The Heart Chakra location, Color, Element and Meaning
The 4th Chakra, or Heart Chakra (Sanskrit: Anāhata, in English: “unbeaten”) is located at the lower center of the chest. Its main colour is green, and it is most associated with the air element. Anahata is all about love and the flow and exchange of emotional sharing between us and all others.
Overview: Heart Chakra Table
|Name||Heart Chakra, 4th Chakra, Anahata|
|Physical location:||The centre of the chest.|
|Physical systems:||Heart, lungs, Thymus gland, arms and hands.|
|Nerve Plexus:||The cardiac plexus of nerves.|
|Psychological aspect:||Emotional dependency versus emotional abundance.|
|Spiritual function:||Holds within it the Vishnu Granthi, the second knot. Breaking this knot, Kundalini can ascend to the higher realms of unity. As the middle Chakra, it acts as the unifier of the three lower Chakras and the three upper ones. It is where the “divine” and “human” aspects meet and the door to true transcendence is finally opened.|
|Traditional Symbol:||A twelve-petalled lotus flower containing two interlaced triangles.|
|Energy body:||Manomaya Kosha|
|Age of development:
|Quest:||The search for true love, at first outside oneself and gradually deep within oneself.|
|Qualities:||Love, generosity, dedication, empathy, compassion, trust, acceptance, forgiveness.|
|Blocking Fears:||Abandonment, rejection, losing oneself in another.|
|Catharsis:||Crying, expressing needs, hugging and being gently touched.|
|Best Bach flowers:||Water violet (for warmer relationships), Holly (for feelings of jealousy, envy, revenge and suspicion), Beech (for compassion, tolerance and acceptance of others).|
|Emerald, Rose Quarz.|
Green foods, green vegetables (especially leafy and cruciferous ones like kale, lettuces, spinach, chard, bok choy, collard greens and broccoli).
The Heart Chakra Main Function
The Heart Chakra is the fourth of the 7 Chakras. The Heart Chakra’s primary function is connection through feeling. In the heart chakra we truly feel the connection to our soul and to the greater web of life. We feel as part of a bigger unity of all life and realize that all is interconnected within an intricate web of relationships. From this heartfelt realization opens a space for love, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, kindness, intimacy, devotion, thankfulness, altruism and healing.
The heart chakra opens us to a space of oneness beyond the polarity of life, and through this connection to fundamental oneness enables us to enjoy the play of relationship. It is in the heart that we find true unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves and others.
On the physical level, the heart is associated with the organs heart and lungs and in the polar nature of these organs a strong symbolic meaning can be found: The space of the heart chakra is beyond polarity, beyond inhaling or exhaling, beyond tension and relaxation; it is the space holding them all. Through the heart chakra, we connect to the unconditional love of unity, which underlies all phenomena. Invisible as the air, which is the element of this chakra, the unity behind all things finally becomes tangible for us.
The heart is about sensitivity and its association with the sense of touch again beautifully illustrates this. Through the heart we feel and touch life, we learn to truly feel and touch others and be felt and touched by others. The heart is strongly connected to the hands, which symbolize the ability to touch, to embrace and to give and receive.
The heart is the center in us which maintains the balance between receiving and giving: how much we are able to open up and truly receive and, on the other hand, how much we are capable of flowing outside ourselves and to dedicate our attention and caring to another.
The heart is also the intuitive centre of non-judgemental discernment: From being deeply connected to our heart a clear feeling of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ arises, a discernment that does not have its ground in opinion or judgement of right or wrong, but in a pure feeling of resonance. Because the heart is beyond polarity and not invested in opinion or outcome we become free to sensitively discern what is in alignment with our inner being and what is not.
It is due to this transcendent nature of the Heart Chakra that true sensitivity becomes possible. This transcendent nature also explains its mysterious Sanskrit name: “unbeaten” or “unharmed”. The heart chakra opens us to a space of love that is beyond joy and pleasure or suffering and pain – a love that loves all beings and phenomena unconditionally, and is able to embrace and feel everything, whatever it is. This love is so deep and strong that no darkness and no pain can damage it.
