Be the mountain

Grounded! What is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear that word? If you’re a child, you probably associate it with the punishment of being confined to home for a while. A pilot might also view it as punitive, not being allowed to fly. But someone who is trying to connect with awareness and being present in the moment sees “being grounded” as something quite beneficial. Are the positive and negative definitions really so far apart?

I started thinking about grounding yesterday during some restorative poses in yoga class. Our teacher was talking about surrendering to gravity, letting the earth support us, and how gravity is such an elemental force in the universe. Sometimes we need to reestablish that connection to solid ground, especially after times of intense activity or stress in our lives.

Children want to “fly” most of the time. They have so much energy and they are growing so rapidly that sometimes they go too far, too fast, and a time-out or grounding is necessary. As adults, we can self-impose our time-outs, but, like children, we don’t always recognize that we need one. Or, if we do acknowledge the need, we delay it until we “have time”.

Periods of disruption to our daily routines, such as a lot of travel, caring for a family member, or even preparing for holidays can make us feel as if our feet have left the ground for a while. Sometimes we have the luxury of being able to take a few days at home to rejuvenate, but most times we don’t. In those cases it can be helpful to have some tools to help us stay grounded even in the midst of turmoil.

  • Mountain Meditation – there are several versions of this meditation. I use one from Frank Jude Boccio with my students:   Start by sitting in a comfortable, stable and supported position. Imagine a very tall, impressive mountain; think about how the mountain might change with the seasons or the weather, sometimes visible, other times covered with clouds; sometimes green, other times snow-covered. But throughout the changes, the mountain remains stable. Think of your posture as mountain-like, and think of your emotions and experiences as coming and going like the clouds and the sunshine. You have the ability to maintain stability just like the mountain.
  • Get your hands dirty – Jeff Brantley and Wendy Millstine recommend this practice in their book, Five Good Minutes:    Spend some time digging in sand or dirt, working in your garden, or even repotting a houseplant. Focus on how the soil feels, and what it nourishes. (Bread-making, or working with other kinds of dough, would provide a similar experience.)
  • Restorative yoga – this type of yoga practice requires little in the way of experience or special ability. It uses lots of props such as blankets and blocks to support you while you rest in different postures. For a good overview of the practice see the Yoga Journal web page.
  • Take a sensory walk – this walk will serve to focus your awareness and heighten your experience of your surroundings. Be sure to turn off your phone before you start, and bring along some food or gum for the taste portion of the walk:  Go for a walk, and spend three minutes or so concentrating on each sense one at a time. So, first focus just on the sounds around you; then the smells; next, touch everything that you can; and finally see everything around you as if for the first time. After that, find a place to sit down and close your eyes. Spend the last three minutes on taste, using the food that you brought with you. When you are finished, get up and walk again, using all of your senses. Allow yourself to experience whatever presents itself, without too much planning or judgment.

John Muir said, “I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. “

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