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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Center Yourself

Readers, I have to admit I'm a little shakey. Lots of logistics wobbling me. Packing for vacation, the logistics of picking up the rising 10th grader from camp, then meeting the college student outside Boston, then journeying to our beach rental. All that kind of thing on top of the general, you know, situation with our Commander in Chief. It seems like a good day to reiterate one of the planks of my scaffolding of success: centering

As in, remember what’s in your control and what’s not. As in, pack your bathing suits and stop refreshing Twitter to see if a bomb has gone off. As in, center yourself within your Stephen Covey circle of influence and work from there. 

Don’t buy it? Well, if you don’t take my word for it - “it” being “the importance of having some kind of centering practice”— take Joseph Campbell’s. This is from an interview with Bill Moyers about the universal myth he derived based on his study of world religions. This universal myth he called the monomyth, because he found it embedded in religions everywhere. From this myth he extrapolated his famous description of the The Hero’s Journey. That is the monomyth. Here’s the passage: 

BILL MOYERS: In all of these journeys of mythology, there’s a place everyone wishes to find. What is it? The Buddhists talk of nirvana; Jesus talks of peace. There’s a place of rest and repose. Is that typical of the hero’s journey, that there’s a place to find?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s a place in yourself of rest. Now this I know a little bit about from athletics. The athlete who is in championship form has a quiet place in himself. And it’s out of that that his action comes. If he’s all in the action field, he’s not performing properly. There’s a center out of which you act. And Jean, my wife, a dancer, tells me that in dance this is true, too, there’s the center that has to be known and held. There it’s quite physically recognized by the person. But unless this center has been found, you’re torn apart, tension comes. Now, the Buddha’s word is nirvana; nirvana is a psychological slate of mind. It’s not a place, like heaven, it’s not something that’s not here; it is here, in the middle of the turmoil, what’s called samsara, the whirlpool of life conditions. That nirvana is what, is the condition that comes when you are not compelled by desire or by fear, or by social commitments, when you hold your center and act out of there.

If Joseph Campbell says centering is important, then it is. See, the thing about The Hero's Journey, is that it's an analogy for the human journey, affectionately known as LIFE. So, how to do it? For me, it’s meditation. For you it could be something else. Deep breathing. Prayer. Running. Taking a walk. Baking. Baking's good.  

Recently I was talking to a friend who meditates sometimes. He said he hadn’t been meditating recently because where his meditation class met moved due to building renovations. After he said that, he paused. Then he said, “You know? That’s not the real reason. I could find the class. I probably should find the class.” The real reason, he said, was that after going there for a while he began to recognize people. Specifically, he saw coworkers. Specifically, a couple coworkers with whom he had conflicts. I could see how that would be weird. But, he said, the thing was that after meditation one day, he talked to one of those people and they worked things out. He thought that because he had it in his mind that she meditated, and she had it in hers that he did, too, they were able to de-escalate and resolve the conflict. 

He paused again and then said, “I guess that means it works.” 

Maybe it does. 

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