I stare at the computer screen biting back the tears. Telling myself to hold it together, that maybe it will work this time…. But No. My plugins won’t update and until they do I can’t write anything on my website.
The dam bursts and I can’t hold it in anymore. I am gulping with enormous sobs as I break down completely. I have been trying fruitlessly for two hours to update my plugins. The ‘idiots guide’ my brother created for me is not idiot enough for me I think despairingly. I am trying to cry and not wake the baby at the same time, I sound like a strangled pig and even if I don’t wake him I have 15 minutes left until the school run anyway.
My brother comes to the rescue and fixes what took me two hours to fail at in about ten minutes. His kindness overwhelms me further. My heart is breaking. My mind is in overdrive telling me how I’ve wasted this precious time. The precious time I have precious little of these days. A blip like this derails my whole schedule.
I must look crazy from the outside I think, getting this upset over such a small detail that is now fixed. I try to reassure myself that it will be ok. Tomorrow is another day. But the less kind inner critic is having a field day. Perhaps she hopes to solve my problems by demoralizing me further but it just adds to the overwhelm bearing down on me from all sides.
Right now, in the thick of it the pain is all consuming. Acute and raw. I cry and I cry. I can’t do anything else but cry. And this is how it is. A small seemingly trivial event that has even been resolved has the power to tip me over the edge into despair. A pit from which I can see no solutions only hardship. A dark place of sadness where I secretly believe myself to be completely useless and no good to anyone. The way I am feeling bears no resemblance to the size of the fairly ordinary event.
I feel trapped. No way out, nothing I can do, panicking as time ticking loudly and ominously away reminding me of all I’ve not done yet.
Except there is one thing I can do. One thing I know to do. The NPA Process.
So I take overwhelm through the words to the NPA Process ( a simple 6 line spoken word process that you can find here)
I say the words and I sit allowing my experience of the energy of overwhelm to unfold with the gentle support of the NPA energy.
Relief floods my body. “It’s not just the computer” I say out loud and I start laughing. In a nice way.
Somehow the simple statement that it is not just the computer that is causing me to feel overwhelm has the power to unlock the whole thing. I feel the tension and stress flowing out of me. I see myself at the centre of a misty landscape surrounded by all the important people and jobs in my life. I can clearly see how much I have going on and why I have ended up in such a state of overwhelm. Anyone would. It is not because I am more useless than anyone else. It is because I have so much going on and I fell into the trap of pushing relentlessly to get it all done. Telling myself it had to be now and this way caused me to feel like the world was ending when life had other ideas. Too much self induced pressure. Rigidity.
As I continued to watch space began to open up around me. The events had space around them and from me. I could breathe again and felt myself relax. Somehow this simple process has caused me to see I am overwhelmed and I am still ok.
I sit some more. Witnessing the experience.
Then it is gone. Just like that. I am no longer overwhelmed.
I have just as much to do and no idea how I will make it work but it no longer has the power to crush me. I am OK, I know everything is going to be ok and its time to pick my kids up.
So I gather up my son, dirty nappy no shoes and all and leave overwhelm behind. I let the relief carry me up the hill instead. I feel free, clean, empty. Even though my son yanks my hair hard and continuously yelling goal each time I am ok, Tomorrow really is another day and for today I am ok. This is the simple power of NPA.
So what does this story have to do with pregnancy and preparing for birth?
Well the last time and on a few occasions previously that I got to this point of overwhelm, where the slightest issue could trigger a complete break down, I was pregnant.
Now you are pregnant you have just added a whole new level of activity to your daily life, that goes on under the surface 24/7. As it carries on without your conscious input it is easy to be slightly less than conscious with how we treat our hard working bodies. We keep going. We push our bodies and our selves to keep going at the same pace we did before we were pregnant. We try to be superwoman.
But creating a new human being takes some serious energy expenditure and as with our financial budgets what goes out has to be balanced with what comes in. When we don’t do that, when we don’t take extra time and space for self care, overwhelm and exhaustion are soon to be found tagging along at our heels.
