As I watch my daughter cramming her stuff into the back of the car that will drive her back to school in Texas, I feel my head spinning as tears stream down my face. My heart clenches and I feel as if I’ve been kicked in the stomach. She turns to me, flashing her confident smile, and says, “Mom stop worrying, I told you I’m not going to get it!” I offer a weak smile and respond, “I want to believe that! I hope you’re right.”
But as soon as the words are out of my mouth, I feel a heavy weight in my gut that pulls my heart down. In response, my head stops spinning and drops into alignment with my body. My mind is suddenly crystal clear; there is no doubt. I know with every cell of my body that she will get it. But the beautiful, confident, 20-year-old sense of invincibility shining through her smile stops me from sharing this with her.
As I breathe her in, I feel an odd mixture of total calm and absolute terror. I hear internally, “Let it be. Don’t share what you know. Let her certainty be her armor of protection; don’t pierce it with the truth. She will be okay.” As the car pulls away, my head begins to spin. Then the anxious thoughts follow. “But what if she dies?” I breathe, lengthen, and let my head drop into the anchor weight of my belly. The knowing weight says, “She will be okay, no matter what.” No matter what! What does that mean? But, but what if….!” Breathe, lengthen, drop into the belly anchor.
For the next few months, this becomes my centering practice every day. It is a constant practice of catching myself being off center by noticing bodily sensations that tell me my three centers aren’t aligned, then bringing them back into physical and energetic alignment.
Centering becomes the emotional lifeline that keeps my head-spinning fear grounded by my belly, where I know without thinking that she will be okay. Since I know in my gut she will be okay, I am more available to calm myself and her. Having greater access to the sensations of my Belly Center offers a more body-centered knowing to anchor my thinking brain or Head Center. While my head brain tries hard to think things through, it often forgets it has wisdom from two other body-centered brains to rely on. Without the anchor of the Belly/Body Center, emotions and thoughts can spin out.
We all have three neurological centers, or brains, along our spine–Belly, Heart, and Head. These are sometimes referred to as the Three Centers of Intelligence. Our Belly Center, sometimes called the Body Center, is the anchor for the Heart and Head Centers. Our belly brain (or gut brain) often operates independently of our head brain. This is largely due to the vagus nerve, which directly innervates the gut, heart, and lungs. The vagus nerve bypasses the spinal cord as it snakes straight up through the middle of our torso and into the brain. Up to 90 percent of vagal nerve fibers send signals from the gut to the brain rather than the other way around. The head brain is not the top-down command center. It receives far more information from the organs in our gut than it sends back. In fact, this gut brain is the only known part of the nervous system that can override messages from the head brain.
Our belly brain also anchors the first manifestation of our Enneagram type structure. Our dominant type structure doesn’t gel until our brain and central nervous system are fully developed in our mid-twenties. Early in life, the first pattern of Enneagram type structure begins in the belly brain as the nerve bundles develop a movement preference for one of the social styles; Assertive, Withdrawn, or Dutiful. The Belly Center is where we just know the right action without thinking. It is the home of our intuitive knowing. This is evident in common expressions like; “I just knew it in my gut.” In response to this knowing, our belly brain gravitates toward one of three patterns of movement: Pushing In (Assertive), Pulling Back (Withdrawn) or Moving Toward (Dutiful).
Can you sense your belly movement style now? Try this while standing; Think of something you want to manifest in your life. Take a deep breath and exhale. As you exhale, let the weight of your pelvis drop, soften your knees, and feel your feet on the floor. Sense your belly energy extending into your legs and feet. How do your feet want to move? Allow them to move, maybe even take a few steps. What sensations do you notice in your belly, legs, and feet as you move? How would you describe the underlying energetic quality in the movement? Does it want to push in, pull back, or move toward?
While our social style (Assertive, Withdrawn, or Dutiful) is the main movement sensed in the belly, it is also possible to sense the points of our Enneagram landscape, which consists of our dominant type structure, plus wings and arrows. As you sense which movement style your Belly Center prefers, can you sense which aspect of your Enneagram landscape is present in the movement? When sensed in the body, our Enneagram landscape is a dynamic system. We move around and access different qualities from points in this landscape throughout the day depending on what is showing up.
I invite you to create a daily practice of sensing into your Belly Center. Neuroscience studies show that our nervous system creates new habits through repetitive action. A daily practice of checking in with the Belly Center is a simple repetitive action taken in the body, which feeds back into the brain, creating new neural pathways. Over time, this creates a new habit of being more in tune with the Belly Center. Our Belly Center is the anchor for creating new awareness and shifts in our emotions and thought patterns. When sensory awareness of the Belly/ Body Center is awakened, everything else aligns.
Having clear access to my Belly Center allowed me access to my body wisdom, or intuition. I knew in my gut, in my body, that my daughter would come through and luckily, she did. Because I have developed a daily practice of aligning my Three Centers of Intelligence through body sensations, I was able to access their wisdom in a balanced way. In balance, the habits of my type structure were not pulling my three centers out of alignment. My type structure then became a backdrop of support rather than running the show. The components of creating a daily practice for aligning the centers are as simple as described earlier–a daily practice of repetitive action that creates new patterns of behavior in our nervous system. The trick is making the commitment. My daily practice helped me navigate and ground my terror. I am so grateful for this work!