I entered the service center of my car dealership ten minutes early for a scheduled maintenance. The service rep took my name and confirmed the details. After a few minutes, she asked if I'd be waiting for the car. I said "What do you mean? We spoke about this when I made the appointment. I need a ride back to Portsmouth." She said, "The customer van just left for Portsmouth."

My internal thermometer went from 98.6 to about 1000 in two seconds. No time between precipitating event and reaction. Just zoom! My voice rose an octave as I stammered something like, "You knew I needed a ride. We talked about this yesterday!" I watched myself behaving in a completely uncentered and reactive way. Did this make anything better?

As I lingered in the waiting area, on the lookout for the van to return from the 20-minute ride to Portsmouth so that it could go back to Portsmouth again, I thought about my reaction and wondered how differently that moment might have gone if I'd been able to catch and center myself before responding to the service rep.

The Practice

I was still pretty upset, so I centered myself. Next I visualized an imaginary scenario where instead of going off in an uncentered direction, I saw myself stop, breathe, and connect with the rep. Eye contact. Smile. "I still need a ride back." Then, in a straightforward, centered voice, "I thought we talked about this yesterday when I made the appointment. Should I have mentioned that as soon as I came in?"

Or maybe I stop, breathe, and connect with myself. Then say, "Okay, I'll be in the waiting room. I still need a ride back as soon as you can arrange one." And perhaps later, "I'm disappointed, I thought this was arranged when we made the appointment." Or not. In the centered vision, I have more options. There are a lot of ways I can go.

The van had gone, and nothing would change that. Accepting that fact was hard to do, but resisting it didn't make my life any easier.

You Will Forget

You'll forget to center; I guarantee this. When you remember you forgot, center then - at that moment. Practice in your mind's eye. Replay the triggering situation and imagine yourself centered. What changes? How are you different? How does the situation evolve differently? This is practice for the next time something similar happens. It probably will. And you'll be ready. You might even look for a similar event, just so you can practice.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict (http://www.unlikelyteachersbook.com) and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit http://www.JudyRinger.com