How Good It Is To Center Down

Pastor Mary Johnson, Connections Pastor

What do you do when life gets crazy?

Do you have a “go-to”? Do you have a scripture, book, author, or little place to go where you can silently scream, shout, beat-up a tree, or just exhale?

My “go-to” is the Rev. Dr. Howard Washington Thurman, an author, philosopher, mystic, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. In his Meditations of the Heart, Dr. Thurman introduced me to the “island of peace within my soul” and it is to that little island that I retreat when life is rough, when I need to isolate, when I need to pray, when I need to shout praises, or when I need to return to center. I often find that island while I meditate with a cup of tea just gazing out of my window.

It is there that I can find release as my soul drift to the wonders of creation and the creator. I take in familiar trees and plants, animals, sounds, and colors and meet with my God on my island.

During this season of Covid 19, my heart is in constant pain from all the sad news and deaths.

My soul has been scraped raw from all the injustices that are reverberating throughout the country.

I have visited my island many times during these years of virus, isolation, and uncertainty. As I sit in my window, I realize that what brings me there is a need that I think we all can attest to; a need to rejoin a world that I am familiar with. A world that seems to have left me when the virus and many other ills took over my daily thoughts. I retreat because my heart needs a little rest; my soul needs time to mend. As Howard Thurman calls it … I needed to “center down”.

Let me share with you one of my favorite pieces from Meditations of the Heart by Dr. Thurman, “How Good it is to Center Down”.

I pray if you are feeling as I am, it will bring you peace.

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 clashing, with noisy silences, while something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment and the resting lull. With full intensity we seek, ere thicket 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 upon the waiting moment. As we listen, floating up through all of 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!

– Howard Thurman