Last week I shared some thoughts about our tendency to enter “fight or flight” when we find ourselves in the midst of a significant change; I suggested that often the better approach is to not get lured into the pull of taking immediate action; I offered a simple tool, and the guidance to focus on importance, not urgency; finally, I said that this week I would offer a way to avoid the loop of a crisis altogether…So what is it?
Actually, it isn’t a big secret. It’s something we all know. And, it’s something many of us struggle with, if we pay any attention to it at all.
Spend time every day focusing on your equanimity.
What is it that brings you peace, that helps you return to center? For me, it is a morning ritual of yoga and prayer. For my son, it is a physically challenging workout at the gym. Knitting. Gardening. Biking. Running. Attending mass. Meditation. Cleaning. Ironing. Sketching. Painting. Taking a walk. Mindful breath. Conversing with oneself in the mirror. Whittling. Driving. Reading the Torah, the Bible, the Quran, or other spiritual or religious works. Poetry. Journaling. Playing the bagpipes. Spending time in nature. Each of these is someone’s answer to How do I stay centered?
If you have your own way of maintaining, or returning to, balance…go for it!
When the going gets tough, it is essential that we carve out the time to focus on balancing/re-balancing, and that we make it a non-negotiable part of our routine. We all know it is easier to retain balance than to regain it. Avoid the tendency to “not have time.” Don’t just “fit it in.” Sure, there are often trade-offs to finding and protecting that time for yourself. But, if carefully made, they are well worth the peace of mind that maintaining that centeredness can bring during a crisis.
If you don’t currently have a way of centering, you are far from alone. In this day and age it isn’t at all unusual for us to get so enmeshed in activities that we let go of–or never develop–a means of reconnecting to our center. If this is the case, my encouragement is that you begin to seek out your way of connecting back to yourself. As you can see from the list above, there are an infinite number of possibilities. Here are some of the guidelines that I share with my clients who are seeking to find their own means for establishing and maintaining more equanimity in their lives.
- Find a quiet time and a quiet spot to spend some time alone. Reflect on when you feel most calm and at peace with yourself.
- Close your eyes, and put yourself “in that moment.” Where are you? What are you doing? What do you see?
- Jot down some notes, and repeat the process.
- It may take more than one try, and some time, to create a list for yourself. You may need to reflect back years–perhaps even back to your youth–to find those moments. Try to compile a list of 6, 8, 10, or more “possibilities.”
- Take a look at the list you have created. If there are places that sometimes allow you to feel at peace, and other times do not, cross them off. (For example, if driving can be your magic elixir, and you also find yourself frustrated, cursing under your breath and honking your horn when you are behind a too-slow driver, it is probably not the practice you want. If it is playing the piano–except when you hit a wrong note–take it off the list.) You want those activities, those locations, those things that have the potential for helping you center every time you connect with them.
- Put aside those places that have provided that solace for you in the past, but that are not readily accessible. Going to the beach may be a great way for you to spend the vacation recharging, but if it is not nearby, you can’t count on it to help you recenter tomorrow.
- If drugs or alcohol have made it onto the list, scratch them off… Whatever they may bring you is not the equanimity we are seeking.
- By the time you reach this point, you will have a pretty good sense of what is resonating with you; select something from your list (or something you have never tried before).
Now you need to set aside your time and begin to practice. In this context, considering whatever your grounding activity is as a “practice” is a good idea. Meditation instructors are known to tell their students that setting aside 5-10 minutes every day is much better than meditating for an hour once a week. Whatever, your chosen practice, the same is true. Quite simply, the longer you go without reconnecting to center–or consciously working to move toward center–the further out of equilibrium you are likely to become.
What do you do to help you stay centered?