Centering: The Unity of Action and Being

By Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Ph.D

 

 

Learning to center-to be present to others and the environment, open to possibilities, while connected to our values and principles is foundational to a fulfilling life, both professionally and personally. Centering is the broad and abundant platform from which we launch into a full relationship with the world, and ourselves. The centering practices we teach are generative and applicable to all aspects of our life-from leading an organization, managing our moods and emotions, to raising children.

I invite you to join in this centering practice:
We begin by aligning ourselves physically with the energy field of the planet, which is gravity. We do this on four dimensions: length, width, depth and an organizing principle. By aligning our head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles into a vertical line we are no longer fighting gravity, but being in harmony with it. There’s no part of our vertical line that is out of place in which gravity can tug us downward and we have to contract someplace else to avoid falling.

Then we align in the horizontal plane by distributing our weight equally on both feet, at our hips, shoulders, and head.

Next is aligning ourselves along our depth so we are neither pitched forward nor back on our heels, but balanced front and back. Then we drop our attention to our belly center; this becomes the organizing principle for the three dimensions of length, width, and depth. This is the center of gravity for the three dimensions.

At every dimension we take an inventory to see if we are dynamically relaxed. Are your eyes, jaw, shoulders relaxed? Is your breath deep, rhythmic, and in your lower abdomen? Can you allow your muscles to relax on your bones?

When we organize ourselves this way our awareness of how we tighten or contract is greatly enhanced. We might notice that under pressure we clamp down on the jaw; or we compress the breath in our chest; we knot our stomach; we squeeze our eyes. When we notice this we can now relax that part of the body and then return to a centered, relaxed state.

This is all good, but it’s only the beginning. If we only focus on our structural alignment it’s a bit like putting Lego blocks together. Yes we may be straight and properly aligned, but we can also be wooden, stiff, even immobile. The centering practice that we teach at Strozzi Somatics emphasizes the importance of feeling as we center.

By feeling I don’t mean having a feeling or having an emotion, even though that may occur. I don’t mean something warm and fuzzy, sentimental, or romantic. I’m pointing to the life energy that animates who we are, the life force that circulates through all living things. In various cultures this is referred to as ki, chi, elan vital, prana, shabd, and so on. When we feel centering is no longer the mechanical application of posture and mass to gravity. Feeling affirms and moves us towards life, not just playing Legos with our body parts.

When we center we want to feel our vertical line to feel the dignity of this human line; we want to feel our width to feel how we’re connected to others and the world; we want to feel our depth, to feel the support of our back bodies, our history, our lineage, to feel how we open our heart. Connecting the structural elements of centering with our heritage of feeling brings life to our intuition, sensing, conscience, empathy, and love.

–Richard Strozzi-Heckler