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Knowing When I'm Not:

4 Suggestions for Developing a Strong Center

Judy Ringer

The more I practice centering, the more I realize that as important as it is to be able to identify and access the centered state, it is equally important to be able to know when I'm NOT centered. Otherwise, how do I choose?

When I'm centered I'm in control of my behavior. Centered action is on purpose and by choice. Uncentered action is reactive and out of control, and I end up looking back with regret.

I've spent a lot of time figuring out my personal symptoms of uncenteredness. Physically, my legs tense and knees lock; my jaw locks, my throat closes, and I stop breathing.

Mental and emotional symptoms vary, but I can become self-righteous, depressed, and very self-critical. Without warning, these reactive responses combine into a mind/body state that is powerful enough to overcome all my good intentions and noble purposes.

When something happens that triggers these physical and emotional states, I increasingly notice them at earlier stages. I can then ask myself if I want to go where they will carry me. Sometimes it's a difficult choice. These reactions are "practiced" and seductive. To choose to be centered means to integrate that energy in some new and more useful way in which I'm not as practiced.

This kind of awareness is learned and developed. And, speaking from experience, it can be done. Here's my path, and I urge you to add to it:

  • INTENTION. Have a clear intention to develop control over your reactive state.

  • DISCOVERY. Begin to notice your symptoms. The next time you start to "lose it," become active in that process and make a different choice.

  • JUST DO IT. (Thank you, Nike.) Breathe, relax, or play a mental tape that helps you get centered. Visualize your "happy place," as one of my clients puts it.

  • DISCIPLINE. Don't settle for letting yourself be hijacked by your reactions. When you do "lose it" - use it. Go back in your mind's eye, and ask how the situation might have played out had you been centered. It's a great way to reinforce what you want to do next time.

You have more power than you think. Know what you want for your life and go get it.

2005 Judy Ringer, Power & Presence Training

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a more positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training, and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit

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