The late literature professor Joseph Campbell wrote: “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the rhythm of the universe, to match your nature with Nature”. This statement aligns with the goal of healing in Ayurveda, which is to achieve balance and unite with cosmos. Life is a healing journey. All of us are on a quest to find harmony and become integrated in the world. But our digital lives has disconnected us from our surroundings in ways that were unimaginable only a generation ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, but it is a medium, not a way of life. The digitalization of society has altered our everyday lives so fundamentally that we now spend a greater portion of our time interacting with machines and algorithms than with the natural world. Because we are so far removed from physical reality, we must find our place in this world in a very literal sense.
The simple spiritual practices of grounding, centering, and cleansing can help us to stay present and connected to the world around us on a daily basis. I use these exercises to prepare for rituals, as well as for preparing for the day ahead, or when I feel stressed and anxious. These techniques do not require you to be in nature, but I believe that they are even more effective when combined with “earthing”: the act of physically connecting with the natural world. The essence of any spiritual practice is to heal the loneliness of the human soul and for me, that means connecting with something greater than myself. Performing these exercises in nature makes me feel truly close to the soul of the universe. When I feel grass under my feet or sun rays on my skin, I am no longer alone. I can feel how my heartbeat aligns with the rhythm of the universe.
Grounding Garden Meditation
Grounding means to re-connect with the energies of nature: your own nature or the energies of earth. Every morning I bring my coffee and a book outside with the intention to read. But I rarely ever open the book. As soon as I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, nature overwhelms my senses and I become absorbed by my surroundings. The freshness of the air, the softness of the grass, the buzzing of bees and cicadas, the brilliance of the cosmos flowers dancing in the summer breeze, the towering jungle of sunflowers sparkling in yellow and crimson, the blissful scent of roses….I just sit. Nothing happens. I don’t read, I don’t watch YouTube, I don’t do yoga, I don’t think, I don’t’ try. And I am happy. This is my morning meditation. It is not a carefully planned ritual, it just occurs. I open the door and surrender to nature. The sense of presence acquired through this simple spiritual exercise is unsurpassed by anything I have ever tried before. Of course, meditating in nature does not require a garden. A park, a forest, or even a balcony will do just fine.
Centering with nature walks and pet playtime
Our minds are constantly scattered, our thought racing between a million items on daily, weekly, and yearly to-do lists. We worry about the future and about the past, and we are constantly bombarded with information from our tablets, phones, and laptops. Multi-tasking has become the new normal but the only way to truly focus and stop stressing is to direct all your energy towards one thing the the time. Unlike grounding, centering requires you to take action rather than sitting back and relaxing into the here and now. Two of my favorite daily centering activities includes going for a tree walk and playing with my cat.
The “tree walk” is a simply my adaptation of an exercise called “centering with mass” from Amber K’s book True Magick. Take a walk outdoors and focus your attention on any large object in nature, such as a tree, a mountain, a rock, or even the ocean. Take a deep breath and take in the mass of the object through your eyes and breath. If it’s a tree or a rock, put your palms against the trunk or the surface of the stone and close your eyes to take in the mass true your hands. If it is the ocean or a river, dip yours hands or feet in the water, and inhale the salty or fresh scent. You will soon feel calm and collected.
Petting or playing with a pet. Cats and dogs live fully in the present and they’re either snoozing or intensely focused on food or play. You can not be mentally absent when you are engaged in a hunting game with your cat. Unless you are really into it and learn to think like the prey and move the toy around like a real mouse, snake, or bird, your cat will get bored.
The rewards for taking the time to play with your pet is not just a deeper, more loving relationship with an individual of another species, you become happy and centered as well.
3. Create Cleansing Smudge Bundles
Cleansing is a spiritual bath that washes away dirt on a mental and emotional level. It is a way to rid yourself of energies, thoughts, and emotions that no longer serve you. This can be done through meditation and visualization, but I like to use physical tools to involve the senses.
“Smudging” refers to a Native American ceremony where a place or person is purified or blessed using the smoke of dried herbs but similar practices exist in other cultures and religions as well. Smudge bundles are fun and easy to make. Just bundle together any number of fresh herbs traditionally used for cleansing such as cedar, sage, rosemary, and lavender. Growing and harvesting your own herbs and plants for this purpose is rewarding work, but it is not necessary. Just remember that store-bought herbs or plants from a nursery needs to be rinsed thoroughly before drying.
Wrap the herbs tight with organic cotton thread and hang them to dry in a dark place for at least a month. When its time to use them, keep a heatproof container, such as a an alabaster shell, nearby, and light the smudge bundle. Blow out the flame after a few seconds and place it in the heatproof container to use as incense. For a cleansing smoke bath, grab the smudge bundle and gently “brush” yourself (keeping the bundle at a safe distance from your skin of course) so that the smoke can clear out all unwanted energy.