J. Randall Stewart
05 - An Introduction to the Three Centers of Being
Updated: May 15, 2020
If you haven’t figured it out by now, my aim is to take you on a long and fruitful journey of better understanding who you are, in order to become the best, truest version of yourself. It is a life-long journey, and there is a lot to talk about. I say that to set the tone, because this journey entails a lot of different pieces and ideas, which must be understood separately, and then put together holistically. I want you to be prepared for the long haul. This is not a short or simple journey. Personal transformation is my passion and pursuit for a long time. I’ve been growing in this for the better part of twenty-five years, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s so much I’ve learned along the way, but also much that I’ve thrown out in light of newer discoveries. Much of this learning is not about finding "the truth", but the truths get us further along the path. It's not a riddle we solve. It's a journey of discovery, that leads us to a larger place where we see even more to discover. The journey never stops. There is not one answer which ends the movement of becoming who we are meant to be. There’s a lot to uncover. I hope you’re prepared to just keep plugging along with me, and trying as best you can to keep pace and learn as I am learning too. To me, truth is not a weapon I forge to beat back the wrong truths of others. Truth is a path we walk together, as we share the part we've been given. You have part of it. I have part of it. But together, we all have more than we would alone. I am here, sharing my part, but also sharing in the parts of others. I hope you can hold on to that idea, even when what I’m saying sounds weird, or untrue to your own experience. I think one of those weird and foreign truths is this idea that we have three Centers of Being.
Think of it this way. There are three parts which make up the whole of who we are. We have a body. We have a heart and mind, and we have a spirit. In order to be fully who we are, we must learn how to live in, and out of all three centers. To only live out of one or two means we are only operating as one third, or two thirds of a person. Imagine tying one of your arms behind your back, or both your legs together. I recently broke my left-hand doing construction. I actually only broke one bone, the third metacarpal. But it rendered my whole hand useless. You never know what you have till it’s gone. You also don't know what you're missing, when you start out broken to begin with. Just as our bodies are severely limited by a single malfunction, so too our whole being. It is debilitating to have one of our three centers out of commission. It is limiting to our whole person, but we may not realize that if we've never been a whole person. When we live disconnected to our soul, or spirit, we become empty and lifeless, like zombies roaming the earth, mindlessly consuming and destroying everything, even ourselves. Unfortunately, in the west, this metaphor is not far from the truth. We are often very good physical consumers, but not often good at understanding the workings and needs of our other two parts. Just look at how much mental health issues are on the rise, and how much religious interest is on the decline. We are often truly a culture living mostly out of only one third of ourselves, and the damage is evident. It’s not hard to see. Just look at the planet. Look at how we are treating the planet, the environment, and other people. We have forgotten how to live as individuals, connected to our ecosystem as a whole, because we are disconnected to ourselves as a whole. I truly believe, unless we come to better understand our whole person, we will never understand how to live more holistically in the world around us. Our disconnectedness to the world is evidence of our disconnectedness to ourselves. Let’s use a very practical illustration. Think about a narcissist or psychopath. These are, by definition, individuals who can hurt others because they are not in tune with themselves. They are disconnected from their own ability to empathize with how others feel, in order to prevent the cruel behaviors they inflict on others. In other words, self-absorption equals self-abuse, which in turn leads to abusing others. The remedy, then, as we’ve already stated, is the opposite of self-absorption; selflessness. Narcissists and psychopaths are merely the extremes. We are all detached from our selves in ways that lead us to do harmful things to ourselves, others, and the planet. Isn’t it proper to say that, at the heart of what enables us to abuse the planet is the idea that, “Well, at least I have what I need.” Having what I need, at the cost of others not getting what they need, is a kind of narcissistic, psychopathic dysfunction. Can you truly say that you do not suffer from this dysfunction to some degree or another? How many homeless people have you passed by in your life time? How many people do you pass by every day without ever wondering how they are doing, and if they are okay? I’m not saying any of this from some kind of moral high-horse, in order to make you feel bad. I suffer from the same dysfunction, to my own degree. It’s not whether or not you have this sickness. It’s whether or not you’re trying to get well. I’m not about calling out the sickness as much as pointing to the cure. And I believe the cure is learning how to live out of a wholeness of being that puts us in touch with all three centers of who we truly are. Let’s explore that idea some more.
