“Keep your center and you’ll know which way you have to go.”
– Terry Dobson, aikidoist and author, Aikido In Everyday Life
I had undertaken a project that I was beginning to feel was beyond my personal resources to accomplish. I had asked a friend and colleague if I might organize a workshop in the New England area that he would teach. After many months of collecting information, I was at the point of choosing and committing to a conference center. Next would come the advertising, invitations, mailings, registrations, etc. It happened many years ago in the early stages of my new career, and I was beginning to feel that I was in over my head. I began to wish I had never started the project but was afraid to say anything, because I didn’t want to let my friend down.
This change of heart was difficult to acknowledge. I couldn’t heed the internal signals that were telling me to stop because of the louder voice cautioning that I had started something that I needed to finish. Others were depending on me. Listening to the small “Stop” voice was dangerous, because I might disappoint people. It was easier to plow ahead, even if it meant discounting my intuition.
Still, that persistent little voice kept nagging . . .
I decided to call my friend and talk about it, not exactly knowing my goal for the conversation but trusting my intuition. Seeking approval is deeply rooted in me, and at the time it’s pretty much all I cared about. But I’m glad I had the courage to call, because I received a great gift that continues to support me whenever I’m faced with alternative paths.
My friend answered the phone, we exchanged pleasantries, and I began. He listened. I think he understood immediately what was happening, and after a pause from me said just a few words: “Judy, go where your energy is strong.”
Yes. It made sense.
And it was really simple. Where was my energy strong? Not for this project at this time. It was taking my focus away from what I really wanted to do – design and implement my own workshops. That’s where my energy was strong. That’s what I wanted to be doing, planning and thinking about. All at once everything fell into place.
It felt exactly like it does on the mat, practicing aikido – a martial art that has become a metaphor for me in difficult situations. If you try to force the technique, it’s all strain and stress and struggle, and you could end up getting hurt or hurting your partner. But when you move from center and follow your ki (life energy), the endeavor is effortless.
As I followed my ki, I knew I would stop the process I had begun, and that it was the right thing to do. Forcing the issue would have strained my resources and, eventually perhaps, the relationship. My friend understood before I did that the timing wasn’t right.
I learned an important lesson that day from a gentle teacher. I try to remember to live by it – and it still takes practice. Those who know me know that I call myself an “approval-seeking missile”– not that it’s necessarily a bad thing to want another’s good opinion. But now I’m able to notice if it is my dominant motivation and to let my center guide me. Sometimes I go ahead with the project anyway. I like to be liked after all. And sometimes I stop and take a look at my motives. Often there is a way to acknowledge and satisfy both my need for appreciation and the call to be true to my inner wisdom. I have learned to listen to myself.
Why am I struggling? Where is my energy strong? These are living questions.
When you feel yourself resisting something, let these questions be your guide. You’ll learn you have more power than you think.
* Is there an “either or” decision you’re struggling with? Notice if your head is telling you to go in one direction, while your heart is pulling in another.
* The process of centering integrates head and heart, intellect and emotions, mind, body, and spirit.
* Sit quietly and think about what’s important. You may find that you have two or more values that are competing with each other.
* Write down your thoughts, feelings and reactions.
* If possible, let the question be in your consciousness for a while. Come back to it periodically in different ways.
* Where is your energy strong? In time you’ll know the answer.