The Center of Your Universe

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If I showed you a picture of a person looking downward, with their head hung low, staring at their belly, what would you imagine they were feeling? 

You would be right if you said sad or depressed. People tend to look toward their bodies when they are sad, even curling into a fetal position. 

Now that we have had almost three months in quarantine, some of us have been looking too long at our tummies.

But many people have also been “going crazy” and feel the need to look at other people, go out on walks, and spend time with each other. 

People tend to look toward their bodies when they are sad, even curling into a fetal position. 

This is quite healthy and replaces what I call “navel-gazing”. 

What is “navel-gazing”? 

The ancient Greeks called it “Omphaloskepsis” and believed that one could experience “celestial joy” when looking at their belly buttons. For yoga practitioners, the navel is considered a powerful chakra (energy force). 

But most people believe there is nothing meditative or heavenly about looking at your belly button. Navel-gazing is an activity done by someone who is feeling self-involved and wrapped up in his/her own head.

The question is—why do we even call it navel-gazing, and why do we look specifically there

Your navel is actually the first point of the most intense disconnection of your life. 

When your mother was pregnant with you, you were tethered to her by your navel. The connection was primal and deep. Whatever she ate, she gave you the best. If she had a cup of milk, you got the vitamins first—the cream on top! In the olden days, they would say that for every child a mother had, she would lose a tooth, because her body would leach its own calcium to deposit it into her baby’s bones, at her own body’s expense, loosening her teeth. 

Did you ever wonder why we find such comfort in bathtubs, repetitive sounds, soft, muffled voices, a cozy tuck into bed, soft foods, or tight and long hugs with someone we care about? These are tiny snippets of comforts from the time we were back in the womb. 

When you were in the womb, you floated around in amniotic fluid; a rich, warm broth which kept you safe, warm, comfortable, and fed. It muffled harsh sounds while allowing you to hear your mother’s voice. Her heartbeat was the first sound you heard, and to this day, that repetitive beat is soothing. 

Once you’re born, the intense connection with her, where you got the very best of the world—in terms of food, of warmth, of comfort—is literally cut away. 

Healthy people mourn the loss of the ultimate connection, but are able to move forward. They look upward and outward, never looking down at their belly buttons. They recognize that once you’re born and the cord is cut, it is time to be on your own. 

The connecting cord, the umbilical cord, gets cut—sometimes within a minute of being born. Sometimes your father cuts it. Sometimes it is someone else. It doesn’t even matter who does the cutting or if they wait 10 minutes or not—it still means you are now permanently disconnected from your mother. You are on your own. You hopefully begin to wail, because now you know what it feels like to be cold, to be in the bright light, and to be disconnected. 

Humans are so wired to crave connection; we even call the first few moments after birth “bonding”. Most people know of bonds as financial instruments, but what it really means is a long-term, safe, and secure promise and contract to be there for each other. We are always seeking that profound connection. 

The core of disconnection is depression. That’s when one feels worthless, with a deep sense of sadness that nothing is going right, no one cares, and it just isn’t worth it. Disconnected people look downward, toward their navel, wondering when the moment will come that they will feel important, cherished, and loved. 

Healthy people mourn the loss of the ultimate connection, but are able to move forward. They look upward and outward, never looking down at their belly buttons. They recognize that once you’re born and the cord is cut, it is time to be on your own. 

Healthy people create bonds with other people. How do you do that? You ask them questions; about their family, their interests, and things they love. You give each other gifts of talking, time, ideas, and maybe even small presents. You remember them, and they remember you. 

Disconnected people, the “navel-gazers”, won’t or can’t do that. They are too wrapped up in mourning the lack of the perfect connection. 

In the unprecedented times we are going through, it is so easy to become depressed and disconnected from others. We need to do our best to branch outward to keep our emotional health and psyches in good shape.

With all the stress and sadness in this time of quarantine, let’s be conscious of our navels, but not focused there. Let’s lift our heads, stop the epidemic of navel-gazing, and work toward consciously creating bonds with others. It is only with consciousness that transformation is possible. 

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Tobi Ash
Tobi Ash RN, BSN, MBA, is completing her PhD. For more than 25 years, Tobi has been teaching, mentoring, researching and helping women and girls with their healthcare issues with competent, compassionate care.

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