When we are pregnant we are different in other ways too. More emotional. More vulnerable. More intuitive. These are all qualities that enrich our connection in pregnancy and support us to grow our baby. And they are all the qualities that are not particularly valued in a world that prioritises the masculine experience. A paradigm that expects constant output in a steady rhythm regardless. A paradigm that does not take account of our fluctuating rhythms. That shames our emotionality and vulnerability. That does not understand intuitive knowing and prefers scientific facts that can be measured.
So we succumb to the status quo and to the ancient, unconscious conditioning that our lives run on. We accept the pressure to keep going and not complain. We hold it together like we have been doing for centuries. Too often we leave ourselves and our needs to last or even out of the equation altogether. Until we reach breaking point as I did at the computer.
My question to you is do you recognise yourself in my story? Do any parts of it hit you on some level?
Perhaps you have been getting into a state over what your inner critic says are just small events that you should just get over and get on with it.
Perhaps you are finding yourself arriving home from work too exhausted to do more than put your (swollen) ankles up on the sofa? Falling asleep to wake ( if you are lucky enough to get unbroken sleep) to start the whole cycle over again. But you have not had the time to reflect on the craziness of this and make a change and in the mean time is flying by.
Perhaps you are shy to admit you are struggling, Perhaps you have not noticed as you keep going relentlessly, feeling guilty to ask for more breaks or rest time ‘just’ because you are pregnant.
These are all signs. Hints by your body, by the universe, by your soul that you need to make a change. If you have not noticed that you are running on empty and you are still running, running running…. It is time to stop and re-evaluate your priorities.
My invitation to you today is to stop. Take a little time to enquire of yourself? Am I looking after myself, am I honouring this body and this pregnancy? Ask your body how she is doing and what she needs. Then take her advice. Take some time this week to do something different, something restful and regenerative just for you. Just because.
Please feel free to comment and tell me what you choose to do. I would love to hear and celebrate with you.
If this story has awoken your curiosity in NPA , (the incredibly useful and versatile tool that helped me shift quickly out of overwhelm mode into a kinder, gentler state in which ironically much more is getting done with less effort) then please check out this ( affiliate) link where you can download the NPA Process sheet for free and have a go yourself.
Feeling stressed, overwhelmed or burnt out and want to take some direct action with personalised support?
My mother Nurture Massage Treatments are the perfect antidote to overwhelm and are a very enjoyable way to create space and time for you in your life.
My birth confidence Sessions are best for you if know your life is too busy and you are suffering from overwhelm or burn out but you can't bring yourself to make the changes you need on your own. Deep transformation awaits for you if you choose to invest in this option.
I will be back next week with more on the theme of overwhelm and what to do if you recognise you are either in overwhelm or fast heading towards breaking point.
Rest is much underrated in our society and is crucial to our health even when we are not pregnant. Our bodies love balance and we need to balance action with rest. It is during rest that our body regenerates and creates new cells. During pregnancy we need more rest as our bodies are working hard behind the scenes to grow our babies. In this post I share a little of my story towards a healthy balance of rest and action and 12 ideas to get more rest in your everyday life.
With my second it was a different story. This time I had a toddler to look after and a busier business. A lie in now lasted five minutes until 7.05am. If I was lucky it would be a gentle wake up with soft pat and a sloppy kiss. If I was unlucky it would be feet in the head and shouting in my ears.
My toddler son no longer napped and loved action. Lots of action. I did my best to keep up with the housework, my business and his energy levels but I started to feel more and more tired. I usually pushed on through the tiredness. ‘Pregnancy is not an illness’, I read, and ‘moderate exercise is good’. So I was slightly annoyed when swollen ankles, a sore coccyx, and general lethargy suggested I should rest up. I couldn’t keep up with my pre pregnancy schedule but I felt a subtle fear I may be missing out as life went on as usual for everyone else around me whilst I was feeling exhausted.
I noticed I was not giving myself permission to stop and rest. Instead I was frittering away what spare time I did have with various excuses about what a lot there was to do. . I didn’t want to slow down or rest up in case someone thought I wasn’t coping. I was accidentally going along with a common pattern in our society. One that values multi tasking, working as long as possible during your pregnancy and puts self care pretty low on the list. Particularly if the self care looks like ‘doing nothing’.
