Spring grounding

The Pumpcrete truck was already on site this morning when I woke at 5:47.

That particular vehicle is not there every day – there seem to be periods of building, pouring, then drying, then building a next thing, involving a range of trucks and contraptions and so on.

I was telling my son about the Pumpcrete truck last Sunday when we got together for the first big bike ride of spring season.

He told me about the finishing steps of the condo tower being built across from where he lives, and about the overnight dismantling of the crane, done by another crane, that built itself to be able reach up and take down the crane that had been used to build the building.

Engineers... we marvelled to each other. He said: When I watch what they are doing, I feel an awe, kind of like the awe I feel about nature.

An intertesting comparison I was thinking, as I came across this fascinating podcast with Erin Yu-Juin McMorrow , author of the recent book Grounded: A Fierce, Feminine Guide to Connecting with the Soil and Healing from the Ground.

She talks specifically about our modern western world as being one by and for engineers, vs an orientation to the earth, the soil, the ground, and ultimately to the feminine.

She talks a lot about soil, and putting our feet on the earth to ground ourselves, and I remembered an even deeper technique I learned years ago at a workshop with Ohki Simine Forest, where she had us lie down on our bellies on some scrabbly ground in Santa Fe, lying on the earth and letting her absorb all of our edgy bits, you know, where the grounding instructions go kind of like this –

Imagine a white light coming directly from a source above and bring that energy down into your physical body.

Next, imagine that energy moving all the way down into the center of the Earth.

See, imagine, or feel any energetic imbalances within you being moved down and out directly into the Earth to be recycled. Ask that any imbalances be washed away.

Now, bring the pure, solid, reliable, grounding energy of Earth—and all that she represents to you—allow yourself to feel the qualities of Earth that you most need to draw upon at this time: permanence, reliability, safety, security—whatever it is that you need at this moment.

credit: unknown

But where I live now is so ferociously urban, connecting with the earth by lying on it, or even by going out in bare feet is not an easy or obvious option.

It used to be I could wander out in the back yard in my pyjamas and bare feet, coffee in hand to greet the day…

But after a couple of moves, now I find myself in a place where I wander out to the balcony, coffee in hand to greet the day and see this – the crane, the trucks, the leftovers of industrial harbour wasteland, the highway and condos and cranes beyond –

Now, this isn’t a pity party, don’t be feeling sorry for me, cause fact is, when I go down a few flights of stairs and out the side door, what I see is this –

Lake Ontario / Toronto Harbour.

Big Love.

But the thing is: SO MUCH OF THE WORLD spends their / our lives living in dense urban environments.

In cities. In towers.

Far from any easy direct contact with the earth.

Check out these photos by photographer Michael Wolf

credit: Micheal Wolf
credit: Michael Wolf

So the question is… how do you, how do I, how do we, connect with the ground, with the earth, in this kind of ultra-urban living situation?

In a situation where there is no grass, not even a sense of soil underneath the feet, but rather of concrete and infill, parking garages and layers of infrastructure.

I was telling my boy about how one day someone in our building noticed this ship’s anchor hanging out in the construction site out front.

And someone else in the building said: Well, you know, when they did the infill for this area, apparently they used whatever they could get their hands on, including old ships.

Toronto Harbour 1967

Because we are right on the edge of the Toronto Harbour, on what has gradually, over the decades, been increasingly filled in to create a harbour with a depth able to receive the increasingly large ships.

I guess my answer for myself on grounding in urban situ has been:

When I do meditations where I “ground”, feeling down through the earth, sending roots down and feeling even into the core of the globe – I begin with what is there, feeling down through the floors below me, through the parking garages, and then through the concrete and infill and finally to what’s left of the silt and slime of the lake bottom down there, just letting my imagination feel into what IS, or what I imagine Might Be.

And, aside from feeling good, some fun art explorations have been coming out of it –

Where the Earth Began, Katharine Asals

In a way, this approach to the meditation is an exercise in including the city as material entity that is part of the earth – of trying to integrate rather than fight the fact that this is where my body finds itself.

Okay, okay… it is not the same as bare feet on dewy wet grass in the morning, I can tell you that, but it is still something…

Roots #2, Katharine Asals

And you, Dear Reader? Do you do Grounding Meditations? Do you live in a city? What’s your experience with these various factors?

Inspired by Lens Artists Photo Challenge: You Pick It

Every day things

I’ve been trying to start a daily habit – to get out the door first thing every morning and say hello to the lake.

The morning is my favourite time – the light is beautiful, the day just beginning, and there is hardly anyone around except the geese, the gulls, the ducks, and the diving cormorants

The few people who are out are doing inspiring things like yoga, or jogging, or even finishing up that report from a beautiful spot.

All in all, you would think this new habit would be a) easy enough, not overly ambitious, not going from sedentary to marathon in a week kind of thing and b) highly pleasurable – it is, as they suggest, a small enough habit to start with, and it is a blessing on my day every time I do it.

James Clear describes his atomic habits as:

…a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.

…the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.

~ James Clear

I’d started thinking hard about habits a couple of months ago, when, up in the night with insomnia, I did some deep bio reading about Manda Scott, whose workshop I went to last year, and whose fascinating and refreshingly optimistic podcast I’ve been following since back in January when she launched it.

