My mind is going a million miles a minute, in a dozen directions. As I lie on the yoga mat, I think:
I manage it for 3–4 seconds and then I’m off on some thought train.
Find your Stillness.
Yes, for 3–4 seconds more, and off again.
When meditating each morning, I count my breaths. I’m lucky if get to 5 before I lose track and have to start over. As I count, I’m present. I feel the breath come in and out. Then … I’m not.
That’s the point. To notice and come back.
To return to center.
On the mat … and in life.
5 Steps for Returning to Center:
1) Notice you’re not.
This is the first and most important step. If you don’t notice, you’ll never get to the others. Because of this, you want to notice with a smile. “Ah!” As Pema Chodron says, “I take delight.” You are already returning to center — just by noticing.
You want to get really good at this first step.
2) Transform Uncentered Moments Into Centering Practices
All the things that are uncentering now — make each one a centering practice.
· That difficult person, the one who takes your center and runs away with it. Ah! Thank you very much for this opportunity to practice. For 5 seconds — can you center that long around this person? 10 seconds? When you make it interesting for yourself, you will begin to look forward to being in this person’s presence so that you can practice.
· The driver who forgets to signal, drives too slow (or too fast!), who cuts you off. Ah! Thank you very much for this moment. I have a choice. I can get hooked by this emotion or I can breathe, center and return to equanimity.
· Bad weather is one of my favorite teachers. Or unexpected frustrations. Being caught without my raincoat or my sense of humor. Once you notice, it is only and always a choice. All that is required is intention.
3) Practice Gratitude: Accept What Is
In the beginning, when I was first learning the art of centering, I would become disgruntled and angry with myself when I forgot to center, when I missed a ki moment that could have turned out so differently … if only … And, of course, I became even more uncentered.
I’ve learned to center sooner, to smile at myself more often, and to take myself less seriously. You can, too.
One of my favorite mantras is: Thank you very much. When I say this, I look for the gift that is usually present but that I’m missing by attaching myself to some other desire, by resisting what is. This is another way I have of returning to center.
One of my favorite quotations by Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, is this:
Practice the Art of Peace in a vibrant and joyful manner.
I can’t top that. Have fun.