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1. Centering and Falling Over
Last month I wrote about the desire to lead a more "normal" life and committed myself to work on Centering (our first Touchstone). So, what happened?
To start off, let me assure you: I don't think that anyone can stay centered all the time--well, unless you are Mother Teresa or Gandhi, or perhaps if you're dead. So the challenge is-how do we return to our center when life keeps distracting us with its interruptions and disturbances?
I have had a morning ritual for years, a glorious 60 to 90 minutes when I read and meditate. I relish this quiet time before my day begins. If I don't do it, my day will inevitably go awry; it is what I need.
In my efforts to improve the quality of my centering practice, last month I added a journaling practice. I reasoned that, if I wanted to be connected to my interior life, it made sense to start tracking what's happening in my life. Well, in an effort to gauge my progress, I counted the days I journaled, and my progress is quite depressing. I'm going to have to work on my journaling consistency this month.
While my success with journaling is a bit of a bust, there are three other centering practices I have incorporated into my life.
The first is centering from mood swings. Yes, men have mood swings. You know, the kind of mood swings you have when you read a disturbing email, have a shoddy customer-service experience, or someone cuts in front of you at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts; or, the worst offenders: the ones who don't obey the "now boarding by zone X" announcements at the airport. We all have mood swings, and that mood shift is almost certainly a sign that our egos are offended.
This is where I let my mood swings meet my breath. It's a simple practice for me; I use my breath to get back to center. Instead of uttering a curse word, I have learned to replace it with the phrase "I can choose peace," accompanied by 10 deep breaths. How do you manage your mood swings?
A second centering practice involves focusing on the things that are important. In this age of distraction, it's so easy for me to lose focus on the most important "stuff." There are so many things fighting for my attention, and I tend to want to just do the easy stuff. When writing an email or a report becomes difficult, it's easier to read the news, answer email, visit Facebook, make a cup of tea, or dial a friend rather than do what I am really committed to doing.
So, I often ask myself: "Why am I doing this?" or "What am I escaping from now?" I have, thankfully, learned to be kind to myself when I observe the same patterns repeating themselves. To be honest, it's now to the point where my self-observations amuse me rather than disturb me; I'm utterly predictable. For those familiar with Council work, this might be characterized as a solo Council practice.
A final centering practice for me is to center on where God is showing up in my life. Now, some of you will want to replace that word God with Spirit or Mystery-whatever works for you on your journey. This gives me great perspective. It is hard for me to describe this practice because it is a disposition rather than something more tangible. There are two times I do this: In the morning, when we walk our dogs, and when I am driving. I've really had to work on the driving one because (a) I don't want to crash and (b) it's tempting to use driving time for phone calls. This time in the car has become very important "quiet space" for me. (For added ritual flair, I put my phone in a shoebox on the passenger seat.)
I keep plugging away at this centering stuff. This is how I currently work with the practice. I can't grade myself; it's not like a health tracker where you get poked when you do it poorly or see flashing lights when you hit your centering target. After 30 years of working (or not working) on my spiritual journey, this is what I have to work with.
So, what's your centering practice? Please email a short description (one paragraph) of what you do that's different or unique to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll include a few of them in next month's newsletter.
Chairman, Board of Directors.