Lately, my spiritual practice has been focused on cultivating the energy of stillness in my otherwise topsy-turvy abundant life. My life is overflowing with love and joy, but also with work, errands, responsibilities, and demands. As a result of the buzz of perpetual activity, I find myself desperately craving relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation.
I have reflected deeply on this dynamic and noticed that it stems from a combination of having a full plate of responsibilities from work and parenting, but also from my personality. I have very high expectations for myself, and strive to excel at everything I do. I have so many interests and goals that my natural tendency is to go-go-go, produce-produce-produce; the energy of Yang in Taoist philosophy. In contrast to my actions, I have realized that my deepest yearning is to override that tendency, and slow down-down-down; bringing the healing Yin energy into my life. This has been a momentous shift to make, requiring me to let go of my expectations, prioritize, and settle into chaos when it presents itself. I am seeing tremendous benefits from reframing my life in this way.
Alongside the sweeping lifestyle changes, one tool I am using to help cultivate the energy of stillness in my life is a daily (cough- well let’s go with regular, because there are days I choose to sleep one more hour instead of practicing!) sadhana, or spiritual practice. My regular practice is a combination of yoga, meditation, breath work, and energy manipulation exercises. Over the next several posts I’ll share with you many of the techniques I use, and explain the ways in which I benefit from them throughout my day. The first exercise I’d like to share is how I found my center.
What is Your Center and How Can Finding it Help You?
The center is the strong, stable, still place within. It is a focal point we can draw upon to anchor ourselves. It is also a place we can quickly direct our attention back to during the day, when life becomes hectic and we need to come back to our body in the present moment.
Different movement based traditions have different focal points. In yoga, the focal point may be located at either the solar plexus or the heart center. In qigong, it is the Lower Dantien, three finger lengths below and in towards the navel. In finding your own center, I encourage you to let go of preconceived notions of where you center is located, and instead allow your body’s wisdom to reveal your center to you. Your center point may change as circumstances in your life change. You may have multiple center points that you choose to activate at different times. Be open to your perceptions as they unfold.
Before doing this exploratory exercise, I used my solar plexus as my center point. In yogic tradition, the solar plexus chakra is associated with willpower and drive. In an effort to bring yin energy into my life, I experimented with consciously dropping my center point down to the Lower Dantien. This point is referred to as the “sea of energy” in Chinese medicine. I noticed benefits from activating both those points. However, I still didn’t feel like I had found my center.
To my surprise, when I completed this exercise a warm spreading feeling began to emanate from the crescent moon ridge above my pelvis. I felt awareness and opening in my pelvic bowl. Memories of past relationship trauma resurfaced, along with reminders of my corresponding body issues- chronically tight hips, lower back pain, and history of urinary tract infections. My pelvis- which is my “problem area” that I can never quite “figure out” turns out to be my center! Breathing into my center, I asked it what it needed to begin to heal. My body responded by instructing me to begin exercises to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles, as well as a mantra to incorporate “love, trust, surrender.”
Here’s an outline of the technique I designed and used to find my personal center. Try it out yourself, and see what emerges for you!
1. Begin by choosing a comfortable position. I chose to do this exercise lying on my back, but you could also do it sitting upright on the floor or in a chair.
2. Breathe long deep full breaths. This slows down your brain waves, allowing your consciousness to shift inward.
3. Set the intention of finding your center by stating it in your mind.
4. Bring awareness to each part of your body, starting with your crown, and continuing to your feet. Breathe into each body part, allowing it relax fully and deeply.
5. When you have finished relaxing each body part, dwell in this state of expanded awareness, and listen to your body’s wisdom. Allow your center point to reveal itself to you.
*Like I did, you may find the need to return to this exercise several times as wisdom gradually unfolds.
How to Tap Back Into It
Once you have found your center point, I suggest consciously breathing into it and bringing awareness to it before you begin each day. This allows it to strengthen, and gives you a calm stable point to return to. During the day, whenever you feel unbalanced, return your breath and awareness to your center point.
Happy centering! Let me know how it goes!