I open my eyes. Morning.
Quiet time. Meditation.
I relish this moment. Yes, there is much to do. The difficult conversation ahead. The pile of work sitting on my desk and on my mind. The emails to return. The seminar to design. Do I have time?
Yes. I will make time. I will sit quietly and do nothing. Nothing except to notice the breath coming in and going out of my body. The thoughts, the physical awareness, the birds chirping outside my window. All coming and going, like the breath.
Wendy Palmer, a teacher of aikido and leadership presence categorizes the many ways to practice centering into three areas: committed practice, ritual practice, and spontaneous practice.
Committed centering practices are ones you do every day, such as:
- Quiet sitting of any kind
- Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong
- Other similar mind-body practices
The committed practice is your foundation. When you begin the day in a centered way, you will more easily come back to center as the day unfolds and challenges occur.
Centering rituals are activities you do with the purpose of reinforcing the centered state. For example, I consciously center myself when I:
- Put on my seat belt
- Stop at a red light
- Touch the door knob as I enter my house
- Listen to the first ring of my telephone
- Breathe in and out from center before each meal
People often ask if physical exercise activities like running, swimming, or aikido are centering practices. If you engage with the purpose of reinforcing the centered state, then they are. For example, when I swim and I consciously extend my arms and legs--and my ki (energy)--from center, I'm practicing the centered state.
A spontaneous centering practice can happen anytime you notice you're not centered, stop, and re-center yourself.
- In a difficult conversation, I notice I'm about to push for my way when it would be more useful to wait, listen and acknowledge what I hear.
- I'm driving in heavy traffic and someone cuts me off.
- A customer service representative puts me on hold and after 5 minutes of waiting, the call disconnects.
You're more likely to center spontaneously if you also have a committed practice and rituals that you regularly engage in.
Center As You Enter
At Marin County Day School in Northern California, Aikido is part of the curriculum--they call it Energy Time--and the practice of centering is reinforced throughout the school. Signs posted above classroom doors encourage students and teachers alike to:
Center as you enter.
Breathe before you leave.
Their moving YouTube documentary, "Center As You Enter," is a vivid example of the possibilities available for centering training in K-8 elementary schools. As the Marin County students put it:
- "I think you have to do it a lot to do it really good."
- "Yeah, you have to practice."
How do you practice centering? Do you reinforce your centeredness in a consistent way, so that you're less likely to falter when life throws a curve?
Life weighs heavily at times. But right now there is only this moment. Center now, and let this moment expand beyond all there is to do and say, until just being present is a gift.
Breathe. Smile. Be.