve the integration of these centres?