So much seems to happen in between West Cork People monthly editions! There is a lot going on for us to process, like the ongoing challenge of Covid 19, what’s happening in Ukraine and across the world. Many of us are experiencing strong emotions and sometimes feelings of guilt for worrying about or simply for taking care of ourselves. Empathy and compassion are part of the beauty of being human and these qualities make life so much richer and more meaningful. It is extremely important that we care about each other, it truly matters, but staying distressed or overwhelmed doesn’t help us or anyone else. And the difficulty of ruminating over upsetting situations is that we’re recreating and repeatedly reliving the pain of these experiences. You can’t pour from an empty jug, or give what you haven’t got, but when we learn the skills to resource and replenish ourselves in meaningful ways, we have even more to share with others.
I recently took part in an annual mindfulness teachers silent retreat as well as some workshops on engaged and relational mindfulness with the Mindfulness Association. This really helped me to ground and steady myself amid all that is happening in my own life and in the wider world. We practiced a lot of deep grounding in nature and were reminded to keep returning to our formal meditation practice as it provides an anchor in uncertain times. There is a real need to develop a strong connection not only between our minds and our bodies but between our bodies and the ground we all stand on. Grounding ourselves on the earth we all share can really help to steady us during unsettling times.
When we find ourselves getting stuck in a place of overwhelm, which is easily done these days, it can help to bring awareness into the body and out of the thinking mind, connecting with the feeling of the ground beneath us, letting the earth hold the weight of our bodies and letting our bodies hold the weight of our minds. There are several mindfulness practices that can help with grounding in the body, like the body scan. If you would like to experience a guided body scan, please visit my website www.mindhaven.ie for some recently added recordings. Another useful grounding practice, “soles of the feet” is available on Dr Kristin Neff’s website www.selfcompassion.org.
If you want to try it out just now, start by standing up if possible, keeping your knees soft and begin to feel into the soles of your feet. Really sense directly into the feet, feeling the sensations of contact between your feet and the ground. Notice the natural sway of the body when you stand like this. And, while keeping both feet on the ground, try rocking back and forth a little on the feet, slowly shifting your weight from the balls of the feet to the heels and back again a few times. Shifting the weight to the outer edges of both feet, again without raising them from the ground, then the inner edges. When we focus our attention on the physical sensations in the soles of our feet, it can be a very effective way of anchoring our awareness in the present moment. This practice can be very helpful to ground us on the earth, especially when upset, or having strong feelings of anxiety.
When you are out walking as the evenings are getting longer and brighter, you could slow down your pace now and again, and as you move more slowly, notice the changing sensations in your feet as you walk. Pay attention to the textures and the surface beneath your feet as you stand or walk and try opening your senses to take in all the beauty that surrounds you. Notice when your mind wanders and bring your attention back into the soles of your feet as a focal point helping your mind return to the present moment through the body and stay grounded in the here and now.
If you would like to begin a compassion-based mindfulness practice or deepen an existing practice together in community with others, drop-in mindfulness sessions run at Myross Wood, Leap on Tuesday mornings 10 -11am: €10.
Also coming up at Myross Wood:
A Day of Silence, Sunday 3rd April 10 – 4pm. €75 (Vegetarian lunch & refreshments provided)
Online guided meditation sessions via Zoom on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8pm. 45 minutes. Donation based.
For more information on upcoming workshops and courses please like my Facebook page (Mindhaven) or feel free to get in touch by phone: 087 2700572 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org