The heart chakra is also the chakra of connection and relationships in a very human sense. Here as well, we can learn from the heart and lungs and their play of inhalation and exhalation and heartbeat, that symbolize the play of relationship in polarity and remind us that relationship should be a breathing process of distance and closeness, of giving and receiving, of loving and being loved.
The heart chakra develops in adolescence, with the opening of romantic love. Here the ecstasy of reciprocated love, but also the pain of rejection and loss, prepare for a deeper level of love, the spiritual love of the soul, and divine cosmic love. Our relationship and our ability to connect extends to all levels of our existence: the relationship to partners, the relationship to the world, the relationship to creation, to God, and to ourselves and our own soul.
At the deepest level of the heart we finally realize that we are the source of the love we have sought so desperately. We understand that love always flows out of wholeness, not out of need. We recognize that love does not come through what we get, but through what we give, and that the light of our love is reflected and fulfilled in the outer world. We understand that love is not something that is given to us from the outside, but something that we are connected to deep inside us. The more we recognize this, the less we seek externally and the deeper we open ourselves inwardly and sink into this love. There we discover that the source of love is eternal; that it cannot be interrupted; that it always flows, through and beyond all form and circumstances. We recognize that we ourselves are the source of love, and at the same time are completely dependent on everything else, united in this love. In this paradox we begin to understand the true miracle of life.
The heart chakra lies in the middle of the seven main chakras and marks the transition from the lower chakras, which are strongly related to human individuality and the higher three chakras, which transcend the personal identity and open up to the pure “I am” of the soul. In the heart these poles of our incarnation merge and meet: we feel the soul and in this feeling the human and the divine meet in us. The farther the heart opens, the more the heart and mind combine in the light of the soul, the more the soul expresses itself in our personality. However a stable, powerful self is needed in the lower three chakras, so that the heart can open, since the love of the heart is always distorted by the patterns, wounds and needs of the lower chakras. In spiritual terms, a fully opened heart chakra is the gateway to an intimate, devotional relationship to the Divine.
The open Heart Chakra
A human whose heart Chakra is balanced knows how to receive just as they would know how to give. Such a person knows that life and relationships are not about taking, and that any kind of emotional demand is going the wrong way.
When an expression of emotional flow comes from the outside, this person knows how to open up and gracefully let it in, but one would never demand love or approval, not even in its disguised and manipulative form.
This person would focus one’s attention on the act of giving, knowing that in giving there is anyway a constant flow of external recognition towards oneself. However, this does not mean that this person would unnecessarily sacrifice oneself, and giving too would be measured and considerate according to the true needs of the other.
A balanced Anahata Chakra fills a person with acceptance – acceptance of one’s own weaknesses and limitations, one’s own natural constitution and human capacities – and would therefore be also able to accept others, even with their wrongdoing and mistakes. It would be capable of sensitively feeling without hasty judgement.
One’s heart remains open despite betrayal and disappointment. There is no condition that in order to open up, accept and love, other humans or life should not betray. Such a heart does not hold grudge; it easily forgives and keeps on believing in people’s potential and their chance to grow and change.
Such a state of an unconditionally open heart is far from “vulnerable” as one might expect. Truly, it is both sensitive and indestructible (hence the name “Anahata” = not harmed, unbeaten): with an open heart, one would experience an unaffectedness which enables feeling with total, finest sensitivity without being “fragile”.
The 4th Chakra psychological meaning and function
The psychological themes of the fourth Chakra concern the right balance between self-centredness and going outside of oneself.
Self-centeredness in this Chakra is caused by a deep sense of emotional need for external gratification and affirmation. Put simply, it is the need to be loved, accepted and have our needs recognised by others. When this becomes the center of our experience, we are mainly busy, not even with receiving from life and others but with taking and grabbing. Our heart wants to consume attention and seems to never get enough.
A mature heart is capable of giving without the feeling of: “But what about me?” It doesn’t feel that it got drained by the act of giving.
Sometimes this desperate need for emotional affirmation leads to the other extreme, that of total focus on others’ needs as the way to affirm that one’s existence is good and worthy. Even behind such a service, often emotional need and dependency hide.
