How to Center Yourself

Watch your diet. Notice what foods feel good, which do not. Your body will tell you what it requires. Usually, denser foods-meat, chicken, fish--have more of a grounding effect than grains, vegetables, or fruit. I'm not a big meat eater but if my body announces, "I need a hamburger," I will devour one. Listen to your body's signals. Notice how they fluctuate.

Do mundane tasks. Mindfully focusing on everyday chores can bring you back to your body. Grocery shopping, going to the bank, paying bills, washing clothes, taking out the trash, or cleaning the yard can be grounding. These activities anchor you in the here-and-now by drawing on the luminous nature of the ordinary.

Practice Anonymous Service. Do something nice for someone without taking credit for it. Hold the elevator for a little old lady. Let someone go before you in line. Serve food to the homeless. Give a charitable donation. Anything that shifts the focus from you to helping others. No deed is too small. The act of giving--especially when you're most frazzled--opens your heart, is regenerative.

Spend Time in Nature. As poet William Wordsworth put it, civilization can be "too much with us." People, cars, the news, telephone cables matting the sky, all can keep us from our bodies, divorce us from what is natural. Regularly take at least a few hours out from your routine. Visit the beach, a forest, a canyon, a river. Choose a spot that moves you. Aboriginals seek out windswept plains for purification. Native Americans go to fresh streams to clarify their inner vision. (Any water source, including a bath or shower, can cleanse and purify.) Tibetan monks pilgrimage to mountaintops. Allow yourself to draw on the earth's primordial forces. Savor the beauty of a twilight, sunset, or dawn. Let them nourish and restore you.

Meditate. Sitting in meditation is a life-line to your center, to the earth. By calming the mind, you can re-align with your essence. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Then gently extend your awareness downward to strata, bedrock, minerals, and soil. From the base of your spine begin to feel a continuity with the earth's core. Picture having a long tail that roots in that center. Allow the earth's energy to infuse your body and stabilize you. If you meditate for five minutes or an hour this is sacred time.

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Dr. Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty.

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