small revolutionary goals
7 practices for grounding
(Listen to the audio version here.)
Wayfinding Topic 4: If you want to know the future, tune into as many intricacies of the present moment as possible. Challenge the assumption that goals should be big and lofty. Consider how the smallest goals can be the most revolutionary goals. Take nothing for granted.
(Link to the original list of Wayfinding Topics)
In my last essay on desire, we worked through the nature of the life force, how it moves, how it leads us towards somatic experiencing rather than fixed endpoints, and the importance of reconnecting with this natural energy source that lives within all of us.
If you haven’t yet spent some time engaging with your natural life force and noticing how and where that shows up in your life, I encourage you to start there. Cultivating a connection to your desire will be the foundation for what you can actually do as you commit to this path of bringing your dreams into reality. Dreams are inherently unreal in a physical way, and it’s important to afford them this spaciousness, especially at the beginning.
When we allow our dreams to be vast, impractical, and maybe even magical, the more a desire will naturally include more than just our egoic aspirations, which in return, will provide us with the experience of integrating a dream that takes us beyond our current egoic boundaries. And I’d just like to clarify here that when I talk about ego, I’m simply referring to your individual conscious identity. So for example you identify as Brian (he/they) who is a husband, a brother, who works as a pharmacologist, is a member of a bowling group, among other various social and political affiliations. Ego desires are not bad, they’re just not a good place to stop dreaming since they only involve you (Brian) and how you identify right now as a static point in spacetime. There’s no room for flow.
So we include our ego desires, use them as a jumping off point, and then we move beyond them. Life force, as we discussed, is what moves us. It is flow. And if we are actually motivated to usher our dreams down from the imaginal realm and work with them in the material plane with all of its obstacles and practical considerations, then we need practices for integration.
The paradox that we’ll be exploring is to claim a desire as unapologetically unrealistic as a dream, and to structure our goals around the smallest, most barely noticeable shifts in behavior. This framework allows us to ground and integrate the dynamism of dreams into daily living. Otherwise our dreams just stay up in dreamland forever and we never get to realize them down here, where we live.
To begin, in order for these small goals to be revolutionary, they have to be based on 2 principles:
They have to be aligned with you: who you are as a human process of becoming. If you don’t feel a resonance with them (that’s felt resonance, not mental understanding), you won’t have the resilience to maintain the practice and to return to it when you inevitably fall out of the pattern.
They have to be collaborative. This concept of collaboration is one that I’ll continue to reinforce because it’s so crucial to the perspective that these essays are written from: all creative work is collaborative. It requires an opening to ideas, emotions, and images and the willingness to engage with them. We are not the owners of ideas and inspiration, we are the receivers, creating an environment for generative synergistic entanglement. We get to be the medium for bringing dreams down from the clouds and onto the earth.
So let’s start with some examples of what this whole process might look like. In my previous essay, one of the items that my husband put on his desire wishlist was a house that had mattresses instead of floors and was surrounded by a mote in the form of a lazy river. When we lead from the feeling that our desires are pulling us towards, which, in this case could be indulgent rest and whimsical living, it ushers us into the creative expanse of the imagination, where we can let individual and temporal constructs grow past those constraints. Maybe the lazy river that was running around my house gets extended to the entire neighborhood. Maybe the mattress house is part of a whole world where people engage with their residences as playful imaginative canvases. Each living space would reflect the eccentricities of its occupants, which would give everyone living in the neighborhood more ideas and more creative license to stretch their residential wings. There would be no limits for construction because remember we’re still in dreamland where there is endless practical and imaginative support.
Or let’s say you didn’t jump right to mattress house when tuning into your list of desires and what you’d really appreciate is for your work environment to be set up with more horizontal power structures, where direction could be chosen based on the best idea rather than defaulting to the idea of the person with the fanciest title. Well what if ideas had to be presented in poetic verse or rap battles in order to be considered? Imagine a world where we unburden ourselves from time-constrained ideas by shifting to time-architecting rhythmic ideas. Now we’re not even talking about eliminating privilege in the workplace, we’re having an entirely new, vibrant, nomadic kind of conversation altogether.
Assuming you’ve sufficiently journeyed down the meandering melodic rabbit holes, the next part of the process is to choose the small revolutionary practices that are concurrently in tune. In the section that follows, I’ve created 4 categories of revolutionary goals in order to get you started. They are:
1) practices for grounding (earth)
2) practices for following the life force (fire)
3)practices for nonproductivity (water)
4) practices for paying attention (air)
Since each of these categories are important to spend time with, I’m going to spread them out over the next couple weeks. The idea would be to choose some practices from the featured category, either the ones that I’ve listed or come up with your own, and practice them for about a week or so. Then when the next category gets released, try a few of those for that week, and so on.
We’re going to start with practices for grounding. I’ve placed this one at the beginning for a reason. The capacity to be in our bodies and remember our natural body-mind connection is the foundation for connecting to the somatic experiences that will provide direction towards our dreams. The earth of our body has infinite wisdom to reintegrate. The first thing you’ll get out of sticking to these practices is a skill set for coming back to center and calming an overactive nervous system. Then once that becomes ingrained, you’ll begin to naturally speak, act, and make aligned decisions with ease.
