Ground and Notice
When you read this, your imagination may go into hyperdrive. You may imagine a mystical being floating through my gardens at dawn like a backyard Gandalf who converses telekinetically with the maples and the marigolds. Or you may see a more grounded, earthly being like Wendell Berry, a poet deeply connected to the land by working on it and writing from that deep connection.
Either way, you’d be dead wrong.
Instead, imagine the real me. With the most spectacular bedhead. Eyes still crusty with sleep. Dressed in last night’s wrinkled clothes pulled from the chair beside the bed. With a hand on my rumbling belly regretting the decision to have popcorn and wine for supper last night. And committing to a spinach and blueberry smoothie for breakfast. Then, imagine me wrestling my phone out of my own clawed hand before I can click on any one of the many icons that are notifying me that someone wants my attention.
Now we’re talking.
All that to say, this spring I have added something new to my morning practice. Before I do what I like to call my regular “sit and stretch” practice, I put on my outdoor moccasins and head outside. Even before I read my electronic messages, I read the messages from the air, the ground under my feet, the plants and critters in the yard.
- I notice the feeling of the uneven ground through the soles of my slippers.
- I feel the cool morning air on my skin and instinctively cross my arms for warmth.
- I notice the sounds and the silences.
- I notice my resistance to this time of slowing down and not ticking things off my to-do list.
- I notice where the squirrels have made a dozen soil pockets in the planters leaving new seedlings tossed aside with their roots around their ears. I also notice that the coffee grounds I’ve been putting there to deter them aren’t working.
- When I’m out early enough, I even occasionally notice a rabbit or a raccoon or even a skunk heading home after a long night of foraging.
- I notice the weeds. I recently read an article from the Farmer’s Almanac called “What Weeds Tell You About Your Soil“. Instead of something to be plucked in favour of having a perfect garden, weeds have much to say about what is happening below the surface.
- I notice which of the dozen or so varieties of birds that frequent our yard are up early. And which ones are getting more used to me being there with them so will not fly off so quickly when I get near.
The intention behind this practice is to simply and routinely build my capacity to notice and to read the natural environment around me without trying to fix or solve anything.
As an obsessive, over-thinker, this doesn’t come easily to me. I resist the urge to pluck weeds, pick up debris, or make a mental list of plants that could be split or moved.
I realize the immense privilege I have during these pandemic, stay-at-home times, to have a yard where I can ground myself in solitude. And I’m aware that the land I walk and live on has a longstanding history of colonialism that continues to this day and is not only in the past. I commit to continue learning about proper etiquette for Indigenous allyship.
This practice of noticing your environment with the senses can be done while going for a walk, while sitting on a park bench or even indoors. You can do this practice when you’re feeling stable and strong or when you’re feeling stressed. By doing it regularly, you can build your capacity to stay regulated even when you feel overwhelmed.
Be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because they will eventually enrich your practice.
(Shunryu Suzuki Roshi)
If you want to chat about more ways to regulate your nervous system on a daily basis, reach out and let’s have a chat. Or sign up for my newsletter to get monthly resources for finding calm in a chaotic world.