What goes into becoming good? Is it being born with the right heart? The right thoughts? The right parents? Or is goodness a quality that we constantly struggle to find?
Today I called Blue Cross & Blue Shield about renewing my health insurance. I couldn’t talk to the person I needed immediately, and I found myself yelling at the receptionist. I shouted because I was frustrated and scared. Of all crazy things, I felt fragile. (Corporation vs. one person. Huge vs. tiny = squashed individual, or at least that’s what I feared.)
I took my uncertainty out on the poor soul who did nothing more than answer the phone. I felt awful about yelling. (Anger and irrationality do not define goodness.) I hung up, took a few deep breaths, called back and apologized. I’m glad I did, but I shouldn’t have gotten angry in the first place. I did so, I think, because my fears knocked me off my center.
Back at the dawn of time when I studied martial arts, we talked constantly about staying centered. The concept is one part physical (move from the center of gravity in your body; don’t be off-balance), and one part emotional (stay emotionally centered; don’t allow fear or even the triumph of scoring a point in a match to dominate your mind). In martial arts, a physically uncentered person is easy to knock over. An emotionally uncentered fighter is either frightened and backs away too readily or is arrogant and strikes out rashly.
But you don’t have to be engaged in a sparring match to lose your center. When I’m uncentered and frightened, I tend to strike out in anger and lose sight of the needs of other people. When I act out of an out-sized sense of triumph, I turn arrogant and, once again, the needs of others become invisible to me.
The trick in life — as in martial arts — may well be to learn to stay centered, which brings me to the photo I’ve posted below. For me, deep breaths help me to center. Meditation and prayer help, but they’re not enough. Being in nature and letting go of my sense of self, my ego, brings a deeper feeling of being centered than almost anything else I do.
I took this photo in the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. I visited there with my friends Shae, Susanna and Colleen a few weeks ago. The excitement of the place centered us all.
Over the next few days, I’ll post a few more my photos from Squaw Creek. Each time I post a photo I hope to remember the feeling of being centered and right in my heart that I felt at Squaw Creek. I could do with entering the coming year with that kind of calm. I hope you enjoy the photos.
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