How Do I Stay Centered During Difficult Times?

Joan Even

Let me start with a story…
My husband has a very strong tolerance for pain, and I discovered just how strong it was in June 2013. He felt “a little off” on Thursday, but on Friday decided he was well enough for his usual twenty-five mile bike ride. On Saturday, he “wasn’t quite feeling up to par.” By Sunday night, he could hardly walk and decided, “Hmmm, I should call the doctor.” The doctor advised him to head to the emergency room immediately and mentioned that Mike had probably been dealing with a ruptured appendix since Thursday.
Of course, this experience provided plenty of opportunities to center myself and transmute fear! At the hospital we were escorted to a very tiny, well-lit room. Hospital staff came in and out, we answered questions, filled out forms, and Mike was examined. This went on for a couple of hours, as did our continued efforts to bring our attention to our heart, to breathe, and let love flow through us, removing all the fear that wanted to takeover. The diagnosis was confirmed and Mike was operated immediately. We did not know the doctor and the doctor did not know what he was going to find. We trusted. Mike went into surgery and I went into my heart, breathing and feeling as I waited alone in the waiting room. I thought of my teacher and imagined that he was there with me. The hours passed slowly and peacefully.
How do I stay centered during difficult times? Well, I do the same thing that I do when I sit in meditation every morning and a thought that worries me comes up or a self-judgment or doubt lingers. I continue my meditation, let my body breathe, rest my attention at my heart, and feel my breath. I let my loving, supportive inner voice takes over, while resting in this safe, peaceful place at my heart. I surrender to the non-judgmental energy that comes in with my breath and stays pure, free of judgment, as I rest at my heart.
It’s what I do when I go about my daily activities and realize that I am suddenly uptight about my workload or about the highway traffic, or a little anxious when swimming in the ocean, or upset with myself when annoyed for seemingly no reason. Or, when I feel that I am crazy or stagnant or unlikeable. It’s what I do when I feel lost or alone – I breathe, bring my awareness to my heart and feel my breath. Every day, life brings small opportunities to put my meditation practice to use and experience that it works!
What else occurs when I aim to center myself? Well, there’s an inner dialogue going on between my loving, supportive observer presence; the voice of my heart and the aspect of me, a part of my ego that is getting triggered, that needs some attention, kindness, or love. There’s always a choice to embrace my heart’s voice, or succumb to the worry, sadness, anger, fear, or discomfort, and you can guess where that leads. Meditation has helped me find and strengthen the voice of my heart, my most loving supporter, and life offers plenty of opportunities to practice.
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I realize that Nature was showing me how to meditate, how to access peace in this safe place within me, a long time ago. I was eleven years old and had been sick for a couple of days. I was in my room, lying in bed, feeling really lousy and ignored, listening to my family laughing in the kitchen below. I started to cry. No one had come to check on me in a while and I felt sad. Eventually, my dad came in, sat beside me and comforted me. I loved and trusted my dad. He said, “Joan, don’t cry, just breathe, crying will just make you feel worse.” I listened, and as my dad sat with me I just let my body breathe and brought my attention to my breath… I was simply feeling my breath… I remember noting, “WOW, I feel better!” I was really surprised and so comforted to have found a way to relieve the pain.
This was a gift that Nature gave me way back then. I was shown the means for accessing the peace within me and I was to rediscover it many years later through my Heartfulness Meditation practice.