Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to be overcome.
As I made my way to the exit, the other passengers on my jetBlue flight were taking their time making their way down the aisle. If I could just get off this plane, I might make the 6:10 bus to Portsmouth and home, and not have to wait an hour for another bus. The flight was already late getting into Boston, and I really wanted to make that bus. Uncentered and pushing mentally, if not physically, I was grinding my teeth and trying to do whatever I could to hurry the passengers in front of me along, including bypassing some seats where the passengers didn’t immediately get up to retrieve bags from the overhead bin.
And I caught myself. And breathed, and smiled, and returned to center. The tension drained from my body, and I gave the next person an option to jump in front of me as we all made our way to the terminal.
Sharon’s Salzberg's simple sentence contains a great deal of wisdom. She’s referring to the practice of meditation but the insight applies with equal power to the practice of centering.
The bedrock of what I teach and write about in my book, Turn Enemies Into Allies, is the idea that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your being. And the quality of your being is intimately connected to your ability to be centered, notice when you’re not, and to call yourself back from moment to ki moment.
It bears repeating (and I know I repeat it a lot) that the centered state is an actual mind-body experience, something real we can practice and get better at. When we’re centered, mind, body and spirit are aligned. To be centered means to be balanced, calm, and connected to an inner source of power. When you’re centered, you’re more effective, capable, and in control. I think we’d all like to face this world from a calm, centered state. And it takes practice.
If you’re human, you will get triggered. That’s just how it is. Another driver is going to cut you off, you’re going to stub your toe, someone is going to say something you find offensive. Or the line in front of you will be moving too slowly. And a lot of those times you’re going to want to scream or wallow in some serious self-pity.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over all the times you’re uncentered. Appreciate the times you are centered, the times you remember to center, even the times you think of centering after the moment has passed. Centering is a practice and you’re going to receive the gift of endless opportunities to practice it. I guarantee this. It’s not a problem that we so often react rather than respond from center. It’s an opportunity to begin again.
When you think if it, practice returning to center. When you react rather than respond, try and imagine what the moment would have been like if you were centered. Think about shrinking the amount of time between the reaction and the thought that you might have been more centered in that moment. If you practice, the span of time will decrease, and the idea of taking a breath and waiting a moment before responding will occur to you in the moment. And maybe at some point (and I hope for this for myself as well), you will be in the moment, which after all is what the practice of centering is all about.
Thomas Crum, dear friend and mentor, said that it’s not what happens to us that’s important, it’s what we do with what happens to us. And what we do will always be enhanced if we do it from center. Let’s begin again.