At any given moment we are influenced by so many things. Our senses are reporting in about our environment. Our mind is busy with some agenda whether conscious or unconscious. Our experience is being colored by whatever dominant emotions we feel, and somewhere in the midst of all this is our center, the still point around which everything else is turning.
PHYSICAL CENTER – In the Yoga Tradition, when you are standing upright, your physical center is considered the navel, typically described as around 1-2 inches below the belly button. This is your gravitational center. Gravity pulls mass downwards. When we are balanced and connected to our navel point it allows us to ground through the legs (with gravity) and lift through the spine and torso (resist gravity). When we are aware of and connected to our center of gravity, there is a natural balancing of the body, which in turn brings a feeling of ease, stability, and connection.
MENTAL CENTER – The mind bounces around and dominates our attention until it is brought to rest. The most effective way to do this is through paying attention to the breath. The ancient yogic texts reference the breath and mind moving together: “As the breath, so the mind. As the mind, so the breath.” Focusing on the breath pulls the mind into a state of attention. When we continue to focus in this way for 3-5 minutes, we can break the ‘spell’ the mind has been under and bring it into a state of relaxed attention. When we are mentally centered, we can respond to life rather than react, we are more creative, flexible and adaptable.
SPIRITUAL CENTER – Our spiritual center refers to the feeling of being connected to our deeper self, to our inner sense of knowing, higher intelligence, and our hearts desire. The yoga tradition points to the heart center, at the locus of intelligence in the body, it is also the place of higher emotions like love, compassion, gratitude, and appreciation. When we are physically and mentally centered it is much easier to detect this inner current of intelligence, this presence that we call our soul. When we live disconnected from this presence there is a constant feeling of subtle disconnection, a discontent, like something is missing.
The key ingredient in a balanced life is to learn to access and live from the spiritual heart. This means living in alignment with what feels true to us, with our higher beliefs and values. When we go against this inner knowing it feels like a transgression against our soul. In a noisy world, with so many forces vying for our attention it is so important that we have a method of remaining centered: physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The technique is not difficult, but it must be practiced systematically in order to create a positive habit of centeredness. When centered in this way we can live authentically, trust and act from our inner knowing, connected to our higher creative center and power.
PRACTICE – Doing a simple grounding exercise is a great place to start when establishing your center.
Stand tall with your feet approximately hip distance apart. Press down through the four corners of the foot. Lift your toes to feel the engagement of the arches of the feet. Allow a slight bend in your knees. Keeping the feet still, firm your thighs and hug your heels toward one another. Feel how this ignites the inner thighs and pelvic floor. Lift up through the lower belly to connect with your gravitational center. Feel how your weight is supported by the legs and hips.
Now, hug your outer hips and lengthen up through your spine, creating space and initiating a lightness of being. Open through the collar bones. Chin slightly in. Stand and tune into your breath. When sitting you can find your gravitational center by grounding through your seat bones and gently lifting your lower belly.
Become aware that you are breathing in. Become aware that you are breathing out. Gently extend the length of your inhale and exhale to further calm your mind and body. Continue for a couple of minutes gently evening your breath. Once you begin to feel a sense of calm permeate your body, indicating your breath focus is working, then move on to feeling the locus of the breath at your heart center. Imagine the breath flow in and out of the chest area. Now focus on a feeling of gratitude, or appreciation. Allow the feeling to permeate your entire experience, promoting a feeling of wellbeing and deeper connection.
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