Chakra #5 – The Throat or "Will" Center
The throat center, or Vishuddha in Sanskrit, lies in a line between a spot just above the larynx and back from the chin to the hollow in the base of the skull. This center is generally referred to as the center of will. This is the place on the throat were we develop a “lump” when we have something to assert but have difficulty saying it. This is a more contemporary connection to our aspect of will. One of the earliest uses of the word will comes from the 4 century B.C. Sanskrit vrnoti and Gothic waljan meaning to choose or prefer. Essentially, the word is taken to mean the implication of intention or volition.
This is the first energy center presenting an ability to deal with and perceive life from an abstract perspective. This might be considered the “lower edges” of the higher mind. The word abstract comes from the 14th
century Latin word abstractus "drawn away." It was also described as "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters." Since the lower mind gains its strength and perspective from details, specifics and facts, we may assume that an abstract perspective is reflective of the higher mind and might be more conceptual, interrelated, organizational and implied. It therefore participates in the world from a different perspective than the three “lower” centers below the heart. Additionally, the action that takes place is much more internal. This is not to be confused with the idea of locus of control. It has less to do with motivation than it does with receiving information from sources other than the physical world. As the “lower” centers are much more instinctive, the “higher” centers are much more intuitive.
The words instinct and intuition have been used interchangeably by the majority of the world’s population. The subtle difference in their meanings has escaped detection largely due to the fact that the commonly agreed upon validation of information we receive about our physical world must be based on physical clues, logic and rationalities, vis a’ vis; evidence (from Latin ex- “out of, from” and videre “to see”). Validation based on “irrational” feeling is not acceptable except where there is a belief that there is a rational explanation but that we are just unable to “see” it at the moment. How far we will allow this point to be stretched, I believe, is just a matter of what personal reality is based on for each of us. If we belong to a scientific group, there is almost no “wiggle” room. If we belong to a religious group, anything connected to “faith” is acceptable. Essentially, it all boils down to our individual experience and the groups we choose to share our values with. However, this is not the difference I wish to clarify. The origins of the words give us the clues to their “true” meanings. Let’s move on.
The word instinct comes from 15th century Latin instinguere meaning to “incite, impel.” The word incite comes from 14th century Latin incitare “to put into rapid motion” and the word impel comes from 14th century Latin impellere “to push, drive forward or urge on.” The quality of being an innate tendency originated in the 1560s as the Age of Reason began to attribute evidential causes for all physical phenomena while highlighting the senses (including the mind) and cementing all 16th century beliefs toward physical causes. All these factors have a component of urging one into physical action. This dimension of being physical is what connects instinct to the “lower” centers.
The word intuition comes from the 15th century Latin word intueri meaning “look at, consider” from in- “at, on” + tueri “to look at, watch over.” The derivative 14th century Latin word tutorem adds the meaning of “guardian, watcher.” Through these meanings we can see that the word intuition does not imply action, but merely observation and awareness. Action then becomes a matter of choice not reaction as would be that of instinct.
The next question that begs to be answered is look at and watch over who or what? The fact that the question is framed in “lower mind” vernacular (observer versus observed) gives us a hint as to how we must perceive the flashes of information from our intuition differently. I purposely used the word flashes to indicate how the information occurs. The term “watch over” carries with it the implication of a perspective superior to that of one where things are seen in terms of polarized parts. Our perception of the flash is composed of a fully integrated matrix of which we are a part. Differing from the temporal forces of the mind (past, present and future) the information or flash “arrives” fully integrated where, if we attempt to separate out the factors of its composition so the mind can reconstruct it into temporal language, we lose the continuity of the impression and the flash dissipates. We can compare this with attempting to describe a dream where we are confused by the time sequence of events within the dream. What came before? What came after? These questions force the experience into a format which lends itself to a linear continuity characteristic of mental functioning. The more we struggle to describe it by imposing the mind’s temporal format, the more we dissipate the integrated timeless fabric and we lose the whole “thread” of the dream. It’s much like attempting to describe a spider web to someone by only using one strand.
