You’ve probably heard about your “center of balance.” This is a physical point where your weight is evenly distributed. In a similar manner, your energy center is also a physical (although invisible) point where your energies are balanced. You become centered by sinking into this point, becoming aware of the flow of your internal energies.
More specifically, centering means focusing on the hara. The hara (in Japanese) or tan t’ien (in Chinese) is the energy center located just below the navel. The hara is the second of the seven energy centers commonly known as chakras. Regarded as the “earth” center, it allows energy from the earth to be gathered up into the pelvis, then relayed out via the arms and hands. It is our center of power, equilibrium and stability, the nucleus of our physical and psychic powers.
When we are centered we function most effectively; we operate from a position of inner power, using body and mind as one. We have power, control and direction. When we are centered we have energy, vitality and clarity. We can remain calm. We are in the present, psychologically at peace and completely focused.
When we are not centered we may feel frazzled, stressed or disconnected from ourselves. When we let our minds dwell on the future (the “what if’s”) or on the past (the “should have’s”) we lose our center.
You may wonder how this is connected with stress. At its most basic level, stress is energy. And centering is a process that helps to manage energy. Centering gathers your energy into a point so you can channel it more easily into any activity you choose.
Centering basically helps you change stress into concentration.
Each person experiences centering uniquely for himself. Whatever way you find that helps you focus is the right way.
To help you center, learn how to focus on your breathing. Deep, abdominal breathing is best for relaxing. If you’re not familiar with deep breathing, try this: sit down, take a deep breath in, and focus on letting the air fill up your stomach area. Don’t move your chest – just breathe in, and let the air go down deeply into the center of your body. Exhale slowly and deliberately through your mouth.
Center by consciously relaxing and focusing attention inward until feeling very calm and peaceful.
You can enhance your centering by performing a short meditation.
Be clear about what you want to achieve, and focus on thinking positively about your outcome. For example, the affirmations you have in your head could be “The job is mine,” or “I give great presentations.” It could even be one word, such as “success,” or “confidence.”
Three basic steps to centering
- Be aware of your breathing.
Spend a few seconds completely focusing on your breathing. Use the technique described above: breathe deeply into your abdomen, and exhale slowly. Do this until your entire focus is on your breathing – and nothing else. Once your attention is focused, it can be directed.
- Find your center.
Become familiar with where your center is, and remember what it feels like. This part of your body grounds and stabilizes you. When you begin to feel stressed – like you’re going to ‘float away’ – the feeling of your center will remind you that you have balance and control. Once you’ve found your center, breathe in and out deeply at least five times. Focus on your center. Feel the sensation of being stabilized and on the ground.
- Release your negative energy.
Imagine all the negative energy in your body is collecting in one place. Find imagery that works for you. This could be a ball of energy that you’re going to throw away. Or the negativity could be held in a balloon that’s going to carry your negativity far away. Visualize this energy starting from your center, and moving up toward your eyes. As you inhale, say “Let.” As you exhale, say “Go.” If your energy is a ball, identify a spot across the room, and imagine yourself throwing the ball to hit that spot. If your energy is a balloon, imagine it floating away above your head. Let go of everything that is stressing you. Imagine your center filled with calm.
In order for energy to flow unimpeded through the body, good contact with the ground is essential. Ungrounded people tend to be unsure of their footing or hold on reality. Their muscles may either be rigid or flaccid—both inadequate when faced with new terrain. These physical characteristics may accompany corresponding mental attitudes of rigidity or laxity. Grounded people seem well-balanced and aligned. They use their body in a balanced and effective way. With their flexible feet and legs they adjust quickly to unfamiliar terrain, and remain open and responsive to any new input in their lives.
Being grounded is the physical aspect of centering.
Once you are centered, you can become grounded. In electrical systems, grounding diverts excess energy into the ground. Energetically, you release negative energies into the earth through the root chakra. If you practice visualization, you can imagine yourself putting down roots from your feet into the earth. If you work with your chakras, you can focus on your root chakra and imagine a grounding cord extending down into the center of the earth. Once you can feel your connection with the earth, draw earth’s energies up into your body and then back down into the earth.
Maintain your grounding by walking slowly, deliberately and being aware of your feet as they move and touch the ground.
Any object that gives you comfort can be used as a grounding object. It can be something to view, hold, smell or listen to. It might be a small pebble you found, a picture, a special piece of jewelry. It just needs to be something that helps you stay in the present rather than in the past. If it’s small enough, consider carrying it with you so it’s handy if you need it.
Exercise: getting grounded
- Stand comfortably straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. (note: mentally draw a vertical line from your ears, through your shoulders and hips, to your ankles.)
- Slowly shift your weight to your left leg, keeping your right foot firmly planted.
- Turn your body to the right by rotating your hips, allowing your right foot to slide around so the toes are pointing to the right.
- Keeping both knees slightly bent, slowly shift your weight to your right leg, keeping your left foot firmly planted.
- Slowly shift your weight back to center.
- Turn your body to face front again by rotating your hips, allowing your right foot to slide around so the toes are pointing to the front.
- Slowly shift your weight to your right leg, and repeat the exercise to the left.
To test how well grounded you are, have a friend gently push you at chest level from the front, the back, and the sides. The more firmly grounded you are, the harder your friend can push without unbalancing you.
In Part 2, we’ll look at a more literal interpretation of “grounding” called “earthing.”
(photo: via MorgueFree)