Underlying the popularity of sites like Ancestry.com are existential questions such as: Who am I? Where did I come from? Who’s part of my tribe? The ways in which people seek to define themselves and where they fit in is always changing, but the desire to do this doesn’t change. Perhaps this drive comes from our inherent need to feel a connection to something larger than ourselves. Or it could be our primal survival instincts telling us we are better off when we have people who take care of us and who we take care of. Or, we find it easier to face our vast, unknown, and sometimes unpredictable universe when we have people who help us examine it and determine our values.
The labels we use to define ourselves—American, Korean, heterosexual, dancer, healthcare worker, banker, Democrat, Republican, white, black—while connecting us with others, also draw lines separating us. They also impose a synthetic structure over our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as we, often unconsciously, adopt the traditions and viewpoints that come with those labels. These lines and structures give us a sense of security we may feel we cannot get in another way.
Taoist and other (especially Asian) traditions, however, give us another option. They say, rather than looking around you for structure, security, and value, look within. In his book, Belly Button Healing: Unlocking Your Second Brain for a Healthy Life, author Ilchi Lee specifically says to look to your navel. Some might call this “navel-gazing,” a form of meditation practiced by ancient Eastern mystics that now has the connotation of thinking about yourself too much. However, this perspective belies the belly button’s power.
In Asian medicine, your belly button is an important and influential acupressure point. By stimulating it through pressing and releasing and by focusing on it, you improve the flow of subtle energy throughout your body and increase the energy in your core, the major energy center in your abdomen just below your navel. As a result, you can gain a sense of wholeness, stability, and vitality that’s independent of other people or your environment. You also develop a self-confidence that allows you to determine your own values, as well as the will to act on them. Your mental and emotional clarity also improves, so that the world may seem a little less crazy.
Concentrating your awareness on your belly button as you gently push it in and out (using a Belly Button Healing wand makes this easier) can bring you even deeper revelations. As Ilchi Lee relates in his book:
“As I practiced [Belly Button Healing] more, I could feel life energy entering my body through my belly button, and as my breathing grew deeper and more comfortable, I returned to my mother’s womb and felt a supply of life energy moving through my umbilical cord. It was as if I was going back to that infinitely comfortable and peaceful time, when I was receiving the love of my mother in that safe, cozy place. Instead of feeling like I was a separate organism, I had a sense of stability and unity, of being connected with my mother through my belly button.
My mother was also connected through her umbilical cord to her mother. If we follow the ancestral line of our umbilical cord from our mother, to her mother’s mother, her mother’s mother’s mother, and so on, eventually we will reach our primal mother—the one we all share. The umbilical cord is a precious lifeline that began in my primal mother and has come down to me. My belly button is undeniable, visual proof that I’m not a separate organism, but that I am connected with the Source of life.
. . . Our bodies live separately from each other, but we are deeply connected with each other, through our belly buttons, to the Source of life. . . . Everyone in this world . . . grew in our mother’s womb . . . . Though our skin colors may be different, though our languages may be different, as we look at the belly button, the symbol of our ultimate connection, we should remember that we are one family that has come from the same Source of life.”
Our belly button teaches us that even without labels, we belong. Our heritage is the history of all humanity and our origin is the Source of all life. This identity is stronger and more fulfilling than any other, because rather than on artificial and arbitrary distinctions, it is based on natural principles you can experience for yourself.