Hara is a Japanese word meaning ‘the centre’. It is the physical centre point of your body and resides just below the belly button. Hara is also the energetic centre in your body. In Oriental Medicine, the Hara area, which is the whole abdomen, is also a major diagnostic region. All organ and meridian imbalances can be diagnosed from the Hara. Hara strength is developed by building Qi, through breath, exercise and meditation.
Hara strength cannot be seen from the outside. It is perceived as a deep inner strength, with a peaceful demeanour. When the Hara is strong, a person will be flexible yet stable, grounded firmly in reality, while emanating an alertness of spirit. A person strong in the Hara will be intuitive and able to follow their ‘gut’ reaction. This kind of intuition is fully centered in the body. It is not a mind sense. Rather it is a physical/body knowing that is not dominated by thought processing.
Children naturally come from their Hara. They are centred in the body and at ease with it. They naturally move from this centred space, and you can see that they are connected in body and mind. However, observe a young child who is thinking or worrying about something, and watch her lose balance! Off centre and out of the now moment, a child will find it difficult to maintain physical equilibrium.
As children grow, this natural physical centre is superceded by the development of the mind function and thought, which eventually, in most individuals becomes the dominant feature. So what happens to Hara? As we grow and focus more on the development of the mind, we begin to lose awareness of this other way of processing and responding to information. We lose touch with the part of ourselves that gives us a sense of connection to other human beings and indeed all other forms of life.
In indigenous cultures worldwide, the people still have this connection. They live from the Hara. The way in which they respond to their environment is one, that in most cases, expresses their innate connection to the whole of life. They know this intuitively and physically. Their way of life necessitates this way of being. Living in balance with the rest of nature is a requirement for survival.
Oriental martial arts and meditation practices, focus on the development of Hara in their training. Here, the building and storing of Qi is fundamental to the development of Hara strength.
So what relevance does this information hold for you?
If you would like to have an inner strength that helps you to remain focused and balanced when faced with a physical challenge, then building Hara strength will assist you. If it is strength of mind that you need, once again, building Hara strength will help.
The ability to remain calm in difficult emotional circumstances? A strong Hara will be of immense value.
The Wu Tao dances will help you to focus on and develop your Hara. Through the use of the breath, meditation, visualisation and the physical movements, you will build up your store of Qi energy in your Hara. It will be there to call on in moments of physical, emotional and mental challenge.
For example: When you begin to feel the beginnings of a cold (called wind invasion in Chinese Medicine), you can use your breath, to help circulate your Qi, sending it out to your skin, to help it fight off the cold.
When facing an emotionally stressful situation, you can allow yourself to rest in your Hara, maintaining a peaceful openness and let the emotions move through you without becoming caught and attached to them. Physically, you can use Hara strength whenever you would use your physical strength. Try taking a lid off a jar that is difficult while focussing on being centred in your Hara, or chopping wood or lifting a heavy item.
Being focused in the Hara is a meditation. It is the source of all strength and is the point where all aspects of your being come together. A physical centre, it grounds the spirit, allowing it to radiate and express its truth, and gives the mind a calm place in which to focus.
Basic Hara breathing Technique.
This can be done while standing, walking or sitting or lying down. If you want, lightly rest your hands on your Hara.
Start by breathing in and out slowly. Focus on letting go of any tension as you release your breath. When you are ready, begin to breathe and visualise a big golden ball of energy or light in your Hara, just below your belly button. As you breathe in, imagine the ball expanding, as you bring your breath right down into your Hara. As you breathe out, visualise the ball contracting slightly and becoming very solid and heavy. Focus on holding onto some of the Qi in your Hara as you release your breath. Continue this process until you feel centred and focused in your Hara.