Therefore, psychologically speaking, the heart Chakra is all about emotional maturity: growing towards the capacity to fully love and give, including oneself. In such a mature state, whether it is giving oneself or giving others, one does not depend on external gratification.
The blocked Heart Chakra
The blocked state of the heart Chakra is characterised by emotional dependency. The person does not feel complete within oneself and is therefore in a constant state of relating, whether it is through love or hate, grudge and bitterness or attachment and admiration. There is always some other to relate to, and one experiences oneself as only half – which some other, or others, are its complementary.
This state of dependency causes one to look for the perfect other, and whenever someone seems to momentarily be able to play this role, this blocked heart Chakra person would throw on this other countless projections, expectations and demands. One would use the other to fill the hole in the chest, until inevitable disappointment comes and replaces the admiration with anger and tears.
Fear of abandonment always accompanies such a dependent heart. Sometimes this dependency is masked by an over-independent pretence that one doesn’t need anybody. This is only to protect the very same sensitivity, anticipating again the inevitable disappointment from others.
Any form of giving in such a state is conditional. When one gives, one actually wishes to receive, and there is a subtle negotiation going on all the time beneath the surface.
Emotional dependency is caused, first and foremost, by a universal immaturity of the human emotional center. Coming to the world, we usually start our journey as needing beings. We require emotional recognition, to grow in strength and confidence. However, if this state is retained throughout our adult life, this is already an indication of an immature emotional center.
Of course, some of us experienced more severe shocks of disappointment, betrayal and abandonment in their lives: sexual abuse by someone we admired; a parent deserting us at an early age; the death of someone who inspired us and kept us strong. All these can leave a deep wound in us, in which we, on the one hand, remain half within ourselves and, on the other hand, try with all our might to mask this dependency and to constantly exhibit mistrust in others.
Psychological and spiritual Symptoms of a blocked Heart Chakra
Psychological and spiritual symptoms of a blocked Anahata Chakra begin with the feeling that one is unable to give without feeling a lack and that one should concentrate on receiving energy, attention and grace from others. It is the feeling that one just cannot get enough, that one needs love, and that the heart is very small and helpless.
The general experience is of an inner child who is still waiting, hoping to get the right attention and at the same time pushing away gestures of love, mistrusting others and always demanding more than what is given. Love is a negotiation. Whether it is in relationships or even on the spiritual path, one subtly seeks to be accepted by some perfect other or even God. There is always a postponing of service, because service seems like something that one would give only after one would get enough.
Inability to accept others, their ways and their choices, holding grudge and remaining unforgiving even to people and experiences that came our way many years ago, are all blocked heart Chakra symptoms. In relationships, one would exhibit constant accusations and complaints. There is always an incessant attention put on all the things the other should have done and given.
Criticism and ungratefulness cloud one’s relationships, and at any given moment there can be an eruption of complaint and demand. This would be accompanied by the constant fear and anxiety that one might be left behind unrecognised, and so one would wish to constantly express one’s needs and wants. A general lack of empathy – incapability to deeply feel another’s needs and their wishes to be recognised – would also result from this self-centred, contracted heart.
Physical Systems affected by the Anahata Chakra
Heart, chest and lungs, represent the exchange of vital breath and air, one’s most fundamental “relationship” and exchange with the world.
The thymus gland, as the heart defender and the one responsible for the immune system (especially in early childhood, when it is physically active).
Shoulders, arms and hands, as the extensions of the heart Chakra center in the chest.
Physical Symptoms of a blocked 4th Chakra
The chest area might respond psychosomatically to issues that revolve around rejection and abandonment, lack and dependency. The physical parallel could manifest as contraction and pressure in the chest, especially at the lower base of the chest, and can of course sometimes take the actual form of a heart disease.
Traditionally, the heart is the center of Ojas, the essence of strength and vitality. When one gives too much – wastes all of one’s resources – one can feel depleted in Ojas and might experience a sense of weakness in the chest. This is yet again an expression of imbalance between giving and receiving, a balance which has to be maintained to preserve the Ojas reservoirs stored in the heart Chakra.
Lungs, which express the ability to receive life’s essential oxygen as well as to exhale and release, can also show signs of disruption, like an inability to take a deep and full breath, but also in the form of Asthma.
