Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Being Grounded

“Traveler, there is no path. The path must be forged as you walk.” Antonio Machado

I found myself grounded while traveling in Italy in an unusual way. I was walking up the aisle of the Duomo of St. George in Ragusa, Italy, feeling I was totally secure and grounded in the moment. It felt as if all my life was meant to lead me to the very moment I was stepping into. I was overwhelmed by all the emotions of the changes I am experiencing in my new life, as I moved forward on rich, ancient, patterned marble, looking up towards the beautiful alter, full of gold and glory. I felt overwhelmed by the majesty of the transformation in my heart and my soul. So grateful to be taking each step forward, and realizing that it was the cumulation of all the previous steps I have taken to be standing right there,  now in the middle of the beautiful place. 

Psychology Today defines being grounded as “ the ability to be completely aware and conscious during the present moment. Michael Daniels defines being grounded in Shadow, Self, Spirit as “a sense of being fully embodied, whole, centered and balanced in ourselves and our relationships.” It also implies a deeper connection to our “authentic self”

The journey of widowhood does call us to review, reflect and refresh our lives and to determine our next steps. Suddenly we are faced with a labyrinth of new decisions and possible directions - not knowing which way to turn. We turn to others; family, friends, trusted advisors; but ultimately, we must turn within ourselves to find the key to our map for our future. To begin again, in this new life, and to become grounded again so we can grow and move forward. 

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to be grounded after a great loss. It takes time. It takes lots of time and plenty of devotion. My answer is certainly not yours and your answer won’t work for me. The richness that being in MWC is that we have a “Thrive Tribe” and other women that know this walk of widowhood well can help guide us and lead us, or even just listen as we work to find our new inner voice, to ask good questions, seek, study and surmise good answers that will help us feel more whole, more grounded and more ourselves.

A member once asked me, “How can I find contentment?” I told her I could not give her her answer, but for me, I find contentment when I take the time to go outside and take a walk. Just the very act of my two feet connecting with the planet earth, walking my dog Sadie, and admiring the grass flowers around me and the beautiful sky above me gives me peace.  I find myself content, grounded and reconnected. The very act of stepping out forces my thoughts out of my body and projects them out into the world; bringing the new day into focus and seeing things outside my physical limits. Truly, even in a time of great stress, fear, loss of focus or even great grief, just making myself go outside and walk, despite the temperatures or weather, helps clear my head. 

I have studied being grounded from a variety of sources. They all seem to mention the connection to the earth, working with your breathing, and meditation. Meditation means whatever you chose to use as a way to give praise, share joy and find inner peace. It’s not about religion or spiritual law, it’s about you finding a way to share your heartfelt emotions with the greater God of your choice and owning it as a way to feel your inner peace. 

Prayer, music, devotionals, yoga, all can work together to help you find a little bit of quiet for your soul. Also, I recommend that you put clear boundaries on your daily problem-solving time. As an example, while I was unemployed for several years after I lost my husband, I found myself spending hours and hours worrying about the same things over and over and over again. Finally, I decided, after my walk, my devotional time, my breakfast, I would spend xxx amount of time-solving the issues that had to be resolved for that day. Some are short term issues, and some are long term problems that need resolution, however, you only have so much time, money and energy to resolve the problems of the day. I would spend my time, whatever I determined that I need to do that day, write down the issues, pencil in the solutions and do whatever tasks I had to do that day until they were done. But after my self imposed “boundary time” is over, I’m done. I can’t pay any more bills, or spend another minute trying to solve a long term issue - In other words, I have done my “work” for the day on my problems and they are NOT ALLOWED to have any more of my time or my day. Each time my stubborn mind would try to go back to my problems, I push it back and think, “No, I have already dealt with that today, and I’m all done until tomorrow.” I realize that this may sound a bit “Scarlett O’Hara-ish” however it helps a great deal and I highly recommend you try it. I meet lots of people that can spend their entire day spinning about the same problem for hours on end and still have no better solutions. All those wasted hours worrying won’t solve anything more than a few focused minutes can. Truly, most likely, you won’t have more money, more time, or a better solution just by spending more of your precious time worrying about your troubles. Trust me they will be there again tomorrow and you can work on them then. Otherwise, you will just waste most of a beautiful new day worrying about something you truly can’t resolve any better than you already have with the time you have already spent focusing on it. Move on and get grounded. 

Sometimes we struggle to believe it, but we do have total control of our attitudes.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” Viktor E. Frankl

To a very great extent, we are the summary of our choices. 

Almost everything I have studied about being grounded and centered includes the following suggestions: 
1. Breathing exercises. Sometimes we just need to STOP, Focus and BREATHE. There are many types of breathing exercises. Here are two examples—try the one that works best for you. To the count of ten, take a deep inhalation through your nose. Hold your breath for the count of ten. Now exhale through your nose for a count of ten. Repeat as often as needed. Another breathing exercise involves taking ten slow breaths, one at a time, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Then to the count of ten, exhale through your nose.
2. Walking meditation. This exercise is about using walking as your focus. Try walking slowly, being mindful of each step you take. Feel the ground beneath you. This is best done outside in nature, but you can really do it anywhere. (Obviously, my favorite!)
3. Play music. Play instrumental music and give it all your focus -noticing all the instruments and the mood of the music. (I love music too. I add to devotion/meditation time in the mornings and evenings.) Music plays a huge role in soothing us and helping us feel grounded.
4. Stop, focus and listen carefully. If you’re talking to others, listen carefully to every word they’re saying. Focus. If you feel inclined, write down the dialogue in your journal. Practice being mindful by just being present. We get so distracted by electronics, it’s very important to be present in the moment when you are with others and enjoy your sacred time with them. Truly listening can bring great gifts of understanding, compassion, empathy, joyfulness, and hope. The human connection is real.
Brene Brown shares I was sure of one thing: Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” We need connection with others and we need to find a connection to be our true, authentic selves. 

Find a true, trusted friend that you can safely share with- the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important to have someone we can share our roller coaster ride of emotions with safely.. Take time to look outside yourself,  do something for yourself and something for someone else. All of these practices help us become better humans. When we give of ourselves, we just have more to give. Love is always multiplied and never divided. 

It is important to take the time to do the work to become grounded. You deserve it and we want to know the authentic “YOU”! You are beautiful and it takes time and devotion to figure who the new you are along the way. The journey is long and hard, but the rewards and rich and enlightening --It is an ongoing project with lots of twists and turns and you will find out much about yourself as you continue moving forward. I wish you the best of luck. It is a great feeling to love the new you and to feel grounded wherever life takes you - even if it is down a marble aisle in the Duomo of St. George in Ragusa, Italy.

“We are, all of us, molded and remolded by those who have loved us and though that love may pass, we remain nonetheless their work--a work that very likely they do not recognize and which is never exactly what they have intended. The Desert of Love - Francois Maurice