Staying Grounded, When Everything is Up in the Air
A bit of uncertainty can be exciting. A script with a surprise ending has intrigue. Embracing the unknown is part of the artistic process. But when the reliable routines of everyday life have been scrambled, it’s a whole different story. Negotiating the new normal of social distancing, working at home, and Zoom classrooms has challenged our equilibrium. Just putting gas in the car feels like an awkward new learning curve. Plans don’t get made because they’ll just get cancelled. When everything is up in the air, it’s helpful to remember something reliably constant. Like gravity.
Being aware of your relationship with gravity not only connects you with the ground but helps you get grounded. Following the structural wisdom that support comes from below and stability comes from above; your body’s alignment influences whether or not you feel confident and centered. As unlikely as it may seem, staying grounded in uncertain times may have everything to do with how you’re standing. To experience how this works, simply follow these steps:
1. Stand up and feel the impression of weight in your feet.
2. Shift around so that the pressure is evenly distributed, front to back, side to side, foot to foot. Even it all out.
3. Stack the rest of your structure over this base, like building blocks.
4. Imagine that you’re looking into the future and notice how you feel, physically and emotionally.
5. Tilt your weight slightly to the heals and note the effect on your sense of balance and outlook. Now tilt to the toes and see what happens.
Did your body’s relationship with gravity change your state of mind? Research has shown that our sense of being grounded effects the way we think and feel. Knowing how to get centered and balanced on your feet establishes a comforting reference point when things get unhinged. When you consciously move from the base, even mundane activities such as meal prep, folding laundry, or brushing your teeth have a calming potential. When you tune in beforehand, your regular exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or walk on the beach will be enhanced. Establishing a routine of staying grounded is a good way to approach these unsettling times, literally and figuratively.
Doing Tai Chi each morning helps me stay grounded all day long. Akin to moving meditation, my intention is to be present throughout the set. When worries crowd in, I lose my balance. When my mind wanders off, I lose the thread. The key is to be in the moment as one position flows to next. Moving from Single Whip to Cloud Hands with fluid grace can be a metaphor for being ready and steady as life shifts and turns. When I get hung up and need to move on, I’m reminded to forgive imperfection, stay the course, and trust the future. This reframe helps me get on board to ride the COVID-driven wave wherever it goes.
I recently asked several respected colleagues what was helping them stay grounded in these novel times. Here are their responses:
“In my experience, there is nothing quite so healing as being in nature and in Santa Barbara, we are blessed with easy access. Walk one of our beaches at low tide. Hike a trail (masked when near others), sit under a tree, feed the birds, ride bikes, play catch in the front yard. Try to get off the screens and enjoy just being outside alone or with loved ones.” Debra Manchester, psychotherapist and director of the Family Therapy Institute.
“I walk on the beach with Kobe my dog as much as I can. I treasure my friendships more than ever. I hope for the best.” Astrid De Wild, Pilates instructor.
“I have always done better for my own grounding and equanimity with a body-oriented spiritual practice. I try to at least hike (alone so I can tune inward) or do yoga to help me get through the day in balance.” David Cumes MD, surgeon, shaman, and author.
“When we literally loosen up the way we think about the movements we make, the body listens and responds accordingly and vice versa. At the moment, my motto is: when in doubt, wiggle it out.” Alexis Pittmon, Pilates instructor.
“Sense the contact under your feet. The earth is our guide.” Luis Sanchez, Feldenkrais practitioner, Qi Gong instructor.
“In these interesting, unusual, and challenging times, I find the following activities help me stay calm, optimistic and balanced: being still with a light and positive attitude, breathing deeply, meditating, focusing on gratitude for all the wonderful things and people in my life, connecting with nature, walking outside in fresh air – and then on some days, just turning on fun music and dancing!” Pamala Oslie, author and intuitive.
“I find in these challenging times, I often watch the morning sunrise. The return of light each day reminds me that even in the darkest of times, light returns. After watching the sun rise I sit and meditate, visualizing the light emanating from within my heart and shining light out to all who are suffering. To see the light, feel the light in my heart, and focus on sharing light with those who may be experiencing darkness in their life, helps me to stay grounded.” Cheri Clampett, yoga therapist, teacher, and author.