I was running just to keep up with the treadmill and had forgotten to appreciate just how much hidden work our bodies are doing as they conceive, grow and then birth our babies. Our bodies do all of this without our conscious input, automatically without us thinking or checking in, ‘oh did you remember to grow that arm?’ But although creating a whole human whilst we carry on with our daily lives happens automatically we and our bodies are not automatons. We are organic systems that need input to get this output. The input I was missing out on was rest. I was looking like the Duracell bunny.
Even when I was looking restful, reading to my son for example. My mind would continue its frenetic hopping fixing planning running. I held tension as I worried about what I hadn’t done that needed doing and tried to balance that with staying awake. I worried what kind of mother I was if I couldn’t even stay awake to read my son a story.
I couldn’t even see that. I just kept on trying to get everything done so I could finally rest at the end of the day. By which time all I could do was slump in an exhausted funk. I would drop off to sleep with my son carrying the tension with me. Only to wake up the next day still running and feeling like I hadn’t even slept.
Recognising the pattern of running myself into the ground in an attempt to meet everyone else’s needs without considering my own took a while to dawn. But that crucial first step taken the second and third quickly followed. Step 2 for me was the inner work to clear out the hidden issues that were driving the energy draining behaviours that were leading to exhaustion. Step 3 was rebuilding a healthy balanced schedule that included me time. Soon I was up and running again to a completely different and slower tune. Ironically the more I rested, the more energy I had, the more I got done with less effort and the more time I had for me including to rest and the more energy I had for play and so on.
Here are 13 great ideas I picked up along the way on how to incorporate the rest you need into your day without compromising on all the other jobs you have to do.
1 Yoga Nidra. This is my number 1 tip and number 1 rescue remedy. Both prevention and cure it is simply wonderful. If you are new to the practice you are in for a treat. Sometimes referred to as ‘yogic sleep’ it is a simple way of entering a deep restorative, relaxing state. The beauty is that you can do it lying down and although the intent is to remain awake, alert but rested, there is no harm if you do drift off. The quality of accidental sleep during yoga nidra is so different as you will have released tension you were carrying and you awake refreshed. Check out the free resources listed at the end of this blog post.
2. Yoga Nidra, Ok so I know this was point 1. But it is so helpful, versatile and transformative that I thought it deserved a mention again, Just to drive the point home. Try it just after you wake up to ease yourself into the day. Just before you go to sleep then drift off gently after. Or any time of day, carve a slot of quiet time out for yourself lie down and off you go. 25 minutes of the deep relaxation reached in the resulting meditative state has been compared to 2 hours of ordinary sleep. So often I would wake after half an hour and feel like I’d had a nights sleep the difference was so striking. It is not called yogic sleep for nothing.
3.Yoga Nidra. Can I really do that? Make it point 3 as well? It really was that good for me. I never got bored, I had a playlist with several different tracks. I sometimes used non yoga nidra guided visualisations and applied the practice to those instead and got great results. To get started I share at the bottom of this post some of my favourites. I also gave it a go with my son as a way of getting him to sleep as I rested next to him. With some tracks as short as ten minutes with others up to half an hour with some imagination you will find so many places and ways of using it in your day.
4. Yoga ni… just kidding. There are ways of resting without having to lie down and sleep. Which of course is not aways possible especially if you ahve an older child. For this tip you definitely want to stay awake. Tip 4. Take a bath – alone, with your kids, with your partner; morning, afternoon, night; before tea, after tea. for the same reasons water is so effective as pain relief in labour it is also great for relaxation whilst pregnant. This is also an opportunity to create an association with the water and a deep relaxation state which is useful if you are planning a water birth. Run the bath, Light some candles and put on a hypnobirthing cd or other beautiful music that you love.
