The driver cut me off without warning. We almost collided. My pulse accelerated, my adrenaline pumped, my anger went from 0 to 60 in less than a second.
I breathe in, exhale, and choose to center. At first I'm only about 20 percent centered. I keep breathing. 30%. I think: what rational explanation would allow for that driver to do what he did? 40%. More breathing. 50%. Smile to myself--everything’s okay. No damage done. 75%. It’s over, without me doing anything I’ll regret later. Life is good. 100%.
The language and practice of centering is one in which some people are fairly fluent. Yet even those who understand the concept are often unsure exactly how to get there on purpose.
I'm often asked:
- What is center?
- How do I choose to be centered?
- When I’ve lost it, how can I get it back?
- How do I develop a strong center?
- What’s the difference between centered and uncentered behavior?
The Language of Centering
I use the word and the concept in my teaching, my writing, and my life, and I practice centering as much as I can.
What Is Center?
It's a quality of being in the world that you experience in your body, your mind and your spirit. It's also a way of experiencing how life comes at you.
Here comes a fastball heading straight for you. Do you receive it easily, do you hold your hands up and try not to get hit, do you turn and let the ball fly past, or do you run up and reach for it?
When you're centered, you’re in control of how you receive the ball. In life, you're in control of how you receive the life energy of others. You're in control of you. You aren’t in control of anything else, really. But you are in control of how you engage with the “anything else.”
Center is a state of being we cultivate. When I choose to center myself in the wake of some unexpected event that life throws my way, I gain confidence that I can handle the next event.
What others fluent in the language say about centering:
- Thomas Crum--Centering is the art of being fully alive. And wherever the art of centering is practiced, things change dramatically.
- Joy Jacobs--Protection is an inner event. Our inner state becomes protected when we’re centered.
- Terry Dobson--Keep your center and you’ll know which way you have to go.
- Aikido--The Aikidoist acquires a relaxed posture in which the weight of the body is directed toward its physiologic center in the lower abdomen. Gravity, no longer a force to be overcome, serves to support and stabilize posture. As a result, ordinary movement assumes an appearance of grace and economy.
The effects of centering are mental and physical. Vitality increases, the senses are sharpened, and we're less affected by everyday irritations. This state is referred to in Japan as having strong ki, the inner quality that aids the student of Aikido to develop to his or her fullest potential in every area of life.
Centering puts us in touch with our own internal power, so that we're not so reliant on what others think or feel about us. With practice we learn that when we're centered, we have options about how we use our power--to connect or to separate. Conflict and communication become opportunities to learn, discover and enjoy life.
The 4th Century Chinese philosopher, Chuang Tsu, is quoted as saying:
Look at this window: it is nothing but a hole in the wall, but because of it the whole room is full of light. Being full of light it becomes an influence by which others are secretly transformed.
When you're centered you become an influence by which others are secretly transformed.
Center yourself now. And notice the ki moment.