The Heart of Compassion: Understanding the Heart Chakra

The Heart of Compassion: Understanding the Heart Chakra

Heart Chakra: Compassion
Location: Heart, Chest, Lungs, Shoulders, Arms, Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems
Bija Mantra: Yam
Sanskrit Name: Anahata (un-struck)

The anahata chakra is located at the heart, and the extension of it are the arms and the legs. This chakra’s element is air, and it rules our respiratory and cardiovascular system. The heart chakra sits at the center of the chakra system, with three chakras below it and three chakras above. The bottom three are “worldly” chakras whose elements are earth, water and fire; while the upper three chakras all have the element of ether, since they are considered “heavenly” chakras. Essentially the heart is the toggle switch between our own earthly and heavenly existence. It mediates the relationship between both realms.

The heart chakra is correlated with the sense of touch. It is through our hearts that we feel the world. When we create with our hands, we offer our love with our creation. Think of cooking for someone you love—it’s not just about the food, but about the attention and care you put into the meal. Somehow, it makes the food taste better! When we do the work of our heart, everyone benefits. We benefit because the love moves through us as it makes its way out to those we serve.

Love is a difficult thing to define, particularly in english, as there is only one word for it. We use the word love to say, “I love you,” but also to say, “I love chocolate.” These are two completely different sentiments. In the language of yoga, Sanskrit, there are 54 different ways to say “love.” Each word expresses a different quality of love, because we love in so many different ways: we have love for a parent, for a child, 80’s movies, and our love for our pet. The quality of love contained within the heart is singular: it is unconditional. It is the type of love that we offer to any and all beings, regardless of their relationship to us. It is felt as compassion, and expressed as kindness. When it is stifled, it turns to fear, guilt, and the inability to forgive.

Breaking Through Limiting Beliefs

All of us have experienced a broken heart at one point or another. No matter the relationship type (romantic, parental, familial, friendship), when things fall apart, our heart may break. This core wound often feels painful. We may experience shortness of breath, or actual pain in the chest as a result. A broken heart is an emotional injury that develops scar tissue just as a real injury does. If left untended, any injury does not heal properly, and the scar tissue that is originally laid down to protect the wound eventually gets in the way of healthy movement and expression.

We want to avoid this when it comes to our heart.

Though it hurts, and though it is often agonizing, the only way to recover from a broken heart is to keep loving. Just like physical therapy begins at the earliest moment to ensure tissues recover properly and with full range of motion, emotionally, we need to do the same. The only way not to be bound up by emotional scar tissue is to keep the heart open. It staves off debilitating fear and immobilizing guilt. The therapy that gets this done? Forgiveness.

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Forgiveness is the remedy that allows us and others to move on and continue living life with courage and compassion. Forgiveness requires acceptance of all that is, and all that was, for it can be no other way. We cannot change the past, but we do have control over this moment. In this moment we are capable of choosing to be free of the hurt, fear, and anger that threatens to shut our heart down and prevent us from walking freely forward into life.