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Catching a Constantly Shifting Center


Life keeps pushing me off balance, just to see if I can find my feet. I'm not sure if I'm being shoved or pulled, self-sabotaging or allowing the world to do its job. All I know is that I keep landing on my ass, confused because everything is suddenly so much higher over my head than it was a second ago. Not knowing where the epicenter sits is part of being off-balance, I guess. If you could find it, you'd be able pile it with bricks or to-do lists or some new kale habit to make everything stop shaking for awhile. Maybe defying gravity isn't the point.

Whether it's fate or my subconscious need to continually knock my life askew doesn't matter. Searching for the source is just one more avoidance tactic in my stellar arsenal of procrastination. It's a better just to get on with it.

How To Find Your Center When Life Feels Like Trying To Balance On a Basketball

Sink into this moment. Yes, the one that's happening right now. Right now I'm staring at the arch in a brick wall. I smell coffee and hear the murmurs of conversation and trumpets from a speaker above the door. Behind the arch is a roaster that hails coffee beans. I'm in Los Gatos, where my father moved after he and my mom divorced, soon after the 1989 earthquake, when the left side of Main Street was still boarded up. From the window of the coffee shop, I can see the Opera House where my senior prom was held. Half a street beyond is where I met my first boyfriend.

It's all too easy to sit at this marble table, with my laptop and long finished coffee, pondering my history in this town while also fretting about my unknown future. But all that really matters is that I'm here now, on a Tuesday in late October as red leaves and palm trees battle for dominion under a gray sky. It's a cliche that's both heartbreakingly true and astonishingly easy to forget: You only ever have this moment, the one that you're in right now. There's power in that. You can't change the past and you can't control the future, but you can always choose how you want this moment to play out.

Breathe fire. When you hold your breath, everything stops. When you take in oxygen, everything begins again. Stepping into the unknown - like moving out of your apartment without having another one lined up, shifting your work so you're doing what you want to be doing but your bank account is getting thin - tends to throw everything into upheaval. One thing has stopped, the next hasn't yet begun. It's easy to forget to breathe in the middle. But everything is better with oxygen, especially oxygen you have to think about. Like that Kundalini fire breath that I don't entirely understand, but I do know that when I pull in three short breaths from my nose and then release it slowly, my heart slows and my body softens.

Relax. I spent last Friday in Petaluma with a herd of horses, as you do. I learned that a horse will kiss me when I'm relaxed and shy away when I'm tense. If you're me, you will extend this metaphor from horses to life and realize that your usual reaction to triggers - bracing firmly, as if tension translates to armor - only makes it worse. When I unlock my knees, loosen my jaw and soften my stomach, horses like me better. Air flows through my body easier and I can move with the world rather than against it.

You don't move well when you're frozen. When you freeze, all the energy in your body freezes with you. You're solid and unmoving. You're static, in stasis, stuck in that place you don't want to be. To adapt, you need to stay loose.  It took me 35 years but I'm finally learning how to adjust, to move with what triggers me instead of jolting to a halt like a deer in headlights. Bracing doesn't keep you from getting knocked over, it only makes you go down harder.

A few weeks ago, I was driving home from Mount Tam, winding down the mountain in the dark, when I slammed my brakes so hard my car almost skidded into a mailbox before I fully understood what happened. A buck, complete with antlers and wickedly powerful haunches, skimmed around the left side of my car and darted in front of me, so close I could hear the bristles of his coat as they brushed the hood of my car. If he had frozen, he would have smashed into me. If I had frozen - or, more accurately, if my foot had frozen above the brake pedal - I would have smashed into him. He was so close to the driver's side that we both would've been badly hurt, if not worse. But he kept moving and, after a few stunned seconds, so did I.


My experience in the world has taught me that the more you strive for balance, the more it delights in shoving you. It's not a malicious shove, just enough to knock you back a pace or two. Like a beloved boxing coach, showing you just how much you can take before you climb out into the ring.

So I'm not going to search for balance. But I'll do my best to keep breathing as I move.