In your body and your mind there are two of you. There’s the big, true, spiritual you and the small needy ego you. This is true of all of us. Both of these parts need to be accommodated but only the big you is trustworthy. The big you is your true nature, whether you believe it’s put there by god, goddess, or natural process. The big you decides to enter into a process of change. The distractions of every day life are going to tempt you to abandon this decision and follow your immediate ego gratification. Remember which one you should trust.
Everybody has a short attention span. Life is just too distracting. We start with good intentions but then the laundry needs to be done and the phone is ringing. If you hope to gain power, freedom and choice you need to be able to stop all these distractions and come back to yourself. This process is called centering.
The enemy of center is stress so it’s important to have an understanding of what stress is and how it impacts your body. Stress is a condition of being alive. Stress can be positive, negative or neutral. Gravity is a neutral source of stress while getting a raise is a positive source of stress. When we perceive something to be stressful, adrenaline and other hormones are secreted to support the body in being prepared to either stand and fight the threat or to flee. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, breathing becomes more rapid, and blood flow moves out of the extremities and into the vital organs. It’s very difficult to make good decisions based on your power and freedom under these conditions. The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response. The body functions are slowed down and relaxed. That’s why centering is so crucial to long term success and change.
Boredom is a form of internal stress and can be your biggest enemy. When you’re bored your busy little squirrel mind runs all over the place and grabs on to all the things that you want left alone. It becomes very easy to lose perspective and any control over your decisions. It’s when you’re bored that you’re most likely to become negative and start to beat yourself up over past patterns. Use centering practices to help you out of these negative states of mind.
Other people are another big source of stress. Anyone who’s been in any kind of relationship knows that it’s impossible to control other people. When other people are driving you nuts, its important to remember this and come back to what you can control, yourself.
A good way to reconnect with the big you is through the use of the sacred. You can create sacred space and sacred times during the day to let the bigger, better you be heard past the chatter of your ego. You can use props to create a sacred space in your home or even your office: religious icons, water and fountains, plants, flowers, incense, bells, pictures, candles, or anything else that helps you relax and feel closer the sacred you. Set aside time in your day to spend in your sacred space and meditate. Meditation, or prayer if you’d prefer, is an important tool used by almost every culture on earth. Don’t under estimate its power. During your busy day, stop and take a word from your sponsor for a few seconds to bring all of the peace of your sacred space back to you.
Meditation has two simple but very profound goals; quiet your mind and deepen your breathing. One of the best ways to get back into yourself and your body is through your own breathing. Meditation gives the active mind something to do to keep it occupied. By giving the mind a focus you can help to quiet noisy worries and push aside unhelpful thoughts. Achieving some inner quiet is deeply rejuvenating. Twenty minutes of quiet meditation provides the equivalent of 2 hours deep and restful sleep.
With all of these strategies, a fake is as good as the real thing. If you pretend they are working, or that you’re strong enough, or that you feel disciplined, it will have almost the same effect as the real thing would. The funny thing is that if you fake it long enough, it will eventually manifest itself as real.
Fitness in the western sense means aerobic, heart-based exercise and working the muscular skeletal system. There are eastern forms of exercise that work other parts of the body. Many of the advantages of western exercise can be found in eastern disciplines as well. They can effectively bring you back into your body, relax you, and help you focus on your breathing and your bigger self. Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, and other disciplines help work out the spine, the circulatory system, joints and organs, and balance your natural energy. These long term practices can have a profound effect on your health as well as your ability to center yourself.