MINDFULNESS AND BECOMING A CENTERED PERSON
In these energy-based meditations, you get to find out what happens when you 1.) take up a feeling connection with an energy-active position on your body; 2.) relax your attention enough so that it can blend with the activity that the position draws you into, and then 3.) pay attention in an engaged, openhearted way to what arises. This third element of our practice is what is traditionally called mindfulness.
In Buddhist and Vipassana traditions, mindfulness refers to a set of techniques in which you deliberately become non-judgmentally aware of your thoughts and actions. The use of mindfulness practice has been explored for years with wonderful results in Hakomi Mindfulness-Centered Somatic Psychotherapy, to name another example. This sort of practice is imminently transferable to the internal energywork you are learning in this course. Here, you catch on to just how much is taking place all by itself when you turn your awareness—attention that is curious and caring, but with no agenda—toward the tiny and not so tiny internal events that make up a meditation.
In this lesson, we’re going to focus on centering which, for our purposes, is any intentional practice that brings you into a mindful state. When you find your calm center, you re-connect to your essence and your source of energy, clarity and peace. Practices may be as simple as placing your attention on your breath or a sacred word and then returning there whenever you notice your mind wandering.
As with grounding, there are also practices for centering and they are essential practices. Then there is the larger, deeper issue of what it takes to become a centered person. Ultimately, centering may also be another way of expressing the need to be present right where you are, and to do what you do from your heart.
Calling Your Spirit Back to You
One of the great obstacles to centering is our tendency to leave pieces of ourselves strewn about the emotional and psycho-spiritual landscape. Look at what happens to people’s hearts, for example. Janis Joplin urged her lover to “take another little piece” of hers. Tony Bennett left his in San Francisco. The problem only begins with where we leave our hearts. Over the course of a lifetime we get involved, energetically and spiritually, with all kinds of people, ideas, passions, projects, hopes, fears. These are errands from which our energies often need to be called back into the present moment.
Having your energies scattered out like this—and therefore unavailable to you—is like initiating a number of automatic withdrawals at the bank, and then forgetting about them. Time passes, and then one day, when you are about to launch a new project, you take a good look at your bank statement and realize you’re broke! Then it is time to stop this unconscious leakage of your resources. In the case of your vital energies and your spirit, it’s time to reel them back in. This is so important because many of the challenges in your life, especially those having to do with your healing and personal development, demand that you have your energies available to you in the present moment.
Let’s begin our centering practices with an exploration of the energetic space surrounding our bodies.
Exercise 1: Meditation in Seven Directions
Exercise 2: Calling Your Spirit Back to You
This exercise consists of sitting in a relaxed state, simply taking note of where your attention goes all by itself, then intentionally disconnecting from whatever is holding your awareness, and drawing it back to yourself. You might be surprised how much life force you have invested in projects, preoccupations, unfinished business, habits, fears, old injuries and injustices, old and new loves, something someone said yesterday, anticipation of a vacation, worries about money . . . the list is endless.
Here is the basic exercise:
Sit quietly and notice where your attention is. Watch where your attention goes. Don’t try to change it. Don’t try to keep it from changing. Give this a couple of minutes. Just observe. Don’t judge.
When you see where your attention and energy are invested, try this: say, within yourself, “I call my spirit back.” You have the authority and the power to do this.
Disconnect from this focus and draw your attention back to your body. This is a place to use creative visualization. Here are some suggestions:
Imagine an electric cord plugged into the image or thought which has your attention. Now unplug from that image and pull the cord into your body.
Imagine a rope tied with many knots around what has your attention. Now see the knots loosen, untie or slip apart. Pull the rope into your body.
Imagine a tentacle, like those of an octopus, with suction cups latched on to something. See the suction cups detach. Draw the tentacle back to you.
As you repeat this practice of noticing where your attention is, and then calling your spirit back to you, take note of where it returns to on your body.
Repeat this a number of times.
NOTE: Like any other exercise or practice involving our energies and spirit, this takes practice, honesty and time. Do not naïvely assume that “pulling the plug” a few times in a visualization means that you have resolved a long-standing issue. In most cases, our spirits have been scattered to the four winds over a long period of time, and we call them back little by little, one grain at a time.
Let me walk you through this:
Beyond the Basic Exercise
You can use this practice in a variety of ways. Once you are comfortable with the basic exercise, you can call your spirit back:
To any part of your body;
To your body in general, when you are injured or ill, or while recovering from an operation;
To any of your individual energy centers.
Your whole body stores experience; the energy-active positions on your body can act as portals into a deeper connection with this world underneath your everyday consciousness. Directing your attention to one of these positions and allowing your awareness to be drawn in can be like lifting a stone in a garden and seeing the teeming life underneath. It is sometimes surprising to see what’s under there.
Each energy center has its issues, wavelengths and emotional polarities, and these suggest ways to tune in to their specific themes. One way to get at this is to use words that link to some aspect of an energy center’s particular character. This amounts to giving the energy center a gentle nudge. Let’s see how this works with an important center of energy and consciousness.
Calling Your Spirit Back to Your Heart
Your Heart Center is a meeting point between your upper and lower energy centers. You could say that this is a place where Heaven and Earth come together in you. Your Heart also has a way of blending together what comes from within you with the world and people around you. You only need to witness someone who is really connecting with other people, maybe a teacher or a musician, to see this in action.
Here is an adaptation of our basic practice:
Settle into a comfortable sitting position. In the words of poet Mark Nepo, “Inhale, and whatever you’re running from, let it catch up with you.”
First make a feeling contact with your Heart Center. This energy position is in the center of your chest. Remember, it is not enough to simply think about or even visualize an energy center.
Allow some time for your contact to deepen.
Bring to mind one of the words below. These link to aspects of the Heart Center. .
5. Let this contact draw you into some kind of experience. Give this a couple of minutes.
NOTE: When you use a practice like this, experiences that come up might be the opposite of what you started with. For instance, if you connect with your Heart Center, and then choose the word “joy” and make a feeling contact with what the means to you, you might be drawn into its opposite, “sorrow.” Or you might be drawn into what keeps you from joy. This is a natural occurrence, since your Heart Center contains both polarities, they are both important aspects of your Heart. You don’t have one without the other. Let this happen.
Call your spirit back to you and see if you can feel into where in your body the energy returns.
Sit and allow some time for whatever wants to surface within you without judging what comes.
After about ten minutes, return to a normal sense of your body and end the exercise.
Homework: Did you leave your Heart in San Francisco (or somewhere else)?
This practice of calling your spirit back to your Heart will show you something about where your Heart is. It’s not uncommon to find that it’s not always where your think it is. After doing the practice of calling your spirit back to you Heart, reflect on what comes up. Spend some time writing on what you discover.
In our next lesson, we will take up the subject of expression, a major theme in energywork.
(Photo copyright by Alan Greenberg. Used with permission.)
Mindfulness opens up a wider field of consciousness around what you attend to. If your various techniques and modalities are the tools you wield, this mindful awareness is the room in which you work.
Click here for the "Calling Your Spirit Back Exercise:
Click here for the "Meditation in 7 Directions:
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