‘When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flames shall not hurt thee; I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. From the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation”
One of the best compliments I remember from my mother was praise she gave to those she saw as being “well-grounded.”
To prepare this blog, I decided to look up the meaning of the phrase and found: “Having a firm foundation, having a strong basis for belief, action, or argument.” That makes sense to me. Whatever the issue, I believe my mother was right, in good and bad times we do need a solid foundation upon which to stand.
As you may know by this point, I work in a remedial learning center at our local community college, helping students who either haven’t obtained a high school diploma, or working with those who have but who cannot pass their college entrance exams.
Both groups are missing basic educational building blocks. Without that firm foundation as they try to build a life, they often face profound handicaps. Some manage until an economic downturn, when they are usually the first let go, and the last hired or rehired. Then, they come back to school, to us, to try to backfill in the gaps in their learning, to shore up the underpinnings of their lives.
That’s a concrete example of what can happen in a variety of ways to all of us.
Over my last two blogs I have focused on how to respond when life shakes us up, when disaster strikes, or change happens. I have suggested we can be uplifted by life challenges like a kite against the wind, (https://joanneeddy.com/2013/08/24/against-the-wind-finding-strength-in-adversity/), and that we can learn to look for what good we can find in the new circumstances by cultivating an attitude of acceptance. (https://joanneeddy.com/2013/08/18/leaving-our-comfort-behind-on-sojourning-in-strange-lands/)
Given my last two posts, this week’s focus was clear to me! I knew the next logical question you might ask is ‘how.’ As in “So exactly how do we hang on when adversity strikes? When we are shaken to our very core.” As I said last week, family, friends, and faith, are my anchors, the string keeping me tethered when the winds of adversity come. I thought I’d add in my “firm foundation” for dealing with the stress, anxiety and fears that assail us in times like that: meditation, the vehicle I use to keep calm.
Joshua Wade on e.How explains it this way: “Grounding and centering” is a meditation and visualization technique that allows you to focus on yourself and the present… especially in times of stress or worry. …using meditation… is relatively easy and will help you to learn to live in the present moment so that you may approach difficult situations with a calm, focused and steady mind.” I couldn’t say it better.You can read more of this explanation at: http://www.ehow.com/how_2108726_ground-center-yourself-through-meditation.html#ixzz2X3uYQwcc
I teach my students meditation as a test taking success strategy, a way to keep calm and keep their brains engaged, a method for those who have testing phobia to control it, and for times when anxiety is overwhelming. And it really is easy. I usually tell them it is as simple as the message they heard from their mothers or other wise elders when they were distressed, “Take a deep breath.”
Well, I tell them, that was 1/3 of the advice they needed, because we need to take at least three! Better yet 10! Each progressively deeper, but yes, numbered. If you sit with your arms resting on the arms of a chair, or on a table or desk, and just count your breaths, making each one deeper, after three you change your brain wave patterns. You think better, and your body, which equates deep breathing with falling asleep, begins to feel rested. At its root, it is that basic.
Or you can add progressive relaxation, focusing in on your feet resting on the ground, your legs, your arms, your hands, body, neck and head, relaxing, then center back on your breathing and let yourself stay there in comfort. But you don’t have to. As my mother also told me, “Just breathe.” If you do it deeply, it will work.
About the centering component, for the believers among you, like me, you can feel and picture the presence of God filling you as you learn to be still. For us, to return to the center of who we are is to return to the source of life. For you of different persuasions, envision going to the core of who you are, the house of the spirit within you.
Taoists call meditation “gathering the light.” Wise. We all need to take light to our darker times. But even in the day-to-day, lost to busyness times, touching the foundation of our lives and what we believe in is a way to ground ourselves in a world of winds, adversity, and change. Ah, mothers, wise women and their old wives’ tales! Mine so often showed me the path to being well-grounded. Let’s go to ground together.