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Life that Works: Holding Center

“Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. … One person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs — not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can “be”, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.”   -Rollo May

This morning was cold and clear as I walked with my dogs through our city’s botanical garden. There is a bench that was built and dedicated  to a teenage girl who took her own life two years ago.  The bench her father had constructed  in her memory was decorated this morning by a ring of red candles and a bouquet of flowers that her friends had left with a note that she remained in their thoughts and heart.  I sat by her flowers, thinking of how easy it is, especially when you are a teenager, to so completely lose your emotional balance that the pain of life is too unbearable.  I wonder still, what could have interrupted that too brief moment of reflection and restored to her a path back to herself.

I remember hearing a yoga teacher say that finding the center is where we experience the divine.  She was referring to the center of a yoga pose, which requires equal measures of flexibility and strength. But this search for an experience of center applies to everything in life. It has taken decades for me to come to value the solid place of center over the emotional highs and lows, which have defined my dramatic and creative lifestyle.

Alternately energizing and exhausting,  the ups and downs have lost their appeal and zest. Instead I seem to work incessantly to find a solid emotional anchoring in myself.  I long for the ability to have a calming effect, even if it is only over myself and recognize sometimes moments too late how easily daily events can throw me off course.

Lao Tzu said, “At the center of your being you have the answer, you know who you are and you know what you want.”This is the place of strength that I most want to cultivate.  It lets things be as they are, without creating the inner turmoil of wondering where that leaves you.  Outer circumstances are not the leader, the solid knowing and trust in yourself is the guide.

Sitting on the bench at the park today, I was in my center- gratefully and painfully aware of how brilliant and brief life can be. There was no question about my resolve to make loving my priority and no weight bearing down on me about the possibility of failure.  If I know a Truth- this is it and I long to be anchored to it.