I just love making connections – it’s what I thrive on. In fact, we humans are hard-wired to solve puzzles.
And I like to see my life as a puzzle, a puzzle that is designed to be solvable and to be fun.
Like any game, life feels good we play. Recently I’ve been playing in a couple new ways. I’ve already blogged about my explorations in harmonic overtone singing. This has coupled nicely with a return to chi gong and the ancient practice that predates it, Daoyin.
Singing and moving both revolve around the breath.
Synergy between these two is rich, and I want to share with you a larger piece of the picture that has been coming together for me.
Understanding how you breath is maybe one of the most worthwhile investments you could ever make. My first truly conscious encounter with my breath revealed a tightly bound fear of death. I say ‘truly conscious’ because there is a difference between breathing consciously and unconsciously.
Conscious breathing comes in many forms and can have many benefits. Simple breath meditation calms the mind and creates a sense of center, a place of refuge built deep in our subconscious that shelter us during times of chaos and onslaught.
There is a physical place that mirrors your place of center. This is the solar plexus.
Your solar plexus is right below your sternum. If you take your fingers, you can find the soft place below the center of your ribcage. This is also where your diagram is, that jellyfish-like orb of muscle that expands down from your ribs, creating the space and the pressure for your lungs to draw in air.
A plexus is a bundle of nerves, and there are many in your body, mostly located along your midline. Actually, your solar plexus, or celiac plexus, is composed of many smaller plexuses. These help to coordinate and regulate your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, as well as your respiratory, digestive and circulatory systems.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this region is given great significance as the ‘Dan Tien’. The dan tien, or elixer field, is where the body’s life energy is stored and distributed throughout the body. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, the solar plexus chakra is seen as the place where desire is transformed into action.
Pretty big stuff. And with modern science, the plot thickens.
It turns out that the solar plexus is made up of grey and white brain matter, and is quite similar to our other three brains, the medulla (reptilian brain), cerebellum (mammalian brain) and cerebrum (homo sapiens brain). This is why now some leading scientists are talking about an ‘abdominal brain’.
The implications of this new reseach is too vast and exciting to really give justice to in this blog. Suffice it to say that the above mentioned perspectives of TCM and Ayurveda are being confirmed by modern science – there is an intelligent power center dwelling in your gut.
So what does this all have to do with the voice? Well, from my vocal practice, I have learned that a tight solar plexus can hinder the voice. This is because the solar plexus region is an indirect muscle pair with the larynx and the backs of the vocal chords, called the interarytenoid muscles.
All terms aside (and please refer to these diagrams to get your bearings – I’m still trying to get a handle on where I am in all of this!), the way you are in your solar plexus and your gut is directly linked to your experience of speaking, singing, making sound, communicating, expressing your truth and making a creative contribution to the world.
To take the Ayurvedic perspective, which overlays the chakra system upon all the major plexuses of the body, your ability to transform desire into action is directly linked to your communication and creativity.
This is helping me to get a handle on what power is. Like Eric Liu of Citizen University so elegantly advocates for, we need to understand and speak a simple, effect language of power. Where is it? Who has it? How does it operate? And why is it necessary in the world, in our communities, and in our own lives.
I am a firm believer in the old Gnostic adage: ‘As above, so below’. The ancient Chinese had the same perspective when it comes to our place in the world. They see the bodies internal organs and the energetic channels that connect them as a nation. First, we must achieve a personal balance of power. Then comes your place in family, then community, and finally in the nation as a harmonious social agent.
It is no surprise to me that in Ayurveda, our social identity exists at our heart chakra, or cardiac plexus. This is between our solar plexus, the seat of our egoic identity, and our throat or pharyngeal plexus, where our creative identity lives.
To bring us full circle, I am reminded of another famous saying that has been a useful mantra for me: ‘To be in the world and not of the world’.
When I sing or speak or share, I am tapping into both my creativity and it reflection point, the ego. Necessarily both of these are involved, and for a long time this scared me. As a child, I developed acute social anxiety. Then I learned to intellectualize my fear by thinking I was above the world and all its complex, sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly relationships.
For me, to heal my social identity has also meant reclaiming my own power. And reclaiming my own power has meant being creative. All of these are housed within an even more nuanced system that bridges my activities in the world with my understanding of who I really am. At a soul level.
Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi mystic and sacred musician, had a beautiful way of talking about this. He believed that each individual, each living entity from the insect to the human being, was a unique tone all unto itself. Each distinct and immutable, and yet playing together as a single symphony.
Separate and yet part of a greater whole.
This is the language of your Solar Voice.
“As above, so below.”
“In the world and not of the world.”
“Separate and yet part of a greater whole.”
“The sacred in me recognizes and honors the sacred in you.”
When you start to communicate from your soul, from your core self, your Highest Self, the vibrations of your essence start to radiate and resonate and wake up those places where parts of you are hidden, buried beneath shame and sinew, closed off behind guilt and muscle.
The solar plexus is a great and fabled treasure house of you. Its intelligence can be greeted as a dear friend. I have found this to be a beautifully healing practice that links the voice and the heart.