Five Ways of Centering Yourself During Anxious or Negative Times
March 20, 2023
If you have listened to my podcast, you'll hear me encourage listeners to "remain centered at all times."
In Taoist philosophy, one of the fundamental principles is to find balance and harmony within yourself and with the world around you. To center yourself in the face of anxiety about the future, here are some recommendations:
Focus on the present moment: Instead of worrying about what the future might bring, focus on what you can do in the present moment to take care of yourself and your needs. This might mean practicing mindfulness or meditation such as qigong to help quiet your mind and bring your attention to the present. If you are washing your car, sweeping the floor or reading a book, focus on that one thing and if stray thoughts cross your mind, let them go and refocus to that one thing.
Let go of attachments: In Taoism, as in Buddhism, it is believed that attachment to things outside of ourselves can lead to suffering. Instead, try to let go of attachments to outcomes or expectations and focus on living in the present moment with an open mind and heart. It can be very damaging to tie your happiness to any one thing, such as a job, or the amount of money you have, or a relationship. The more we attach to an idea or a thing, the more the loss of that thing can knock us mentally off-balance. This doesn't mean you should not care about people and relationships or money or achievement, just realize that happiness comes from within you, not what something else gives you.
Cultivate gratitude: Focusing on what you are grateful for in your life can help shift your perspective from anxiety to a more positive outlook. Try making a short list of things you are grateful for each day, no matter how small they may seem. To people who are not religious, like me, "grateful" can be a loaded term. Grateful to who, or what? Perhaps a better term is "appreciate." Cultivate appreciation for the things you have. Remember, happiness does not depend on getting the things you want, it is wanting the things you've got. Sheryl Crow said that, I believe.
Practice self-care: Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is essential to finding balance and harmony. Make time for activities that bring you joy, such as spending time in nature, practicing tai chi or exercise, or engaging in creative pursuits.
Embrace change: Change is a natural part of life, and resisting it can cause anxiety and stress. Instead, try to embrace change as an opportunity for growth and learning. Trust in the natural ebb and flow of life, and have faith that you will be able to handle whatever the future may bring. Very often, the events that seem the most negative turn out to be very positive, as long as you "go with the flow" and persist through what you see as negative times. I lost a job in Cincinnati and moved to Omaha in 1987. At first, I considered myself a failure for losing the job and ending up in Omaha. But it was in Omaha that I met my first internal arts teacher. If I had not lost my job, I may never have been connected with these great arts. You can't stop change. It is constant. Roll with it, baby.
Remember, finding balance and centering yourself is an ongoing process that requires practice and patience. It takes real effort. By incorporating these Taoist principles into your daily life, you can learn to cultivate a sense of peace and calm in the face of anxiety about the future.
--by Ken Gullette