The Four Centers | 3 Step breathing


The Four Centers

– Rajen Vakil

What do we mean when we use the word ‘mind’?

We live under the illusion that we have only one mind, which consists of our thoughts (intellect). However, the mind is used for all the functions below:

  1. The capacity to think (thoughts)
  2. The capacity to feel (feelings)
  3. The capacity to move
  4. The capacity to sense (e.g. hot-cold, pleasant-unpleasant)


We are all born with these highly complex and delicate functions, which we can refer to as minds. That is to say, we have a thinking mind, a feeling mind, a moving mind, and a sensing mind.

Most people have their center of gravity in one of these four centers. A person who lives in the intellectual center will see life only through the logical mind. Everything must stand to reason; there must be logic behind everything. This person is guided by thought and has very little room for feelings in their life. As a result, they can remain aloof and not become attached easily.

Another kind of person lives in the emotional center and has a great deal of affection; this is the raw material of which emotions are made. This kind of person loves to do things for others, feed those who come to their home, and often becomes immediately attached to things. They see the world through feeling.

One who is centered in the moving center finds it necessary to do something all day. Such a person cannot sit idle, and if they see others sitting and relaxing, this person may taunt them for their laziness. Even when such a person sits, their legs are constantly moving.

A person centered in the instinctive center will love the good things in life. They are the kind of person who loves to eat good food, drink, and be merry. They’ll plan parties and give much consideration to the fashionable clothes they’ll wear.

All students of spirituality must work to stop the wrong work of each center and also strive to bring a balance in their working. But first, we must become aware that we have these centers within us. For this, we begin with self-observation. At any given moment, we ask ourselves – ‘Which center is working?’

Imagine that we’re studying something. We see the intellectual center working. Your child comes to ask you for something. We observe inside and see the emotional center working. And when we have to decide what to do with the child’s request, we will see that both the emotional and intellectual are working. We will also observe that the answer should come through the intellectual center, but most of the time, it is the emotional center that answers.

As we become more aware, we will also begin observing the wrong work of the centers. When we sit down for a meal, it is the instinctive center that feels hungry, but we see the interference of the intellectual center when it starts calculating the calories, the vitamins, and the fat content in the food.

When we are walking, it is the moving center at work. The moving center has a mind of its own—decides the length of the step to cross a hole in the ground, when to step up to avoid a branch in our path, etc. Just imagine if the intellectual center had to do this! We would not be able to move for all of the analyzing we’d need to do. But the moving center does this in a fraction of a second, and we jump over the hole.

In fact, a walk is a very good time to observe the wrong connections between the centers. You may be walking at a leisurely pace, but then you remember the quarrel you had with your wife in the morning. The emotional center sends a call to the moving center. You suddenly start walking faster and there is tension in your muscles. This is a bad connection. Yet we seem unable to help that a memory in the emotional center affects the moving center. The emotional center also phones the intellectual center and the memory starts a whole chain of thought about the quarrel, justifying why you were right and your wife was wrong. Of course, if your self-observation is deep, you will manage to see self-love behind every thought.

All these connections between centers are called associations, and we have a whole library of these mechanical associations. As we observe their mechanical workings, they get replaced by conscious associations. This takes years of hard practice.

For example, when someone treats us badly, we react and become upset. This is a mechanical reaction from the emotional center. We begin by receiving the impression that they have insulted us. A mechanical association automatically takes this impression to the negative part of the emotional center, and we react. The emotional center phones the intellectual center causing us to start receiving negative thoughts about this person. Then the moving center gets the message, and our muscles become tense and hold the hurt. The emotional center also calls the instinctive center—we may suddenly feel hungry even though we had a meal an hour ago.

But with practiced self-observation, the reflexive mechanical machinery becomes weakened. We make new conscious connections. We say to ourselves – ‘Only my self-love gets hurt and upset. This is a good opportunity to observe my self-love.’ So instead of reacting, we make that new conscious connection. We also consciously relax our muscles, preventing the hurt from creating a knot there.

In doing so much, we have consciously created so many new associations. It also brings a flash of understanding that the person who treated us badly was mechanical, just responding in the way he was wired to act. In realizing this, we know that it makes no sense for us to hold a grudge against him—for we understand he is mechanical, and a machine can only act in the way it is wired by associations.

So, we must practice observing our centers and their workings. It is only when the false falls away that the new is born.