The beginning of a new year, like the beginning of anything, brings with it thoughts of change, rejuvenation, new life, and resolutions about how to accomplish these changes. Life offers possibilities of a fresh start for our relationships. But we don't always carry through on our resolutions.

There's a great difference between wanting to change and actually doing it. It's one thing to know how we want to be, quite another to be that person. An example most of us can relate to is the way we react to stress and conflict. In spite of our intentions to do otherwise, we often react to conflict in the same habitual ways. How many times have you walked away from a conflict saying: "I can't believe it. I did it again. That's not how I wanted to handle that!"? These habits seem hard-wired.

Can we change our patterning? I think so. With an awareness of the desire to change, we are already beginning the process. We can learn new skills. And then it's a matter of time and practice, until the new skills become new habits. Not until our body responds automatically will the new behavior really be ours. Until then, we choose it with awareness – the beginning of change.

An important capacity in emotional intelligence is the ability to bring awareness to our emotional energy. With awareness comes an ability to manage that energy. A mind-body skill that is critical to increasing our awareness and choice in the moment is the skill of centering. Most of us talk about being centered (and uncentered), but what is it really?

Scientists say that any object has a center of gravity--a very small point upon which that object can be balanced. Our bodies have a center of gravity, too, and it's approximately two inches below our navel. Because we are not just physical objects, our center is a point of emotional balance as well. By breathing deeply into this spot and directing our weight toward the center point, we become more calm, focused and able to handle whatever may come. We reconnect with intuition, purpose, and power, and we feel more confident and in control.

If practiced consistently, the art and skill of centering can change the way we respond to any conflict. Instead of reacting from old patterns of behavior, we can choose a response based on who we are now. Conflict becomes an opportunity practice, change, learn, and evolve.

Tried and true ways to begin your practice of centering include:

* Center now. You can train yourself to center by standing in a relaxed posture and directing the weight of your body toward your physical center. Breathe into this center point of your body. Breathe out from this same point. You will begin to feel more composed, confident, and in charge of yourself, both physically and emotionally.

* Start your day centered. Physical exercise, deep breathing, meditation, prayer, and quiet reflection are all ways to become more centered. You may have your own way to do it. By starting your day with a centering activity, you will return to the centered state more easily as the day’s events unfold.

* Create triggers. Triggers are objects, behaviors, people, or events that remind you to re-center periodically. Place posters or quotations on the wall that reinforce your vision. Keep a book of affirmations close at hand, or a picture of a loved one to help you remember what is really important. Listen to one of your favorite centering tapes as you drive to and from work. When you push open the door to your office, let it be a trigger to center yourself.

Remember that our awareness is always in training. We can learn and practice new skills that can change the way we handle conflict and the way we live. Good luck, and good practice!

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict ( 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