During my early morning walks with my dog, I watch the decorations around me change. The spiderwebs and ghosts are coming down, the zombies have moved to warmer climes for winter and the pumpkins no longer bear faces. New decorations are appearing – corn stalks and hay bales, inflatable turkeys and autumnal wreaths are taking up residence on the front porches of the houses I pass. A few early Yuletide enthusiasts are already putting up the greenery.
It’s coming. The holiday season is on the horizon.
For many of us, the prospect of multiple family gatherings over the next couple months can be anxiety-inducing. Add shopping, holiday parties, school obligations and packed grocery stores, and we have the ingredients for a very stressful season. The good news is that we know it’s coming, which means we can prepare for it. So let’s talk about how.
Earth Your Practice
I view my practice through the valences of the Elements. I consider Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit the points we balance our practice between. At various times, we are more oriented toward one Element than the others. During this time of year, I begin to shift my practice toward Earth.
One of the most useful things we can do for ourselves is to stay grounded. It’s more difficult for the line at the co-op (or Aunt Agatha demanding a third martini at the family get-together) to stress us out when we’re feeling centered. Rooting into mindfulness practices, earthing our energy and connecting with the deep heartbeat of the bedrock beneath us can keep us from getting swept up in the whirling hubbub.
Here are some simple ways to bring more Earth into your practice:
Redecorate Your Altar
If you use an altar, shift it over to browns, greens, grays and other earthy colors. Add some objects that remind you of Elemental Earth – stones, images of mountains, pinecones, even a small living evergreen or Christmas Cactus could spend the season on your home altar. The number 6 is associated with familial peace and love, so consider using groupings of 6 items.
Increase your Grounding and Centering. Grounding and Centering is one of the most basic Pagan meditative practices. When we ground and center, we visualize ourselves connecting with the Earth beneath us (often by imagining roots reaching down from us to the Earth). We breathe out any stress or anxiety that does not serve us and breathe in from our roots strong, stable Earth energy. This practice is foundational enough that many of us flat-out forget to do it. It’s time to revisit the basics. Add a Grounding and Centering to your schedule before you leave in the morning (or even while sitting in your car before you walk into work) and before you go to bed at night. I like using the calendar function on my smartphone to help me remember to do this – set a reminder.
Grid Your Home
If you have land, look for decent-sized rocks that would be willing to help stabilize the energy inside the house for a time. Your land spirits may be willing to help you find some stone allies in this endeavor. If you live in an apartment, seek out stones associated with earthing or grounding energy from an ethical source. Gather your earthing stones together and bless them. Explain to them that you would like them to help siphon off, ground and otherwise filter discordant energy within your home. Make sure to offer something in exchange. If you do journeywork, journey to them and see what they would like in return. If you already have some earthing stones as part of your home grid, clear them and reset.
Then, place your stones. Put them in the corners of the rooms that see the most conflict or foot traffic (kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms are frequently the most energetically fraught). Tuck your stones out of the way so that curious felines, small hands and nosy aunts won’t notice them. After a large gathering, let them sit in the sunlight out in the yard to release anything they’ve gathered up. Then put them back in their places.
If you’re feeling ambitious, your home grid can include stones that generate peace and cooperation as well (you can even sneak these into centerpieces on a dining room table). How elaborate your grid becomes depends on your own time and energy for it.
This is another area where setting a phone alarm can be helpful. So often by the time we realize we need our shields, it’s already too late. Don’t know how to shield? Here’s a tutorial. Begin shielding before you leave the house for the day and try to remember to do so before you enter any retail establishment, especially after Thanksgiving.
Block Off Some Rest Days
Go grab your calendar (or open your phone calendar). Write in all of the gatherings you know you’ll have. Add your other off-time obligations. Now, look at the blank spaces. On several of them, write in large block letters: NOTHING. Try to have at least one of these be an entire day. Defend your NOTHING days as fiercely as you would a night attending a concert by your favorite artist. Turn some things down and choose to stay home instead. On those NOTHING days, enjoy the quiet. Watch movies you like, play soft music, take a bath or a nap, go for a hike, play board games with your family, make your favorite recipe or otherwise engage in the soft, cozy kinds of self care. Remember, we’re going for earth practices. Treat your body gently and lovingly.
If you live in a part of the world where outdoor activities are an option, visit a park, nature preserve or botanical garden. Find a large rock or boulder and simply sit with it. If it’s an option for you, you can lean against the stone or sit on top of it. Begin to tap into your deep listening – send your awareness into the boulder. Allow your breathing to deepen and lengthen and come into gentle contact with the spirit of that stone. Let the peace of the deep earth wash over you. If hiking is to your taste, you might also take a walk and tap into the calm of the dark season. There is a spare beauty to the woods right now – a simplicity of form and color that can be very soothing.
There are a lot of ways to adapt your practice toward earthier, calmer energy. Do you have some good ideas or practices you’d like to share? Hit me up in the comments.