“Where do I click to find my center?” a bright, quick, very skilled gamer unexpectedly asked me recently. I am not a “gamer” but a good friend recently introduced me to “Call of Duty” – a game of modern warfare. He explained that before engaging others to attack, destroy and “win” in this virtual “community,” players typically want to develop a steady hand on the joystick and the reflexes to respond adroitly to whatever may assault them . Playing alone for hours the gamer strives to master how to navigate the dangerous terrain with agility and even finesse. Before entering battle, one wants to be grounded and secure in his or her capacity to respond to whatever one may encounter.
As we interact more and more on digital platforms, whether gaming or collaborating with business colleagues around the world or hosting a zoom happy hour with family and friends, the stamina and discipline required to navigate these interactions becomes depleted. With more attention than ever to our virtual connections, we’re as “busy” as ever. Or so it seems. Even as the world pauses in the midst of a pandemic, our usual rhythms and routines are challenged. One day blends into the next with an unconscious but potent angst. What grounds us when everything around us is so uncertain?
Entering into a conversation with myself about who I am and what holds me steady and ready, when threatened by uncertainty, is a game I am not always well-prepared to play. Persistent existential questions loom, not far beneath the surface. How sweet if there were simply a drop down menu to click and choose among several options, each customized to capture the essence of the identity with which I am playing on that given day. I confess sometimes I seem more defined by others’ attributions or assumptions about me than what I choose to contest.
Being in tune with one’s self is critical in turbulent times. The ability to embody a non-anxious presence when others are perturbed and restless lies not in some external skill development but rather with an internal composure and assurance. Renewing one’s inner resources is essential to survive, never mind if one hopes to thrive. The journey inward, however one chooses to describe it or navigate it, strikes some as a distinctively self-absorbed exercise. However, I would argue that here is a paradox: if you are willing to be more fully present to yourself, you will find yourself drawn closer to others, whatever the game may be. But no one else can map that venture for you. When individuals confirm their intent to become more centered, to live and move from a deep place within — regardless of their place of origin, their beliefs or distinctive convictions – they enter into a proximity to one another that reflects and reinforces something much bigger than themselves. Some may simply call it “community”. Others may uncover a shared sense of purpose or a reinforcing “super-power”. Entering into a quest for center mysteriously but amazingly uncovers a dynamic, enlivening process of experiencing ourselves as part of something more, something much bigger, something Infinite.