We are born into this world with purity of soul (the essence of who we are), a clean slate if you will. If we are born into a family that functions from a place of wholeness and who are living from their center, they are able to create a sacred space around us and honor our essence, our soul.
They do this by loving us unconditionally, nurturing us and mirroring love. They consistently model holistic living, they are congruent in their communication, what they feel, say and do all match. When a child born into such a family reaches an age of self expression, they are listened to, honored and encouraged to live from their authentic self. They are guided towards what they show a healthy interest in, they are guided toward healthy self expression, they feel loved unconditionally. They develop self confidence and have no self doubt of who they truly are. They are not easily knocked off center because their sense of self is secure. The world cannot write on the slate of who they are because there is no room to do so, that slate is filled up with who they know they are. They do not allow the outside world to define them.
This does not happen for the majority. Most of us are born into some kind of dysfunction. We do not develop secure selves. The combination of not developing a secure self and not staying connected to our essence can leave lots of space for the world to start writing on the slate of who we are. Sometimes this happens to the point of forgetting who we truly are, making it very difficult to find and keep our center.
On some level we will always feel a sense of dis-ease until we recover our true self, our center. Usually those of us that enter some kind of recovery are doing so because we recognize that something is missing. We may not be able to identify that what is missing is our true self, but we know something is preventing us from living a peaceful and fulfilled life. There are those however whose self was severed at such a young age or so deeply that they don’t know the difference. They may not have a reference point to a true self. These people sometimes become very self centered.
How can you tell the difference between someone who is self-centered versus centered in self?
The self-centered person thinks the world revolves around them. The centered in self person knows that the world revolves around everyone, equally.
It can take a lot of work to recover your center. If you have been living your life based on a false self you may have a lot of disentangling to do.
O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Meditate: In part meditation helps to untangle this web of deceit. When we sit in stillness everything that is not of truth has an opportunity to rise up and be released, leaving only the truth behind.
Do a fourth step: Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves aids tremendously in finding our center.
Set healthy boundaries: Knowing where we begin and others end creates a clear definition of the true self. If you have lived for many years without healthy boundaries it may initially cause some havoc in your relationships, but that calms down eventually. Sometimes people who are not for your highest good may be released from your life.
Finding a person who can listen from a place of neutrality and non-judgment can be very helpful in finding your center. This can be a therapist, a sponsor in a recovery program or clergy.
Keep an internal focus
Forgiveness (more about this in an upcoming blog)
Mindful Presence (more about this in an upcoming blog)
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Meditation teaches you to relate to life and to your environment from who you are, not from the way others view you. The average person is like an eccentric flywheel. I don’t mean a flywheel with an offbeat personality, but simply a flywheel that isn’t centered properly. The faster the wheel turns, the more violently it vibrates. At a certain speed, its vibration may actually cause it to fly apart. Most people are frequently in danger of “flying apart,” at least mentally. Living at their periphery, not at their center, they vibrate more violently the faster they whirl through life. It is safe to say that few people think of themselves as even having a center. They are forever “on edge.”
One problem with living at your periphery is that it forces you to relate to other people at theirs. They, in turn, will be “on edge” with you. Your understanding of them, and theirs of you, will be a view from the outside; it will therefore be superficial. As opposed to the concept stated earlier, “center everywhere, circumference nowhere,” most people perceive life as “circumference everywhere, center nowhere.”
The secret of understanding is to get mentally inside whatever it is you are trying to understand—to gaze outward, so to speak, from its center rather than inward from its periphery. The secret of understanding other people is to identify with them at their center. To find the center of anything or anyone, first withdraw to your own center and project your feelings empathetically from that point.
Meditation is the process of finding your own center. Techniques exist for doing so, but success depends also to a great extent on holding the right attitudes. Let me first discuss some of those attitudes. Then in the next chapter I’ll discuss the techniques.
The first attitude fundamental to “centering” is self-acceptance. You are who you are. Make the best of it, and envy no one for what he or she is. Don’t draw comparisons between you and others: Encourage yourself, rather, in your efforts to attain your own highest potential. Self-acceptance will come progressively as you try to live up to the highest that is in you. Unless you are already in superconsciousness, you cannot but recognize the fact that an inner conflict exists between your soul’s call to the heights, and the siren call of temptation to the depths. You can’t laugh off soul-longing, though you may try. Soul-conscience is not something imposed on us from without. It rises spontaneously from within ourselves. Often in history, soul-conscience has pitted individuals against society—it brought Jesus Christ to the cross, and Socrates to the poisonous cup of hemlock.
True conscience is innate. It is the silent voice of the soul. To achieve self-acceptance, you must be clear in your true conscience. Such clarity comes only when we accept that our higher Self is our eternal reality. Needless to say, one doesn’t achieve this degree of self-acceptance in a single leap. So long as you sincerely resist your lower impulses, and strive toward your own inner heights, your conscience will be reasonably clear, and you will find yourself able to achieve that measure of emotional and psychic relaxation without which it is not possible to find rest at one’s center.
Acceptance leads to the second attitude necessary for finding your own center: kindness. To achieve that clarity of conscience which is the companion of self-acceptance, you should practice kindness also toward yourself. You’ll never overcome your failings by hating your shortcomings, nor by hating yourself for indulging in them. Of course, you shouldn’t allow kindness to excuse them. In true kindness to yourself, you should work, rather, to strengthen yourself in virtue. Seek always your own highest potentials. If this means being stern with yourself occasionally, so be it. But never be judgmental. Kindness is necessary also for understanding other people. In fact, without it, there can never be acceptance of them. By kind acceptance you will find yourself intuitively aware of them at their center.
The more you attune yourself from your center to the center in everything, the more you will find that there is a sympathetic inter-relationship in the universe that makes possible the perfect understanding of all things. Depend not on intellectual analysis, which separates things and compartmentalizes them, but try to feel the heart of whatever it is you are trying to understand.
Anandamoyee Ma, a saint with whom I spent some time in India, was illiterate. But if scholars asked her to explain some difficult or obscure scriptural text, she would do so to their full satisfaction. All she asked was that someone read it to her first. She once told me, “I could speak English, if I concentrated on it.” She went on to say a few words in English, laughing merrily as she did so.
Paramhansa Yogananda could converse easily with people of specialized knowledge, such as physicians, using their own terminology as though he’d been to medical school himself. As another example, a lady in Mexico City who spoke no English had a private interview for one hour with Yogananda, who spoke no Spanish. “I don’t know how it happened,” she told me years later, “but we understood each other perfectly.”
A Process of Unlearning
Finding your own center, then, is not a process of divorcing yourself from objective reality, but of touching that universal center of which all objective reality is a manifestation. To do so bestows far greater than normal comprehension. And this comprehension differs radically from the usual understanding gleaned from superficial facts and observations. Wisdom gained from tuning in to one’s own center is not at all like going to school, where the goal is to learn. Meditation is a process of unlearning. I don’t mean that we should try to forget all the knowledge we acquired at school. That knowledge has its place, and its own usefulness. Meditation, moreover, is not a path to intellectual ineptitude: Quite the contrary, it greatly sharpens the intellect. What we must “unlearn,” instead, are the limitations of delusion imposed on us by our egos.