Posted by: Banta | December 23, 2015

Lessons from the underbelly

Rumi quote on love

Underbelly: A vulnerable area or weak point; a dark, seamy, often hidden area or side of things.

Life lessons show up in the most unexpected places. You think you’re moving through an average day, managing what comes. Sure, you have rocks in your road. We all do. But you’re feeling pretty mindful about the way you’re navigating those rocks—maybe even just a tiny bit righteous. A sure sign of trouble ahead, that righteousness thing, because in the very next minute you trip over an innocuous little stone and fall flat on your face.

This is not a pretty sight. Your face plant has kicked up dirt and mud onto several passersby. Your own skinned knees and elbows are gritted up in a bloody mess. Cleanup will take time and effort. Making amends is a rich and humbling experience.

Spenser, the loveable detective in Robert B. Parker’s novel series, was fond of saying, “I never get in trouble from keeping my mouth shut.” While Spenser may have sidestepped the mindful questions: Is what I’m about to say true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? he managed to reach the same conclusion—silence is often the best path.

When I bite the hook or take the bait, I allow the words or behavior of another person to trigger an overreaction in me, usually from that dark underbelly place that we humans prefer to keep hidden. Overreactions never come from our best selves, we can be certain of that. They rise from judgment, from ego, from our need to be “right” and convince the other that he or she is “wrong.”

In the wake of an overreaction, the first priority is to calm myself down. Take a breath, or a hundred breaths. Call off the ego dogs, shrug off irrelevant notions of “right” and “wrong,” and connect with my heart. Find the shortest path toward apology and setting things right again.

The heart does not lie. The heart does not judge, or care about politics or religion, or ego. HeartMath Institute Director of Research Rollin McCraty explains that the human heart, like the brain, generates a powerful electromagnetic field, one that can be detected and measured several feet away from a person’s body and between two individuals in close proximity. (The Energetic Heart, Robert McCraty) That’s a powerful resource, one available to every one of us.

When we lean into the energy field of the heart, we lean in the direction of love. And I’m pretty sure that when we take time to check in with our heart’s wisdom, we act and speak from a place of love and compassion, rather than from our ego’s need to be “right.”

That dark, shame-filled underbelly has lessons to teach us, when we are ready to listen. Sometimes we have to trip and fall to remember what the heart already knows.


  1. Well said. Blessings of The Winter to you, Jordan and Bruce. May there be enough love for all of us. And more importantly may we all know it

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