Course Book Lesson 4: Finding Our Center – Audio & Text

Lesson 4
Finding Our Center

Last week, we began exploring our conception of a Higher Power, noticing how we think about Him, asking Him questions, and maybe even swearing at Him a little. We often find that the more of ourselves we give to God, the more of ourselves we receive back. Our daily spiritual practice can open our heart in baby steps, allowing us to trust Him more and more.

In week four, let’s extend this journey of discovery by finding our center. What do we mean by our center? Broadly, our center can be thought of as the foundation of our self-worth and security. It is where we invest most of our time, effort, money, and emotional energy. More narrowly, our center is where we focus our attention in the present moment. This attention is a powerful force. As the yogis say: Where attention goes, energy flows, the flower grows. It is this present-moment practice of finding our center that we develop this week.

At LBS, we practice living in the present moment with God at our center. This God is viewed through the unique lens of our own experience and represents the universal Source of all wisdom, power, truth, love, and goodness. When we have such a Power at our center, we feel peace and serenity. Even in stressful situations, we can find a measure of calm amidst the storm. This spiritual center can be our most potent emotional regulator.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on how much of our life we are actually living in such a place. Personal and religious ideals and identities can offer a helpful big-picture sense of a center. But still, even with such ideals, our behavior, emotions, and thinking patterns can tell an entirely different story. When life is chaotic, how often do we get lost in the chaos? Big-picture ideas don’t always give us the present-moment tools to transform the way we actually move through life. If we want to bring harmony to this frustrating dissonance, we can learn to pause and notice, in the present moment, who or what is actually at our center.

At LBS, we use mindful movement and meditation as the foundation of our Daily Practice. Why do we do this? Because it is in and through the body that we find a spiritual center in the present moment. It is also in and through the body that we become aware that we have lost that center. As we fully inhabit our body, it can become our compass. We can learn to pay attention to thoughts, emotions, and direct physical experience. Chaos or disturbances in this ever-changing internal landscape can alert us to the need to redirect our attention–away from our mind and into our body, where we can feel and find a grounding divine presence.

By strengthening our mindfulness muscle, we can become highly attuned to where our center is at any given moment. So, this week, we simply continue observing our thoughts and feelings in the present moment, asking ourselves: “What do I feel in this moment, right now?” If we find ourselves caught in any negative emotion: stress, anxiety, worry, fear, depression, rage, obsession, impatience, etc., we can further practice by asking ourselves, “In this moment, who or what is at my center?

The Law of Attraction is a New Age philosophy with roots in both Christian and Buddhist teachings. It suggests that our intentional focus, or our center, shapes our reality. In other words, if we focus on a problem, we will create more of that problem. If we focus on progress, we will create progress. Another common mantra says it this way: What we resist persists. If we are skeptical of such a concept, we can accept that we are skeptical. But we might consider creating space in our hearts and minds to empty our cup and consider the ways this dynamic has been true for us. Understanding and harnessing the power of our intention can be powerful–especially when combined with last week’s practice of turning to God. If we can redirect our focus to a Higher Power, we gain the capacity to manifest Higher insight, ability, peace, perspective, and creative resolutions into any given situation.

Finding our center is a simple but not easy practice. When we are challenged, it can be difficult to pull our minds away from the challenge. We can get stuck in narratives about who is right or wrong, and lost in the intricacies of the circumstance. Our emotions go up and down like a roller-coaster, growing stronger the more we follow the story in our mind. When people are at our center, our sense of security often swings on their opinions of us. When we put objects, titles, or achievements at our center, we may narrow our entire definition of success to a singular dimension. Perhaps we do this with our weight: the scale goes down, and our mood goes up–and vice versa.

However this happens for us, let’s recognize that when we misplace our center, our well-being often becomes dependent on securing an outcome. Let’s take a moment to reflect on our own experience: even when we attain the object of our desire or win the approval of others, how long does our sense of fulfillment last? Why are we typically satisfied for only a short moment before we return to our grasping? Perhaps it is because we have placed our center on something that cannot fill us. At LBS, we believe that a Higher Power is the only thing that can fill the God-shaped hole inside of us. We believe that this spiritual connection offers the essence of wholeness and belonging that we all spend our entire lives unconsciously searching for through all of our crazy pursuits. When we find it within us, we discover we have enough, no matter what our outside circumstances might be. This is why the heart of our practice is finding our center.

Mindfulness Practice:
Practicing Surrender to put God at our Center

This week, we practice noticing what it feels like when a Higher Power is at our center. We use mindfulness, noting the physical, emotional, and mental sensations that inform us of our present state of consciousness. When we feel constriction, distress, and negative emotions, we can investigate whether we have lost our center. But how can we allow a Higher Power to fill this hole? We do this one moment at a time, using the tools we have learned thus far.

