I remember watching the World Series of poker with my son. It’s one of those amazing things we’ve shared with each other for a very long time–he love of poker. Not just playing, but also watching it on TV, because you get to see all the player’s cards. Texas Hold ‘em is one of those games where you can lose all of your money in one fell swoop.
You would see these young, professional players with millions, absolutely positive they were going to win the hand only to find out someone had a better one. This is where the amateur player would end up ultimately losing to a more seasoned player, because they become emotionally compromised. Basically they are thrown emotionally off-center, and they start playing hands they normally would never play, trying to catch up the losses, and they may just lose heart.
It’s not that the more seasoned players don’t have emotions while they’re at the table. Of course they do. It’s just like those emotions aren’t making the choices for them. They’re still able to use that reason and strategize.
I used to think the only way to get to your sacred center was to process your emotions, get through them, and then bring yourself back to that wonderful place where you feel completely authentic and truly yourself. It’s a wonderful idea. I assumed that everything in life works in a very linear fashion. Unfortunately it’s not the case. Bringing yourself back to center after uncomfortable emotions is assuming that you were in your center in the first place. Your center, your true authentic self requires you to be able to process not just joy, happiness, confidence, and feelings of connection. It is the place that you must come from when you’re interacting with others, or trying to accomplish any task. Basically when you’re dealing with the world. It’s not something to aspire to get back to. It’s worth saying this again… It’s the place we aspire to come from.
So, how do you come from your center? You need to be comfortable with all of your emotions, because there is nothing so strong and so powerful as fear, doubt, shame, or uncertainty to knock you out of alignment with yourself. When this happens, we may use filters which cause us to respond to a question in a way that doesn’t sound like us. We take actions that we never thought we would. We don’t have the kind of relationships that we want.
When we are not acting or coming from our center, we find ourselves reacting rather than responding. We are posing rather than truly showing up in our lives. But, when we truly come from our center, that sacred place within ourselves, we can truly be authentic. When something brings us joy, we can feel that joy fully. And when something is sad, we are able to feel that sadness. However, we do not become the joy or the sadness. We don’t become angry, or happy. We are ourselves, authentic and true. The joy comes and it goes. We are able to truly appreciate what is going on that we are finding joy in. And when it passes, we are able to remember how wonderful it was to have had the experience.
Similarly, when something occurs that brings about sadness within us, we are able to recognize that we are sad and appreciate what is happening and why we are feeling sad. And, when the sadness passes, we have greater insight into ourselves as a result of having felt that sadness.
Let’s consider our amateur poker player. They are feeling elated because they have been winning big all night, really raking it in. They feel confident. Here they are really showing their skills at high stakes poker. The lights and cameras all around. Taking hands from these more seasoned players. It’s heady stuff. They have been working towards this for several years, now here they are with a pile of chips to validate their credibility as the next big poker star.
Then the ‘tables turn’ and they lose a hand. They feel a bit stunned, but shake if off and sternly remind themselves that it is the long game. They can afford to lose a hand or two. They lose another hand. They feel a bit flustered. That one cost them. Each loss erodes their confidence even more. Self-doubt creeps in. They feel panic and anxiety. Before they know it, other players are calling their bluffs and they are dealt right out of the game. Why? Because they let the moment – the loss of a hand – throw them off center.
Meanwhile, the more seasoned players used the losses to study and learn the other player’s styles and ‘tells.’ They didn’t let the losses throw them off center, they used the information they provided to learn more about themselves and those around them. And then they leveraged that information and were able to use it to bring themselves success.
Now, I know that life isn’t exactly like poker. But, think about it. How many times have you become ruled by an emotion–joy or anger. You hear it all the time, “He was overjoyed!” How can you be ‘over’ any emotion. That would suggest that the person was pulled from their sacred center by their joy, which means, once that joy leaves them, they will feel let down by its lack. Instead, consider this: you bump into a friend you haven’t seen in years. You both talk excitedly, catching each other up on what has been happening since you last saw one another. Eventually, that person has to continue on their way. As you walk away, do you find yourself smiling, remembering your past friendship with that person, and smiling over the interaction? That is acting from your center.
Conversely, if you find yourself suddenly feeling sad and beating yourself up for not having gotten their contact information or for having lost contact with them in the first place, you are being driven by your emotions. Now, you might wish you had gotten their number, or not lost touch in the first place. But, if you are centered, you feel that more wistfully, because you are also able to hold the pleasure you felt at having had the interaction. When you are centered, you can hold all your emotions in equal measure–they don’t cancel one another out or rule you, causing you to spend the rest of the day searching Facebook or Google to try to track them down!
When we are able to stay centered, we are able to stay true to ourselves. We don’t feel the need to stalk unsuspecting old acquaintances, or lose our shirts at the poker table. We don’t feel elated one moment, and spiral to the depths of despair in the next. We are able to acknowledge all of the feelings that arise within us, acknowledge the root of why we may be feeling them, take in the information they provide, and then decide if we need (or want) to take action or not for ourselves.