Many Indigenous cultures recognise that we live in three worlds: Upper-Heaven-Spirit, Lower-Earth-Body and Middle-Mind-All living creatures. This world view also comes up in Chinese medical philosophy, within the framework of Heaven, Earth, Human. The three world view of life helps us recognise the existence of our body-mind-spirit as an individual expression of the universe as a whole, interconnected system. The body relates to Mother Earth, the spirit to Father Sky, and the mind is housed in the Heart, in the middle world.
The Upper World
The upper world is the spirit world which belongs to ‘Father Sky’. In the Taoist traditions this is called heaven and is described as ‘the over-arching intelligence of life’. This non-physical spiritual realm exists as the background to our life, just as the sky is the background for the sun. It offers us the highest view of life, the place where we know all is well. It is from the upper world that we receive our intuition, insights and subtle signals that attempt to guide us through our life changes. The more we listen and respond to these mostly quiet whispers, the more they show up in our lives. Prayers and meditation help strengthen our connection to this world of the unseen, guiding spirits.
The Middle World
The middle world is where we humans dwell, as a mixture of both a physical material body, and the invisible, intangible spirit. The upper and lower worlds connect through the Heart which is recognised as ‘the bridge between the worlds’. Our Heart is the receiver of our spirit. Our ‘Heart spirit’ is our personal doorway to ‘divine awareness’ that sees life through a pure lens of love and light. Instinctively we know that the Heart ‘knows’ and that to listen to our Heart is the way of staying true to ourselves and others. The Heart is home to the virtues such as kindness, respect, compassion, gratitude and generosity. All these are our human expressions that convey the highest qualities of being.
In Chinese medicine, the Heart is described as ‘The Supreme Controller’ and the ‘Heart rules the mind’. The Heart receives the light of awareness from the upper world which, like the light of the sun, helps us to see. The light from the upper world shines through our Heart, illuminating our minds, our eyes and our vision of life as a whole. As the connector to the lower worlds, our Heart light shines down onto the earthly world more like a spotlight, focussing in on the details of life. I refer here to this management style of thinking as the ‘head-mind’. It’s strength is planning, logic, organisation, and it loves to know what’s happening next, in contrast to the ‘Heart mind’ which is more focussed in present time awareness. Both these aspects of mind, the divine/heart and everyday/head awareness, are needed for balanced functioning in the world.
On a mental-emotional level, when we are Heart connected, we feel more awake, alive and aware. This brings us feelings of strength, clarity, openness, and freedom to express ourselves, as when our Hearts are balanced, we are more able to trust life, ourselves and each other. With clear awareness, we know how to sense and read signals from the external environment, and we know how to respond appropriately. When we know, we know. When we are clear, we are clear.
Science also confirms the super power of the Heart. Research from the Heart Math Institute has shown that the measurement of the electro-magnetic field is 60 times stronger than the brain’s electro-magnetic field. We know from science that people with strong Heart energy emit powerfully calming signals into the surrounding environments. There have been many studies which show how people who meditate regularly, and their resultant calm, have beneficial effects on those nearby.
The Lower World
The lower world is the realm of Mama Earth, our body, animals, all physical things, and nature. It is the place where we manifest the forms of our human existence. It relates to the physical body, our homes, workplaces, towns, cities, and the natural environment, the governing structure of our lives. On Earth we go through our life changes, growing and evolving beyond the patterns of previous generations. Learning from change is the leading edge of our evolution and adversity is one of humanity’s greatest, though challenging, allies of major growth.
Mother Nature is the ultimate teacher of the rich, regenerative bounty of the earthly realm. She consistently shows us how the essence of life is beautiful, demonstrated by her everyday displays of abundance, glory and wonder. In her seasonal cycles of change, Mother Nature guides us to see the natural cycles of life on Earth as an ongoing transformative process from birth to growth, flowering, harvest, decline and death. All these shifts in life are represented by the annual seasons of Spring, Summer, late Summer, Autumn and Winter. Living in the lower world requires us to experience all these phases of life energy expanding and contracting. When things die, it is seen as a part of natural cycle and preparation for rebirth.
Waking Up and Letting Go to a BIGGER Flow
Indigenous people recognise that the spirits of the upper world will reach to us through surprising events to ‘wake us up’ when we are off track in our lives. Right now as a community of global citizens, we are in a collective ‘wake-up call’. This can bring about a healing crisis, a surfacing of emotions and fears. It can also open us to expanded states of consciousness. The purpose of major change is to grow us and give birth to new parts of ourselves. In Chinese medicine these ‘peaks of change’ are viewed as a ‘life gate’ opening us to a new phase. We can recognise how individual life transformations occur when someone dies, or a baby is born. These major shifts in our lives offer adjust our priorities, we see life differently and make meaning in new ways.
