In my last newsletter, I hope I left you wondering what happened to the opposing litigant after my client threatened to kill him if I lost the case. I had already told you that I managed to “center” myself, enabling me to prepare my final argument with curiosity rather than anxiety, and that I had warned the judge of my client’s violent intentions.
I wondered if the judge would have the poor, crazed soul locked up before he could hurt anybody. Would I lose and the client make good on his threat? Would bystanders (including me) be in harm’s way? Could the client be persuaded to stand down?
Apparently, the wise, old judge had more confidence in my case than I did. When I told him of my client’s threat, he gave me a knowing look and said, sagely, “Well, let’s just see what happens.” And, sure ’nough, the judge was prescient: my client and I left the courthouse elated in victory—and without loss of life.
Centering allowed me to actually function in the face of two powerful anxiety triggers—threat of public speaking, and death. As promised in my previous newsletter, I am now going to tell you how I recommend centering:
Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and eyes closed (or looking down as you follow this protocol). Don’t stiffen up but relax. Relax your spine, drop your shoulders, let your head float gently on the tip top of your spine. Now slowly scan your body from head to foot and notice whether there’s any tightness, tension, density or high energy at any point, and see if you can let it go by simply calming yourself or imagining warm water flowing over it. If not, it’s okay to just let it be. But as you scan, just relax each part of your body.
And now, begin to focus your attention on the midpoint of your body, deep inside, about 1½ inches below your navel. This is your center and a place of strength because, as martial artists know, it’s the balance point from which we can most effectively initiate action to move in any direction. To help you focus your attention at that point, we are going to take three slow deep breaths, breathing by first expanding your diaphragm and protruding your belly, then expanding your chest and drawing the air in, following it as deeply into your body as possible. Notice where the air seems to go at its deepest point, focus your attention there with a pause at the end of the inhale, and make room there for calmness, openness and strength. Take those three, slow deep breaths.
When you’re ready, bring your attention back behind your eyes and open your eyes to the present context, hopefully centered, and ready to most effectively deal with what comes.
I used a similar process for survival as a lawyer. I still use an abbreviated version in stressful situations to optimally respond on the fly. And now I center (as just described) with my clients at the beginning of therapy sessions to open myself to deep listening and to train my clients in centering.
Hope you find it helpful.