“Your own mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter except by your permission.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you have days when you feel a little out of control? Maybe even a little crazy? I sure do. Sometimes events spiral out of my control (surprise surprise!), my emotional center veers off balance, and it’s like someone turned the world upside down.
I actually think that’s pretty common for a lot of us. Not everyone has the inner tools to quickly bring themselves back to center.
You see, the mind is wily. Like a toddler who manages to discover every opportunity to sow the seeds of chaos, our minds are calibrated, through both habit and evolution, to trigger strong emotional responses.
Recently I saw this depicted in a powerful way. Ruby Wax, the author of Sane New World, described the evolution of stress and how it relates to present-day reality.
Managing Our Primitive Mind
For millions of years, our bodies and minds were conditioned to trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormone) when we perceived a mortal threat, like a deadly Tyrannosaurus Rex. In those moments, we were gripped by the famous fight or flight response. It was an evolutionary response to danger.
But these days, according to Ruby Wax, we are still governed by that primitive conditioning. The mind still triggers the release of powerful hormones into our bodies, but now the threats are more subtle. Your boss says something unsettling, you see something horrific on 24-hour cable news, or someone cuts you off on the road.
The next thing you know, you are in the grips of a hormone-induced response. Your rational faculties all but disappear and you’re jacked up on adrenaline. Suddenly you’re ready to go head to head with a dinosaur or run for your life and you’re not even sure how you got into that state.
That’s the power of our biology to override our rationality and knock us off balance. And worse, this often happens when we aren’t so conscious of it. So then we get into a spiral with negative thoughts, anxiety, and we’ve truly jumped down the rabbit hole.
4 Tips For How To Center Your Mind & Your Self
So how do you reclaim your mind and your senses? How do you come back into balance? And even more to the point, how do you begin to train yourself to break some of these unconscious, reactive, and deeply ingrained habits that knock you sideways?
Because these things have a dramatic effect on your quality of life. And it’s not only possible to change the pattern. I think it’s critical if you want to thrive and live a life of mindful presence, balance, and growth.
And I’ve found that meditation and mindfulness are incredibly effective tools to bring you back to center. Here’s what I mean.
Mindfulness practice has shown me how I end up generating self-inflicted emotional drama. It has also helped me learn how to anticipate stress before it gets out of control. And it has taught me the power of relaxation. But perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how to keep from losing my center.
- Anticipate Stress
- Diffuse Internal Drama
- Relax, Relax, Relax
- Stay Grounded & Centered
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1. Anticipating Stress
Stress is a killer. It can sneak up on you. And of course, the media and our doctors have us told this. But do you take it seriously? For me, I notice it in the form of a pit in my stomach or an increase in my heart rate. And also, just the feeling of being amped up, unsettled, unbalanced, and not centered in my self.
Another thing about stress. It’s addictive. There’s a certain energy in stress that can make you feel important and useful. It can reinforce your sense of you, but that often comes with a physical, emotional, and psychological price tag.
Meditation has given me a reference point to notice stress. Meditation is the opposite of stress. It’s pure peace and surrender. To me, stress has everything to do with resistance. Each of us resists circumstances, events, feelings, and things we don’t like. Sometimes it’s very subtle. But it creates a lot of stress.
In contrast to that, meditation is about acceptance. It’s all about learning how to be ok with everything exactly as it is.
So meditation has helped me notice when I’m getting stressed, and it’s helped me to identify the sources of my stress. In that way, it helps you to stop resisting life on many levels. Some measure of stress is good, but for the most part, I don’t want it in my life.
So learning how to be mindful of the sources of stress has been a game changer for me. I think it will help you too.
2. Diffusing Internal Drama
Drama is a part of life. You can’t really avoid it. But an interesting part of drama is how we create it ourselves. A lot of drama is unnecessary. And if you’re interested in staying centered and grounded, it’s important to recognize how drama can mess with your balance.
I realized at a certain point that certain ways of thinking would create inner drama. Some patterns of thought would trigger strong emotional responses and then I would ruminate on those thoughts, stirring the pot even further and stoking anger, rage, fear, depression, etc.
At a certain point, I realized that a lot of my unpleasant moods were self-generated. Not all of them of course. But I started to see the ways in which I was contributing to my own inner drama and how deeply that would pull me out of myself. It was distracting and exhausting. And most importantly, I didn’t really like that version of myself.
Meditation and mindfulness can help you objectify these patterns of thought and rumination. They enable you to create space so that the choice whether to go down that road is more obvious and clear. And that’s been priceless.
The thing about drama is that it steals your focus, your resolve, and your personal power. Mindfulness puts that power back in your control.
3. The Power of Relaxation
Do you consciously relax? I’m serious. Not everyone takes time to really let go. But it’s more important than most people think. That’s especially true in an age when many of us are addicted to stress and have abandoned many of the rituals where relaxation was central. Think big family meals, quiet Sundays, etc.
The thing about relaxation is this. It’s a simple and powerful mindfulness technique that can restore your sense of balance and equilibrium. And you can do it anywhere at any time.
I’ve been meditating for nearly two decades, and that’s been incredible. Meditation has allowed me to be at ease in ways I never imagined. There’s a natural confidence that arises spontaneously out of deep ease. That confidence is your natural state—relaxed, self possessed, and fully grounded in your life and self.
So one way to bring yourself back to center is to focus on relaxing. It’s as simple as taking a few deep breaths and consciously letting the stress and tension melt out of your body. A few minutes of conscious relaxation can change your mindset and your entire day. Don’t underestimate it.
4. Staying Grounded and Centered
This is my favorite. Staying grounded and centered is a real art. But like most things, you can make it a habit.
Think for a moment about someone you know who is really centered. What are their characteristics?
This is what occurs to me. She’s relaxed and self-possessed. She isn’t stressed out. Her words come from a deeper place. She’s ok with being wrong. And she has gravity.
Those are a few things that spring to mind when I imagine deeply grounded and centered friends. But this kind of grounding takes real practice. For me, meditation and mindfulness have been essential tools for learning how to stay centered in myself and to keep my mind whole and healthy. Here’s how.
I’ve noticed how easy it was to be swayed by other people’s opinions. I often give other people’s words and opinions more value than my own. But at a certain point, I noticed that this had a huge effect on me. It pulled me out of my own center.
Mindfulness practice helped me to see that. And it also helped me to reclaim my center. It helped me to remember that at the deepest level, I am alone. I am a sovereign being. We all are. As the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson alluded to, I have control over what I let into my mind and which currents of thought I listen to.
So remembering that I am truly alone is deeply grounding. It reminds me that in the end, I came into this world alone, and I will go out alone. That’s an essential truth and it’s grounding. It brings me back to center. Like an existential reset button, it reminds me that my own true north is within me. It’s never ever outside of me.
Meditation is all about being deeply alone. But it’s the most nourishing aloneness you can imagine. It gives and doesn’t take. It’s generative and restorative. It grounds you in the here and now.
And perhaps most importantly, it helps you stay true to your own true north. What is that exactly? Well, it’s you.
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