Is being powerful about having power over others?
Hold that thought, writes George Leonard’s in The Way of Aikido. He defines power as our ability to realize our potential. Or, as the founder of aikido O Sensei said, “to fulfill our bestowed mission on this planet.”
And, the key to being powerful is not what we might think.
Imagine preparing to go into an adversarial situation. If we feel tense, we will likely have a heated and ineffective exchange of words. And perhaps an escalation.
What if instead, we prepared ourselves by being centered?
Centering, George tells us is an art, a science, a practice, and a way of being in the world that is the foundation of the aikido practice and philosophy.
When we are centered, we bring calm confidence to the situation. Being centered provides a stable place from which to perceive and act. It creates the possibility for reconciliation.
George writes: “The center joins past and future, heaven and earth, the near and the far, the way out and the way in.”
To be centered is to connect our center to the center of the universe.
Okay, if this sounds a little too woo-woo, the good news is becoming centered is “ridiculously simple.” We simply put our attention on our physical center, at a point in our abdomen an inch or two below our navel.
We can practice centering at any time – like walking from one room to another.
Check this: a study was done at Rahway State prison in New Jersey where convicted muggers were shown videos of people walking and were asked who they would have mugged. It wasn’t the smallest or weakest-looking, but those who were out of balance or out of sync. The people who walked in a balanced and centered manner were rarely chosen as potential victims.
While walking, we become centered by paying close attention to every step. The swing of our arms, the tilt of our head. We walk with full awareness of our center as it moves powerfully and effortlessly through space. We breathe easily. Our hips, too, are engaged in this “elemental rhythm.” We are aware of “the soles of our feet blending with the surface beneath them.”*
George suggests we apply this easy, flowing power to our quest for the most important goals in our life.
Reflection: Consider the benefits of centering myself prior to engaging in an adversarial situation
Action: Experiment today with centering myself.
*If you are interested in learning more about aikido walking, see chapter 15 of The Way of Aikido.
I love how this highlights that when we are out of balance we are more vulnerable in life in general. A great reminder of the importance of slowing down as we amp up. I notice in myself that as situations intensify, and my heartbeats increase, my default is to let that energy pull me up and forward, but that default renders me off balance. The opportunity is to plant myself more firmly, to soften my knees in more of a Tai-Chi stance where I am capable of flowing with other energies. I had an acting professor in college who often reminded us of the difference between relaxed and released. When I’m relaxed, I’m ready to fall asleep. When I am in a state of release, I am ready for anything. I appreciate this reminder as life is throwing all of us out of balance in one way or another right now.