On her About Manda page, written in a unique tense, she describes the period of her life when she wrote a seriously ambitious historical fiction series:

Six years of Boudica dreaming. Throw out the TV. Throw out the sound systems. Light the fire every night and let it teach me. By the end, have lost all touch with consensus reality.

~Manda Scott

The television bit and the fire every night bit I’d heard before, but the sound system??? She says: “recorded music is one of our strongest addictions”.

This is deeply radical. This blows my mind. I’d discovered the enormity of music in my life during one of my current habit experiments, which is to make the studio a wifi free zone. Not having a phone to reach for is the key piece – I have to deliberately leave my phone at home and walk over to the studio without anything that connects to the internet. The idea is that, distraction free, I will spend more time in deep thinking, or at least deep being, if there is nothing to plug into.

And the first thing I discovered was how much I missed playing music.

The phone and Facebook and whatever I can live without for a few hours, even for the day… but no music…??? I am deeply deeply hooked into music as a kind of mood designer.

So, thinking about just how deep one could conceivably go with lifestyle changes (can’t light a fire every night in downtown Toronto, but maybe there are other things…) I’ve tried to change up even the tiniest of habits, to experiment and try new things. You know, just those deeply engrained little things like brushing your teeth with the other hand.

Or, the other afternoon, on my way to a backyard BBQ with friends, rather than take the obvious bike route along King, across the bridge over the Don and along Queen East into Leslieville, I got out the map and explored some twisty bike lanes that take you over little hidden bridges and under underpasses and down onto the Lakeshore bike path. It’s still kind of unfamiliar territory for me, but shucks, there was dozens and dozens of folks out there with some serious looking biking habits.

All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger… The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.

~ James Clear

Meanwhile, with some BC friends we’ve begun a daily drawing challenge – each evening one of us sends a prompt to the others, and the next day we each respond to that prompt with a drawing. Some days have produced some pretty terrible drawings, but by coming back to it (almost) each and every day, there are some drawings where I can really see my skills developing –

And my morning lake-visiting habit???

At the moment I’m averaging about every other day.

There are still days when, distracted by the inviting option of coffee on the balcony, watching the skies and scanning the construction site below, searching for the resident bunnies and foxes who can occasionally be spotted darting out from underneath sheds and pipes, I indulge in that strangely sweet uber-urban homey feeling.

So, for now, on those days I don’t make it to the lake first thing, I’ve been making sure to do it at some point during the day. This is not the ultimate goal but is a temporary compromise, and it has reminded me of how fun it is to see the same body of water at different times of day.

The glaring sun and choppy waters of a mid-day, can turn into a magical evening in exactly the same spot.

And in the evenings, turns out people are bringing boom boxes and coolers of beer and skateboards and portable disco balls, and setting up sweet mini parties and dancing underneath the trees by Sugar Beach. Small groups, as is proper during a pandemic, but such creative and romantic ways to enjoy our tiny sliver of city lake front.

Lens Artists – Everyday Objects

New Teach

Truth is, though I continue to add new teachers, I’m never finished with the old ones – just always growing a bigger roster.

* * *

Back in May I went to a workshop with a teacher I’d had my eye on. She’s based in the UK, and there was no fast and easy way I was going to make it to one of her weekend workshops there, so when she announced a workshop in the States, I jumped on the bus heading south with bells on.

The trip was through a part of the States I love – the Mohawk Valley, and the beautiful little historical towns of upstate New York, on into Massachusetts.

There was a rather hilarious moment with a ride-share, where Sharon had agreed to pick me up at the Albany bus station to drive together along highway 2 into rural Massachusetts. She opened her arms to me at the bus station with a big hug, and we clambered happily into her car, where she started with: “So, how do you know Rabbi Jill?”

Well, I knew nothing about Rabbi Jill, and she knew nothing about shamanic teacher Manda Scott, but as we soon found out over the weekend at the conference centre in the woods, there was plenty of overlap and love between the various groups sharing the space.

There are stories I could tell about the weekend itself – about details and insights and the way one weekend in the woods can seem more important than several months on either side of it, but…

… at this point I will focus on the fact that there were so many things about Manda that were very appealing to me – her fierce intelligence, her life as a creative (she’s an author – more known in Britain than over here), the way she had navigated learning shamanic practice and then building her own way with it, the excitement she brought with her about Extinction Rebellion (a much bigger movement in the UK than here), and the seriousness with which she took her role as teacher and guide to more novice travellers.

So when she and her partner, Faith, launched a new venture in December – around the time of the equinox, moving into the new year – I signed up right away, without even really knowing what it was.

Turns out, it’s a series of offerings, and you can follow the podcast for free, or you can sign up for the paid membership version of the whole thing. Aside from the (fascinating, brilliant) podcast (where Rabbi Jill makes an appearance!), there’s an online discussion board, and my favourite part – a series of guided meditations and visualizations connecting with the elements (water, fire, air, earth, and so on).

The project it proposes – of believing in a new world, of imagining a new world, rather than being locked into the narrow vision of modern life as it is currently known – has been an anchor of optimism for me. It was an anchor of optimism even before the mammoth towering shadow of a global pandemic, so I mention it to you, just in case.

Just in case it is of interest to even one someone…