Practices for grounding
(connecting with your body & the earth)
Daily check-in with your body: Commit to a time every day that you’ll remember to check in with how you feel and notice what’s going on in your body. This should only take about a minute or 2 for you to run through a short set of questions: What are the qualities of your energetic / emotional state? Where is the emotion located in your body? Are there any textures or colors associated with the feeling? The key part of this practice is to separate what you’re feeling from a story that you may have attached to a feeling. Asking questions about the aesthetic qualities provides a pathway to shift your mind away from rationalizing a feeling, which is problematic because that just maintains our attachment to it. One of the first times I did this practice, I noticed a persistent feeling of melancholy. Historically this is a feeling I would have labeled as bad, tried to resist, and to which I would have created a logical explanation for. But when I closed my eyes and tuned in, I first located it hovering around my shoulders and then I noticed that it had a lavender hue and resembled light, dewy sunset clouds. This afforded me the opportunity to see this emotional expression as not only pretty, but also as separate from myself, which is the prerequisite for its release.
Supportive movement: Commit to a yoga pose, movement pattern, or a single song dance party every day to break up static energy and engage with more flow. Choose a type of movement that you think will bring you an energy state that you could use more connection to. If you’ve been feeling low energy lately, choose the dance party. If you need some calming, spend 3 minutes in child’s pose every day. Tap in and do what’s best for you. (I’ve compiled a list of video examples at the bottom of this article.)
Connect to the earth via your senses: Create a daily ritual of smelling a particular flower that you may have growing nearby or go to a nursery and find an indoor plant that smells good and stick your face in it every day. Place your bare feet on the earth. Go on a listening walk where you focus only on listening to the sounds of nature around you and not on the monologue in your head. (If you choose this option, just keep in mind that you’ll have to keep redirecting your attention back outside of your head. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to focus the whole time.)
Weeding: This might be odd but I’m giving weeding its own category because I absolutely love it and I think more people should give it a chance. It’s an opportunity to get your hands dirty, make your yard more beautiful, and you also get to rip some shit out of the ground, if you’re the kind of person, like me, who might need to get that kind of thing out of your system.
“I am here” journaling practice: This exercise found me at a time in my life when I was feeling particularly ungrounded and I’ve held onto it as a way to re-entangle myself with my environment when I’m feeling isolated or out of sync. The idea is to locate yourself in space and time by writing the phrase “I am here…” and then describing where you are through your sense perceptions. So for example you might write “I am here sitting at my desk in May of 2023 and I hear the sounds of cars passing in the background, and birds chirping outside my window. I am here with a million things on my to-do list, while my body feels heavy and my 8 year old husky lays at my feet. I am here, feeling the light touch of damp fog on a spring morning, while my husband of 8 years talks loudly on the phone in the next room, and I am trying to remember that I can love people even when they talk loudly.” This one might appeal to the writers in the crowd but I’d urge you to consider it even if you’re not someone who is typically drawn to a journaling practice. As I’ve done this intermittently throughout the span of a couple years now, it has been a beautiful way to look back and see where I was a month ago, a year ago, etc and then noticing the ways that I’m growing, shedding, and moving with the world at a particular intersection of my life. It’s like taking a picture of a moment in time.
Find something specific in nature to build a relationship to. So you’re not deciding to pay attention to trees in general but pick a particular tree or a particular plot of earth. Spend a couple minutes every day noticing this thing. What are the particular qualities of this tree that makes it different from the other trees of its kind? How does she/they appear differently at different times of day? As you get more comfortable spending time with your tree friend, tell her a story. And if you do, be sure to ask for one in return.
Cuddle a dog: Do this intentionally for at least a couple minutes per day (don’t hold yourself back from going longer) and pay attention to how you feel while you’re doing it. No multitasking. It doesn’t count if you’re sitting next to your dog while you’re paying attention to your phone. Be fully engaged in the energy exchange. If you don’t have a dog, cuddle someone else’s dog. Go on a walk and ask a passing stranger if you can cuddle their dog for a minute. Don’t wait for a response. If you’re not a dog person, I highly suggest you become one.
The key for all of these practices is to incorporate them ritually into your life. I prefer to think about integrating these practices as rituals rather than habit formation because of the quality of attention a ritual implies. Habit formation is about integrating an automatic pattern, and automation is the opposite of the point of all of this.
You will have to put in work in order for any of these practices to stick. Though they are small, part of their revolutionary nature is the inordinate change they will provoke in your life. And change, even when it is generally good and something you want, is still uncomfortable. This is why we started with desire and dreaming, so that we can remember why we’re making time for these practices.
If you do find yourself resisting a commitment to any practice that you say you want to do because you know it will be good for you, that’s completely ok and is a useful piece of information. It may be that your desire isn’t actually aligned with who you are becoming and the resistance is a sign that you need to go back and reassess. Or it may be that there’s still something that you’re getting out of being in a lower energy state that you need to bring awareness to. Lower doesn’t mean worse, and the only thing that matters if you find yourself here is to introduce agency. So if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your phone when you think you should be dancing some life back into your bones, just switch the dialogue to choosing the energy state that you’re in while you’re scrolling. When you remove any behavior from the realm of default into conscious acceptance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the result.
Happy grounding. Next time we’ll explore practices for following the life force.
Movement Options (with videos) for Grounding Practice #2: Supportive Movement
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