Life is full of pressure. Worries about your health, terrorist threats on the news, financial troubles, conflicts at work and family concerns. Without a center in your life, those pressures are likely to push you around. I’ve found taking time to center myself every day gives me the strength to do my best.
Centering is often seen as a religious or spiritual activity. Centering yourself around spiritual beliefs or rituals is perfectly fine. But if you aren’t a particularly religious person, or situations have caused you to change your faith, you might find it hard to center yourself.
I’m not a religious person, but I still find time to center myself every day. Here are a few of the things worth centering on:
The Now. Focusing yourself on what you have instead of what you don’t have. Focusing on present actions instead of future worries and past regrets. Focusing on what is.
Your Dreams. Center yourself on the direction you want to take your life. Re-reading any goals I’ve written down helps me reaffirm what I want from life instead of responding to cynicism and frustration.
Family. Center around the people you love. This may be harder to center on if you’re having conflicts with your family. But by focusing on the best part of your relationships you can center yourself on what is important to you.
Your Passions. Center around the work you love doing. Focus on your ability to create.
By centering your thoughts on one of these points, you can anchor yourself in stressful times. Even if your life is great, a centering activity can keep you stable, instead of letting enthusiasm push you away from what is really important to you.
Ways to Center Yourself
Centering is an exercise in focus. It can’t be multitasked with answering your e-mails or watching television. Set aside at least fifteen minutes each day to center yourself. The busier you are, the more you need to center. Without centering, you’ll burn yourself out before you start.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to center myself in this crazy world we all live in:
Breathe. Close your eyes and focus entirely on your breathing. Count between breaths and control the time that passes. If a thought enters your mind, let it pass. With a mind like water you can center on the present.
Go on a Thought Walk. Go for a walk and just think. If you find yourself getting onto negative, un-centered thoughts too often, try listening to brighter music at the same time. Another variant of this is to get an audio tape from a speakerlike Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins. Center yourself on the things you already know, but sometimes forget.
Read. Get complete silence and read one of your favorite books. Read something that will inspire you and center you on what is important in your life. Reading is a skill that requires focus, so it is naturally suited for being a centering activity.
Zen and Cooking. Prepare a meal in complete silence and eat it slowly. I like to focus on the taste of the food I’m eating. Eat the meal as if you were tasting food for the first time. This activity is great for getting outside your thoughts and staying focused on the present.
Exercise. The bench press might not seem like a meditative activity, but exercise is one of my favorite centering activities. With lifting weights, the steady pattern of repetitions, focus and breathing all combine to focus me. When I jog, my body falls into a rhythm of steps. The side-benefit of this is that exercise also improves your body at the same time.
Write. Keeping a journal also helps me center. Writing gives added control over your thinking, so you can direct it back towards your center. If I want to center around my goals, I’ll simply decide to write about my goals and progress towards them. As the writing starts to flow, my thoughts also center back on that point.
Stretch. Stretch each of your major muscle groups. Stretching gives you more awareness of your body, helping to focus on the now. Stretching also improves flexibility and can help with any unconscious soreness you might have been experiencing.
Quotes. I love a good quote. Entire ideas eloquently compressed into just a sentence or two. Keeping a list of great quotes can give you pointers when you need to center yourself. A few of my favorites include:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men experience it as a whole. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller
“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.” – Albert Einstein
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships were built for.”
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Dream. Spend a few minutes and write down the things you want to do, experience and achieve in your life. Don’t worry about what is possible or practical. Just write down the things that fill you with enthusiasm for life. Even if after you put down the pen, you can’t change anything, you’ve centered yourself on what gives your life joy.