All of us will be pulled off center, we will be shaped by both disaster and delight. So we need to learn the art of returning home, retuning to center, letting go of all that binds us too tightly to both fear and to hope, letting go of our attachment to both doom and reward, letting go of all that leaves us wobbling. When we learn to return home in this way, we will return bearing gifts.
--Learning to Fall, Philip Simmons
How do you practice centering?
It's been a while since I've written about specific ways to get centered and to incorporate the practice of centering into your daily life, and it's best to start with the basics, like breathing in and out consciously. One of my personal favorite reminders to center is to notice when I'm holding my breath--it happens more often than you'd guess--and to open my throat and let the breath come in.
We're usually not breathing when we’re upset or in conflict, but sometimes we stop for no real reason--opening a car door, for example, or sitting at your computer. You could be doing it now. Are you breathing? Just try to notice more often. It's a simple and powerful practice.
The advantage to all of my centering practices is that you can do them anywhere, anytime. When you’re in the centered state, you will be calm, focused, and able to choose a purposeful response to any situation.
1) Focus on your center of gravity
You can train yourself to center by standing or sitting in a relaxed posture and focusing on your physical center of gravity--an internal point just below the navel. In aikido, we call it “one-point.” We imagine our energy organizing around this one-point and extending out into the world. We walk from center, speak from center, and generally operate from center. In physics, it’s our center of mass. In Japanese, tanden. Focus on tanden now and notice if you feel more stable and calm.
2) Breathe with awareness
Breathe into tanden. Breathe out from the same point. Do you feel more composed, confident, and balanced? Breathe consciously, and feel the air flow in easily through your nose, head, throat, lungs, and deep into your abdomen. Hear the sound the breath makes, and feel it as it flows in and out. Sit quietly for a few minutes and relax your mind.
3) Start your day centered
Physical exercise, yoga, deep breathing, meditation, prayer, and quiet reflection are all excellent centering practices to begin your day. You may have your own. It can be as simple (and challenging!) as sitting quietly, doing nothing. By starting your day with a centering activity, you will return to the centered state more easily as the day unfolds.
4) Create reminders
Create centering prompts, such as objects, people, or events that remind you to re-center periodically. Place posters or quotations on the wall or at your desk that reinforce your practice. Keep a book of affirmations close at hand, or a picture of a loved one to help you remember what's important. Listen to one of your favorite centering tapes as you drive to and from work. When you push open the door to your office, let it be a reminder to center yourself.
New habits need reinforcement if you want to make them part of your life. Choose one centering practice and incorporate it into your day. Make a promise to do it for 30 days. Keep track and be specific. For example: each time the phone rings, I'll take a breath and exhale before I answer.