ife today is much like the tightrope walkers at the circus. You have to stay centered or down you go. Sometimes we are caught between what we’d like to do and what we know we should do. Life is so complicated today and our choices are so many that it’s really hard to keep our balance. Those who live without “boundaries” can, like Humpty Dumpty, have a great fall.
“Being centered” is the ability to meet the stresses of life without falling apart. It is inner calmness during the storm. Some declare that we are victims of “information overload”. It is said the information in one issue of the New York Times is more than the amount taken in by the average person in the entire 17th century. Thomas Kelly, an outstanding Quaker, described our center as the inner sanctuary of the soul. It is the quiet place where you feel safe or in balance with your surroundings and the people in your life.
I remember a woman who was part of a congregation I served in South Louisiana. When she was in her thirties, something traumatic happened to her that destroyed her self-confidence, her self-esteem and her ability to interact with the outside world. She never left her house after that. Relatives had to bring her food, etc. She just couldn’t function in a normal way. She lived forty more years as a kind of recluse. It is said that mental illness is definitely on the increase today. This is evidenced by the number of shootings across the country. It’s no shame to be mentally ill, but it is shameful to do nothing about it. Many families tend to ignore a family member who has a pattern of mental illness.
In Elizabeth Brown’s book Living Successfully with Screwed Up People, are these words: “Relationships with screwed up people are like dancing with porcupines. You want to dance close enough to stay in the waltz, but not so close you end up shot full of quills.” Difficult people can threaten your sanity and drive you to your knees. You pray for extra strength and patience. Extra Strength Tylenol is not strong enough. I know people who remain toxic and neurotic relationships because they are more comfortable with familiar “hells” and with a strange new “heaven”.
It has been proven that meditation and getting centered helps people function better in life. Keeping centered is not just to keep us sane. We need to be sane for a reason. We need to be actively involved in making where we are a more peaceful and better place. I’m sure there are many approaches to getting centered, but the following steps and thoughts work for me.
- Set your goal or idea. To connect with God’s Spirit within us, remind yourself that you are a spirit with a body, not a body with a spirit. The goal may be to become more forgiving and loving. Or, it may be to overcome resentments, negative attitudes, fear, worry or self-pity. Think about those qualities in your life that you would like to improve.
- Set your time. Start with 10 minutes of silent reflection. Many like to meditate after that first cup of coffee in the morning. Be consistent, whatever time you choose.
- Remove obstacles to meditation. Refusing to try it; expecting too much too soon. Thinking something big will happen, not allowing the Spirit of God to come in.
- Enjoy the benefits. Let your mind and spirit rest. Feel God’s presence not merely on the intellectual level, but allow yourself to be healed of negative thoughts. Realize that the greatest healing is not always physical, but being at peace with yourself, others and with the God of all Creation. Realize that when everything is gone, God is at the center and the center is all we have when we die. The center is the Soul.
- True meditation is an active, not a passive art. It is communion with the deepest, most powerful, most loving and patient part within us. It is more than mumbling a mantra or staring at a candle. It ushers in the higher self, that part of us that we would like to be and become. The higher self is the opposite of greed, hate, self-pity, narcissism, or what’s-in-it-for-me? Meditation prizes intelligence. It is pragmatic in its purpose; it’s not merely theories or rituals. It places a high value on the responsibility of the individual to contribute to society. In other words, it’s not just sitting around, gazing at your navel.
- The purpose of meditation is to establish better communication between the personality and the higher self. The higher self (the best part of you) will interact more effectively with others. The purpose of meditation is to heal the person of all negativity. You become easier to live with, and you are less judgmental, critical and self-centered.
- Be prepared. Get comfortable, take a few deep breaths, feet flat on the floor. Some put their hands on their knees with palms up, signifying readiness to receive.
- Affirm yourself. Remind yourself that you are a child of God and you have a right to be here. Remind yourself of the many blessings you enjoy. Be thankful that you are a special part of creation. Visualize your blessings and realize how fortunate you are. I like one or more of these affirmations: “In God’s love is my peace”, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”, “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble”, “In everything give thanks”. There are many positive affirmations.
- Concentrate 10 or 15 minutes on your affirmation. If your mind wanders, bring it back. Your affirmation not only cleanses the mind, it helps you reach the goal and you feel closer to the God of all Creation.