Getting Centered

11:00 A.M. on Saturday morning. Sunlight streams across wood floors in the studio. I would stop to enjoy them, but I’m a little busy. At the moment, I’m hanging upside down, bent at the waist as I try to execute a stance in the morning stretching class. Try is the operative word in this case. My legs are crossed at the ankles, my waist is bent, and my head hangs somewhere south of  my knees. I aim for solid footing and steadiness, but I fall a little short. I’m more Weeble Person than Graceful Dancer.

Thoughts are darting through my head, swishing along with the blood rushing past my ears:

How long do I have to hold this position?

Geez, this is hard.

How do I get so much lint on my leg warmers?”

You get the idea.

My eyes are darting as fast as my thoughts. They dance across the floors, over the hot pink yoga mat beneath my feet, and flit from person to person around the room. I can hear the instructor just ahead of me: “If you feel wobbly, it means you need to center and focus.”

Center and focus? Is that really all it takes? I try it. I focus my thoughts on steady breathing and controlled muscles, and pull my darting eyes in place just above my toes. Wonder of wonders, it works! My Weeble-wobble settles down, and I’m able to hold the position. Success!

Flash forward a few weeks. It’s a workday, and all hell has broken loose at the office. Projects are shuffling like cards at a blackjack table, and deadlines are overlapping faster than I can meet them. It seems like every few minutes the phone rings or a new email pings into my inbox. I feel unbalanced by the chaos, whirly and wobbly and upside down amid all the swirl around me. I’m seriously contemplating locking myself in the IT closet when I hear these words float through my mind: “center and focus.”

Center, to place in the middle, to make something a point of focus. It sounds like mystical mumbo-jumbo, but it’s really pretty simple. To center is to stop chasing the darting, frantic thought traffic that shoots through your brain, turning instead towards one focal point, preferably the positive and brilliant. Shut out the negative thoughts, silence the frenzied fear, and refuse to engage with the doubt that tugs at your heels. Put your mind’s eye on hope, peace, and joy, and watch the craziness settle into order.

Next time you feel your thoughts going Weeble-wobble and your mind turning frantic, turn to the center. Find the hope. Focus on the joy. Let yourself experience what Paul described:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. . .Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.