What Does It Mean To Be Centered? 


Enkan ji   Zen Temple


by C. Clark


We often hear phrases such as, “be centered,” “keep your center,” or “she is really centered” in common usage these days. What does it mean to be centered? Is being centered more of a physical state concerning center of gravity, natural posture and movement or is it also a state of mind made up of our philosophy, values, and spirituality? The human system is always searching for and trying to maintain homeo stasis or balance. To be centered is to live in the immediate and ever changing balance of all these cooperating systems.

 Sumi otoshi - Carl Bilodeau, tori & Charlie James, uke

The serious practice of Aikido is one way to help bring us to this "Centeredness" that we're looking for. The feedback is immediate and very difficult to ignore.
   It would take many volumes of knowledge to explain the interrelated systems that make up the totality of our real “centeredness.” Even if we had this set of books before us, we have to understand that such knowledge is limited. Many of us now understand that the explanations we have used in the past are limited by our own efforts to observe, duplicate, and talk about these phenomena. The conceptual world of knowledge seems to end in eventual conundrums of paradox. In order to communicate anything, we have to decide: what language we wish to use, what level of relatedness or interdependence we wish to observe and understand, and realize that we will never, never see and be able to explain the whole picture. Part of being centered is understanding our appropriate place in this experiencing of things, relaxing in the flow, while understanding and communicating with others. Wise men have said, “the tao that can be explained is not the TAO.” The more “centered” we become, the more we KNOW of our own REALITY in ways that are not understood or explained through linear logic.

 Koshi nage - A. Clark, tori & K. Slatoff, uke

A remark one might hear in Japan to describe someone who is not balanced or centered is, koshi ga takai mono or “a person with high hips.” Another phrase from colloquial Japanese is, koshi nukeru or “the hips are loose,” which means someone who has lost their nerve. A coward is koshinuke or “without hips.”

 The ability to demonstrate this centeredness each instant, in all things, becomes ART. The real communication of this appropriateness is our everyday energy, our posture, our relations with all beings, and our realization of ourselves. When we practice budo, our posture must be natural. Our centeredness must come from the HARA, which takes it’s initial strength from the alignment of the head, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet at all times. We must be centered when still, and when we move all of these physical entities must be relaxed and coordinate efficiently with our intent and our breath so that the same centeredness comes from movement. We are told, when we are centered, to flow our ki. Simply put, our strongest KI flows when relaxed posture, breathing, and intent are naturally balanced with our fearless emotional, spiritual expression of LOVE.

Reiho in the Jiyushinkan


"Visit the old....
to know the new"
 At the best of times, it is not difficult to maintain our center if we understand the sort of things I am talking about. However, it is more difficult to “be centered” when things are happening in this instant that we would rather not be experiencing. For example, when our relationship is not what we want, our job situation is not satisfactory, we would like to lose weight, get a nose or boob job, we are having a “bad day,” or an unexpected physical attack is taking place. Being centered means to be balanced in this instant one hundred percent, taking in information without clouding it with expectations or fear. Just taking in information and making creative, intuitive decisions informed by our “CENTER,” our true intent, our original self. We then actualize this intent through our decisions and our physical expressions. We complete the balance of centeredness by being responsible for our decisions and actions. Whenever we are pulled or pushed out of center, then like a gyroscope, our “centeredness” brings us back to balanced centeredness. All of this...mental, physical, spiritual realization, and expression of our intent balanced together demonstrates centeredness ... the essence of the WAY.

Copyright 1996-2002 by C. E. Clark, All Rights Reserved