A Plumb Line

Egyptians invented the plumb bob more than 4000 years ago. It’s the simplest of tools and widely used today. It has two unassuming parts—a string and a weight.

plumb bob, centering, out of line

A plumb was used it to establish vertical points that were crucial in the construction of Egypt’s buildings, pyramids and canals. Using the plumb line, they tested what they built to see if it was perpendicular to the square or straight up and down.

Plumb is also referenced in the Old Testament Book of Amos. God speaks to Amos in chapter 7:8 saying, …” I am going to put a plumb line up against my people to see what is straight and true”, referring to the Israelites’ deteriorating moral standards. Metaphorically, God is measuring the actions and intentions of the people with the spiritual plumb line of Biblical law.

A personal plumb line make sense. Knowing what keeps you centered in your beliefs is a simple way to stay true to who you are. It also lets you know when you are off center.

Knowing Your Center

Each of us has a center. It is the intangible place that represents the best of you. It is where your intuition lives, where you connect with your Higher Power, and the place that allows you to pull inward to rebalance and renew yourself. Sometimes we forget just how important this can be. I, for example, may center myself in family, friendship, faith…and food.

For ballerinas and opera singers there is a posture center. It is the imaginary plumb line that runs from the top of the head to the floor for measuring perfect posture. Ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles align with this center of gravity, so crucial to their performance.

In both instances it is about self-awareness; a mind-body connection to mental, physical, spiritual and emotional harmony. Years of training and discipline make it seem easy when observing a performer, but we also possess the skills to find our center of gravity and live intentionally.

Set Your Intention

This is actually a yoga phrase.  It means different things to different people but, when used as part of a centering practice, it offers self-focus. It can be inward or outward and both concentrate on caring for yourself. Intention has been compared to setting your thoughts on a specific course in the form of a wish, hope or even a prayer, and mindfully living into them.

Live less out of habit and more out of intention

Intention is another way of saying direction. Setting daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly direction is about creating tangible goals. It’s also connected to internal balance and continuity. When we realize our goals, we are inspired to continue and set new ones.

An important part of intention setting is gratitude. Your journey needs checkpoints that affirm the peace and gratitude of what has been fulfilled; a celebration of how hard you’ve worked.

If you allow yourself to focus solely on what has not been accomplished or remains unfulfilled, you will be unable to see or feel the joy present in each day.

A Personal Plumb Line  

The modern version of this tool is the spirit level; a bubble in a slightly curved glass tube or tubes filled with alcohol or ether. When the bubble is centered (vertically or horizontally) it is on plumb. To be off plumb means out of vertical or true. The expression ‘half a bubble off plumb’ has its genesis in this measuring tool.

We know what it feels like when we are off center. Pressures from family, work, community and our need for personal space demand attention, often leaving nothing to spare. When one part of our life becomes unbalanced it tends to domino into other areas and eventually we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Our personal plumb line is unable to stabilize itself until we acknowledge its swing away from what we know is true.

When the Line Starts to Swing

A swinging plumb line has lost its center.  Sometimes it has to swing wide before we admit it, and we admit it only when our situation becomes untenable. I may think I’m pretty good at managing the swings but without some accountability and objective input, I may not recognize the swings as non-productive or destructive.

Humans are imperfectly balanced. Life is a series of swings—some wide, some gentle. When we fail to recognize the swings, we risk believing they are normal and eventually they become the new normal. We have to rebalance the wrong elements to restore the plumb line, or bring the things we have allowed to throw us off under scrutiny.

Know Yourself

Knowing what we ought to do along with the courage and grace to do it is a daily challenge. It means being true to our core values; returning to our center, and not allowing misguided values to take their place.

When we discover things in our lives that are swinging us off plumb, we don’t change the plumb, we change whats throwing us off plumb.

Some things that can throw you off your healthy center:

  • Bad choices that do not line up with core virtues
  • Moral compromise
  • Insecurities
  • Dishonesty
  • Lying
  • Addictions
  • Inordinate fears
  • Greed
  • Envy
  • Lust
  • Living out of a false self
  • Not having a rooted foundation spiritually and emotionally
  • Not knowing temperament strengths and weakness
  • And more

Furthering the problem is that any of these areas may play off another spinning a new direction off plumb. For example… to compensate for my insecurities, I have a few drinks to “loosten me up.” I begin to depend on those drinks, instead of discovering who I genuinely am to overcome my insecurities, and addiction is now in place, which can keep you off plumb for years and compound your inability to reach that center. In such case, we may live life as if the “tail is wagging the dog”. Not finding that center, lacking peace, joy and contentment, living out of a false self.

How do I find that place?

There are many ways to investigate these areas. One overshadowing aspect however, is that we find objective help in doing so. Mentors, coaches, counselors, pastors, etc. are great choices to help me begin a life of authenticity, and one of being centered more and more as we grow.

BH/ Adapted: Aline Kaplin

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