Who sees all being in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear. — Isa Upanishad
It’s been a heck of a few months. Sparing the details, I fell into the black hole again, deep enough to scare myself into finally reaching out in every direction I could think of for help. In working through this recent battle it’s become clear that the underlying contributing factor to major depressive episodes, as well as my more daily subtle apathy, is the persistent feeling of separation. I never feel like I belong anywhere. When I sink super deep all I can think about is that I am a giant mistake, carelessly placed in the wrong universe where I don’t fit. I don’t believe I am alone with some of these feelings, but it sure feels like it. My vata constitution, following Ayurvedic theory, predisposes me to over-activity, restlessness and disconnection when unbalanced. I have never been a “nester” nor do I now want to give up my recent lifestyle choice and settle in anywhere – that has not been an answer in the past. But, I do need to feel grounded wherever I am. This means feeling secure with myself, finding connection with the Universe (humans, nature, divinity) and building faith that I am, in fact, meant to be.
We don’t have to be living in the perfect house, the ideal city, or even have a real physical address to root ourselves as an essential and significant piece of this Universe. Conversely, we might actually be in our perfect house, perfect locale and still feel unsettled. These are practices that I know help me feel grounded and ideas for everyone to consider as part their self-care and growth.
Sunshine, Fresh Air & Dirt
Literally touch the ground. Lie on the grass and try not to feel better. Can’t be done! Take off your shoes. Hug a tree. Dip your feet in a stream. It’s all good. Remind yourself you are made of all the same stuff, you are part of all this energy.
It’s a fact I love to run. But am I running intentionally, or am I running to escape the noise in my head? Am I running so that I can eat later? Am I running just because that’s what I do even when my body screams REST? Right now I am walking and rebuilding my yoga practice. I love attending classes, but sometimes, especially lately, they can be distracting for me. For the last couple weeks I have been practicing privately, listening to what my body wants to do, honoring where my mind wants to go. Movement is an incredible part of healing and connecting with yourself, the environment and others, but the type of activity you need might change from time to time. Don’t be scared to ask why you are doing what you’re doing.
It’s also a fact that I have issues surrounding food. I am stuck thinking restriction calms me, but am trying to learn that it actually feeds more disconnection. Like with your movement choices, ask yourself why you are choosing to eat, or not eat, certain foods. I actually crave fruits and vegetables. They come from soil and I believe this is my body asking to reconnect with the earth. However, sometimes I do feel the need for something warm and hearty, which I tend to dismiss, but am going to try to respect. Typical recommendations for grounding foods include root vegetables, porridges and warm, earthy spices like cinnamon or turmeric.
Being in the kitchen, preparing food, has been therapeutic for me – yes, despite my aversion to actually eating most of it (that’s another story). Much of it has to do with simply working with my hands and creating something of substance, often as an offering to others. Any kind of handiwork can ground us; lots of people find comfort in sitting and knitting, woodworking, painting, gardening (this is particularly great since it gets us into the dirt, too!). Find something that can be done in a meditative manner, with your hands and your creativity. Bonus if you can share your creation with someone else!
Music / Sound
Many people might find noise distracting, but I like some background music or sounds when I work, read or just rest. I think it draws me into my surroundings and out of my silly thoughts sometimes. If you prefer silence, especially if your days are generally filled with noise, bring more of that into your life. Or maybe try just being still outdoors, eyes closed, and notice what you hear without the usual distracting blabber or thoughts.
Books are a solace and a tremendous source of connection. Even feeling totally alone in the Universe I can always find some empathy in a literary character. Reading opens my mind and heart by reminding me of how many perspectives and experiences there are out there; it’s a way of meeting thousands of people without actually having to talk to anyone (ha, an introvert’s dream!).
Mantras, affirmations, prayers, chants, meditations, whatever you would like to call them are surprisingly effective at grounding our thoughts. Yeah, it might be weird or embarrassing at first, but the beauty is NO ONE HAS TO KNOW. I have spent many, many Svasanas at the end of yoga classes repeating to myself, “I am grounded, I belong.” Simple and straightforward. Tell yourself you are safe now and always, wherever you are. When training our body we build muscle memory, we can train our thoughts in the same way.
I love being in my body. I am centered and grounded. I am at peace with the material world in which I live. I am able to let go of fear and know I am eternally safe.
Asana (Physical Yoga Practice)
Back to movement, there are particular yoga poses I love that bring a sense of comfort, support and grounding. Balance any usual bustle of activity with quieter movement on your mat (or the grass, or carpet, or wherever). Root yourself toward the earth with Malasana (squat), Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog), Supta Baddha Konasana (lie on back, knees wide, soles of feet together), forward bends and of course, Svasana (corpse pose that is practiced at the end of every yoga class). Feel the ground holding you up, breathe in the healing, comforting vitality around you and offer your unique energy to the Universe as you breathe out.
I will always be something of a lone wolf, an introvert and comfortable following my own path, but I can’t keep ignoring the basic human need for connection. I have experienced feelings of spiritual connection when out running or hiking in spectacular mountains, or watching the ocean roll in and out, but it’s been hard to realize this once I’m back to everyday life. My sense of displacement contributes immensely to my chronic melancholy and anxiety. The work is hard and painful and makes me feel ashamed and vulnerable, but I guess that is actually part of what connects me with everyone else, no?