The Hara is the physical midpoint of the human body, and the spiritual center of the human being. Located below the belly button and a little way into the body, it’s equidistant to the feet and the head, making it a natural place to be in balance, or regain balance. Physically it’s our center of gravity. Because it’s a vibrational center, the Hara is also our spiritual center as all that follows below shows.
The word hara means belly in Japanese, the area of the body bounded by the lower ribcage and pelvic bowl. It has significance in this regard, as well as vibrationally.
It contains the following organs:
- Small intestine
- Large intestine
- Gall bladder
- Adrenal glands
- Urinary bladder
- Reproductive organs
This area is also part of oxygen-rich blood and nutrition reaching a growing fetus through the umbilical cord, and waste removal in the same way.
The exact location of the Hara is known as tanden in Japan.
The ki of the organs and meridians of the entire body pools in the lower tanden, like a vast storehouse of power.
In Japanese it’s variously known as seika no itten, seika tanden or kikai tanden.
Tanden means “red rice field” or “red field.” This indicates a vast amount of powerful life force since rice is a primary source of nutrition and this is a whole field of it, glowing in red.
Seika means “below the navel,” so seika tanden specifies which center it is, since there are several others. Seika no itten means “the one point below the navel,” stressing the importance of always centering oneself there.
Kikai means “ocean of ki,” or life force, so kikai tanden points out that there is an ocean of ki in this center.
Here’s what it looks like in Japanese kanji (characters):
丹 – tan, ‘rust coloured’ or ‘red’ and 田 – den ‘rice paddy’ or ‘field’.
Together tanden 丹田 literally translates as ‘red field’ or ‘burning place of fire/energy.’
Sometimes referred to as kikai 気海 tanden where the characters of ki 気 ‘spirit’ and kai or umi 海 ‘ocean’ describe the tanden as the body’s ‘sea of energy.’
For meditation to be smooth so we’re encouraged to keep practicing, especially as a beginner, the mind needs a harness. There are different ones that various teachings use. The breath is probably the most commonplace.
When the mind focuses on the breath, it stops being busy. As the breath descends down into the belly, there’s even more natural concentration for the mind. We’re able to be in the body, and feel alert and that there’s nothing lacking. There’s no split between thoughts (mind), feeling (heart), and body (hara). Instead we’re in a state of unity.
There’s another, invisible aspect to the Hara. At birth the physical umbilical cord between the baby and the mother is removed. The baby begins breathing on its own and taking in nutrition through the mouth. There also remains a vibrational connection between the baby’s navel and the earth and universe. In fact multiple nonphysical cords continue to be active between the human being and all of life.
The earth and universe feeds us both biologically and spiritually through the Hara for the entirety of our life. We’re also in relationship to all of life from the same location. It’s a constant loop of resonance and reciprocity. We can actually experience the Oneness of life in the Hara and be able to truly embody it.
The Hara gives us a way of being in the world without attempting to escape it, and also returning to a wholesome relationship with the Earth. Spiritually, we’re able to deepen and develop our essential oneness with all of life as the realizations of the Hara filter into our consciousness.
For a table to exist, we need wood, a carpenter, time, skillfulness, and many other causes to be. The wood needs the forest, the sunshine, the rain, and so on. The carpenter needs his parents, breakfast, fresh air, and so on. And each of those things, in turn, has to be brought about by other conditions. If we continue to look in this way, we will see that nothing has been left out. Everything in the cosmos has come together to bring us this table. Looking deeply at the sunshine, the leaves of the tree, and the clouds, we can see the table. The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
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