Exhausted with lively kids who aren’t interested in soothing music? Don’t worry and don’t wait till bedtime. Throw away the rule book. This is serious survival. Many an afternoon has been whiled away in the bath in our house. Shrivelled wrinkled feet are a fair price for an hour plus of sitting more or less still. Happy children with minimal effort and extra rest time. Everyone wins. Plus the baby weight is relieved by the buoyancy of the water. There are so many great things about a bath. If you have older children who are too large to fit with you, put them in the bath then see points 1-3 above. Extra tip: Cover the floor with many towels so you can let go of water damage worries.
5. Take a bath even if you are having a shower. Letting the hot water run over your body feels absolutely wonderful and is way more restful than standing. Watch out for any resistance that shows up as you read this idea. (e.g. I don’t have time, I don’t have a bath, the shower hose is too short.) Usually the objections are groundless or easily resolved – ( you do, sit in the shower, buy a longer one) It is not about the bath itself, it is the sitting and resting. Sometimes the 5 minutes in the shower in the morning is the only me time I am getting for most of the day and I value it strongly. Make those five/ten minutes count. Sit down play some restful music and follow point 6…
6. Take 5 deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth, Make the out breath longer than the in breath and focus on releasing tension. Use this at any time, especially when points 1-3 are not possible. Try anchoring the practice to activities you do every day such as going to the toilet. Another one of the few times you may get a moment to yourself if you have other children! Use those precious moments well. Try Including your children and make a game of it. You will be teaching them valuable skills for themselves as you model this. This is also something that you can all do to help with strong emotions such as anger giving everyone a chance to calm down and take a more restful approach. Another win for everyone.
7. Extend point 6. Take a breath for each part of your body in turn and blow out the tension from each area on the out breath. When you have gone through your whole body use the next breath to set an intention for your next task. Let your breath carry you through to your next activity. Aim to remain relaxed as you do. So much tiredness is created when we hold tension in muscles that are not required for that job. Use only the muscles that are needed for the task in hand and send the rest on holiday bringing me to point 8.
8. Go on holiday Yes you heard right, I am recommending a holiday as a top easy tip to incorporate into your every day… Before you dismiss this out of hand as impractical, expensive delusion and hopeless wishful thinking or point out that holidays can be stressful too, hear me out. Holidays are so memorable as they are a break from the routine. We do things differently on holiday. We go to new places, often places we have dreamed about for years. We do things we would never dare or would not give ourselves permission for at home. It is this adventurous carefree mindset that I am suggesting you borrow. Grab it and take a holiday from your regular day. Take a two hour holiday and do something special for you that you wouldn’t normally. Imagine you are on your dream holiday. What would you treat yourself to? Go ahead and find a way to do that for yourself today or tomorrow. Go to a spa, Book a massage. Really indulge yourself, Go on , you deserve it, your body and your baby will love it too.
9. Get support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may need some childcare while you go on ‘holiday.’ Perhaps you are getting nesting instincts and it feels imperative to deep clean the whole house but the idea feels overwhelming. Perhaps it’s just the everyday housework and you can’t face hovering up for the third time that day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength and honouring of the mother that you are and the amazing body that is growing your baby. Ask for help then accept it and enjoy yourself.
10. Get creative and make it fun. Think outside the box as you look for ways to relax and incorporate point 8 and 9 as you do. Throw a house cleaning party with a potluck dinner to share. You are then in charge of delegating all the tasks from your armchair/ sunlounger as you sip your holiday cocktail…
11. Make it even more fun. Laughter is the best medicine so the saying goes and it certainly knows how to release tension. Everything feels better with a good bout of laughter, so much so that there are entire therapies devoted to the practice. Get some friends together and play some comedy films. ( Steer clear of comedy films about birth, they are usually awfully inaccurate and dramatic) Tell each other jokes. Make funny faces at your children, spouse, or yourself at the mirror and laugh until you cry.
12. Take a tea break. Buy some special luxurious herbal tea bags just for you. Sip slowly and indulgently and mindfully. Feel the nutrients being absorbed into your body. Enjoy the warmth soothing your throat. Switch off from the world and put your feet up for the time it takes to drink your cup. This is another one you can involve the children if you can’t get away. My children love sipping ‘tea’ from a teaspoon from their own cup. (often honey and lemon in water or mint tea)I don’t know why a teaspoon but it takes ages so extra minutes for me to rest.
