Many pagans experience the blessing and challenge of being tuned in to the emotions of others. Even when we do not consider ourselves to be empaths, most of us are more empathic than your average person. As a result, when there’s a strong emotional current running through our immediate community, it’s difficult not to pick up some of those feelings.
Right now, anxieties around COVID-19 are very high. Here are three simple ways to ground and reconnect in order to respond to the world around you from a centered place. If you prefer visual and auditory guidance to written guidance, the 15 minute video below teaches all 3 techniques.
These practices can be performed individually or together and can all be done while seated. Each one takes around two minutes, give or take, especially once you’re familiar with them.
Take a moment to settle into your chair in a comfortable position. Allow your eyes to come to a half-gaze or close completely and take a few deep breaths.
Draw your awareness to the very top of your head. Notice how your skin feels there and if any tension is present. Then, begin to let that awareness spread out and down your body. Focus on how your face feels. If there are easy ways to reduce tension like relaxing your jaw, do so. Wrap your awareness around to the back of your head. Again, notice any areas that are tense and allow them to relax.
Begin to follow the line of your spine with your attention. Become aware of your neck and allow any areas of stress, tension or discomfort to ease. As you shift your awareness to your shoulders, notice if it would feel good to find some shoulder rolls or other gentle movement. Breathe ease and comfort into your shoulders and move them around a little if it would help.
Continue following your spine and draw your awareness to your chest. Again, notice any areas of tension here. Allow those points of stress to soften. Shift your awareness to your upper back, relaxing any muscles that seem tense. Breathe deeply and feel your body responding to your breaths.
Follow your spine into your lower back. Become aware of any areas of discomfort and allow those places to soften. Try to breathe space into any parts of your lower back that feel tight.
Draw your awareness to your belly. Relax your stomach and notice how you’re feeling. Take another deep breath and relax any areas of tension.
Send your attention to your hips. Feel free to adjust how you’re sitting if it would help you feel more comfortable. Continue to make your way down your body. Notice how your thighs are feeling. Again, if you notice any tension or discomfort, try to relax those areas. Draw your awareness to your knees, allowing them to soften and relax.
Become aware of your shins and calves. Allow them to soften and relax. Send your awareness into your ankles and feet. Try to relax your feet all the way down to your toes.
Draw your awareness to your arms. Starting at the very top of your arms, by your shoulders, slowly send your awareness down your arms. Relax any points of tension you discover along the way. Relax your elbows and wrists. Allow your hands to relax and soften.
Take a deep breath in. Let it out on an open-mouthed sigh. Then, gently, whenever you are ready, open your eyes.
Counted Breath with Apana Energy Movement
I am a yoga teacher and one of the phrases I’ve both heard and used is ‘Where the mind goes, the body follows. Where the body goes, the mind follows.’ Although our Western culture loves to separate things into categories and boxes, the truth is that most systems are interdependent. Our minds, bodies and spirits are intricately connected. When we cause a particular outcome to one part of that system, it effects all the others. This can be a wonderful tool since sometimes one part of our interconnected system is easier to access than others. One of the easiest ways to cause your body and mind to settle involves breathwork.
If you make your exhale longer than your inhale, it will help your body relax further. The longer exhale tricks your nervous system into calming down. One of my favorite patterns is to inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6. The specific numbers you use don’t matter as long as the exhale is longer. You can also experiment with holding at the top and bottom of your breath.
If you have space, on your inhale, reach your arms out to the sides and up above your head. On your exhale, turn your palms to face the Earth and as you are exhaling, lower your hands down, rooting that energy. In yoga, this is called Apana energy. Apana energy is downward-moving energy – it’s a great way to release whatever we are carrying to the earth for renewal.
We associate water with cleansing, clearing and washing away. A wonderful way to soothe frazzled nerves is to visualize yourself surrounded by calm, cooling waters. However, if you have had a traumatic experience involving water, this technique might not be a good fit for you. During this visualization, we will be imagining our auras – the space immediately around our bodies – filling with soothing waters.
Begin by imagining a calm, cool body of water. It might be a lake or a river, maybe somewhere you like to visit. See it clearly in your mind’s eye. Now, imagine stepping into that water. Feel the soothing, cool currents on your toes. Allow the water to begin to rise inside your aura. Feel it gently flowing around your calves and knees. Wherever the water touches, it soothes away any irritation, any stress or soreness.
Allow the water to rise to your waist, cool and soothing. You can even imagine some little fish joining you for a swim in your aura. Let the waters continue to flow upward. Knowing you are completely safe, tap into your inner Undine or mer-person and let the water rise all the way to the top of your aura, breathing easily the whole time. Visualize the currents gently shifting around you, the edges of your clothing floating and moving around you. You can populate the inside of this reverse fishbowl however you would like. Maybe you welcome in some fish, seahorses or sea plants.
If it’s helpful, you can leave that visualization in place as you return to whatever you were doing. Or, you can simply imagine the water returning to the lake or river you visited as you return to your day.
These three practices are quick, simple ways to clear your mind and ground your body. Here are some other ideas for supporting a calmer mental state:
- Create or stream a soothing playlist.Most streaming services have a meditation collection. I personally enjoy Pandora’s Calm Meditation station
- Set boundaries for media use.It’s tempting to try to drink from the fire hose of constant news updates when we’re worried. However, consuming an unending supply of alarming articles will make it difficult to respond from a sensible, centered place. Turn off the TV and put down the internet at least one hour before going to bed. Read something pleasurable or relaxing, do a craft, stretch out on the floor or find other ways to settle in for the night.
- Use color.Include calming colors in your daily wardrobe. You might even shift your altar over to calming colors.
- Nourish yourself.Eat healthy, delicious food. We’re all being encouraged to stay in more right now – use this as an opportunity to learn some new recipes or cook your favorite meals.
What techniques and practices are you using right now to stay calm? What’s been the most helpful? Please share your thoughts in the comments – you never know when one of your ‘go to’ practices might be brand new to someone else.