Exceptionally trying times call for all of us to respond from a place of love, curiosity, and possibility instead of fear, worry, and resignation. Yes, viruses are contagious, but so are courage, positivity, and a willingness to shift beyond pure self-interest to serving the greater good. The simple practice of mindful centering will significantly increase your resourcefulness and resilience when faced with challenges and complexity.
When we’re centered, we are alert, relaxed, and aware. It is an inner state from which, regardless of what’s going on around us, we can be at choice. The centering exercise below is adapted from the book Presence-Based Leadership by Doug Silsbee.
In this exercise, you’ll explore the three dimensions common to any physical object. You can sit or stand, it’s your choice. Close your eyes if you’d like or keep a soft, steady gaze straight ahead.
Start with Length … Feel the weight of your body pressing down, all the way from your head down to your feet (or into your seat). Let your attention follow this downward pull, finding a sense of groundedness and solid support.
At the same time, extend yourself up. Draw yourself up into the full length of your torso, so that your head and neck are directly aligned with your spine. Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders and extend your arms upward if you’re comfortable doing so.
It is through this dimension of length that you access the felt experience of dignity, inherent value, and worth.
Now Width … Breathe into your chest, feeling yourself taking up more space, more width. Bring your shoulders back. And if the space around you permits, feel free to extend your arms out to your left and to your right to whatever degree feels comfortable, palms facing forward.
Let the left and right sides of your body sense the space on either side of you. Within that space, sense the presence of any other people around you in your immediate surroundings. Now extend that awareness to the significant people in your life (loved ones, colleagues, friends, even your pets) who surround you and are essential parts of your support network.
It is through this dimension of width that you access the felt experience of belonging.
Now Depth … Sense the space behind you. Feel the history, knowledge, skills, and experience that live in you, that have made you the only person that you could be. Acknowledge your unique strengths, gifts, and passion to make a difference. Also acknowledge and embrace your brokenness and shadow side as an integral part of who you are. Finally, acknowledge your wholeness, the fact that you are enough just as you are and that you have everything that you need.
It is through this dimension of width that you access the felt experience of fundamental sufficiency.
With practice, centering yourself will feel like a quick and effortless exercise in “coming home.” It doesn’t take a lot of time and can be done multiple times a day in a variety of situations and settings. By practicing this form of self-regulation when the stakes are low, you’ll be better equipped to respond with creativity and resilience when the pressure is on!