13. Finally back to the holiday theme. What do you think of when you imagine your perfect holiday? Relaxing by the beach? Soaking up the warm sunshine? We often have deep positive associations even with just the word. Check in how you feel as you say the word holiday and notice how it affects your mood if you imagine you are on holiday. Our brain sends out the same signals as it does when we are actually experiencing the holiday for real and we benefit from the flow of feel good hormones which are just the same ones that you want to have flowing for a smooth labour,
So now that summer is over and the rain seems determined to make us forget what the sun looks like and if escape on a real winter sun holiday is not an option for you, what do you do?
Well combining a few of the above tips I would recreate my own holiday retreat from my own home following the instructions of Nicole Harlow in this post. In fact I am so inspired by her description of how she transforms her winter apartment to the beach in summer I am shortly off to crank up the heating and get out my beach mat.
What if your dream holiday is skiing and winter snow? Actually It doesn’t matter what your dream holiday is. Whatever it is, take those elements that you love the most and find a way to recreate them. Want a chilly autumn holiday? Turn off your heating, leave the doors and windows open then cocoon yourself in front of a fire in your sleeping bag toasting marshmallows and cooking sausages on a stick. Wish you were up the mountains skiing. Put your skiing out fit on inside the sleeping bag, make homemade snowflakes to hang round the room, play some snow action films and follow point 10 without caring how ridiculous you look. Older kids will love the idea and join in enthusiastically and come up with even better ideas. Feeling social? Invite friends round and bring out the inner child in us all.
A quick summary:
We need rest and lots more than we usually give ourselves in our fast paced society. Rest is underrated and neglected but we can easily build it back into our lives and have a lot of fun as we do. Give yourself permission and get creative. Once you start the opportunities and ideas come flooding. Build those ideas into what you are already doing each day as I talked about in Part 1.
Those extra moments of rest although they may seem short will very quickly make a difference to your energy levels. As a mother of two rambunctious gorgeous boys with never ending energy who I have had a steep learning curve over the last five years on how to look after myself with enough rest. I would love to hear how you find these tips.
What is your favourite? Do you have any great tips of your own to share?
I will be your willing guinea pig to try them out so let me know in the comments or on facebook page.
Here are some links to some of the Yoga Nidra Tracks I used:
A Yoga Nidra information site with many free downloadable tracks
Another free resource by the Journey relaxing and healing- 3 guided visualisations *
Photo Credit: foot massage photograph is by Margaret Klepacka of DarSan Photography
This is the first part of a three part series on three tips for ease during pregnancy and labour that can be easily integrated into your every day activities and suggestions on how to do that. Today I am writing about squatting and how I found an effortless way to integrate the practice into my ordinary life to the benefit of my pregnancy and birth experience.
Bang! Crash! Ball after ball whizzes past my ears. I swerve matrix style keeping my eyes on my target, a foot above my son’s head, just out of reach of his fingertips. I take a deep breath in and throw with all my might watching in satisfaction as the ball sails easily past my son, down the corridor and with excited glee he trots away, out of sight after it.
Enjoying my brief respite I smile in satisfaction too. My hands fall to my belly and I gently stroke my now quite large bump and wonder what my baby thinks of this new game. As my son’s smile lights up the top of the stairs once more and balls renew their relentless downpour I reflect that my children are indeed, as the saying goes, my best teachers. Thanks to my son’s delight in the ‘stairball’ game I now have a regular squatting practice, cardiovascular work out and am getting toned arms to boot.
I was already aware that gentle exercise in pregnancy was beneficial, particularly given our overly sedentary lifestyle. I knew being fit was useful as labour can be a pretty intense experience that has been compared to the energetic output of running a marathon. I felt fairly fit and active. I had to be looking after my young son. I had been active in his pregnancy too, swimming, pregnancy yoga and lots of walking. I continued with these as they were all enjoyable activities I could do with my son. But I wondered about my core strength. I wondered if I was doing enough.
