Friday, March 14, 2014

What is Centering?

When I was in college I went through a stage where I wanted to very much stay true to my beliefs… well, at least what I thought my beliefs were at the time. I remember going to parties and getting into drunken conversations. During these conversations, I vehemently and unrelentingly defended my views against the drunken melee, convinced if their value.
I wanted to be real, you know.
In retrospect, the scene is rather comical; and no doubt must have provided endless hours of entertainment to the more enlightened. But I had the strong conviction of (headstrong) youth.
I persisted night after night, trying to hold true to my beliefs. But every night, I would eventually find myself giving in to the influences of my environment for one reason or another.  
I remember being angry with myself for a long time. I grew ever more frustrated as I renewed my commitment before every new party; and suffered the same disappointment at the end of each night.
Finally one night, I realized there was no way I could stay true to my beliefs. My interaction with the people around me inevitably changed me, and I would lose my center. 
So what is Centering?

Many of you may know Centering as: being present, being in the moment, being at one, being mindful, or being in the zone.  If this definition is still a little ambiguous, do not be concerned.  In my experience, most people who throw around such terms do not necessarily have a clear understanding of what they are attempting to describe.

Let's do an easy exercise to explain my point.

Imagine for a moment that you need to find your way to New York or to San Francisco.  Most of you have a clear idea of where theses cities are. And if you don't, you can easily pick up a map and locate them.  Therefore, finding their locations should not cause you any appreciable difficulties.
However: Could you find your way there if I dropped you in the middle of a forest 20 miles outside of Teresina, with nothing to help you reference your location? Without a trusty GPS, it may be a little more difficult for most of us to find our way. 
So what is missing? What information do we need? 

Yes, that is correct. First you need to find out where Teresina is, and where you are. This simple example illustrates quite nicely the concept of Centering. 
Remember the story of my college days at the beginning of this blog? Every interaction we have in our lives takes us away from our Center. In retrospect, I really was struggling with figuring out how to find my Center and hold onto it. At that time, I had just begun my mind body pursuits and was opening up to the larger functions of my mind.  
Centering is:  "Knowing who you are, in relation to the forces and influences of the environment that surround you." 

You may say, of course I know who am. I've known that since I was a child. 

But, do you really know who you are? 

To illustrate my point, ask yourself the question: "Who am I?"  Take a few minutes to write down a description of who you think you are. 

[Please, bear with me, and do the exercise now. I guarantee that if you do the exercises as soon as they come up in this blog (and in my book), you will get the most out of the exercises.]

Now look at your description.

Your self-description may have described aspects of your physical appearance and perhaps your occupation. It may have even highlighted some of your mental abilities, preferences, and emotional tendencies. But once again, I ask you:

Who are you? Is this who you really are? 

Consider the following:

Are you the same person you were a year ago?  Are you the same person that you were an hour ago? Do you act the same way with your boss as you do with your loved ones?

Let’s be overly simplistic for a moment. The mind operates in two basic ways: either we change the world around us, or we are changed by the world around us. I define these two ways as Active Action and Passive Action. In every exchange or conversation we have, our minds are shaped and changed in some way.

Some of these mind changes are temporary, while some aspects are more permanent. Yet, underneath it all, we still have an overall notion of who we are. This sense of self is not only cognitive (what we think), but also encompasses emotional (how we feel) and physiological (physical body) aspects. These three aspects of our Selves — cognitive emotional, physiological -- are interwoven so tightly together that it is difficult for us to separate them.

Take a moment and think about the last time you had an argument or a difficult conversation. What was the impact on your mental state, and what was the impact on your emotional state? How did it make you feel physically? Strong emotional changes tend to have great impact upon us. They can be strong forces of inspiration, or they can be forces that unbalance us.

Some of these changes are desirable and some are not. In either case, we are affected. Generally, it takes some time to process and let go of the effects before we regain our balance. Sometimes after processing, we can gain greater insight and grow stronger. But there is, inevitably, a period of imbalance where we may lack clarity, drive or direction.

As with the San Francisco analogy where we were dropped into unfamiliar ground, we need to find our way back to something that we recognize. Although our sense of self is continuously evolving, we do carry with us at all times a general sense of who we are.

Centering in its simplest form is being closer to this core sense of self. Centering is what the word suggests. Centering is finding your self within the confusion of your surroundings. Centering is finding your point of reference on the map of your life. Centering is separating your self from the influences in your environment and getting in touch with your true essence. This may all sound a little esoteric, but both its implications and applications are extremely practical.

Please take a moment to share your views on Centering.

If you would like to explore more about Centering, check out the Finding Your Center workshop.