Centering in 60 seconds
Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Last week, I shared a practice for becoming more familiar with your default response in those inevitable stressful parenting situations, what I called your Parenting Tipping Point. I’ve heard back that it was really helpful.
One reader wrote: “I became a lot more aware of what happens inside me in that I’m-going-to-lose-it moment. I definitely fall back into an old pattern. But it feels like it’s got a power and momentum of its own. What can I do when I feel it coming on?”
Great question. And here's my response: a powerful practice that brings you back to your center, your place of balance in your body. That place where you have access to your wisdom. Your place of choice.
I recommend doing this every day for two weeks so you become familiar with its motions and effects. And just as walking a path through the woods makes it more accessible, repeating a practice means it will be more readily accessible to you when you need it most.
The first step is finding your centre lengthwise in your body. Begin by standing or sitting upright. Take a deep breath, exhale fully and relax into gravity’s pull. Allow your weight to connect with your feet or your seat. Feel your contact with the ground. Then stretch your spine upward and gently settle again. Feel yourself centered in the length of your body.
Next, centre in your width. Take a deep breath and move from left to right. Feel for how far you want to move, your physical boundaries. Adjust your feet. Move back and forth until you find your true centre.
Finally, you want to centre from back to front. Lean backward and forward as far as you are comfortable, even taking a little risk, balancing your weight on your heels and balls of your feet. Repeat and gradually find your alignment.
When you have found your center in all three dimensions, take the time to notice what "centered" feels like in your body. Get really specific about the sensations in your legs, torso, arms, heart, shoulders, neck, eyes, etc. And now what feels possible when you are centered?
If you’d like to go deeper in your journal or mindfulness practice, notice which of the three directions of centering were easiest for you and where you felt most out of balance.
Length is connected to our sense of dignity. When our dignity is compromised, we collapse and make ourselves shorter. Being centered in our length is about holding ourselves with dignity, and expecting others to do the same.
You may have felt the centering from side to side as an exploration of your physical boundaries. How we hold our physical boundaries is equivalent to how we hold our psychological and energetics boundaries.
Centering from front to back is about presence. Not reaching into the future nor leaning back into the past and away from the world. You being present your presence.
Using this Practice to Derail Default Response Patterns
When you’re in a tense parenting situation and you feel your familiar and undesired auto-response coming on, do this practice. Let it be exaggerated or barely perceptible, whatever feels right. Even if for only a few seconds, allow yourself to feel wobbly and off balance as a way to find your physical center.
The place where you are more solid and stable.
The place where you feel your dignity, your boundaries and your presence.
Then let your next word or action come from this place.
Your centre of gravity.
The home of your true essence.
Then rinse and repeat. Cultivate your new response pattern over time as you would cultivate a row of carrots. It’s a practice so try, mess up and try again.
Each time you do it, you are creating your beautiful new way of parenting.