The words of Ina May Gaskin echoed in my mind, “Squat 300 times and you are going to give birth quickly.” Ina May is pretty cool and her results speak for themselves (Only 1.4% Caesareans and 68.8% Intact Perineum from 2028 births for example*) so taking her advice on squatting seemed like a good plan. But despite a strong, strong desire to ensure I was doing everything I could to promote a smooth labour and birth my resistance to actually squatting on a regular basis was huge. I bet there are many who struggled as much as I did to implement this simple, useful, and easily accessible piece of advice. I tried a few times but quickly got bored and found an excuse to do something else. On other occasions I simply forgot and would be reminded later with a twinge of guilt, not enough of a twinge to get me off the sofa though, Until the game…
Suddenly I was squatting for between 20 minutes and 2 hours a day. Not continuously for 2 hours, I cried off for breathers and I listened to my body, building up my stamina for this new activity gradually. But each time the balls came flying down the stairs I carefully bent my knees in a squat until I could reach the ball.
The barrier to squatting successfully broken I began to find other ways to incorporate squatting into my daily life. Where I’d been going wrong was to doggedly persist in the one solid session approach which just wasn’t working for me.
I found that on the rare days when ‘stairball’ game was not part of the curriculum I could use the stairs as a reminder and squat once at the bottom and top of the stairs each time I went up or down them. Which was fairly often given the state of my memory and the needs of my bladder during later pregnancy. I used the stool bought to help my son access the toilet so I could adopt a squatting position there too. I also replaced bending over with squatting whenever I needed to pick something off the floor. The repetition gradually sunk into my mind and body and I found I was creating a habit. I was remembering more easily that I was intending to do lots of squatting and each time I was reinforcing the habit some more. Not that I needed too much internal reinforcement when my son was around…
Since then I have applied these principles to other areas of resistance in my life to great effect. Such as my impromptu yoga sessions : I no longer wait to find a full hour slot. I do what I can where I can, shorter and more often. I add in random moves such as cat stretch whilst playing horses with my children, or even deliberate poses when the music stops in musical statues.
Thinking up innovative ways to maintain connection with much loved yoga practice and other facets of my former life has been lots of fun, once I broke out of my box. Just as the brainstorming exercise of finding 50 uses for a particular object helps break us out of creative stupor by forcing us to get creative in limiting circumstances, so I am no longer am I confined to my box of how I have always done it, now the box is a boat, a rocket, a hat, and suddenly a world of possibilities is opening up in seemingly unconnected areas.
Back to the squatting, did all this effort pay off in the way Ina May intimated? Well it was certainly not the only factor but my son was born easily at home in approximately 3 1/2 hours from start to finish, and my arms still look great. So I would count that as a resounding Yes!
Incorporating exercise into pregnancy in the context of our often sedentary modern lifestyle is a great and healthy thing but must be done appropriately to your individual fitness and health. When starting anything new and particularly during pregnancy be mindful of your body and start small and gently. Be kind to yourself, listen to your body.
Here are a three posts with more detailed information on how to squat safely and effectively and why it is useful in pregnancy. http://www.katysays.com/the-hunting-and-gathering-mama/
The suggestions in this post for exercise are not intended to replace advice by your midwife, doctor or other health professional. If in any doubt as to the suitability of any exercise please consult your doctor of other qualified health or fitness professional for advice. BirthEssence is not to be held liable for any injury or misadventure from following advice in this post and appropriate supervision and/or medical advice should always be sought.
* Information from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin, 2003 Vermilion Appendix.
I love being pregnant, I love the feeling of the growing child in my belly. I felt well and strong both times and yet I also felt the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life. In addition to clearing out unhelpful beliefs at ever deeper levels I steadied myself with regular grounding practices that felt essential to my survival and wellbeing. Survival sounds dramatic but truthfully there were moments during my second pregnancy when I was floundering in panic so strong I struggled to catch my breath and I could feel my blood pounding on the inside of my head. Times when I was desperately reaching out for anything familiar to hold onto. In those times the wisdom of the earth and its slower pace calmed my racing pulse and soothed my worries. I wish I had developed a regular practice much earlier than I did, and reminded myself more often when I forgot.
