Center Down

In one of my classes this quarter, we talked a lot about grounding practices—routines and rituals to refill our reserves when we feel stressed, anxious, or worn out. One of the poems we looked at and used to center our discussions was Howard Thurman’s “How Good It Is to Center Down.” With the stress and anxiety permeating our discourse these past weeks, I thought I’d share it with the group. How good it is to center down!

Zach Herzog

How Good it is to Center Down!
by Howard Thurman

How good it is to center down!
To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by!
The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;
Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,
While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment
    and the resting lull.
With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense
    of order in our living;
A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion
    and bring meaning in our chaos.

We look at ourselves in this waiting moment –
    the kinds of people we are.
The questions persist:  what are we doing with our lives? –
    what are the motives that order our days?
What is the end of our doings?
Where are we trying to go?
Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?
For what end do we make sacrifices?
Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?
What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?

Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.
As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence,
   there is a sound of another kind –
A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.
It moves directly to the core of our being.  

Our questions are answered,
Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of our daily round
With the peace of the Eternal in our step.
How good it is to center down!

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