Right now we are all at a threshold of major change in our whole world, and there’s a lots of threshing! Looking from the perspective of the Upper World, Covid 19 could be seen as a messenger. Certainly it has captured our attention and brought the whole world together very, very fast. When we face death a common response is to ask the big questions. What is important? What am I doing with my life, time and energy?, Where am I going? Why am I here? What needs to change and how ?
Adapting to change and letting go is nature’s way. It is also what keeps humans healthy. We will accelerate all of our growth and support the evolution of the whole when we get into flow with the big changes going on around us.
As our young people and scientists warned us we needed to change, and HOW to do this is still evolving. It is helpful to keep in mind that all big changes happen step by step. We can and will survive and thrive beyond this time and the starting place is now.
As the Sufi Poet Saint, Kabir says
“Wherever you are is the entry point”
Simple Guidelines for Balancing the Three Worlds
To balance the upper world and our connection to spirit, It is helpful to have a practice that settles the thinking mind, and activates the breath. Steering the mind and freeing the breath, opens us to the inspiration and vision of the upper world. To clear your mind and uplift your Heart, listen to music, dance, sing, share your Heartfelt stories, draw, paint, gaze at beautiful things, bask in the magic of nature, enjoy the company of light-hearted children, cradle a baby, sit in the sun or by a fire and soak up the warmth. Make a daily practice of recording and expressing gratitude for all the good in your world. Give. Love. Laugh. Play and make FUN.
In the middle world, it is very powerful to learn to align the Head and Heart mind. For the often over-stimulated management thinking mind, we need to reduce mental stimulation, such as restricting time on computer, and turning management thinking off by 7pm. Give yourself permission to not over-think the things that have no current solutions, and allow time for the unseen to reveal itself. Learning to calm the mind, reset and soothe the nervous system is supported by slow rhythmic breathing. Putting the mind into the feeling sensations of the body through practice such as Yoga Nidra, and iRest https://www.irest.org/try-irest-now anchors us into present time awareness, which is the origin of all life creation.
The lower, Earthly world is supported by learning to stay grounded, nourishing our roots, slowing down, and living life ‘step by step’. These are all the age old ways of navigating change. If possible have some time outdoors with bare feet and feel into the firm support of the earth underfoot. Exercising the big muscles of the body is a good way to discharge adrenalin, which can get loaded up into our muscle, in preparation for ‘fight or flight’ action response. Pro-longed, sustained stress levels can also cause increased levels of cortisol in the body, which stimulate sensations of feeling both ‘tired and wired’. The built up adrenalin and cortisol levels, can make us feel edgy and over-revved, like a car with the accelerator down and the brakes on at the same time.
Taking extra care with our diets and making a point of eating whole foods from the earth, supports our overall ‘digestion of life’. Eating food with people we love, and skin to skin time with others, stimulates the production of Oxytocin. This is a neuro-modulating hormone, meaning that it directly affects the brain and nervous system as well as the body. Some of the feel good sensations of Oxytocin, are feelings of calm, trust, generosity, connection and belonging.
Sharing meals with loved ones is one of life’s simple daily pleasures, a primal bonding practice that anchors us to the good life here on earth. I have heard how many people during lockdown, have enjoyed reconnecting and sharing meals with their families altogether. Building daily rhythms around meals is one of the fastest ways to reset our earthy level balance. It’s also a great way to re-bond with people we care about and rebuild feelings of trust and safety, in what can feel like a very unsafe time!
To harmonise all levels, practice listening to your Heart while anchoring in the here and now presence of your physical body. SLOW DOWN. Commit to reconnecting to nature and where possible have an hour a day outside every day. Try Qigong, Yoga and Tai Chi practices which regulate all levels simultaneously through mental focus, balancing the energy, and anchoring in the body. Watch out for negativity as the downward pull can easily suck us under during times of ‘walking in the dark’. Restrict time with people who are addicted to suffering. Watch your boundaries and be mindful of all things that strengthen your energy. Make time to appreciate life, and keep in mind we are very lucky to be alive! Aim to enjoy a daily laugh at this surprising, sometimes silly dance we call life. Stay light and nourish your light, it’s a choice.