In this post I share with you four of the basic principles I now bear in mind when wishing to ground myself and five ideas for grounding that calmed and supported me and that I continue to practice and enjoy daily even though the extreme vulnerability I felt in pregnancy is no longer with me.
Never underestimate the power of intention. Much has been written about the manifesting power of our thoughts and our outer reality mirroring our inner world. We hear this so often we can sometimes overlook the simplicity and efficacy of the principle. Check in with your intention as you choose an activity and trust that choice. State your intention openly out loud. Believe in it. Then throw caution to the wind and have some fun.
Resistance can show up in so many ways and the most common for me are telling myself I have no time, and then forgetting when I do make time. It is so easy for me to say, ‘oh I can’t do that I have to look after my children.’ Children who delight in making up games involving mud, stones and sticks and who would love any excuse to roll around in the dirt under the guise of grounding.
My invitation is to use your resistance as a springboard of inspiration and challenge your habitual perspectives. Look at what you are saying is not possible and turn it on its head. Invent a grounding game for your children and join in. Ask them to come up with new ways to connect to the Earth. If you do not have children, invite your inner child to play instead and step back in time to an age of wonder and innocence and get fascinated with the world at your feet. A different perspective can do wonders for your mood. Lie on the earth and imagine the world from the perspective of an ant or a ladybird. See what insights come your way.
Don’t wait for that ideal time as it doesn’t exist. I am sure you have heard that before. I am not sure my toddler son has though, but he doesn’t waste his time questioning if the time is right or if he has time and embodies the principle quite naturally. The other day I observed him unwittingly do a full sun salutation in the middle of the supermarket floor. I thought he should get back in the trolley so I could zoom around the supermarket and get out of what I felt to be an oppressive atmosphere and get back into the daylight as quick as possible. He had other ideas and was ignoring me. Totally. He did downward dog, cobra, some impressive rolling moves, cat pose and a few I have forgotten before returning to downward dog. He finished with Shavasana and a big grin.
Just to be clear I have not done yoga with him as the few times I tried he sat on my head and bounced. Yanked my clothes down shouting milk. Laughed uproariously, ran over me, lay down under me and kicked, jumped on my knees singing Zoom Zoom. Yet with the natural wisdom of children he was engagingly reminding me to seize any opportunity, get creative and try something new.
Although I think I will all the same steer clear of the supermarket aisle in favour of the park or garden for an impromptu Yoga session.
This is an idea that came to me courtesy not of some esoteric traditional teaching per se but in the form of the Terry Pratchett Discworld Series and specifically via the youngest witch Magrat*1 . Faced with a locked door and no magical powers she was stuck. Thinking creatively and inventively and recalling advice from her teachers she placed her hands on the wooden door and invited the door to remember the time it was a tree. It sprang into life and started to grow leaves and branches and failed to remain a locked door. She was able to get in and do what she needed to do and I am inspired to use what I have and follow it back to its Source. Or in the words of Thich Nhat hanh describing mindfulness practice ‘ So the practice consists of looking deeply into the ground of consciousness to identify the seeds that are there.’*2 When he looks deeply into the nature of a flower he sees in addition to the petals and colour of the flower, all the non flower elements that were essential on its path to manifesting as a flower including the rain, soil and sun and the gardener. I use this idea when I can’t physically get out in nature to open a pathway of connection using whatever objects are to hand.
And cultivate a few flowers of my own.
We do like our shoes, to protect our feet, to look pretty. We are also generally fans of pavements, and spend a lot of time indoors on carpets and artificial floors. And we mostly live in cities. All of which is far removed from our evolutionary origins.
This separation from the natural world with a fast paced, gadget happy substitute can cause considerable stress to our system. Whereas the background electromagnetic frequency of the Earth generally vibrates at the low frequency of 7.8HZ which corresponds to the Alpha spectrum of human brain waves or the state of consciousness we enter when in deep meditation. Studies on urban populations have shown measurable benefits with even small amounts of time spent in green places such as parks as it supports us to harmonize our vibration with that of the Earth.
So I invite you to get up, get out and get your shoes off! Even if it is just for a few moments. A relatively short period of time may be enough to slow you down and bring you back into harmony with the earth.
