Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to be overcome.
About 18 months ago, I wrote a post about exiting an airplane--something I haven't done for over a year now. As I made my way to the exit trying to make a bus home with no time to spare, the other passengers were taking their time. The flight was late, 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.
I caught myself, breathed, 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 (and I made my bus).
Sharon’s Salzberg's simple sentence contains a great deal of wisdom. She’s referring to meditation but the insight applies with equal power to the practice of centering.
The bedrock of what I teach and write about in 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.
How centered are you right now? Are we ever completely centered for very long? The more I teach and practice centering myself in this life, the more I'm pretty sure (at least for me) that being centered is a continual RE-centering process. On a scale of 0 to 100 percent -- am I ever at 100 percent?
Driving in my car I use the 0 to 100 scale. If someone cuts me off, I can go to "0" pretty quickly. If I catch myself and consciously re-center, I watch my centering scale move to 20, 30, 40, 50, and sometimes higher. On any given day, I might re-center 50-100 times. It's become second nature after so many years of practice.
I've come to think of centering as a skill we build over time--a muscle we can exercise and strengthen.
So let's take a centering break now. Notice your body--focus on scalp... forehead... jaw... neck... shoulders. Breathe in and consciously soften any tension as you exhale. Let your spine lengthen and your shoulders drop. Wiggle your lower jaw a little, let a smile come to your lips and face. Come out of your head and into your body. Become still. Find your "happy place", your home base.
Centering, Not Centered
As we practice and build our centering muscle, our uncenteredness becomes less dramatic and returning to center easier and faster. We become uncentered, we notice, and we come back. Part of my own journey has been learning what this feels like for me. Each time I lose it and come back I reinforce how to do it the next time.
Life is always changing, difficulty and conflict arise and recede. The continuous losing and coming back is natural. There may not be a Perfect Center. Only Centering, as we make continual little adjustments and return again and again--a natural and beautiful part of what it means to be human and to be aware.