Keeping my feet grounded and my heart open

Like a lot of women these days, I seek balance in life. So it is quite fitting that the topic I have chosen for my first blog entry, involves achieving that often evasive balance.

One of my favourite books is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book caught my eye a few years ago during a turbulent time. It was and remains an inspiration.  I love when Liz meets the medicine man, Ketut Lyer, and  I love the first piece of advice he gives her in the form of a drawing.  “To find the balance you want”, Ketut spoke through his translator, “this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have four legs instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart instead. That way, you will know God”. This quote continues to resonate with me.

I am an avid yoga practitioner. I practiced it as a child and later rediscovered it in middle age during a particularly tumultuous time. This was a time of rapid, unexpected and frankly unwelcome change. It’s funny how for years things seem to stay the same, then suddenly everything changes. Like an earthquake that rocks one’s very foundation, events can shake lives up like a child shaking a snow globe. I was left wondering where things would land and how it would all end up. What would the landscape of this new life look like? I worried and fretted – and then I hit my yoga mat.

I practiced at home and also joined a yoga class. Classes went well, for the most part, since I was naturally flexible. However, the first challenge I met on the mat was tree pose. In tree pose (vrksasana) I was required to stand on one foot with my other foot resting high up on the inner thigh of my standing leg. It is a beautiful yoga posture to focus on balance as one side is worked at a time. And I fell each time I attempted it. Apparently my inability at achieving balance in life was mirrored on the yoga mat.

Well, as John Donne first said: “No man (or in my case woman) is an island”. I was blessed with wonderful advice from a dear friend who had become a yoga teacher in response to her own life challenges.

We worked together on Vrksasana.

“Reach down and use your fingers to spread the toes of your left foot. Your toes will become like roots in the earth. Now ground down with your entire leg. At the same time, stretch up through your spine, lift your chin and breathe. Yes, that’s it. Take some time to follow your breath. Now, shoulders back, held held high and eyes wide open, choose something in front of you to focus on. Do not take your eyes off that focal point. Now, hands in prayer position, lift your right leg and tuck the heal into your left thigh. Nice. Now hold this. And breathe. Never forget to breathe – and to focus.”

This was the first lesson I took off the mat and applied to my life.

I set my feet firmly on the foundation of my faith in God and on the love of family. This grounded me. I lifted my weary shoulders up (so heavy from carrying so much), and I held my head high. I knew who I was and, despite everything else that was happening, I knew how much I truly was loved. No circumstances could change these facts. Then I prayed setting my sights on the belief that God had plans for me – good plans. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11)

And it was here that I found steadiness in the storm; balance as I navigated the changing tides of life.

tree pose

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