Go for a short walk with intention. Stand for a few minutes in your garden. Choose your patch of earth and luxuriate in the sensations available to your naked feet. Is the ground rough, smooth, cold, hot, soft, level, bumpy? Savour the different textures and flavours of the ground as you meet with the earth through your feet. Sense the energy and wonder about the history of the ground you are touching. Feel the ground touch you back wondering about you, who you are. Feel your feet come alive with this connection. Feel this life energy move through you and in you. Feel the grounded potential in you be activated with each conscious step on the earth. Lie down and bask in the sun, supported by the Earth. Let it soak into your very bones.
This might be a bit chilly in Winter ( though don’t let that stop you) and even in summer.
Whilst pregnant with my second I felt I needed a boost and asked inside what could I do? I got a picture of a nettle leaf. To my delight with the help of trusty old Google I discovered that nettle tea was perfect for women and particularly pregnant woman and something of a superfood plant. They are also growing in my deliberately wild garden. (Tip: If you have a garden have a look around and see what you have growing that you can make tea with. the herbs and plants that grow naturally or you have chosen to grow are potent medicine for you.) My eldest is now also a big fan. As I sip the tea I can taste the earth energy and feel all those nutrients entering my body. I love nettle tea. If you don’t fancy braving the stings or don’t have them in your garden you can buy it readymade pretty much anywhere. If nettle tea is not to your taste try another herbal drink. Or plain old water. For once again intention and animation are key here. You have an intention to get more grounded. What does your body desire? What do you love to drink? Choose what arises in this moment. Take it outside if you can and stand on the earth. But even if this is not possible drink it with the intent of grounding and savour each sip. Take those moments of slowness to really imbibe the essence of your chosen drink and connect to the energy of the earth that was a part of its creation.
Travelling in Thailand and getting up early one morning I found the park literally full of people rhythmically tapping each part of their body awake. I was fascinated and tried it out myself despite feeling a bit silly. I have since experienced it as a partner exercise in a couple of different seminars back home too. I also dimly remember dance lessons in primary school where we had to pretend to be a tree…
So here is my take on all that.
With a partner you stand and imagine that you are a tree. Visualise the roots going down into the ground and feel the earth energy rising up your roots and grounding you. Feel that energy rising up your body/trunk and out through your arms and head as the branches. You may sway and flow with the energy. Meanwhile your partner taps with loving intent on your feet. They can then move up your legs and torso, and head and arms and back down to your feet. Finish with your feet. If you have knowledge of EFT tapping points you can include those. Again get creative. Combine this with affirmations, singing, sighing, whatever the practice moves you to do.
Don’t have a partner or your children don’t want to play this game, you can do it alone. Follow the suggested visualisation and do your own tapping.
Red: The colour of our blood, the life force energy flowing through our veins day and night. A powerful colour, strong bold and courageous. It is also the colour of the base chakra and is a grounding vibration that can support us to be more grounded if we let it. Try:
This may seem an odd one to include in a list of grounding activities but bear with me. Yes water is more about fluidity than the solidity of grounding but when you are tired and other grounding activities feel impossibly active then you can slide into a bath and let go into the soothing embrace of warm water. As the warmth penetrates deeply into your tired muscles and you let your tiredness ooze out into the bath water you can switch off from your surroundings and let your awareness wander with the water. All things have their own consciousness and memory, water is no exception. You can follow the energy of the water right back to its origin in nature as a pure mountain spring bubbling out of the earth, tinkling music to your ears as it ripples through pebbles. Imagine you are that stream of fluidity and feel the earth that you flow over and through supporting you as you sit in the bath. Invite that earthy grounding energy to permeate the water and then soak into your body which is itself largely water. Let your imagination run as you flow over boulders through forests out into the sea. Feel the energy of the earth that lies under the water that covers much of the planet. Breathe gently and infuse your spirit with this earth magic as you rest in your bath.
So this is my take on getting grounded. How about you? I would love to hear from you.
*2Thich Nhat hanh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment. Shambhala Publications Inc. 2001