Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting Centered

Although they use different terms for the concept, many religions and philosophies emphasize the high importance of "being centered." They may tell you in their own language to be centered in God, in Love, in Spirit, in Service, in Your Heart, in Beauty, in The Present Moment, or in the space two inches below your navel (which goes by many names in Eastern traditions). There's no doubt that it's a great idea to be there. I want to talk about how to get there.

Naturally, I'm going to call upon Hawaiian tradition for help. The Hawaiian "place" for being centered is the piko , the navel, which also means a "center." One of the names for Easter Island is "The Navel of the World". Quite a number of ancient cities or areas have used that or a similar name for themselves, and that gives us a clue to a deeper meaning. In this respect it refers to "that point from which, toward which, and around which everything else moves." Literally and figuratively, the navel represents our connection to the source of life. Symbolically then, the navel is a direct conduit to the source itself, and to be centered in the navel is to be centered in the source.

In case you are starting to wonder whether this is a promotion for meditating on one's navel, rest assured that it isn't. Navel meditation is a good technique for certain things, but my point is leading elsewhere. In Hawaiian culture the navel area is also the center for the "heart, mind, and feelings" because these are alternate meanings for the word na'au , "intestines." Another word, mana'o , relates to thought, mind, belief and opinion, but in addition to expectation, concentration and memory. Hawaiians recognized intellectual thought as being something quite different and devoid of feelings. Manawa , the key word for the Huna principle "Now is the moment of power," also means "heart, feelings, affections" in addition to "the crown of the head." To confuse you a little further before I make sense of all this, the word piko can be used for the crown of the head and the genitals, as well as the navel. Have patience, the point will be made.

It seems reasonable to suppose that in order to be centered you have to know what centeredness is like. Surprisingly, very little is written or said about the experience itself. The terms "bliss" and "oneness" have been used a lot, but they don't really convey anything to someone who has never been there. It's like trying to describe your trip though the Sahara Desert to friends and family back in your home town who have never traveled outside of their own area. First they try to look interested, then they go blank, and finally, as soon as they can, they start to fill you in on the local gossip. In order to want to be somewhere, there has to be something there that you would consider worthwhile, something you can relate to as a good thing.

So here is my description of what centeredness is like. I can do this because I've been there, and I'm still working on the skills to get back there more often. Anyway, one characteristic of centeredness is peacefulness. When you are centered you feel peaceful. You have no conflicts causing stress, your mind is clear, and your body is relaxed in a way that really feels good. Another characteristic is a feeling of loving connectedness. You feel loved and you feel like loving everyone and everything around you. Fear ceases to be. A third characteristic is confidence. You feel able to do what you want and able to handle any circumstances that may arise. It's a very creative feeling where anger and frustration are non-existent. The last characteristic in my description is harmony. You feel like a significant part of everything that was, is and will be. All sense of insignificance, alienation, and being out of touch with life is gone.

Sounds great, right? Sure. Sounds impossible for most people, huh? It might sound that way, but it isn't. Anyone can do it, but that doesn't mean it's easy to do. If it were easy I wouldn't be writing about it, partly to help you and partly to help myself. If it were easy we'd all be there right now. But it's do-able.

What I'm about to give you is a way to get there. It isn't so much a technique as it is a certain kind of behavior to practice. What I'm giving you won't lock you into centeredness (I don't know if that's possible or even desirable), but it will help you get back to center when you've strayed away. The objective here is to get closer to centeredness each time you try. It isn't a promise that you'll experience the whole thing on the first try. If this can help you get a little more centered than you are - a little more peaceful, a little more loving, a little more confident, a little more in harmony - then that's a good thing, especially if you can keep getting a little closer every day.

Remember all the Hawaiian stuff above? It leads to the idea that feelings, or emotions, are the meeting place of mind and body. They are the means by which your mind and body communicate, with each other and with the world. Feelings are your feedback. The better you feel the more centered you are. So the practice is one of doing something that will make you feel better, without a lot of effort, something specific. All you have to do is to practice giving, the kind expressed in the Hawaiian word manawale'a. It means "to give freely and willingly' and a root translation would be "glad heart."

What do you give? Anything you want, as long as it's done consciously, freely and willingly. But you don't have to be limited to material things. And it's not a question of giving anything away. It's about giving gifts. Here are some ideas of what you can give: acknowledgement, attention, appreciation, gratitude, prayers, wishes, encouragement, support, presents, and healing or helpful thoughts and acts. You can give to other people, to anything in your environment, to anything or anyone you know of, to God or the Universe, and to your own body, mind and spirit. 

The objective is to give as much as you can as often as you can, and to give with the conscious intention of giving a gift. It sounds easier than it is. At some point you are likely to experience resistance or strange sensations as the practice stirs up deep patterns of thought and behavior. But the path of giving leads to centeredness.

The state of being centered is well illustrated in this Hawaiian proverb that refers to a person who can remain calm in the face of difficulty:

He po'i na kai uli, kai ko'o, 'a'ohe hina puko'a 
Though the sea be deep and rough, the coral rock remains standing

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