You’ll be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t want to become more “centered”…whatever that means. All of us, at one time or another, have felt anxious, unsettled, discontent, or frustrated – often for reasons we can’t specify. Some of us live in these states for all of our waking hours. Always with the sense that there’s something we’re missing. That life isn’t supposed to be this way.
There’s no easy answer for this conundrum; no one-size-fits-all approach to feeling better. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to achieve a feeling of centeredness. Each of us simply has to find the way on our own.
Even so, there are some methods that are tried and true. One of these is meditation, mindfulness, thoughtfulness, or the pursuit of inner quiet – whatever you want to call it. Whether you are pursuing one or all of these states in a single practice, the effort is a noble one.
At the heart of all of these practices is the pursuit of inner calm. All schools of meditation encourage the subject to stop “listening” to his own thoughts, to find an inner space of concentration, without this concentration being on any object in particular. This is an excellent practice to learn, because it’s a way of taking one’s focus off of irritants, no matter what they are or how loudly they cry out. To be able to find a way to get away within oneself is a great foundation for living a centered life.
Another way this sort of concentration can help is by identifying frustrations and other circumstances that contribute to your lack of calm. Some of us have dull sensations of sadness, though we don’t understand their origin. Through meditation, we can follow these sensations to their root, perhaps discovering something in our lives that, if we were to change it, could make all the difference.
Sometimes, meditation might reveal that a problem is not emotional in origin. In psychiatry, it’s common practice for the physician to ask her subject to refrain from taking any drugs (even alcohol or caffeine) for a period of time before being observed. This way, the physician can determine whether emotional or behavior problems are the result of a mental state, or of an interaction with a substance.
You might discover in meditation that the caffeine from your morning coffee, or the processed food you eat every day, is having a physical effect on your body that translates itself into emotional feelings of distraction or malaise. If this is the case, try to silence these “voices” before meditating, as they are only making your job of centeredness more difficult.
Meditation is about creating a foundation of calm upon which to build the rest of your life. Once you’ve achieved the ability to be at peace with yourself, despite all of the efforts of the world around you, you’ll be able to create a life of balance. Without this foundation, all of your more superficial efforts, even those related to physical health, will struggle to achieve the same result.
This is not to say that physical effort is unhelpful. Exercise, diet, healthy Yogi tea, and vitamins may all improve your bodily health. If you are building a better body on top of the foundation of a peaceful mind, now you might really start to see some impressive results.
Learning to live this way is a constant effort, and there is no one method that works for every person. You are a unique organism, with emotional needs and past experiences all your own. Learning to cultivate wellness within yourself, as if your mind and body are gardens you are carefully tending, will lead to innumerable benefits for as long as you are alive.