At the heart of many spiritual practices is the concept of being “centered,” which means being balanced, in reality, mentally and emotionally stable, able to make decisions from your wisest self. By contrast, being un-centered or off-center means being run by your ego, fears, pride or self-will. In such a state, it’s easy to escalate quickly to a much more imbalanced, unwise state. (Witness the current craziness around the health care “debate.”)
“A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe,” says Wayne Dyer, author of many practical spiritual books. That’s true whether you’re dealing with work, money, or personal issues. Fortunately, the same skills and attitudes that help us stay centered in our personal and spiritual life are also applicable to all practical, worldly challenges.
A recent health scare led Kim Weichel to the following reflections on staying centered:
Staying centered when things are going well is often not difficult, yet the real challenge is to stay centered when your world suddenly changes, when fear strikes, when chaos reigns, or something potentially terrible happens.
Several weeks ago I was drying off from a cold shower on a hot, humid night in Washington DC, when I suddenly felt a lump on the outside of my right breast. I froze, prayed it was my imagination, but to my horror felt it again. And again.
Terror quickly enveloped what had been an otherwise delightful evening. Might this be cancer, given my family’s history with cancer? How far along was it? Would I feel pain?
I fought back tears and decided not to say anything to my husband for fear that I was overreacting. I also hoped the lump would disappear by morning.
Moving from off-center to centered is usually a process, not a one-time transformation with no back-sliding.
As I got in bed I took some deep breaths and focused on how grateful I was for my great health these 57 years, and calmed myself down knowing that whatever happened I would be OK.
Still, I awoke many times that night in a deep sweat. What if I only had a few years to live? How would my life change? So many questions without answers.
The next morning I wanted to call my doctor, yet we had just moved to the Washington area and were not yet members of our new health plan. I swallowed hard and knew I needed to be patient and wait until we were accepted. Weeks went by.
There’s no better opportunity for some spiritual growth than uncertainty.
We all have challenging moments. How we handle them is the real test of character. I’m blessed with many years of training and practice in centering and other spiritual disciplines. So, each day I had to wait, I prayed and focused on all that I had going for me. I visualized the lump disappearing. Each day felt special.
Still, concerns crept in, sometimes in the middle of the night. I practiced recognizing them, acknowledging them, and then saying a prayer. That helped me to let it go.
Finally our new health plan was in place. I prayed again before going to my new doctor and did some deep centering work again in the waiting lounge. I felt deeply held in God’s grace. Though the lump turned out to be just a benign cyst, I knew that I could meet gracefully whatever happened.
Here are some tools that can help you stay centered in any challenge.
1) Prayer: Prayer will help you get off the fear or stress treadmill and into a space where you can hear the quiet voice of wisdom within. Prayer is a very powerful healer for mental and physical ills. Studies have suggested that people who are spiritual seem to heal faster or cope with illness more effectively than do the non-spiritual.
2) Gratitude: This practice increases happiness because it reminds us of all that is working in our lives. It does not deny the difficulties of life, but it’s always helpful to switch our focus (like changing TV stations) from our fear or scarcity channel to our gratitude channel.
3) Visualization: Visualization is more than just faith, and it’s been used effectively by athletes, entrepreneurs and spiritual leaders. When you visualize, and believe in what you are doing, healing takes place. You see how to deal with challenges and manifest your work, life and money dreams.
You might ponder the following questions about your faith and ability to stay centered:
What pulls you off track?
What works for you to get back on track?
How can you remain centered during the challenging times?
What support do you need?
May you remain centered and grow from your tough times,
Kimberly Weichel is a social pioneer, educator, author and specialist in global communications, leadership and peacebuilding. She is co-author of “Healing the Heart of the World” and director of the Institute for Peacebuilding. www.kimweichel.org.