There a zillion ways to find your center, get to the center or heart of the matter, get grounded, or become more centered. But, most of us keep wandering around doing the same things we’ve always done, thinking we should do something else and feeling frustrated, disoriented, and out-of-touch with our own experience. We might wake up one day and think, I got up for this????
I won’t bore you with all the reasons a stepmother might be off-balance or out of her center. There are dozens of blogs that are doing a great job of describing that. No, I want to grab you by the arm, take you into a different room of your curiosity, and show you something you can do for you.
To be ready to move in any direction . . . that means you’re in the center. You’re not this or that. You’re lined up over the middle of your feet. Can you try that?
- Stand up with your feet shoulder distance apart, preferably in bare feet. Notice where the most pressure is on the soles of your feet. Is the pressure more on your heels or on the front of your feet? Is it the same from right to left? And, now note whether you lean more on the inside edges of your feet or the outside edges. Is that the same from left to right? Once you’ve got the idea, then walk around and rest your attention.
- Now, stand again and begin to lean. A little to the left so there is more weight on your left leg. Make sure you are not bending at the waist or in your ribs. Imagine you are a tall tree and you are swaying in the wind. The movement is really in your ankles and you won’t notice it so much at first. But, keep leaning to the left, then lean to the right. And begin to alternate and notice if it’s easier to lean on one leg. What is your preference? Do this until the movement is smooth and you don’t feel clunkiness in your hips or knees. Only move as far as you can easily notice and keep your balance and not hold your breath. There should be no major effort in this. If someone were watching you, they might not notice right away that you are swaying. Then, rest by lying on your back for a few minutes.
- Once you are standing again, lean forward. Lean only so far as you can without letting your heels come off the floor. Lean forward and back to the starting point. Then, lean backward, making sure your toes don’t scrunch, grip, or leave the floor. Lean backward and then return to center. Finally, alternate. Go forward and then backward and reduce the movement each time so it is smaller and smaller and your toes are quiet and not trying to hold you up and your hands don’t need to help and your jaw stays relaxed and your breath remains calm. Then, rest again.
- Return once more to standing, and this time connect the directions. Go first to the right, the backward, the to the left, then forward, and begin tracing a circle. You’ll feel that you’re going in a circular direction all the while leaning on the outside edged of your feet. Do this many times, so slow you can feel if you’re circling or ovaling or oblonging. Then, reverse directions. Do this a few times. Finally, go back to the first movement of leaning left and right. Do this leaning and each time cut the movement in half. Lean only half the way left and only half the way right. Eventually you’ll end up with almost no movement and that is the place that is your center between left and right. Then, do the same for forward and back. Find where the center is there and feel what it is to stand in the middle of your feet.
Notice that you are now centered. You could move left, you could move right, or you could go forward or step back. You are ready to be met with anything and you’d have an appropriate response. This also works in a similar way with our emotions. If we live more in the center, we are ready to go in any direction. But all too often, we end up on one end or the other and we can get stuck there where the roller coaster gets steeper at every turn.
The next time you feel like you can’t catch your breath or you are anxious or angry or frustrated or overwhelmed, stand up and lean right, then left, then find the center. Pay close attention to where you are in the process and complete each movement in a gentle, small way. If you can give all your attention to the smoothing out of the movement, you cannot remain anxious. It isn’t possible to breathe freely and know where you are on your feet and remain anxious. Not possible. Not if you give yourself fully to the task.
This is not about dissociation from your experience. I’d argue that being angry or anxious or hysterical is far more of a dissociative experience than paying attention to the swaying of your ankles, the loosening of your breath and the release of your jaw and neck. In fact, this is the easiest antidote to dissociation. Practice, practice, practice so that you can do this scan while you are standing in line at the grocery store, in the post office, or in front of your own kitchen sink. Make the movements so small that no one knows what you’re doing. You’re a woman and we know how to notice the small stuff, so relax, sway, and see what happens.
Let me know how it goes!
Being centered is a lot like having good posture. And, one has good posture when one can move in any direction, at any time, without a lot of preparation. That’s the definition posed by Moshe Feldenkrais, sometime in the 60’s or 70’s when he was developing his body of work which he later called the Feldenkrais Method.