5 Steps to Stay Centered through any Storm
By Laura Warf
As human beings, we are not immune to challenges and weathering storms of all kinds.
When we feel tired, run down or overwhelmed it is easier to be triggered and lose our cool even by the simplest event or conversation. Is there another way to keep calm in the center of a storm?
Yoga and Buddhist philosophy offer an abundance of tools to help us navigate through life more peacefully. Their timeless teachings have been my saving grace on numerous occasions; everything from dealing with a confronting conversation, managing a client concern, transitioning from employee to entrepreneur, losing a home investment, personal family matters and losing loved ones. We all have our own examples of life turbulence, how we manage events as they come our way will either leave us feeling calm or flustered. Dealing with intense situations can either deplete us or offer immense lessons in being human to transcend challenges with greater acceptance and equanimity. Every situation is better managed when we remain centered.
When we are in the center of our consciousness, we are behind everything, simply watching without getting involved in the incessant mental dialogue of opinions, judgements, or the identification with material possessions. Take everything else away and you are still there. “That center is the seat of Self. From that seat, you are aware that there are thoughts, emotions and a world coming in through your senses. But now you are aware that you are aware” without getting caught up in the drama or the story.
Where to begin?
Practice getting still. Notice the quiet space between the movement or turbulence within – this includes the steady stream of thoughts and suppositions. I am always amazed at how the universe offers us opportunities to practice this concept numerous times a day!
When we are triggered, we go into fight of flight mode, the body is armed and ready. However, most situations in life don’t require us to be in full out combat mode. We need to learn to recognize a simple disturbance for just that a temporary unsettling of our internal balance. When we catch it at that level which means – the moment when we notice the breath shorten or feel a pinch in our chest or a tightening of the abdomen – we can choose not to allow our thoughts to take over in that very moment which if left unmanaged, leads to emotional responses to wash over us or even the full out uncomfortable physical sensations of reaction mode which all lead to depletion.
In the book titled “Why Zebras Don’t get Ulcers” the author explains the fight of flight response clearly. If a zebra is being chased by a lion, it will secrete all the stress hormones necessary to get to safety. He will either escape or become the lion’s dinner. When the stressful event is over, it is over. I have noticed this same phenomenon with my dog when he gets scared, faces another dog he doesn’t like, or whacks his head on a piece of furniture – almost as soon as it happens, he shakes it off. The difference between humans and animals is that when we experience a stressful event instead of just dealing with it the moment it happens and shaking it off, we replay the scene over and over in our head, judge the experience, analyze what should or should not have been said or done and relive the emotional charge which keeps our stress hormones elevated for an extended period of time. This leads to a series of health disturbances that suppress the immune system and leads to various forms of dis-ease if the behaviour continues long term.
The centering process: Feel, Follow and Free
This entire process can take seconds to minutes depending how deeply the emotions are rooted. Each time you are triggered the level of intensity will lessen and you can pass the energetic feeling much more quickly and return to a state of balance, leaving you clearer, more calm and able to respond in harmony rather than react abrasively.
Yes, it takes practice and I bet you have opportunities everyday to put this to the test!
1. Become aware – with awareness comes responsibility. Yelling, complaining or lashing out to others will not solve a problem. The discordant energy that is being unleashed will only serve to drop another person’s energy as well.
2. Feel the disturbance fully – you may want to label it, example “I am feeling irritated or angry due a conflicting point of view of a colleague” or “I am feeling nervous before a conversation or presentation” or “feeling impatient with…” Once you notice this is going on within you, you can choose to do something about it.
3. Follow the charge in your body. Allow and accept the feeling. The intensity you feel building up in your chest or abdomen is an energetic charge that is calling for your attention just as physical pain is a way your body signals you that something is out of balance. Learn to be at peace with the disturbance. Stay entirely present with what is there and how it is affecting you. We need to be reminded that ultimately, we are not our thoughts or feelings. We are having an experience, that’s it.
4. Free it. Stop & let go. Breathe deeply. Relax your mind. Relax the area around your heart, shoulders and face. Let the charge (feeling or emotion) flow through you to free it, give it space to move so it can be released. Relax, breathe and remain open. The tendency here is to close and constrict, to fight, scream, flee or turn to distractions or dependent behaviours (smoking, food, alcohol, drugs etc.). Give the pain room to pass through you and relax again. It is just a temporary shift in energy. What we resist, persists. Sometimes big breaths help here or releasing the charge with verbal sounding or mantras. I have been coached in the past on various techniques and have found exercise, drumming or sounding with a verbal HAAAA! (in a pillow if there are others around) are helpful ways to release the charge.
5. Get quiet. Seek out silence. When you notice silence, you become still inside. From this space we can stay focused, choose our course of action for the better, manage our tone of voice, words spoken or action to take. When the mind is in a state of unrest and agitation we don’t think as clearly, the projection of our words or actions will be felt as a potential attack to the receiver and emotions may run the show which doesn’t always end in a peaceful outcome. If the situation concerns another person, take time to cool off then prepare to communicate how you feel when you are centered and calm.
“The thinking mind does not know stillness. Beyond the mind and the body, we are consciousness. Consciousness is already whole and complete. Know this. To become centered in consciousness, the key is to be quiet and present. Bearing witness can strengthen your capacity for spaciousness, thus enabling you to be present to the very things that make you feel as if you have lost your center.”
If you sit within the Self, you will experience the strength of your inner being even when your heart feels weak – this is the essence of a spiritual life. It doesn’t mean the troubles go away, when we remain neutral, present and centered we can manage the storms in our life with greater ease, and ultimately conserve our vital life force energy. When we remain centered, our conversations flow with greater ease, our relationships improve, and we have a greater ability to connect with our own intuition to make better choices and direct the appropriate course of action in all areas of our life.
Allow for a regular practice of meditation, yoga, proper nutrition, rest and journaling. These practices provide a gateway for an inward journey that will bring light to the dark places that still create disturbance within your life. Once we are aware of our own self-imposed limitations, beliefs and mindset we can choose to write a new story that gives space for more harmony, love and joy and even the busiest life becomes lighter and easier to manage.
Laura Warf is the founder of the School of Happiness holistic wellness center whose methods are based on tools from ancient teachings to today’s current research to inspire others to take charge of their complete well-being by following her 8 essential elements to health and happiness. She is a healthy living advocate, passionate wellness educator and mind-body specialist offering services in yoga, meditation, energetic balancing, and fitness conditioning. Visit www.LauraWarf.com www.SchoolofHappiness.ca
Secret to Happiness online conference with Eckhart Tolle
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
Tricycle, the Buddhist review summer 2017
Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky