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Finding Ground, Making Sense, and Getting Simple

Relax, everything is out of control.
—Ajahn Brahm

Finding Ground

March 13, 2020

In a world of tension and breakdown it is necessary for there to be those who seek to integrate their inner lives not by avoiding anguish and running away from problems, but by facing them in their naked reality and in their ordinariness.
—Thomas Merton

I thought I was handling it all quite well. With the increasing cases of coronavirus, the disappointment of recent election results, the cancellations of the many social gatherings I’ve come to rely on, I was being practical. I hadn’t been glued to the news, I was washing my hands and making time to check in with friends. My pandemic supplies were more-or-less stocked. There in the grocery store, though, another reality became clear. While my head was managing, my body was freaking out.

I know this saran wrap feeling in my chest well. It’s fear. It’s anxiety. It’s uncertainty. Doom is a breath away. Though my mind had it “under control,” my body reminded me of the truth: I’m afraid. Given what we’re facing societally, I think this is a natural response.

Just as the body indicates what is true, it leads us to what it needs. For me, in that moment, it was to get out of that store and find a patch of grass.

Ground is the place to go when overwhelmed with thoughts and fears. It can hold our confusion with unwavering presence. We can source the earth’s formidable strength to connect with how these qualities live inside of us. In her timeless gaze, we open to the present; we slow down.

Photograph by Jessica Stern

From the store, I made my way across a busy intersection to a quiet neighborhood where I scouted a plot to land. I needed sun, and I needed earth. A green tuft on a corner not too close to Wednesday’s garbage bins and seemingly not part of someone’s yard availed itself to me, and I plopped down. There, I watched a man in a cowboy hat drive a tractor back and forth with loads of dirt. I listened to a group of tweens excitedly chatting on the way home from school. I felt the cold wet earth slowly soak through my pants. The saran-wrapping of my chest did not go away, but it was present alongside the heft of my booty and the strength of my legs.

Trying to Make Sense of It All

March 17, 2020

Wherever we are we can take a deep breath, feel our body, open our senses, and step outside of the endless stories of the mind. We can stop. We can rest our awareness in a spacious and compassionate heart. Then we can see thought streams, worries, and images as only one part of a much larger story.
—Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart

It is Day 1 of the shelter-at-home mandate. Things are slowing down. My income for this month is uncertain, and I’m wondering how April will look. Outside, the typical sounds of cars passing, the hammering from some nearby construction project, even the voices of people chatting on the sidewalk, have subsided. The humans are quiet, but the world is not without sound. Just the opposite. In our absence, there is a symphony. The birds—and there are many: small flocks of flitting brown ones, yellow-crested, and innumerable others I wish I could name—are singing. Heads lifted, breasts filled, they sound out into the impossibly gorgeous day. Have they always been here? Am I just taking notice? Or, is there a bit more space for them as we humans take up a bit less?

How to make sense of this? My mind likes things in neat and tidy packages. It thinks it’s figured something out. Ahh, see, when we humans get out of the way, a world that’s been oppressed by our presence surges back to life. Perhaps there is some truth to that. But resting there fills me with fear and anger.

And what about my body? What does it say? What does it know? Today, I let myself have a leisurely movement practice. I rolled and stomped and sighed. I felt grateful that my partner and I can weather this storm together. I felt concern for those who are alone or unhoused. And I wondered, what do we do about this mess? The knowings of my body arise in a non-linear way. My body puts me in contact with a truth beyond the current moment. Within it is wisdom that has contributed to the resiliency of my people from time and eternity. In making contact with it, I’m immediately drawn out of my small mind and into something larger—like a petal feeling itself as part of a garden.

Getting Simple

March 22, 2020

When you don’t know what to do, do nothing.
Get quiet so you can hear the still small voice.
—Oprah

The pressure to be “in action” is high. It’s easy to formulate lists of all that could/should be done, to watch with worry as the number of COVID-19 cases grows day by day. I feel my inner critic poised to shame me for doing too much or not doing enough. Stripped of my usual schedule, my days are now filled with virtual commitments.

Thank Goddess for the body.

When the pressure is on, when I’m not sure what to do, the mind tells me to act; the body asks me to get still. I’m reminded that it is when our world is the most complex that we need to be the most simple. It is simplicity that allows us to bring our body/heart and mind into alignment so we may be resourced to show up fully for what’s ahead.

Getting simple means turning toward ourselves. It means creating space to feel, sense, and wonder. We let go of being right and good and productive, and instead give ourselves permission to be as we are. We walk. We nap. We read. We meditate. We sleep. We feel the discomfort of this—the itch to do more—and we remain. We ask the body, what do you need? And we oblige. Then, like navigating from a turbulent sea to dry land, a bit of truth—some ground we can stand on—arises.


Kelsey Blackwell is a somatic coach, writer, and facilitator committed to fearlessly creating spaces for women and people of color to trust and follow the wisdom of their own bodies so they may powerfully shine their lights in a world that sorely needs this brilliance. Follow her at kelseyblackwell.com.


Photography by Jessica Stern


Return to contents page of Practice, Resilience, and Compassion in the Time of COVID-19.


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