A Centering Practice in Times of Uncertainty
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
How do we feel centered when nothing around us seems certain, predictable, or even safe? For me, the answer lies in the question. The only way to feel centered in these times is to stop looking outwards and to turn our awareness inwards. “Centering” is a practice, so it takes time and patience to be aware of the steadiness underneath.
Centering, finding the middle or core, means being able to shift our focus to a more expansive view that includes not just the mind but also the heart and gut. When we are anxious or “uncentered” we often find ourselves residing in our heads, we might even feel like we don’t have a body, just an enormous head moving through space, thus the expression “I’m in my head.” Here we get lost in an endless rumination of thought that leads nowhere and only leaves us feeling more anxious.
“Many of us are familiar with living in our heads, depending on our intellect, and developing enough external architecture to function and get by. But if we are to truly care for ourselves in a sustainable way, let alone someone else – if we are to thrive - then something greater is required of us. We must discover an awareness of what allows us to live, moment by moment, from a centered place, from an awakened heart.
Throughout history, sages have said the means to find our truths are already in our possession. We are all capable of creating a daily practice to center ourselves. Eventually, this may allow us to reconnect with the parts of ourselves that feel wise, resourceful, and even divine. A practice may occupy two minutes or two hours, but the hope is that this is something to which you can commit.” - Laura van Dernoot Lipsky “Trauma Stewardship”
Often I’m drawing on practices that have been influenced by eastern philosophy but Christianity has a beautiful tradition of centering prayer (as do other religions so please feel free to draw from a different source if it resonates with you). According to Thomas Merton, “Monastic prayer begins not so much with “considerations” as with a “return to the heart,” finding one's deepest center, awakening the profound depths of our being”. Centering prayer is done in silence and the practitioner focuses internally on either an image, word, or mantra. The image or word is meant to remind us that we are part of something larger then us; universal love, God, or even a tiny being held by the grace and support of this miraculous world, whatever resonates with you. Every time the mind wanders, we bring ourselves back to our image or word.
If you're finding difficulty centering, I find the followig invitation to practice helpful. I encourage you to try it for yourself, with the freedom to make modifications or variations that work for you.
1. Find a comfortable seat
2. Set a timer, you will need at least five minutes, up to twenty minutes if you choose.
3. Take a few deeper, slower breaths
4. Place a hand on your head, take a moment to acknowledge your thoughts, our thoughts when centered lead to discernment or wisdom (1 minute or longer if you need)
5. Place a hand on your heart, take a moment to acknowledge your feelings, our feelings when centered to connect us to ourselves and others (1 minute or longer if you need)
6. Place a hand on your low belly, your gut, take a moment to acknowledge your instincts (these are most often under the surface of our awareness so don’t try too hard), our instincts when centered steer us towards that which is implicit or unconscious within us. (1 minute or longer if you need)
7. Place your hands comfortably in your lap. Bring to mind a symbol; an image or word or breath that reminds you of your connection to Love, God, Kwan Yin, the planet (it needs to resonate with you)
8. Rest in this space, when you notice your mind wander bring yourself back to your symbol
9. After your timer goes give yourself a moment to notice how does your body, heart and mind feel when centered? What is the quality or essence of being centered? Try not to make it too cerebral but rather what does the body and breath do, how do you feel when centered? Throughout your day see if you can comeback even for a moment to that felt sense
I hope that this will help you with your centering practise. If you would like further assistance with centering, or would like to know more about how somatic therapy can help ease anxiety during undertain times, please call me at 604-868-5572.