The answer is right there in the terms we use to describe ourselves when we are upset or at ease. It is a matter of direction.
A few days ago I had an appointment with someone who was coming to my house. The person didn’t arrive on time, and as the minutes ticked by, I became irritated. I texted her and didn’t receive an immediate response which irritated me even more. I kept going to the window to see if she had arrived and checking my phone to see if she had texted. My mind was spinning stories – judging her for being late, worried that it was I who had made a mistake about the time, and so on. I felt agitated and restless. My heart rate was up a bit. I felt disappointed and angry.
I tried to think my way out of my distress. Maybe she was stuck somewhere and couldn’t get in touch. Even if she forgot, I have done the same on more than one occasion. Nothing terrible was happening. It would all sort itself out. That helped a little, but I was still unable to relax. I reflected on this a bit.
When we are upset or angry or agitated, our energy rises. Our breathing is shallow. Our weight shifts forward and upward. Our attention is in our heads. Our thoughts run amok, shouting stories about whatever has initiated our distress. We fuel the stories with fiery emotions. Or perhaps we try to douse the fire with other thoughts, which still keep us in our heads.
So many terms identify this upward direction of energy. We get riled up, churned up, revved up, for example. Tempers rise.
Other terms suggest a way to restore our inner equilibrium – calm down, settle down, slow down. The direction away from distress is downward. So how do we do that? Because we rely so much on our brains, our first instinct is to think our way out of a problem. However, thinking often is the problem. Our distress is in our thoughts. And while it is possible to think ourselves back into balance, a more direct way is to move out of our heads and down into our bodies.
So I did a simple exercise to bring my energy down. I inhaled and stood on my toes, raising my arms away from my body. I paused there a moment, then suddenly released my weight as I exhaled and dropped into my feet, letting my arms fall at the same time. I kept my knees relaxed so that when my heels hit the ground, there was a soft bounce, like I was shaking all the tension loose and letting it sink into the earth.
On the third repetition, I felt an internal release and everything immediately relaxed. My body felt calm, my mind stopped chattering, my emotions settled. Equanimity was restored. Just like that. Only a few seconds. Not complicated. Simple. Effective.
As I was marveling at the wisdom of my body, my friend texted. Indeed we had miscommunicated about the time. I’m not even sure which one of us was at fault, or indeed if there had been any fault at all. At that point it no longer mattered to me. We got together and had a good visit.
At a time when many of us are feeling so much stress and anxiety, and other “up” emotions, this is a great exercise to help us stay balanced and grounded. Try it. I hope it’s helpful.
Get yourself grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace. ~Steve Goodier