Solid Ground

In the last two months, the focus of my teaching has turned more and more to the theme of finding solid ground. Between the tumult of the election, the looming holiday season, and the cyclical fall frenzies, it feels to me that these days many of us need regular reminders of our own solid foundation.

When my life gets hectic, stressful, or uncertain, my initial impulse is to think my way through it. And don’t get me wrong—my brain is a real champ, and she’s always trying to help me out. But there’s a fine line between thinking and over-thinking, and the latter always turns into a bunch of spinning: swirling around possibilities; trying to anticipate or prepare for various worst- or best-case scenarios. Planning for the unexpected. (Yes, by definition it is impossible to plan for the unexpected. And still, I try. Sheesh.) To me, over-thinking is my go-to way to try to maintain a sense of control—while the reality is that the more time I spend in my head, the more unmoored I become. And if I’m being honest, over-thinking is my best trick for avoiding the clear messages that I get from my body: Slow down. Take a breath. Put down the remote/glass/spoon/sledgehammer. Notice this feeling.

Feelings can be extra-uncomfortable in uncertain times. Emotions don’t follow the rules. They don’t yield to the methods of the mind. They have no sense of time or timing. And really, this is the superpower of our emotions: Feelings remind us of our own truths. No matter how much thinking I do, my emotions are ultimately faster and smarter than my mind. No matter what chaos is afoot, my feelings can instantly tell me what is or is not OK. When I am doing too much—or too little. When there is something I need to address—in a relationship, or in myself.

Their potency can make emotions—even pleasant ones—feel unmanageable, especially when life gets busy. The mind leaps in to help explain, to narrate, to rationalize, to compartmentalize. If the feelings are too big or too much, the urge to escape them—numbing them through substance, action, or inaction—can be overwhelming. Things outside my comfort zone = things I can’t control, and that puts me on red alert. Whatever I need to do to stop that feeling takes precedence.

It was this impasse between my busy mind and my busy feelings that led me to yoga in the first place. The practices of yoga invite us to remember and inhabit our bodies; to feel our own solidness, realness, aliveness. Our physical body is where mind and mood can integrate, and yoga offers a safe space to explore sensation, emotion, even the business of the mind—while still experiencing the solid ground underneath our feet, and the constancy of our inhale and exhale. Yoga offers calm in the tumult—a calm that we can find within ourselves, and that we can take with us wherever we go, and whatever we’re going through.

Try it. Just for a moment. If you can, take off your shoes (though it’s totally OK to leave them on). Stand on your own two feet. Feel the solidness of the ground underneath you. Feel the next inhale come in, and the exhale go out. Notice also what else is here: the currents of thought, the color and shape of mood. What is it like to allow them all to be here, without labeling any of it good or bad. And what is it like to remind yourself that however you feel in this moment—whatever is going on around you or inside you, you are here. You are real. There is solid ground underneath you (and inside you). You are living your life on this good earth. How amazing is that—how good it is, that you are here.