Calming Our Inner Storms

As I sit at my computer writing this article, Hurricane Irma is barreling our way.  Fear and confusion keep interrupting my train of thought and need to concentrate.

Less than three weeks ago with the Solar Eclipse directly overhead, I felt entirely different.  The spirit of that day was awe and amazement.  I was totally at peace both inside and out.

All this week I’ve had trouble staying focused and clear-headed as if this huge outer storm is stirring up an inner whirlwind of emotions and thoughts. Is it simply not knowing what to expect, or could my confusion be mirroring the atmosphere all around us?

Early preparation was important before the eclipse – as it is right now for the approaching hurricane.  Planning ahead is crucial – buying special glasses to protect your eyes or an extra supply of water or moving to another location.

Even minor events can blow up – far out of proportion. Have you planned for times of mental and emotional dislocation? Calming and centering yourself can be achieved through a variety of practices, from simply breathing deeply to meditation practices and prayer.

In my attempt to center and ground myself, I came up with an acronym that reminds me of an old song but with a different twist – “ABC – it’s easy as 1, 2, 3.”

I silently repeat, “A, B, C, D,” and with each letter, I feel into the meaning of each – Align, Breathe, Center, Down.

  • Align my spine as I straighten out from my head down along my back, regardless of my position of sitting, standing or lying down.
  • Breathe deeply concentrating on inhaling cool air into my nostrils and exhaling warmed breath as the body releases and relaxes.
  • Center myself by bringing my attention to my ribcage and torso and noticing the movement as fully as possible.
  • Down reminds me to feel my feet on the floor and notice where my body rests on any surface or where I feel the air circulating around me.

Howard Thurman, 20th century visionary, theologian and prolific author, has helped me learn to center down.  Here are a few abbreviated lines found in the chapter, The Inward Sea in his book, Meditations of the Heart.

How good it is to center down!
To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by….
We look at ourselves in this 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….
How good it is to center down!

In the middle of this poem-like meditation, Thurman inserts a list of questions that he says persist. Take some time to ponder each question? Or better yet, get your journal and write about the questions that intrigue you most.

  • 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?

In his book, Thurman quotes from the diary of George Fox, 17th century philosopher and inspiration for the Quaker movement. “Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts…. whereby thou mayest receive the strength and power to allay all storms and tempest.”

Thurman adds, “This is an important result of the habitual use of quietism that a man can carry around inside of him… a central stillness of spirit that is so vital that it can tame the wildness out of almost any tempest, however raging it may be.”  He adds, “Of course, the individual must desire this to happen.”

Susan Hendricks leads guided journal writing groups in Columbia, SC as a Licensed Social Worker, Certified Journal Therapist and Certified Dream Group Leader with over 20-years study and practice. For more, go to or

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