I wrote yesterday about feeling dissociative and disconnected. As I composed my post, I thought to myself that physical exercise would probably be an effective method of grounding myself, even if the effect was only temporary. Today, as I engaged in my workout routine, I paid special attention to how my sense of my body was impacted by being physically active.
I love using Fitness Blender (not an affiliate link) for my daily workouts. The founders have made their videos are free and both of them have a positive outlook on health and exercise. My ability to lift weights has been diminished since becoming ill a few weeks ago, so today’s routine was particularly fulfilling as I was finally able to lift near my capacity instead of having to use half the weight I normally would.
After completing the workout, I feel more present in my arms, but cannot sense much in terms of my lower body. My legs aren’t physically numb, but I don’t feel connected to them or like I am inhabiting them fully if that makes any sense (if you haven’t struggled with dissociation, it might not). I still feel an eerie sense of calm, but having my heart rate up is counteracting it slightly.
Going for a run would seem to be the type of full-body exercise that might allow me to come more present, but the abundance of ice outside isn’t going to make that a safe experiment. I think I will add a series of stretches for each part of my body to see if that brings more depth and richness to my sense of being grounded. If you’ve dealt with trauma and feeling disconnected from your body, what effect does exercise have on your ability to become grounded? Are there types of physical activity that are more effective than others? Are there any kinds you’ve learned to avoid or that worsen your dissociation?
Living in the present moment has enabled me to gain perspective in regards to my trauma history. If I’m grounded, I’m less likely to get lost in a sea of negative thoughts or to make irrational decisions based on negative emotions. My dog, my meditation practice and my time in nature are my most reliable conduits into present moment awareness.
Dogs live for the moment. My dog can occasionally show signs of holding a memory or anticipating the future (for example, if I mention a bath or going to the store), but he spends most of his time anchored in the here and now. When I find myself lost in panic, he will sit with me or demand a snuggle, and I can detach slightly from the pull of before and after.
I am not the most regular in my practice of mindfulness, but I do return to breath-work whenever it enters my mind. Finding my center, especially in noticing the gaps between each out and in-breath, reorients me into my body which allows me to come present. Giving my full awareness to simple actions like sitting or walking with intention serves as an additional current-moment touch-point.
Finally, immersing myself in nature helps me focus on the present. I especially appreciate the beauty of trees and love the texture their bark provides underneath my fingertips. The sounds of leaves crinkling in the wind and the warmth of the sunlight on my skin make every moment special. If my present is captured outside with my dog while I open my field of awareness to all of my senses, I am not only here for it, I’m joyful. What helps you ground and center? What best connects you to the present?
I selected the Ground card from my In an Open Hand deck. This card invites one into a sitting meditation, focused on noticing one’s experience during stillness. A settled presence is, for me, an invitation to trust and connect.
My childhood relationships with key figures involved a complete lack of stillness. There was either distance or an unpredictable swinging between being overrun and being abandoned or shut out. There was no stable, kind, present adult.
I hold as an image of Divinity an image of a huge figure resting in meditation. Seated in gentle, loving presence, unhurried and unbothered by the wildness of my heart. Able to withstand my inability to connect and to love. I can come and go and still he,she,they remains, willing to simply be with me as I need them to be.
I believe each of us is able to offer this presence to ourselves and to others, if we make regular our engagement in meditation and in simply being rather than doing. One question my card asks is what stands up when I sit, and I would say what rises up in that moment of sacred presence is connection. How much I long for real experiences that mirror this inner world! Perhaps that is what “church” would look like for me, simply being with others in the flow of Divine Presence. How do you feel in the presence of stillness (your own or others)? What comes up for you when you spend time in silent meditation?
I’ve been taking full advantage of the Daily Presence card I created, each of which centers on a meditation connected to a different area of the body. My week has been one of the most stressful of 2019, so grounding myself in my physical experience is vital. For today’s practice, I focused on my digestive system.
I started by breathing deeply and listening to relaxing music. I imagined healing energy and warm light flowing through my digestive system, soothing any areas of discomfort and creating space for healthy consumption of nourishment. I imagined any toxins and negative energy flowing out of me, being pushed by each inhalation. Finally, I pictured myself soaking in a warm bath, satiated, calm and cleansed.
I rarely try guided imagery, but this one was effective in helping me feel more present in my body and connected to its processes. I am learning that, for me, I achieve much more internal stability by concentrating on a certain area of my body, rather than telling myself I have to be calm when my body is in an agitated state. It isn’t so much that I need relaxation, rather, I need a return to sensation when I’m stuck on focusing on my perceptions of the world. How is your digestive system today? What does it need from you?
For today’s Simple Pleasure, I chose the mineral Hematite as my focal point. Hematite is an iron-ore that is often seen as helpful in centering and aligning. It was no surprise to me to learn, when I looked into its origins, that it is most often found in sediment, meaning that it is deposited from processes involving water. So many aspects of my life lead back to a connection to water, and this new knowledge makes me appreciate it even more. I feel secure and more sure of myself when I wear or carry hematite. What mineral has been a focal point for you recently? What meaning do you attribute to it?
I struggle at times in practicing yoga in that I want to be respectful of its cultural origins and not appropriate it as a form of exercise devoid of its spiritual meaning. What I decided to do in relation to my simple pleasures is to spend time learning about the history and culture behind specific poses that I connect with the most, which, for today, was Tree Pose (Vrikshana).
The information I was able to glean online was often contradictory. One source I located included a story of a queen who got kidnapped who kept her love for her husband alive by meditating in tree pose in a forest. Another source described it as a centuries-old pose that is used to raise one’s energy (prana). Yoga is a tradition passed, in part, from in-person training by one generation to the next, so I would love to find a way to learn about it from someone who could provide contextualization and details regarding meaning behind the movements.
My experience of tree pose is that, even though I fall in and out of it repeatedly, I find it to be a grounding and centering pose. I have to steady my breathing and collect my concentration in order to maintain it. I do find it to be more invigorating rather than calming, so I connected with what I’d researched in that sense. What is your favorite yoga pose? What are its origins?