Finding Your Center
When we are feeling out of sorts or unsettled, our body might send us clues such as difficulty concentrating, feeling weepy for no obvious reason, or snapping at those we love. When you or someone you love has cancer, you may find yourself feeling upset on a regular basis. At these times, the professional literature, academic research and anecdotal stories all suggest: “find your center.” This article is to help you understand what that nebulous term means and what to try.
First, let’s clarify what centering isn’t! It is not in the middle of your body, like a target with a bull’s eye. It is not an actual place in your anatomy. It is a feeling of being calm, a deep down sense that right now you are okay, right now you are safe. Another term that is often used interchangeably with centering is grounding. While there are slight differences between these two words, they both are about being in a place where you can relax, breathe slower and deeper, and release the tension you might be holding in your body.
Centering (or grounding) is a skill that you can learn and use any time you feel off-balance, (omit or) frightened or anxious. First: take a BIG slow breath in through your nose, pause, then slowly blow that breath out through your mouth. It may feel silly, but make a sound when you inhale and exhale! When explaining the breathing to children, you can say “smell the soup with your nose, then gently blow on the soup with your mouth as if you were cooling it down.”
You can close your eyes or not, whatever feels comfortable to you. It helps to choose a quiet place if you can, and to turn off your phone if that is an option. But you can also do it in a crowded mall or on a bus. The main thing is to focus all your attention on your breathing and nothing else. Try to do that slow, deep breathing for 10 inhales and 10 exhales. Hopefully you will notice your body relaxing and your mind slowing down. For some people, the breathing is enough and they repeat it as needed.
You can enhance the good feeling by adding images, or pictures in your mind. For example, you can imagine that both feet are firmly on the ground and you are connected to the earth – this is where ‘grounding’ comes in. Some anxiety feels as though you are free-floating, with no connection, but we can always connect to the earth, whether we are inside or outside. You can visualize or imagine that good energy is entering your body and soothing all the tension, loosening all the tightness. For example, you might imagine your stomach muscles relaxing, or your chest, fists and heart opening and softening. Moving up your body, allowing your shoulders to drop and your neck to relax.
The goal of centering is to feel peaceful. Some people find it by practicing yoga or tai chi. Others find it through knitting or being in a support group. Most everything we offer at The Gathering Place can help you to feel grounded, but we have some new programs in our April-May calendar that are all about finding your center. And stop by our libraries to see our books and audio-visual materials that help.