Our contemporary Western culture makes the belly a cause for shame and embarrassment, often a target of assault. Yet cultures native to every continent have recognized the belly to be sacred, the home of the soul. African dances, Japanese martial arts, Chinese healing arts, and the dances of Africa, India, Polynesia, Native America, the Middle East, and Old Europe have served as body prayers, honoring and energizing the belly to awaken the soul-power dwelling within the body's center.
In the Japanese language, the word hara refers both to the belly and to the qualities of character that emerge as a person activates the life force concentrated in the belly. A "person of hara" is one who lives with creativity, courage, confidence, purpose, integrity, and endurance.
Several Japanese phrases incorporate "hara" and declare the belly's significance for living fully and well. "Belly art," for example, refers to any activity that a person accomplishes both perfectly and effortlessly. "A grand belly" refers to a person who is broad-minded, understanding, compassionate, and generous; "a clean belly" refers to a person who has a clear conscience. To "determine your belly" means to clearly define your intention; to "beat the belly drum" means to lead a contented life.
"Hara" in Japanese is akin to the word gutsy in the English language. In English, "gut," "guts," and "gutsy" refer both to the belly and to someone who is adventurous, brave, persevering, earthy, attuned to her instinctual knowing.
In Chinese, belly center is named tan tien, meaning Cinnabar Field. Tan, cinnabar, is the bright red ore that the ancient Chinese alchemists used as the source material in their attempts to produce the elixir of eternal life. Tien denotes a field cultivated to produce food. Taken together, tan tien names the belly as a field to be cultivated for nourishment essential to the sustenance of life.
When we activate our body's center with movement and breath, we engage our center of being, the site of our soul-power, our inner source. Through the sourcepoint sited within our bellies we enter into communion with the Power of Beingthat power which creates, sustains, and transforms the entire universe.