If we want to decrease the suffering in our world, we will need to learn a behavior that is fundamentally different from the ones that have caused such pain and destruction. We must open ourselves to the suffering that comes with knowing that there are species we can’t bring back from extinction, children we can’t free from their abusive homes, climate changes we can’t reverse, and wounded veterans we can’t immediately heal. We must also open ourselves to the hope that comes with understanding the one thing we can do.

We can always be present for our lives, the lives of all other beings, and the life of the planet. Being present is a radical act. It allows us to soften the impact of trauma, interrupt the forces of oppression, and set the stage for healing and transformation. Best of all, our quality of presence is something we can cultivate, moment by moment. It permits us to greet what arises in our lives with our most enlightened selves, thereby allowing us to have the best chance of repairing the world.

—Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, Trauma Stewardship

Have you ever had one of those days when you were rushing and impatient, and you said or did something you later regretted?

Of course, you’ve heard about the mental and emotional benefits of slowing down. And, sure, it would be great if you could more present. But, who has time for that? All that slowing down stuff is fine and good, but you have things to do.

As a mom and business owner with a very full life, I get it.

There was a time when, as a single mother, I wanted nothing more than to learn how to be fully present with my son. At the dinner table every night, my mind would wander as they told me about their latest Lego creation or the game they’d played with their friends. I’d feel so bad each time I realized that my mind had drifted off again. It was as though my mind was addicted to thinking. And with so much on my plate, it was hard for me to slow down.

This shifted for me when I decided to train as a Presence-Based Coach. I’d already been coaching for several years, but I trusted that this training would help me learn how to be more present. Over time, it did.

I went from intellectually getting the importance of slowing down to actually knowing how to be still in my body. Of course, my mind wanders at times, but it rarely runs away with itself. Now, being present with my son feels like second-nature.

What’s made all the difference for me is my practice of getting centered.

Getting centered means to bring your attention into your body, connect with yourself, and becoming aware of what’s happening in the present moment. With enough repetition, getting centered can become a habit. I now catch myself unconsciously bringing my attention to my breath and my body if I start to feel stressed.

I encourage all of my clients to devote time each day to getting centered. Granted, I know this advice to slow down can be hard to take in. Sure, you get it intellectually. But it’s counter-intuitive.

How could taking extra time to stop and smell the roses possibly help you get more done?

Here are just a few of the benefits of getting centered:

  • It’s easier to hear your intuition and get clear on your next steps forward. Getting still allows you to quiet the mental and emotional noise within and clear a space in which you can feel and question and imagine.
  • You better understand what you want and need when you take time to become aware of what’s going on inside. And, it’s easier to make decisions that take your needs into account when you to tune in and find out what you need.
  • You’re less likely to burn out and more able to hold space for others when you take better care of yourself.
  • You become a better listener. When you learn how to listen to yourself with compassion, you’re more able to do the same for others, as well.
  • You come up with more creative solutions to challenging problems when you feel grounded and resourced.
  • You experience greater joy and aliveness when you’re fully present in your life.
  • You can navigate through upsetting situations with more ease and skill when you practice shifting into a calm, alert, and centered space on a regular basis.

I hope that you’re at least starting to be convinced!

One of the first things I teach my clients is how to get centered.

Over the years, I’ve grown— and I’ve watched my clients grow— more clear, confident, and effective as a result of taking a few minutes each day to tune into what’s happening in the present moment.

Often, my clients come to me burnt out. Working so hard for so long, they can no longer clearly see what they need. The stress clouds their perception, which in turn makes it hard for them to make good decisions. They often feel stuck in a spiral in which they overwork themselves, which depletes their inner resources, which makes their work less effective, which makes them feel like they need to exert even more energy to keep up. Sometimes, as a result, they stop caring about work they were once passionate about.

It never ceases to astound me how quickly my clients shift when they start incorporating a centering practice into their daily routine. They go from being super stressed out to feeling the sense of calm and aliveness that they’ve been missing, sometimes for years. And, not once has a client ever told me that taking time to get centered left them with less time for other important things. In fact, centering seems almost miraculously to give them more time.

Centering takes seconds and costs nothing, and often, the results are immediate.

It’s a practice that’s worked for me and my teachers before me for thousands of years. If I can learn to be present, then trust me, so can you. But please don’t take my word for it.

I’ll share two centering practices to get you started. I invite you to try these out now.

One: Bring your attention to your breath.

You can do this before you get out of bed in the morning, when you get to work, or before you answer your email. Try this now—

  • Relax your belly.
  • Relax your shoulders.
  • Without trying to force or change anything, notice your in-breath.
  • Then, notice your out-breath.
  • On your inhale, imagine breathing in love and compassion.
  • On your exhale, breathe out gratitude.
  • Sit for a few moments, noticing your breath, taking in love, and radiating out gratitude.

Two: Scan your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.

You can do this for just a few seconds to get centered fast or as part of a longer, relaxing meditation. Try this now—

  • Beginning at the tips of your toes, slowly scan your body upward, moving from your toes to your legs to your knees and on up. Notice the sensations and emotions of your body. Eventually, you’ll reach the top of your head.
  • Then, bringing your attention slowly back down, notice the parts that are easier to feel as well as any gaps in sensation.
  • Greet the feelings and emotions with gentle curiosity and without trying to figure out why you feel the way you do or trying to feel anything different than you do. There’s a good reason for everything you feel, and you don’t need to fix or solve anything.
  • Do this one more time, very slowly moving your attention from your toes up to your head and back down, simply noticing the sensations come to your awareness.

It helps to learn to get centered in a place that is quiet and free from distractions. But the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to center yourself in any situation. You can be walking the dog, cooking a meal, meeting with colleagues, driving the car, or even having a difficult conversation with your boss or partner or child. Eventually, you’ll learn how to come back to center no matter where you are.

I’d love to hear from you!

What helps you get centered?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and I will be sure to respond. Thanks!

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