When we perceive something with the “lower mind,” the dimension dominant in the lower centers, we perceive an experience statically; that is, in terms of parts, subject and object, before and after, with or without and in differing directions. When we perceive something through intuition, it’s dynamic, moving and integrated. The “substance” of its existence is revealed through the style and flavor of its integration.
Essentially, when we have a flash of intuition, we perceive ourselves as part of the experience we are having through our perception and participation in it. If we choose to adjust our position within its matrix, we change the balance of components and reframe the experience by producing a different style of integration. We could compare this experience to playing an interactive computer game but where the programming for the integration would have to operate on a much more subtle and sophisticated level than any programmer could have ever dreamed. Simply put, when we adjust ourselves, we change the balance of the game and reframe the experience for ourselves and anyone else involved. The key is that we are not changing something we “see” as from an observer’s perspective but that in changing ourselves we change the overall experience. This is one of the dynamic principles of quantum physics; the observer influences and interacts with the observed with no sense of difference.
Intuition operates on all three of the “upper” levels but grows perceptibly more subtle with each higher level. In comparison, think back to the analogy of the relationship between ice, water and vapor; each more subtle it their composition.
To understand the value of this type of perceiving we must first return to the mindset of the heart center individual. Since the heart center operates from the perspective of selflessness, we know that the possessive self absorption common to the solar plexus is absent and the individual is able to “listen” to what is outside of his own sphere of the self. His own interests no longer serve as a barrier to his being able to “hear” and “feel” the world. This will leave him perceiving the “flow” of the world but with no understanding of the bigger picture that he finds himself a part of. He still sees the “needs” of others as empty vessels needing to be filled. As the flashes of intuition from the throat center start to come into play, he is able to “feel” the larger picture and his opportunity to change it through his participation. This is the first place where the empathy of the heart has the opportunity to morph into active compassion. As he changes himself to fit the design of the intuitive impression the throat center has provided him with, he changes the immediate experience for himself and others through integrating the impression with his action.
To see the difficulty of another human being, feel their pain but be able to let them struggle through it without interfering is an indication of throat center awareness provided that the withheld assistance does not emanate from fear, selfishness or indifference typical of the lesser qualities of the solar plexus or feeling responsible which is typical of the heart center. The throat center individual is aware of the necessity for the suffering person to experience the difficulty in order to come to a clearer realization of themselves. The throat center individual may appear to be devoid of any compassion to any observers which may serve to compound any sense of frustration they may feel in appearing cognitively dissonant as such to others. This awareness may be strictly intuitive or may have been understood but, in either case, the throat center individual has developed a trust in the intangible guidance of the upper centers. To see an example of this type of dynamic, the movie “The Razor’s Edge” with Bill Murray illustrates a fine example of this learned “mindset” in relation to all the players.
The idea that direction comes from a place other than obvious physical factors is not a new idea. Spiritual disciplines and religions around the world have developed philosophies and path requirements in order to organize and explain this phenomenon. Ruumet (Ruumet, 2006) has called this “deflating needs for a purpose.” This perspective asserts that each of us has an underlying “knowing” of the universe’s web like matrix of “easily flowing” integration. That is, there is a “Tao” or natural way that energies move in order to produce and maintain the balance of natural forces. To stretch the point, we might even say that this indicates a tacit “destiny.” Eastern philosophers also call this the “water course way.” The premise is that, energy, as does water, follows the path of least resistance and that this path often runs contrary to any human desires based on evidential and mental validation.