At LBS, we call this intentional shift in focus surrender. When we surrender, we take concrete actions to allow life to be as it is. We empty ourselves of our fear, our will, and our wishes, and put our trust in God. It might be easier to do this if we can sense that instead of giving up, we are giving over to One whose wisdom and ability exceed our own. We want to settle into the feeling that we are safe in His care. We can start by surrendering just this moment. Eventually, we hope to be able to let go and trust our entire life into His hands.

When we use surrender to place God at our center, we can notice how our mental, emotional and physical experience changes. We can find the place inside us that is beyond thought, beyond story, beyond concept or name. When we find this place of absolute stillness, we can know that we have touched home, even just for a moment. But how do we do this in real life? How do we surrender, in practical terms? There is no one right way, but three general tools can help us guide our practice.

Reach In
One way to find a Higher Power at our center is to Reach In: slowing down to pause and bring our focus inward. We can use Ujayi breath to shift our focus out of our mind and into our body. We can become the observer, nurturing an open and loving sense of awareness and curiosity, asking, “What am I feeling? What thoughts do I notice? What voices and stories are running through my head?” We might write in a journal to process these things more deeply.

We try to detach from our narratives or drop the story. Dropping the story means shifting our focus away from the content of what is happening and into the felt-sense of our experience. For example, instead of focusing on why we are right to be angry, we bring all of our awareness and curiosity into the experience of anger itself: We watch it fire and flicker, spread and burn in different parts of our body, incite nasty thoughts, and eventually putter out and pass through. “So this is anger,” we might say to ourselves. By dropping the story, we let go of resistance and reframe our focus. This practice allows us to be just where we are and brings an open curiosity into the moment. From this open space, we find the freedom to intentionally place our lives and worries into the care of a Higher Power.

Reach Up
Another way to find a Higher Power at our center is to Reach Up: by talking to God. We continue exploring our own authentic relationship with God by offering our most authentic selves. We want to speak openly and freely, as though we were speaking to an intimate friend. We want to pour out our heart and surrender our fears, negative emotions, and limiting beliefs. We can use this practice anytime and anywhere. When we surrender, we might ask God to replace our misplaced center with one of His qualities–love, light, tolerance, compassion, trust, wisdom, Truth. With this practice, we gain access to the infinite. The very same Power that holds all of existence in its wildly creative hands can now flow into the cracks and corners of our lives and magically bring solutions that were impossible with our limited perspective.

Reach Out
Another tangible way to put a Higher Power at our center is to Reach Out. Reaching Out may be the most challenging strategy for many of us, but it can also be the most effective. Reaching Out means making contact (phone call, conversation, Marco Polo) in moments of distress or confusion. Usually, this contact would be someone who works the LBS program. Reaching Out requires honesty and awareness, vulnerability, humility, and accountability.

When we Reach Out, we do so simply to bring awareness to what we feel, to bring our thoughts and feelings out of the dark and into the light. We can also Reach Out to witness our decision to surrender and trust our lives into the care of a Higher Power. We try not to expect the other person to solve our problems or validate us. Rather, we can think of this practice as a powerful way to humble ourselves, disrupt obsessive thinking patterns, and create new neural pathways in our brain. It works best when we use this tool in the moment of distress–not after we have already found resolution. Depending on our current challenges, we may find it helpful to Reach Out as much as every day but will probably benefit from doing so at least weekly. Reaching Out also helps build a community of support around us and gives us a concrete action to take in moments of struggle to put a Higher Power at our center.

There is no one right way to surrender, but here is an example of a phone call that might help us find the courage to Reach Out.

“Hi _______, it’s _____ from Lifehouse Body & Soul. I am calling because I need to surrender. I feel a lot of anxiety about food today, and I can tell that I have put my weight and this idea of having a perfect body at my center. I want to surrender the shame I feel about what I ate today. I want to let go of the belief that eating certain foods makes me bad. I want to give my shame and fear to God and ask Him to replace them with His Love and trust in the way He created me. With you as my witness, I want to surrender my will and ask God to help me feel Him at my center.”

When someone calls us to Reach Out, we need not worry about saying the right thing. We are simply there as a witness and to help them find their center. We might take a few deep breaths with them. We might help them check in with themselves, asking: What do you need right now? Food? A bubble bath? A walk? Space? We might simply say, “Good job reaching out.” We might ask them, “What else do you need to surrender?” We might share our own strength, hope, and experience if we have been in a similar situation. We are careful not to give advice or speak from a place of authority. We remind ourselves that we do not know what anyone else’s path is supposed to look like. But we can help each other find the One who does know.

This week, we might consider identifying 1-2 people from our Course Community who feel safe and asking them if they can be a Reaching Out Resource for us. Formally establishing this relationship can significantly increase the likelihood that we will actually Reach Out in times of difficulty.

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