I had an enlightening experience today.
A few weeks ago, a co-worker suggested that a small group of us enroll in a class called “The Magic of Conflict” together. I was hesitant to agree at first. I spend so much of my workdays in meetings that sometimes I feel like all I do is get paid to yap or be yapped at. By the time all the yapping is through, my brain is too fried to knock off anything on that day’s “to do” list. The class is a commitment of 4 half-days. But after thinking about it, I decided to give it a try. If nothing else, being in the class might actually get me out of some of those yappier meetings.
I know that sounds cynical. But I’ve done my share of conflict resolution classes and seminars before. Some of them have been valuable. Honestly though, sometimes there’s nothing to be done but bite your tongue and pat yourself on the back for not kicking someone in the kahunas. And even though I know that exercise, nutritious food and sitting cross-legged and saying “oohhmmmm” until your lips vibrate are probably healthier stress management options, sometimes nothing cures my woes more than a Friday night visit to the Shot Fairy.
So I went in to the first day of this workshop both hopeful and skeptical. When I left, the hope was sitting on top of the skepticism, squishing its fat, Shrekkish head.
All of it was interesting. But the part that stuck with me was the end of the morning, when we talked a little about “centering.” Usually when people say that word the part of me that has permanent PMS starts singing “blah-blah-blah-blah-pass-the-tofu-blah-blah-blah” in my head. But not so much today.
We got into pairs, and were told to take turns pressing, with force but not enough of it to actually hurt each other, on the other person’s chestbone. Of course, when you were the pressee instead of the presser, this meant that you wobbled a little on your feet. Even when you knew the push was coming because you were in a controlled exercise, you wobbled. We Weebles wobbled, but we didn’t fall down. I did. We all did.
Then we went through the exercise again, but this time we were told to focus on our “center,” just below our navels, before the pusher pushed. The instructor told us to focus on that center and to use whatever image came to mind that helped guide us and keep us there. For some, she said, envisioning a ball of light there worked. For others it might be something else entirely.
This was when the skeptic in me started thinking “blah-blah-oohmm-tofu-blah-blah-where’s-my-jagerbomb?” But the other part of me, the part that has always been a good student and a better worker-bee, was wanting to ace this thing I didn’t even believe in. I starting thinking about what my “image” would be. That orange, dancing perfect point in the center of a campfire’s flame? A sunset? My ferret’s precious furry face? A Steeler flying towards the end zone?
I was doing exactly what I always do. Making lists of possibilities, and checking them twice. Evaluating and eliminating. Check. Uncheck. That’s me, and I make fun of tofu?
Finally, I just decided to go for it with an empty head. Just go blank and let what comes come. I concentrated on that center point, if concentration is really the right word. It was really more of an empty headed focus on my lower half … on centering. And the next thing I new, I was seeing, in my mind, water flowing in a strange but beautiful way, both away from and towards that center.
It was an image that has been in my subconscious for years, but one I haven’t thought about in more than forever. It was the turqouise green-blue waters of the Carribbean as they parted to make way for a small boat full of cruise-ship tourists about to go sea-turtle snorkeling. Years ago, I went on a cruise with some girlfriends and we did this excursion. I’d never seen the Caribbean before, never known the difference between the murky slate-colored waves of my more local beaches and the startling colors of paradise water. I was mesmerized that day, just standing at the edge of the boat looking down and down and down, watching those waters move and thinking how I wanted to just jump into them NOW, and how much I wanted my mother, who gave me my love of the ocean, to see them. I actually had tears running down my cheeks as the boat moved through that brilliant water.
It was one of those moments you cherish, and put away in your memory bank under the file labeled “wonder.” But daily life and bills and crappy commutes and yappy meetings stuff that file way back in your mind over time, and you forget its even there.
Until you do something like I did today. When you stop listing and evaluating and checking and doing and reaching towards what you think SHOULD work, and just shut up and be, those things come back to you. And the feelings they brought on that first go-round come with them.
When my pusher pushed, I didn’t move. The weird part is, I didn’t need to. There was no planting my feet more firmly or even really watching for the push. There was just solidity amidst green-blue waters that were somewhere below me, but within my reach all the same.
I’m not gonna rush out and shave my head, stock up on bean sprouts, and take a yoga class. I’m still gonna think “what a doucherocket” when someone irks my last nerve. I’ve got a long way to go before my reaction to someone lashing out at me or wanting more from me than I think is my fair share of giving is to automatically “center” myself and reach out to include them in my sphere of influence.
But that moment? It was special. It was one of wonder. It gave me that sense of possibility and amazement at the coolness of the world and our place in it that you usually don’t get as a grownup.
Some might call it centering. For me, it was “shut up and be.”