To take the position of this contrary direction is often called “pushing the river.” The visual itself seems ludicrous but certainly conveys the futility of working against the natural order of things. When we encounter an individual who is “pushing the river” or as the Kabbalists put it, “following the path of severity,” the individual vested in trusting their throat center orientation is able to “feel” where this person’s action may lead them in the long run and encourages action that may appear to run contrary to what is desired but that will eventually cycle them through to a point of natural balance where a new awareness may be experienced. This bears a very close parallel to what has commonly been referred to as “tough love.” This perspective allows the person who is being guided to choose action or inaction that will lead to undesirable personal stress producing consequences. It takes a great deal of trust and strength on the part of the throat center person to allow this person to “trip over their own feet” and possibly injure themselves while learning a life lesson where the heart center person would have simply “rescued” them or taken on the burden of the difficulties themselves to spare the inexperienced person the pain of their choices and the diminished quality of their interpersonal rapport.
The short term “down side” for the throat center person may come from the advised person becoming initially angry at them for refraining from taking action on their behalf when they could have “helped.” The long term “down side” for the heart center person is that the lesson needing to be learned will be delayed and the advised person will expect the heart center person to “rescue” them every time the circumstances reoccur. This effectively puts the heart center person into the position of being obligated to enable continued ignorance through interfering. We might also say that this might contribute toward enabling the advised person’s shadow. However, though the circumstances may produce difficulty for the “helped” person in the long run, it still develops the spirit of giving, yielding and letting go in the heart center person. Each person learns their “lessons” through the actions or inactions of people operating on “higher” or “lower” levels.
To operate from the throat center yields a greater sense of “authenticity” than what occurs on the lower levels. Since the direction and impetus results from a place that is so obviously other than external in its influence, it gives us a sense of us “coming from” a totally and individually expressive perspective. This also resonates with Maslow’s level of Actualization (Maslow, 1943) in that we are fulfilling a need to conform to a “wider order” of things or something that is much larger than us and more universal in its application. Although Maslow described it on a more individual scale, as for example, becoming a better parent, his focus can be expanded to a much wider view. This authenticity gives us the sense that we are contributing something to and resonating with the larger whole and thereby confirming our sense of self worth relative to the world in our own eyes. This is not to be confused with the pride which is so pervasive in the solar plexus individual equating to what we might call “spiritual bypass” which is a denser or grosser dynamic solidly grounded in seeking recognition through polarizing with the material world.
The issue of sex and the exchange of energy as perceived and generated through the throat center takes on a whole new dimension when we move from instinct to intuition. This difference in the quality of our perception readily lends itself to the practice of Tantric sex where the object of intercourse is not so much a question of sensuality (solar plexus) or a union through physical release (heart center) but one of building energy for endeavors much more inclusive than the simple release of physical tension or the expression of affection. The release simply results in neutralizing the differences in our personal energy potentials (For a better comprehension of this dynamic please refer back to the example of two containers in the In-tension section, pg. 53-55, Maerz, 2012). An orgasm or climax acts as a “blitzkrieg” through bringing the energy differential to crescendo and releasing it as though it were a sudden lightning flash breaking down all barriers to the exchange. We feel “spent” after it occurs because it requires total focus to unify the physical, emotional and mental energy in one direction. Once begun the energy becomes totally directed by our animal instincts and is almost irresistible. In Tantra, this release is withheld through discipline and great effort in overcoming our animal instincts and then being sublimated toward spiritual pursuits that enable perception and power for dealing with the world through a broader awareness. Hence, the ultimate goal of its use is purported to be enlightenment.
So, as the heart center and throat center work together, the heart center contributes the “allowing” of compassion or involuntary empathy as described in the introduction and the throat center provides the direction needed through intuition and volunteering empathy, hence the will aspect, to resolve any imbalance in opposing polarities operating in the conflicting circumstances.
The fact that the throat center is representative of the “do” or will aspect of our inner nature asserts its contribution through providing the impetus to take the action we take when we trust on this level. However, the ability to “see” the matrix in its entirety comes from the center above; the third eye.
Adapted and excerpted from:
Maerz, John L., (2012). A Mile in Your Shoes: The Road to Self-Actualization Through Compassion. Lulu Publishers.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
Ruumet, Hillevi, PhD., (2006). Pathways of the Soul: Exploring the Human Journey. Trafford Pub., Victoria, BC, Canada. ISBN# 1412-092-361