Centering: that act which precedes all others on the potter’s wheel. The bringing of the clay into a spinning, unwobbling pivot, which will then be free to take innumerable shapes as potter and clay press against each other. The firm, tender, sensitive pressure which yields as much as it asserts.Centering in Pottery, Poetry and the Person, M.C. Richards
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that left you with an inspiring sense of wonder and awe? Likewise, have you ever offered friendly advice or expressed love in a way that gave you an undeniable sense of universal connection? What if you were able to do that all the time, no matter the circumstances? That kind of connectivity and expansion are qualities of being a mystic.
Centering is the practice of becoming a mystic.
In moments when you are feeling deeply connected and interwoven into the fabric of the universe, you are a mystic. When you want to articulate clearly what your heart wants to say but can only find the words through metaphor, you are mystic. When you notice the thunderous whisper of the wind, or the deafening silence of the subway, you are a mystic. The mystic sees, feels, hears, and senses things deeply, and garners a richness and wholeness in all experience.
A practice is some activity, thought, or ideal that we whole-heartedly and vulnerably return to with some degree of regularity, of which the cumulative effect is transformation. The sustained exposure of a practice recalibrates our consciousness, and we realize that repetition is not merely redundancy. In other words, a practice is something that we do over and over again that begins to change us to our very core.
To return to our center is to become the anonymous form. Once the clay has been centered, the skilled potter will then press their hands into the sides of the clay while their thumbs gently press down on the top, creating a well in the center. Then the potter will bring up the sides higher and higher as the wall of the shape gets thinner and thinner. It is from this anonymous form that it becomes “free to take innumerable shapes as potter and clay press against each other.” As we return to center, we return to the anonymous form where we can awaken into one of the innumerable shapes.
Now, let’s return to that original sentence: Centering is the practice of becoming a mystic. Doesn’t that short sentence have much more meaning and richness now after just three relatively short paragraphs of explanation?
That is what Centering Classes are all about – unraveling and reorganizing, finding deeper meaning each time that process occurs. This is what T. S. Eliot means when he wrote in his Little Gidding, “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.” The Centering Classes provide a framework for such an “exploration”. It is an elegant and simple framework, that when practiced with a vulnerable sincerity, will begin to peacefully transform us.
Each on-demand Centering Class has 5 distinct parts: Inspiration, Embodiment, Contemplation, Prayer, and Action. This framework can present innumerable focus points or areas for deeper exploration, which, over time, will lead to a vast, deep, and meaningful life.
In this portion of the class, a poem, scripture, or ideal will be presented. The invitation as it is read is to find a word or phrase that resonates or challenges you in some way. This will set up the journey, intention of exploration, or the foundation for the rest of the class.
You will then be invited to embody your set intention through a series of postures based in the ancient traditions of yoga and qigong. The point of this portion of the class is to acknowledge any sensations that arise in the body, invite the breath into the sensation, and release any desire to change the sensation.
Contemplation is listening deeply in the quiet stillness. This portion of the class is simply a period of time that is spent in silence, which allows the soul to experience an intimate and unique expression of itself in and through you.
Having had the intimate, unique expression of the soul, you’re invited to speak directly to that expression. This can be done silently, in a journal, or really in any way that feels right and appropriate.
Transitioning from the sacred to the “real world” can be challenging. So, this portion of the class is about thinking of simple ways you can bring elements of the practice into the world. “What are you called to do from this new state of awareness and being?”