It’s clear that if we use the mind attentively, mental power is increased, and if we concentrate the mind in the moment, it is easier to coordinate mind and body. But in terms of mind and body unity, is there something we can concentrate on that will reliably aid us in discovering this state of coordination? In Japan, and to some degree other Asian countries, people have historically focused mental strength in the hara (abdomen) as a way of realizing their full potential. Japan has traditionally viewed the hara as the vital center of humanity in a manner not dissimilar to the Western view of the heart or brain. I once read that years ago Japanese children were asked to point to the origin of thoughts and feelings. They inevitably pointed toward the abdominal region. When the same question was asked of American children, most pointed at their heads or hearts. Likewise, Japan and the West have commonly held differing views of what is physical power or physical health, with Japan emphasizing the strength of the waist and lower body and Western people admiring upper body power. (Consider the ideal of the sumo wrestler versus the V-shaped Western bodybuilder with a narrow waist and broad shoulders.)However, East and West also hold similar viewpoints regarding the hara, and we’re perhaps not as dissimilar as some might imagine. For instance, hara ga nai hito describes a cowardly person, “a person with no hara.” Sounds similar to our saying that so-and-so “has no guts,” doesn’t it?

~ H.e. Davey