Walking into a department store on a main street in Basel, I’m struck by the demand on my senses to look, hear, smell and touch everything around me. Smaller shops and larger stores are adorned, outside and in, with the colors of Christmas. The light of a million Christmas decorations covers everything in a festive glow. And, while I love this time of year, the bustle of it all can get overwhelming, if we let it.
As I stand there in the entrance to this department store, I realize how my eyes dart from one offer to the next, one bright and shiny object to the next, my attention is pulled to a sound over there, and the people brushing past me over here. I start to make my way down an isle and it’s not long before I realize how disconnected it’s possible to feel when we lose a sense of connection to ourselves and our internal environment when so much is happening outside of us. I wonder to myself, with so much happening all around, how aware other people even are of the other people and things around them, or if it's just a lot of taking in without digesting what's being consumed.
We often don't allow much time in our lives for stillness and connection to our inner experience. In the busy-ness of everyday life, we don’t leave a lot of room for moments to rest and digest our everyday experiences, and the chronic condition of this can lead to many things. On one hand, it can leave us feeling disconnected from ourselves, as if our energy was scattered in the wind – our thoughts can feel random and disorganized and we can have this overall feeling of not being grounded. As a chronic state, this can lead to a feeling of low-level anxiety, a generalized feeling of insecurity in the world.
We need to learn to stop and gain a sense of ourselves relative to our environment – both inward and outward - to connect again with what’s happening in and around us.
As human beings, we often forget that we're still part of the animal world, and as animals our sensory experience is what connects us with the world - both inside and out. When this is overloaded, we can feel overloaded. We need to come back to our bodies, back to our senses, so to speak, back to an attunement with our sensory experience – to rest for a moment, and digest all that we’re taking in.
Here’s a 30-second practice (that you can also do for longer, if you like) you can use this holiday season, and in any other season of your life, to come back to center when you feel ungrounded by the intensity of what’s happening in your world.
Feel your feet on the ground beneath you. I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate how profound this practice alone can be. When we’re overstimulated, we can get sucked up into our heads, and the myriad thoughts cycling around. Bringing awareness to our feet can have a powerful grounding effect, pulling you down into your body. Try it – stand tall, wherever you are (in a tram, in a shop, waiting somewhere in line) and feel the sensation of your feet making contact with the ground. Name the sensations you feel, if possible (warmth, tingling, etc).
Notice your breath in the belly. After you’ve sensed the ground beneath you, bring awareness to the breath that animates your body. Focusing on the area of the abdomen can help, as it can cause the rise and fall of the belly with the in and out breaths. Really feel this. If you need assistance, you can bring your right hand to your belly to help you feel the rise and fall of breath in your body.
Look at the world around you. Intentionally move your head and eyes around your environment so that you take it in while remaining connected with the sensations of breathing. Notice if your mind starts producing a lot of thought and come back to “seeing” and “sensing” – your eyes taking in the environment with part of your awareness on your breath.
If you're with a friend or two, wander off for a moment to do this, or invite them to join you! Having company in these hurried moments can exacerbate the feeling of overwhelm, but they can join in the grounding fun!
You can try it now - wherever you are. I'll wait...
How did that feel? Did anything change?
Try this out a few times and see how it impacts those moments when you feel less connected with your experience relative to your environment and see if it helps! If so, please get in touch and let me know!