The shoulders too can be an expression of this central issue. When there is a sense of a literal “burden on one’s shoulders” – a sense of great responsibility and commitment towards others and service – then again there could be a disruption in the giving-receiving balance.
One should notice if there are differences between physical symptoms on the right shoulder, arm and hand, and the left ones. The right side is concerned with giving and the left with the ability to receive and to take in.
Many feel in general a physical contraction or limitation in the chest area, which is a physical expression of what is commonly known as a “closed heart”: when there is a sense of a wall created in the chest area, because of one’s feeling that one needs to receive and is constantly denied this need and at the same time, that one mistrusts others due to disappointing memories.
Heart Chakra healing
The heart Chakra stores all memories related to dependency and connectedness that resulted in disappointment. This includes the death of loved ones, but also a disappointing romantic love, a conflicted relationship with one’s own child or parent, and of course the small and major events of so called betrayal, where we trusted someone and then found out that that someone “stabbed” us with a knife in our heart, so to speak.
Interestingly, the key to letting go of these impressions is not by remaining identified with the role of the victim in the story. It is the expectation that people must never be disappointing and our insistence that humans must be constantly trustworthy and never fail us that keeps our heart unhealed.
First of all, most people simply follow their own journey of needs and wills and this journey sometimes no longer matches our own. This means that even stories of betrayal are more narratives we create that emphasise only us at the center of the story. This again is the self-centredness that makes our heart blind to the reality of the other.
Forgiveness is one of the strongest components of fourth Chakra healing. Forgiveness is like an instant healer of the heart. Instead of a contracted heart that is kept contracted due to the grudge, resentment and bitterness, we enjoy the opening achieved by our letting go of all that. We do need to realise that an open heart that lets go is actually far more beneficial for us and that we need it even more than the others who should be forgiven need it.
Acceptance of others’ ways makes the heart grow in its capacity to recognise the existence of others. Ironically, service to others heals our heart too, since giving balances our own wound of self-centredness, that is, the feeling that we always lack and that we are always in need. Of course, sometimes trustworthy people, like lovers and authorities, heal our wound to a certain degree, but it is more the correction of our expectation from people and our assuming responsibility that can heal us deeply.
Opening the Heart Chakra
Whereas the healing of the heart Chakra is gained by the growing recognition of others’ existence, opening Anahata Chakra is done by the recognition of inherent unity.
We can say that the first state of the heart is that one is at the center of existence, while others are mere projections of one’s own ceaseless needs and expectations. At that stage, there is no “other”, though it seems that there are many others.
The second stage is the recognition that others, with their expectations, needs, hopes, fears and wishes, exist completely outside of oneself and so one has to mature enough to embrace them, let them go when needed and share with them rather than depend on them.
The third stage, that of opening, is when one begins to transcend the very division into me and other, and feels and experiences through meditation and spiritual practice that really we all are one.
This implies transcendence of the very sense of “relationship” and opens up a new level of compassion and empathy. One could feel as if the other is but an extension of oneself, yet this time not an extension of a projection but rather the expanded sense of self-identity.
Heart Chakra Meditation
Any type of meditation which is compassion-based can be suitable here: from Buddhist practices of visualisation and meditation, which cultivate the universality of the heart, to practices of devotion, like chanting, that make us feel we devote our being to something greater than us.
However, the practices of the heart Chakra deal a lot with action in relation to others. Since compassion is only in action, any form of conscious service – whether it is service to animals, people in need, or the planet’s well-being – can make us experience that we go beyond ourselves and focus on the pure act of giving.
On the other hand, certain Tantric practices which open our being to real intimacy (not necessarily physical) are also great openers of the heart.
You can find some helpful basic meditations for the Heart Chakra in our article Heart Chakra Meditation.
Green Chakra Summary
The heart Chakra can be experienced as empty or full and even overflowing. When it is empty, this indicates a major teaching of life, that really life is not about us, and as long as we concentrate on us and our needs, we ironically doom ourselves to constantly feeling that we are deprived.
To open Anahata Chakra we need to realise that the very meaning of life can be experienced only through coming out of ourselves and dedicating ourselves to something bigger than us, since giving is the human beings’ ultimate source of receiving.