I’m an emotive person, and have tended to live out those emotions to much. So, a lot of my journey has been getting more in tune with my spiritual side. But I’ve also realized lately how much I need to get more in tune with my body. What I’ve found, in this recent journey, is that being disembodied puts me more out of touch with how my actions affect the bodies of others, even my own. The same is true for all three centers. Each center has its particular function and needs. The function and needs of the body are sensual, the function and needs of the soul are emotional and mental, and the function and needs of the spirit are spiritual (and much harder to describe). We know quite easily what the body needs. But we are often not as in tune with our bodies as we think. We may actually be chasing pleasure and good feelings to the detriment of the body. This is what we might deem obsessive or compulsive behavior. If I eat too much, or too much of the wrong things, my body will literally show me. But the question is, am I really paying attention. Interestingly enough, the definition of contemplation is the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a very long time. Contemplation can be said to be the act of simply paying attention. Are we really paying attention to our bodies? Do we really understand our body’s needs? Are we really meeting those needs well? Do we really understand the proper purpose and function of the body? Ironically, it takes all three centers of being to do this. All three parts must work together in order for all three parts to understand their needs and functions properly. Living predominantly out of the body will not teach us how to live in the body well. It is important for the spirit to inform the body through the mind and heart about how the body should live. We understand the concept of an outside observer sometimes having the best vantage point and unbiased perspective. This is especially true for all three parts of our being. We need the other two to come in from the outside and inform the third about many things it cannot see from the inside. The body simply doing what feels good may not always be good for it. It takes the perspective of the spirit, heart and mind to communicate this. The body alone is often consumed by sensuality. The heart alone by feeling. The mind alone by thinking, and the spirit alone by God-connection. How do we know that feeling by itself is not reality, or thinking, or sensuality, or even divine communion? We know this best when all our parts are well connected and working together. The dominance of one part can throw all the others into chaos. I know this all too well.
Four years ago I experienced horrible panic attacks. It was the culmination of a long season of stress. What started as occasional, mild panic, ended in three straight days of those attacks, which shut me down completely. What I learned in the following year of recovery was a lot of good insight about how these Centers of Being work together for good, or for bad. I can only describe that process as the Divine light within me illuminating what was going on in each of these three parts. As I began to deal with the chaos inside, I began to be see where different sensations and stimulus were coming from. But, why does that matter? Learning where something was coming from helped me understand how to deal with it, and how to keep it from seeping into the other parts. I know that may sound trippy and weird, but just hang with me, and try not to be skeptical. During my year of recovery, when I would start to feel anxious, the Divine inner light helped me see where that anxiety was centered. I think this makes sense, if we think about it. Have you ever felt stress just in your body, or gut? Have you ever had an anxious thought, or feeling? I think we all have. What we don’t often realize is just how a sensation in one part can quickly integrate into the other two. Sometimes, when we are asleep to the workings of our parts, we may not recognize the source, or be able to keep negative energy from permeating our whole being. A big part of personal transformation, I believe, is learning how each part works, and becoming more conscientious about what’s going on in each at any given time. That is a big part of contemplation. It is a new and burgeoning kind of self-awareness that allows us, surprisingly, to be a lot less self-absorbed. Think about it. If I know what’s going on inside me, and can quickly deal with it, then I can continue focusing on others instead of myself. On the contrary, if I am deeply controlled by the my inner experience, then I'll be distracted by that, especially when it's intense. Our experience of life and relationship is a fluid exchange of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual interaction. The more self-obscure we are the more self-absorbed. All these stimulus coming at us will continually focus us on what's happening in us and to us, instead of all that’s happening around us to others. True freedom and transformation is that which free us from this self-centered absorption, in order to enjoy being more engaged with others.
I know that’s a lot to take in, and probably a lot of new ideas. Let’s pause for a moment, catch our breaths, and give these ideas time to soak in. Any good truth takes time to grow, and show itself to be true. Try not to throw any of this out yet, before you've taken some time to sit with it. We can all quickly dismiss new ideas simply because their new, and foreign to our old way of thinking. But nothing is more harmful to transformation than an unwillingness to listen, and learn. Let's keep learning about these three Centers of Being. I am going to spend a lot more time exploring these three centers, because there is so much more to be explored. This first post is just meant as an introduction to these three centers, and our need to be more in tune with them. When we are not, the consequences can be harmful. Perhaps, at this point, we should focus on each one of these three individually. So, hold onto your hats, the roller coaster is gonna get more steep from here.