I had found the glitch in the matrix, and like Neo in the film I had finally revealed the system for what it was.
Back in 2013, I burnt out. My body was exhausted by 16 hour days, malnourished on some, I struggled to even remember when I had last eaten. My nervous system shot and the final straw came, when one morning I found myself coughing up blood. All this in pursuit of proving my value and worth in a job and company I had lost faith in.
My story is not unusual. Like so many others, I had become very adept at ploughing on regardless. Giving my all and somehow it never feeling enough. As a result, my saboteurs had their very own re-run of the late, late show on any given evening. “I must be weak”, “losing my edge," “getting old” or “just not up to the job”. Back then, the battle between my head and my body was crippling. The only solution I could see, was to divorce myself from the work I had known and loved for 8 years.
In 2014 I quit my job, got myself a coach, travelled the world and found fulfilment in simple aspects of life. Hell, I even re-trained as a professional life coach. All of this great stuff made me think I was in the perfect position to identify any 2nd coming and yet, a mere 3 years later, the symptoms were different but the pattern was repeating, so why hadn’t I noticed it?
What if the true source of inner harmony was not to be found in your head or heart, but in actual fact in the deepening relationship between you and your stomach.
The Brain in my Belly
We tend to think we only have one brain to contend with. Alas this is not the case. This time around I was out manoeuvred by a contender I had not even begun to consider.
If you thought digestion defence was the sole purpose of your 2nd brain, otherwise known as your Enteric Nervous System (ENS), it is time to think again! With over 100 million neurons in the small intestine alone, it is no wonder our guts have become the barometer of our emotional state.
Butterflies in the stomach, gut instinct, lump in our throat. While scientists around the world debate the role our 2nd Brain has in our overall genetic make-up, one thing stands true, the interaction between our upper brain and our 2nd brain is beyond complex when it comes to our overall emotional well being.
For the most part our 2nd Brain can act independently, and yet when connection is required, much of it doesn’t even come into our consciousness. Add into the equation, the fact that our upper brain (the one in our heads) can and will interfere or simply override vital language from our belly and you soon begin to realise that without a healthy ENS, we face far wider consequences than simply mere indigestion.
To unlock the true hidden potential of our 2nd brain, and find optimal integration between mind and gut, perhaps it is time to re-connect both with our own being and also that which stems from ancient wisdom.
Our friends in Japan may have some crucial insights to offer. The ancient art of Hara (The Art of the Stomach) is a form of mastery which runs deep through Japanese culture. From martial arts, massage, alternative therapies to how much you should eat and the use of the breath, the “Hara” is considered the centre of all true knowledge.
In the West, when we think we “know” something we consider our heads to be the source of knowledge. In contrast, the Japanese consider it to be the Hara, the centre of your energy and with 90% of your serotonin (feel-good molecule) located here at any given time, this is not something you necessarily want to simply dismiss.
Centering one’s “Hara” is said to lead to a general state of serenity, profound awareness, personal power and balanced action. According to this ancient art, every connection we have in this world begins with the Hara, the umbilical cord that attaches us to a fountain of knowledge within ourselves and others.
Let your “Hara" be your guide
2 nights ago, as I wandered home from dinner, I found myself tapping into my own centre of inner knowledge and connection. Like all those around me walking past, I too at first, kept walking past a young man on the street selling insights and ideas for 1 euro each. With each fresh step, my gut instinct (my Hara) was raging against the brain in my head. 5 minutes later, intrigued at what I can only describe as a powerful calling, I found myself rooting my sitting bones deep into the concrete street to learn more.
Diarmuid had for the most part of his life been on crutches having been diagnosed at 19 with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the joints within the spine. Now this was no Belly issue clearly, but it wasn’t the condition that captured my attention but more so Diarmuid’s approach to managing it.
When it came to healing his body Diarmuid had from what I could see, adopted a “deep curiosity” as one of his main principles in moving forward in life. Now as a coach I am no stranger to this skill being that it is one of the very cornerstones of any coaches toolkit. But it seems, I had somewhat lost touch with this skill when it came to my own health and well-being.
In turn, like the Japanese, Diarmuid's curiosity and inner knowing had led to a devoted and spiritual practice with his body, one which ultimately had allowed him to break free from the crutches and live in harmony with both his mind and gut.
In listening to his story, I became acutely aware of my own need to self care, to stop looking for outward solutions and instead commit to some deep conversations with my belly. To lovingly accept the strain I had put on myself recently, heal my “Hara", love my belly, and re-connect to the nourishing wisdom that lies within each and every one of us.
Over to you.
If anything in my blog struck a nerve with you I’d love to hear about it. Share your story/insights in the comments box below.
Equally, if you've enjoyed reading this article, please share it with others.
- Over the next week commit to learning more about one ancient healing practice and see what new insights you get. Not sure where to start, why not connect with your own ancestry as a point of discovery.
- Take some quality time out of your day and spend it having a human conversation with someone who would not normally enter your awareness. Notice the insights you are given both from a mind and a gut point of view.