Your disposition in this moment constrains the actions you might take in the next. If you are sitting at a desk you cannot immediately leap forward. If you are angry, you are not able to gently embrace your antagonist. If you are speaking loudly and quickly, you cannot listen to subtle cues.
There is a place from which the broadest variety of actions is possible: the physical, emotional, and linguistic center. From this calm and neutral disposition you can choose the most appropriate activity instead of being hurtled into the next stress, task, or argument like a leaf in a tempest. Practicing the skill of rapidly bringing yourself to center allows you to move more gracefully from a reactive mode into the realm of choice and creativity. It may even help you snatch an arrow in flight.
The attached recording is a guided centering exercise you can use to learn this simple and powerful skill. You can try this anywhere in eleven minutes, wearing street clothes, and without frightening the neighbors. Written instructions are below.
Yoga students may recognize this posture as tadasana, the Mountain Pose.
1. Stand with your feet hip width apart.
2. Shake-out your hands, arms, feet, legs.
3. Watch a fixed point.
4. Let your hands hang at your sides.
5. Sway slightly from side to side.
6. Adjust so that your weight is even on each foot.
7. Rock slightly from side to side.
8. Adjust so that your weight is on your entire foot.
9. Relax your knees.
10. Rotate your pelvic bowl; sit into your stance.
11. Bounce a little.
12. Relax your shoulders.
13. Relax your abdomen.
14. Relax whatever part you notice.
15. Expand your abdomen as you breathe in.
16. Use your mind only to be aware of your body.