Many of the articles already on Dreamhart.org, as well as others I’m planning to post here in the future, require a basic understanding of energywork. Because of this, I’ve decided to start a series covering the fundamentals of the subject in an attempt to make this site more friendly to newcomers. I’m not sure how long it will take me to write these, nor am I sure if they will be entirely consecutive or if they will be interspersed among writings on other subjects. This first one, at any rate, will cover the act of Centering.
What is Centering?
Centering is the single most fundamental act of energywork. Grounding may be a close second, and the two are often talked about and even performed together as a single act1, but I thought it might be useful to consider them separately. There may well be times you will want to center yourself without grounding, though I admittedly can’t think of any times the reverse would be true.
Centering is literally a return to one’s center… a place of calm, balance, and focus within us. It allows us to set aside stray thoughts and external influences, to still our minds, to marshal our energy and concentration, and to prepare a place to begin our Work. This is the first step in almost any occult procedure, and one it’s helpful to return to during the course of most workings to keep the subtle energies you are manipulating focused for the task at hand. If your thoughts get scattered, your energy gets scattered too2.
How Do You Center?
A Basic Technique for Centering
Luckily, there are lots of techniques you can use to center yourself3. One of the easiest is simply to visualize yourself surrounded by a giant sphere of energy. Imagine that energy contracting, pulling in until it is a thin shell around your body. Then, imagine it contracting further, becoming a dense little ball inside of you at a point just below your belly button. That’s one place you can center yourself, known as the low Dantian4. Hold it there as long as you want, just breathing in and out slowly, until you feel calm and focused.
Standing at the Crossroads
Another technique5 is to visualize two roads crossing in front of you. At the center of the crossroads there is a large tree. Imagine yourself going to sit at the base of the tree, your back against its trunk, the roads stretched out around you. Cast your mind down each of the roads… one before you, one behind you, one to your left and one to your right. Imagine what might be down each of them, then slowly allow your mind to return to the crossroads, to the center. As time passes, allow yourself to become aware of a fourth road… the road formed by the tree… and allow your mind to follow its branches up into the sky, and its roots down into the earth. Each time, slowly allow your mind to return to the crossroads, to the center. Finally, become aware of the final road… the road within you. Follow it to the heart of the crossroads. Follow it to your center.
Centering with Breath
Still another technique relies on the breath6. Breathe in and out through the nose. On each exhalation, exhale all the way out to completely clear the lungs. Then slowly inhale, allowing your stomach to expand as you breath in and the air to settle in the deepest parts of your lungs. Hold it there for a few moments, then continue… breathing out completely, then slowly breathing in deeply so it feels almost like you’re inflating your belly. Try to keep your chest relaxed while you’re doing this, it doesn’t need to expand along with your stomach. When you have the hang of this, try visualizing a golden ball of energy growing in your lower Dantian, just below your belly button. The ball is like a miniature sun inside you, and with each breath you take it grows brighter and brighter.
What comes next?
Obviously, you can mix and match any of the preceding exercises to create a method of centering which works for you. You can also learn other methods of centering, whether through a google search for centering techniques or just experimenting and following your own intuition. As long as you end up in a calm, centered state there really is no wrong way to get there. But what if you want to take things a little further? Centering may be basic, but there are some more advanced techniques associated with it.
Centering on Something
So far, we’ve taken a look at finding your center. Now, we’ll consider a method of working with that center, by focusing it on something specific. One of the more common things to center oneself on is the divine7, and this practice is often used to facilitate a direct connection with divinity. To do this, follow the same steps as before to arrive at your center. Once there, hold an image of the divine in your mind… even if that image is just a clear, pure light. If other thoughts arise, acknowledge them and then set them aside if they are not relevant, and return your attention to the image. If it helps, you can also mentally repeat a specific word over and over… perhaps simply “<insert your deity’s name here>”. Do this as long as you like, and just listen and see what happens.
Centering on the Go
Centering oneself when you’re all by yourself and still and seated and comfortable is fairly easy. But what about when you’re on the go? Think you can center yourself while walking around, or in the middle of a traumatic situation8? You may not think you can, yet, but this is generally when you most need to. Here’s a technique to get you started. Whenever you become aware of not feeling centered in your daily life, it may be useful to take a few minutes to consciously do this, to create a habit of bringing oneself back to center that will then carry over even into extraordinary or traumatic situations.
Begin walking, at whatever speed is comfortable with you. As you walk, slowly breath in and out, taking two or three steps as you inhale and then two or three steps as you exhale. Allow the breath to go all the way down to your belly and push it out, just like the last exercise. Then exhale completely, emptying your lungs, before starting the process over again. Become aware of the sphere of light brightening in your Dantian as you walk and breathe. Each step, each breath, makes it brighter. Now, center your thoughts on an image of calm and peace held within that sphere of light. Perhaps a simple scene from nature, perhaps the image you use to connect with divinity, perhaps just the word Peace and the feeling that goes with it. Feel that image suffusing your center, till the combined energy overflows and runs down your body to your feet, still growing with each step, each breath, an endless inner fountain. Imagine yourself leaving little puddles of this energy behind you with each step, little seeds of peace planted in the world.
Obviously there are many more ways to center, and many more things one can do with centering. I strongly encourage anyone interested to look into it further. Sources dealing with meditation may be a great deal of help, as centering lies as the heart of most forms of meditative practice. If you find any more ways to center yourself, or any more techniques for working with your center, please feel free to share them in the comments section.
That’s about it for centering, and I hope you’ve found it useful. The next article planned for this series will deal with Grounding.
- WikiHow: How to Ground and Center [↩]
- Makia: Energy Flows Where Attention Goes [↩]
- Roots of Ritual: Grounding and Centering [↩]
- Wikipedia: Dantian [↩]
- Foxwood, Orion. “Anchoring.”Tree of Enchantment: Ancient Wisdom and Magic Practices of the Faery Tradition. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2008. 58-59. Print. [↩]
- Dan Tian Breathing: Connecting to the Center [↩]
- Wikipedia: Centering Prayer [↩]
- Dossey, Barbara Montgomery, Ph.D. “Walking Meditation.” Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice. 5 ed. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2008. 268-269. Print. [↩]