Staying Grounded on Shifting Sands

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

“There are times we have to step into the darkness in faith, confident that God will place solid ground beneath our feet once we do.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Here we are, having survived 2020 (some of us), feeling like we can no longer trust the very ground beneath our feet. We have been faced with a collective trauma, this pandemic, like a low-grade fever we carry around, trying to still do our work and show up for our families and ourselves. But some days we don’t succeed. Some days the shifting sands threaten to swallow us up and we cannot find solid ground.

I’ve thought about this so much lately as friends and family (and I) have navigated so much loss – some large, some small, over the past year. I’m sure most of us feel we have been challenged this year in ways we never thought we’d face in our lifetime. Sara Bareilles put out a song last year called “Orpheus” that seemed to be prescient to this year. Here are some of the lyrics:

“You miss the world
The one you knew
The one where everything made sense
Because you didn’t know the truth
That’s how it works
Till the bottom drops out
And you learn
We’re all just hunters seeking solid ground”

That last line got me. Yes, that’s exactly what we are – hunters seeking solid ground. Solid ground is what we rely on, what we depend on to let us know we are supported and will be okay. How is your ground feeling today?

In yoga and meditation, grounding is an essential part of the practice. Really planting your feet or body firmly on the ground supports us in our practice and transfers into our daily life. One yoga teacher I had called on us to “wick up” energy and support from the earth, like the wick in an oil lamp. Pull the energy up and into ourselves. It’s a beautiful image and a reminder that so much is available to us in terms of support, from above and below.

“To ground is to pour your energies back into the earth and feel the warm calm of nature entering your body in exchange.” – Clint Ober

Practice in grounding really serves us when the ground is ripped out from under our feet by life events. When the sands around us are shifting, being able to return to a place within of steadfastness and trust, we can begin to catch our balance, plant ourselves more firmly and face what is in front of us. No one does this perfectly, few of us remember to ground first, then deal. And that is all okay. Sometimes the grounding after a crisis is equally important, for healing and recovery.

The song “Orpheus” mentions the ground again in a later verse; “If the bottom drops out I hope my love was someone else’s solid ground.” This is also a tremendous thought because yes, hopefully, we have people in our lives whose love is our solid ground. We don’t always have to find it ourselves, and we are often “someone else’s solid ground.” In recent years, and especially this year, I have often been solid ground to others, and I’ve come to know its gifts and its troubles.

My first instinct is always to “be there” for someone I care about who is hurting. Of course, it’s what caring adults do for each other. There is no better feeling than truly being present and holding space for a dear loved one or friend. Even when it’s hard, you know it’s part of the richness that is this life. So, you show up and you care and you pray and you support.

But, when your first instinct is to “be there” for someone, you can often give too much of yourself away. The last time I listened to this song, I realized (again!) it isn’t always appropriate to be solid ground for someone else, or for too many people at one time. We can easily spread ourselves too thin and not show up for people with our whole being.  The age-old adage that you really do have to take of yourself first, before you can truly take care of others, is an important truth. But this year, we are in crisis, and we forget, and that’s okay. We move forward, simply practicing self-care as often as we can, and with a pure and tender love for ourselves.

When you need to ground, sit firmly on the ground, or in a chair with your feet firmly planted and your spine straight. Feel the support of the earth, how solid it is, how many eons it has been here, and will be here. Tune in to the energy it offers you, the strength it shares with you, the unchanging support it affords you. Say to yourself:

I am grounded.

My spirit is part of the earth and my roots are deep.

The earth supports me.

The earth centers me.

The earth provides for me.

I am safe.

I am held.

I trust the earth to remain steadfast.

I trust God to show me the way.

May we all find solid ground in the coming year, may we be that solid ground for each other, and may we take good care of ourselves so we can show up when we need to as whole, centered, grounded people.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

12/28/20

Pandemic Coping – Find the Slipstream

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

“…If you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.” ~ Dalai Lama

As we head into the eighth month of a worldwide pandemic, I’m hearing more and more about “pandemic fatigue.” We are tired of masking, tired of not hugging, tired of not gathering, not going to movies, or theatre, or concerts. We are tired of our television and our phones. We are just plain tired.

Coupled with this feeling are news bytes telling us it will be a long time before we have a vaccine or before we can let our guard (or our masks) down. Dire reports put us fighting this into the end of 2021 if not longer. A vaccine seems our only hope, but of course we need it to be safe, which takes time. So here we are.

When I focus on the statistics, I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. So, I turn to nature, which has survived and evolved and continues to inspire in spite of our human faults and assaults.

Having recently rediscovered camping (the safest way to travel these days), I became enthralled one day watching migrating birds, mostly geese.

I knew geese flew in a “V” formation, and that there is an aerodynamic reason for this, but watching them trade off positions is a brilliant example of teamwork and care of the flock as a whole. This creation of an energy slipstream, a place which doesn’t require as much energy as the lead spot, is also called drafting, and is a factor in bicycle and auto racing.

The birds flying behind the lead bird get a lift force from the lead bird, so they don’t have to work so hard to achieve lift. And when the lead bird is weary, it drops back and another bird, having rested, takes its place. Recent research shows the birds in the slipstream even have a lower heart rate than the lead bird.

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.” ~ Maya Angelou

The longer the pandemic drags on, as I see it, the more we must become like the flock of geese. We have to recognize those times we cannot be the strong bird in front because we are drained, if not physically, then mentally or emotionally. We have to know when it’s time to drop back and not work so hard to achieve lift, but leave that to others.

We don’t know how long the pandemic will be here, but we know by now that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We must pace ourselves if we are to live through this in a way that is remotely sane and healthy. We have to learn to rest and accept help. It is critical to our humanness, and crucial to our humanity.

“But then it occurred to him that any progress he had made on his quest so far he had made by accepting the help that had been offered to him.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Accepting help is not easy for most of us. Asking for help is the hardest, it’s easier if it’s offered. But even then we’re quick to say “Oh no, I’m fine. We’re hanging in there!” Often, we don’t even know what we need, or we feel selfish in the asking. Some of us need a window of time in which no one needs anything from us. Some of us need to feel needed and purposeful. Most of us probably vacillate between the two!

The pandemic has brought me many lessons, among them learning to accept my limitations. It turns out I’m not superwoman, and even though I practice mindfulness meditation, yoga, walking, prayer, and countless other methods of self-care and support, these are trying times, and sometimes it won’t be enough. It’s okay to nap, to sleep more, to check out, to run away, to ask for help – it’s okay to not be the lead bird.

As we move forward, pacing ourselves in our “V” formation, let us recognize and honor all the positions in the flock. Let us recognize when others need to drop back, when they need to catch their breath and rest. Offer help to them, show up and be there mindfully. But if you can’t, that’s okay. There are many birds in the flock – so take your rest, fall back into the slipstream and rest in this flow of life – we work, we rest; we help, we accept help; we lead, we allow. Ultimately, we fly – together.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” ~ Jack Kornfield

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

11/8/2020