The past several months have felt like a lifetime. I have desperately wanted to share some bits of wisdom but none of it was coming clear. As an extrovert who gains energy from being around people, the rug was pulled out from underneath me with the onset of the Corona virus. It felt like a tornado came through my life and tossed everything up in the air. I am sure you can relate in your own way to the stark external shifts that have left space and time for internal shifts to come. Left with lots of open space, I turned inward for a good portion of quarantine; spending time journaling, reading (when I could focus) and taking time to reflect on my life and the changes that were suddenly placed upon me. It is only now that I am beginning to see the pieces of my life strewn all around and figuring out what should be integrated and what needs to go.
Within this time, my brother sent me a song (as he sometimes does) that so beautifully explained the spiritual process it felt like we were all in.
The song, below is Ballad of Eef Barzelay, by Clem Snide.
The song, haunting as it may seem, describes the concept that Buddhists called “groundlessness.” As the lyrics go
“And as I kept on falling , I came to realize, I finally realized….there was no ground. There was no ground.”
And yes. There has been no ground during this crisis. And yet there never really was one to begin with.
You may be asking “Um Steph, what do you mean by that?”
And so I will share this teaching, something that I have been discussing been discussing with my clients over the past few months…
Everything in life is always shifting and changing; always on the move. Uncertainty is a part of living. It is those of us that struggle with control that feel that somehow life was known before Covid 19 hit. On some level we may be right. As I like to say, at the end of February it was ok to touch a doorknob and then come the middle of March suddenly that was akin to taking a MASSIVE life risk. In an almost overnight turn of events, our world was turned upside down. Right was wrong and your neighbor your Marvel comic villain who was flagrantly taking risks with their life and yours.
At a moment’s notice the ground underneath our feet feel apart.
But a more interesting and introspective question to sit with is this…
Was the ground ever even there to begin with?
Hmm Interesting huh?
Here is a quote from Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist teacher, to further shed light on this question…
“It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom — freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.” – Pema Chodron
Yeah that about sums it up. My quarantine, much like most of our quaratines, has been full of moments of pure contentment mixed in with moments of utter discontent at the proverbial, albeit non-existent, ground that is no longer under my feet. It has caused me to question, as I have with all my clients…
“How might we find that sense of ground from within?”
Life is always moving around us. Anyone who has ever dealt with a sudden loss of a loved one, a sudden health crisis personally or with someone they love, a loss of job or other extreme shift in their life, knows that things can look one way on one moment and then almost like a crash of a car, things can take drastic changes that shift the course of your life. I must say, that is exactly what the current crisis is showing us all. But what Chodron speaks about in her quote above, is that this is always happening, it is just that our efforts to cling to safety and sameness creates an illusion that it is only in these times of tragedy that life is uncertain. That level of uncertainty is always in existence even if we are not aware of it.
So if this is the case, then how might we work with the part of human nature that wants things to “go back to normal?” It’s that part in each of us that grieves the way our life was before Covid 19 and desperately does not want to let go.
I have been working on this for the past three months. If you are anything like my Type A clients you may say “ok so come on, what are the goods? What’s the answer? Tell me and I will do it no problem.”
To which I will laugh and smile. In a nutshell for me it keeps coming down to this…
Surrender to all the loss and grief I have felt inside and sometimes stored because I felt I needed to keep moving forward. Surrender to all the things I disagree with about what is happening and how it is happening. Surrender to all the shifts and changes that I keep having to make to let go of the struggle within so that I can live a more peaceful existence in the present moment.
You may be saying UGH. Or is that my projection? Admittedly, I am feeling this way at times. And yet, when I turn my will over to something higher than myself, I know in the deepest place within, that this has been happening for the greater good of us all. There are ways our society has been structured that has not been working for a very long time. In my work, I have been exposed to the toxic way in which people are working now a days. Almost every client that I have worked with in the past handful of years has no time for a personal life. There are no lines drawn in the sand between work and personal. To give context, I work with mostly young professionals 20-30s somethings. They talk like they are in their 40s-50s with the amount of pressure they feel in their lives.
Our society has been spinning out of control and the Corona virus has only exposed the ways in which we as a society lack an internal compass or as they say in psychology “an internal locus of control.” We are so caught up in the rat race, that we often have no clue what we want out of life. My clients schedules are often so tightly packed that they lack the time to sit in the sun and reflect. There is no time to sit and watch a bird flutter it’s wings. That is out of the question because there is always something else more pressing that needs to get done.
So this is the beauty of the current crisis. It has given some of us the time to focus internally and to find that ground within. I have found out various things about myself with various layers stripped away. I see life more clearly now. While I am still walking each step forward with trepidation, feeling the feelings of not having chosen this change for myself, I must say I see myself unfolding in ways I wouldn’t have if this experience did not occur.
So as we each move forward, what are the ways that you find your ground from within? Don’t wait for things to “go back to normal.” Hell, let’s be honest, the kind of “new normal” being pitched is a shit storm away from normal. But even still, as life continues to flow and change, as it always does, this new normal will become something else. Life will continue to shift and move. There will be a part of that that we can manifest, and a lot of it that will be outside of our control.
When I am in my best self I know that the only thing I can control is my own perspective and energy. In trite terms this would be spoken of as glass half full or empty. But I don’t see it that way. I don’t feel like putting a positive spin and using gratitude to gloss over the pain is all that useful. What I do think is helpful is for us all to fully embrace and experience the pain that we are in so that we can transform that pain into peace. Happiness is found not by seeing life as full of sunshine and roses. It is only truly experienced when we can go into the dark caverns of our soul to unlock the light within.
Finding the ground within to me is when I can rest in the uncertainty of life, have a cup of tea and notice the rise and fall of my breath as I sit with the beauty and the beast.
How about you? What ways have you been able to find the ground within?
Cheers to continuing the journey knowing that the ground is always within you!