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The path to being and staying centered, and hiding the center

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In the t’ai chi ch’uan martial art that I practice and — when at my best — apply during every waking hour, I look to the opponent’s center to throw his or her off balance; and shift my center, move my center away, or counterattack when my opponent is attacking.

In court, I welcome fair fighting from opposing lawyers and witnesses, but am ready for people trying to throw dirt in my eyes. Circumstances challenging my being powerfully balanced and centered, of course, can arise outside of court, as well, so just because I am at the store in blue jeans does not mean I should be any less prepared for challenges to my balance, centeredness and peacefulness, all in the process of finding and maintaining calm in the eye of the storm. When I falter on this path, I must learn from it to reduce the chance of repeating it.

I recently was waiting on line for many minutes at one of those too many businesses (and even at least one court clerk’s office) that plays news cable television stations all day, of course including plenty of sad news that will do nothing for making for a cheerful clientele. Our home is free of cable television, so I only see such programming outside of my house or when watching YouTube re-runs. Even though my experience as a criminal defense lawyer exposes me to some of the most base and dishonorable human behavior — not just with the allegations against some of my clients but including unfair play, to say the least, from various prosecutors, police, and even some judges — I was seriously considering leaving this business establishment as a result of an almost postal-sounding man in front of me almost muttering to those who would listen, this man’s conspiracy theories and fears in response to each new item that came on the news screen. I kept my eyes on my iPhone emails, and he did not try communicating with me.

I remained on the line, because the business was soon to close, and it would have been a hassle and time drain to return another day. One of the employees whom I have known for awhile engaged me in friendly conversation after the man in front of me left. I clearly was not at my best, when I told the employee that the television news playing — including its effect on the man in front of me on line — made me all the less likely to return too often to his business. The kindly employee — who is not behind this television policy — asked my suggested alternatives. I said: "You can turn off the television, play Spongebob Squarepants, or play any non-news station."

All I really needed to do the entire time I was at this business was to continue my usual practice with being centered and balanced. This sometimes includes repeating the mantra/prayer Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo,

also known as the Odaimoku, which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra — and whose acronym has graced my license plate for many years — and which re-engages me with the peace personified by my teacher Jun Yasuda. Chanting to myself may not be feasible when I must focus in court, so I can instead in court finger my wrist mala bracelet to help in the same way. In my car or at my office, I can ring the bell or invite the singing bowl — with their high and centering vibrations and emanations — to help me return to center.

Had I gotten myself to center at the beginning while this man in front of me was spouting his political theories, starting with praying for good for this man and the business I was at, I would have stayed at center and not gotten off balance to have said anything about this experience to the employee other than something along the lines of "Thanks to everything that you and your colleagues do for me. You have a wonderful looking business space here; how much more wonderful I would feel visiting here if something other than the news was playing on the screen." Had I prayed for the gentleman in front of me in line, had I talked more positively to the employee, and had I focused on the truism that we all are connected, I would have vibrated with positive strength and energy for me and those around me, instead of having done the opposite.

One must not get too hard on himself or herself for having faltered on the path. Thanks to the inspiration of Claude Anshin Thomas for personifying that.

Thanks so much to my amazing wife for helping me get back on track with this experience.

This is all an ongoing learning process and lifelong practice.