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body gates

Body Gates and the Path to Self-Knowing

Body Gates — there are gates in the body — metaphor­ic pas­sages from one stage of devel­op­ment to anoth­er. We look at mov­ing into the “full expres­sion of self” — into full being.

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Many moons ago, a client of mine e‑mailed a sto­ry of an inter­ac­tion. She and her part­ner had a con­ver­sa­tion (sort of) about the state of the rela­tion­ship. What became clear was that they were com­ing at the rela­tion­ship from two dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. She also men­tioned some pain in her col­lar-bone area, and I remem­bered that her upper back had been quite sore dur­ing her pre­vi­ous Body­work ses­sion.
I wrote back, and half way through, real­ized that what I was writ­ing would be a ben­e­fi­cial arti­cle about Body­work and rela­tion­ships. What fol­lows is my take on the issue my client raised, with notes.
I replied with two things:

  • 1) some stuff on body­work, and
  • 2) some stuff on relationships.

The chakras are energy centers, and each is concerned with an aspect of physical, emotional and spiritual development. In a sense, they tell the story of our lives, and provide the energy for transformative being.
What follows is a metaphor that demonstrates the path to full and vibrant living.


Accord­ing to East­ern thought, there are at least two “diaphragms” or “gates between” in the body. The first is between the solar plexus and the heart, and the sec­ond is in the vicin­i­ty of the throat.

Let’s talk chakras, but these zones also exist in Chinese medicine.


Here’s the pat­tern in sim­pli­fied form.
In the cod­ing below the | rep­re­sents the gates.
It’s 1,2,3 | 4 | 5,6,7

Chakras 1, 2, and 3 are the physical chakras, and sadly, most people stay stuck in these 3.

The 3 represent:

  • Root — secu­ri­ty, sta­bil­i­ty, existence
  • Bel­ly — rela­tion­ships; he we relate to every­thing and everyone.
  • Solar Plexus — self-esteem

The “zone” made up of chakras 1, 2, and 3 is the zone of sta­bil­i­ty, rela­tion­ships, and self-esteem.

My client dis­cov­ered that her part­ner’s self-esteem is con­nect­ed to job, mon­ey, “clean­li­ness,” tidi­ness, order, con­trol, etc. For him, any form of “clut­ter” became a self-esteem issue. 

He thought: “If I see a mess, I feel bad about myself, and assume it is either an insult (I blame oth­ers for my mess­es) or I blame myself for not try­ing hard enough.“
With effort you can move past zone 1,2.3

How­ev­er, because of the strength of the first diaphragm or gate, most peo­ple do not move out of this very phys­i­cal realm.

They have a vague sense of “some­thing more,” but no clue how to get there, so they keep mess­ing around in famil­iar waters. They change jobs, part­ners, obsess, clean, move their piles from one place to anoth­er, try to be hap­py by mak­ing more mon­ey etc, and this ten­sion and dri­ve to shift piles seems normal–as in, “What I’m stuck with.”

You get your­self unstuck by iden­ti­fy­ing the 1,2,3 zone, own­ing it, and then com­ing to a new under­stand­ing, which might be thought of as the “spir­i­tu­al” / voca­tion­al aspect of liv­ing. This begins at the heart.

Zone 4–The heart chakra is the intermediary between physical (1,2,3) and the spiritual (5,6,7)

Open­heart­ed­ness is the first step on a long walk into voca­tion­al, present, “in the moment” liv­ing. This requires sim­ple accep­tance — of oth­ers, of self, of the Taoist prin­ci­ple. “The way it is, is the way it is.“
The Heart Chakra is the locale of “being,” (as opposed to “doing,” which is the realm of Zone 1,2,3) and is sensed as “empti­ness” (as in, “emp­ty of mean­ing”)
This is not nihilism, but rather sym­bol­ized by the empti­ness that comes in between thoughts when med­i­tat­ing, for example.


The next diaphragm, at the shoulders, is interesting.


You could, I sup­pose, “live” at the heart lev­el, and sim­ply be a sort of pas­sive accep­tor of “what­ev­er.” This, to me, seem disin­gen­u­ous, and some­what self absorbed.

The tran­si­tion, the process of mov­ing through the upper gate or diaphragm, leads to the expres­sion of (the actu­al liv­ing of) an ego­less spir­i­tu­al life. 

This transition requires the use of 5,6,7

  1. The throat — which stands for the release of true self into the world, metaphor­i­cal­ly through speech, is actu­al­ly about express­ing the total­i­ty of one’s being.
  2. The Third Eye — Insight — intu­ition, and the abil­i­ty to see what’s real­ly going on.
  3. Tran­scen­dence — satori, enlight­en­ment, etc. 

If there is a block at the shoul­der diaphragm, get­ting past it requires actu­al­iz­ing the first 4. The work is to assim­i­late the 1,2,3, (phys­i­cal zone,) with the heart (4), so that all phys­i­cal being and act­ing is done out of compassion. 

As Lama Marut put it:
“Com­pas­sion for oth­ers is impos­si­ble until you care enough for your­self to real­ly want to stop your own suffering.”

My client wrote a list of her priorities for life:


Her list was, in the order she chose: love (chakra 4), tak­ing care of self (chakra 3), tak­ing care of oth­ers ( chakra 2) — Foot­note: our real work is self work, so the lan­guage of her last pri­or­i­ty is not cor­rect. We can care about oth­ers, but can nev­er take care of oth­ers. That is their job. 

Notice the direc­tion of my clien­t’s list — hint — it’s down­ward, toward the root chakra, which means it’s focused on sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty, as opposed to mov­ing past what­ev­er issue aris­es by tran­scend­ing it.

My list might be: being lov­ing (an action), being direct and clear, being myself, and deep­en­ing my con­nec­tion to that which is. Notice that there is only “me” in this — yet if I do “me” well, those around me ben­e­fit. The direc­tion is upward and inclusive.

Back to my clien­t’s part­ner. He was fight­ing off self-cre­at­ed Chaos by try­ing to estab­lish rules and structures.

  • He cleans when he comes home, not to pun­ish my client or to ignore her, but to try to keep his col­laps­ing, chaot­ic world togeth­er. If the house was spot­less, he would cre­ate anoth­er issue to obsess about.
  • My clien­t’s part­ner was stuck try­ing to make his lit­tle feet­sies run fast enough to keep all the balls in the air. He had to to crash and burn before he real­ized the futil­i­ty of this path.

My clien­t’s job was to keep him talk­ing, while ask­ing, repeat­ed­ly, “How’s that work­ing for you?“He stayed stuck until he saw the impos­si­bil­i­ty of struc­tur­ing him­self into happiness.

Question everything, and get rid of what does not work. 

This was the stage my client was at when she emailed, and it was expressed through pain at the upper or sec­ond diaphragm or gate–at her shoul­der blades, upper shoul­der mus­cles, and her col­lar-bone.
My client had rules about who she was and how she was, and she often got stuck defend­ing them, intel­lec­tu­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly. Ulti­mate­ly, she learned to laugh at her rules, rather than fid­dling with them — she learned to have her experience(s) as opposed to try­ing to force them to fit her no longer use­ful rules.

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