Feeling Supported (elements series)
I’ve written previously about working with the elements, but it’s such a direct route to embodiment that I wanted to do another series on this imaginative aspect of living mindfully.
Connecting with the elements steadied me enormously during the pandemic, and we all still need the practices that help us feel supported!
Why focus on the elements?
We can use our imagination to develop a relationship with the natural world that we are a part of, and the elements are a great starting point. This way of inhabiting life increases mindful embodiment, which in turn helps to regulate the nervous system. I think of this as switching on our right-brain capacities, to balance out the left-brain ones that are more heavily activated in modern daily life.
I’ll be sharing a series of posts on simple ways to try this, working with one element at a time. I’ll also re-share my short videos on 1-minute-mindfulness for additional practice suggestions.
This month – Relating to the Earth element
The earth is a physical presence in our life: it’s the ground under our feet, the soil our food grows in, the place we land when we let go. Over the years, I’ve got to know the earth as a refuge – a secure source of stability and solidity that won’t let me down. The more I maintain a conscious connection with the earth, the more readily I tend to relax physically. The main way I have cultivated this relationship is through somatic mindfulness, which means awareness of the sensations in the body.
Here are a few ways to explore this in your own practice:
Lying on the floor – just that, lying down and letting yourself yield and be held, feeling supported by the ground underneath you (and taking your time to develop this feeling of trust, it may not arise instantly). I like to do this for a few minutes at the end of a busy day, to let go physically, and transition into the evening.
Walking – especially in natural landscapes, but also in urban ones, feeling the solid earth underfoot, bringing awareness to those sensations as a walking meditation. I also like to imagine any stress energy being discharged from my body through the soles of my feet.
Sitting – and feeling the places that my body makes contact with the chair (or sofa) which is in turn held by the earth. I allow my weight to settle into this stability, a little more with each out-breath, drawing in comfort (from the earth) with each in-breath. I use this micro-practice when I get caught in a ‘thought-loop’ that isn’t where I want to rest my attention, to re-ground and re-embody myself.
In meditation – by developing an imaginative connection with the earth (and trees have been helpful for me here too). My guided meditation ‘Supported by the Earth’ gives a flavour of how you can approach this.
‘Get Grounded’ is a video from my 1-Minute-Mindfulness series where I share some additional ideas you can incorporate into daily life.
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For more about balancing the right and left brain, you might enjoy this conversation between Iain McGilchrist and Satish Kumar