The text below comes from an audio exercise that we created to help us to feel more grounded, connection and compassionate during such uncertain times.
Access the audio file on YouTube: Grounding and Compassion for Uncertain Times
Grounding and Compassion for Uncertain Times
At times like we’re experiencing at the moment, it’s common to find ourselves shifting in and out of fight, flight or freeze mode, or perhaps even feeling like we’re spending most of our time in this place. This is our minds way of trying to protect us from real or perceived threat, but the problem is when we spend too much time in this space, we end up feeling like a ball of stress, and for some of us, it may even trigger trauma related responses.
Many of us are feeling on edge, exhausted and like an internal alarm is going off in our bodies. When this happens the part of our brain that can problem-solve and work its way through situations goes offline and we’re operating according to our animal and survival instincts, feeling overwhelmed by worries and “what if…”? questions and scenarios. When we feel scared like this we also tend to turn inward and this can just add to our sense of isolation, which in turn creates more fear.
During times like this it’s essential that we find ways to give our mind and our body a break and also to stay connected to our compassion for ourselves and other people. This exercise is designed to do just that. Together will focus on a few simple, but effective evidence-based grounding techniques that will help us all to bring ourselves back into the present moment. We’ll also walk through a compassion cultivating exercise. We’ll do our best to give our minds, brains and hearts a little breather.
Okay, so I’d like to now invite you all to close your eyes or if you’d prefer to keep your eyes open, just find a spot to fix your gaze and soften your eyes.
At any time during this guided meditation if you feel uncomfy feel free to just stop. Just do what you need to do throughout the exercise to make this work for you.
To start off with give yourself a chance to have a wiggle and shake out anything you need to, maybe even have a yawn and a stretch if that feels good for you.
Now just allow yourself to settle back into a seated position, finding a comfy but alert posture with your back straight but not rigid.
Allow the weight of your body to sink into the floor. Feel the support of the ground beneath you. You might feel shoulder blades relaxing down your back and your chest opening up as you do this. You want your posture to be comfy and sustainable so just give yourself some time to find what feels right for you and adjust yourself as you go along if you need to.
Bring your awareness into your body. Notice the points of contact between your body and the chair or the floor, the feeling of your hands resting gently in your lap and moving your focus down to your feet noticing any subtle sensations coming up there.
Let’s all now tune into the sounds that we can hear together around us. Start off by focusing on the sounds that you can hear that are further away – tuning into the really obvious sounds, but also those more hidden, subtle noises. Just mentally noting the sounds you hear, without judging them as good or bad. Then try narrowing your attention to the sounds you can hear closer by, even the sounds you can hear coming from your own body, the sound of your body breathing, the sound of your stomach
Sounds are a lovely way to ground ourselves when we feel anxious, so before we move onto focusing on our breathing together, if you find it unsettling to focus on your breath in this next part, just stick with noting the sounds that you can hear around you instead.
For those who would like to, let’s now gently shift our awareness away from sounds to the feeling of your body breathing. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. You might feel the rise and fall of your abdomen, the air coming in and out of your nostrils, the feeling of your breath passing through your throat or even the rise and fall of your shoulders or torso. Choose one of these areas of your body to tune into the flow of your inhale and exhale. No need to change your breathing in any way, just following along with the natural rhythm of your in breath and out breath
Observing each in breath and each out breath, perhaps even noticing the slight pause in between your inhale and your exhale.
Being present for each inhale and each exhale.
If your mind starts to wander at any point, just gently bring your focus back to your breath. Try to resist the urge to get frustrated with yourself when this happens. Our minds are thought machines, they’re just doing their job when they wander off so it’s just a part of the experience for all of us. What matters is the way you bring yourself back, ideally in a kind and low key kind of way.
Now that we have our breath as anchor to the present moment, or sounds if you were choosing to focus on these, keep in mind that you can come back to these as a focus if you want to at any point for the rest of the meditation.
I’d like to invite you now to bring to mind a person you enjoy spending time with, it might be your partner, a family member, a friend or someone from work. Try to visualise this person in your mind as if they were sitting or standing in front of you and say their name silently in your mind. Try to hold this person in your mind as you focus on these words: “Just like me this person has a body and a mind. Just like me this person has emotions and thoughts. Just like me this person has experienced physical and emotional pain. .Just like me, this person wishes to be safe, healthy and loved. .Just like me, this person wishes to be happy. I wish all these things for this person because this person is a human being, just like me”.
Now bring to mind someone you don’t know so well… it might be someone you’ve only recently met, a friend of a friend, a neighbour. Try to visualise them in your mind as if they were sitting or standing in front of you and say their name (if you know it) silently in your mind. Hold this person in your mind as you focus on the following words: “Just like me this person has a body and a mind. Just like me this person has emotions and thoughts. Just like me this person has experienced physical and emotional pain. .Just like me, this person wishes to be safe, healthy and loved. .Just like me, this person wishes to be happy. I wish all these things for this person because this person is a human being, just like me”.
Now let’s bring to mind all of the people around the world who are impacted by our current situation. If you feel comfortable to, try to visualise those impacted standing alongside you or around you. Hold these people in your mind as you send them these words of compassion: “Just like me, these people have experienced physical and emotional pain. Just like me they wish to be safe, healthy and loved. Just like me they wish to be happy. I wish all of these things for these people because just like me they are human beings”.
Continue for a few moments longer, resting into this feeling of empathy and compassion that you have generated for people close to you and people further away, impacted by our current situation. Notice the way this compassion feels in your body – any physical sensations that arise, as well as any emotions or thoughts that come up.
Feel yourself surrounded by other people sending empathy, compassion and a sense of calm out into the world.
Now let go of any effort to remain focused on this feeling of empathy and compassion and simply be with your inner experience for a few moments longer. Resting in stillness.
As the exercise comes to a close start to externalise your awareness by noticing the sounds that you can hear around you. Bringing your awareness back to your body seated on the chair and when you’re ready gently opening your eyes.
If you are looking for other resources to help right now, take a read of some of our other blogs:
- What to Do When You Feel Swamped by Your Emotions
- Self Care Tips for the Real World
- A Simple Way to Bring a Little Self Compassion into Your Life
Image by Breeana Dunbar Photography