Ranée

Solace

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a walk in the nature preserve near my neighborhood, so today, I did just that. There was no one along the length of the paved path when I arrived and the rays of sunlight shone through the trees like a beacon.

I decided to take the pond trail loop this time, wondering if there’d actually be a pond now. There was no one else on that path either, at least, no human, and as I strolled along, the only sound apart from my footfalls and the crunch of dead leaves beneath my shoes was the occasional gust of chill wind rustling through the trees. Less often, I heard the chirp or call of birds.

I’d been walking for maybe ten minutes when off to my right, a little ways off the trail, I noticed a sign that warned: Danger! You are no longer on the path. Turn back! Part of me was tempted to venture into that forbidden territory, but today didn’t seem like a good day to get lost, so I smiled to myself and kept to the path. Some water had collected in the depression among the leaf-covered ground, after all, I saw, when I neared the pond site, though not much; its depth was surely no more than a few feet at most.

I walked on, past fallen trunks, a tree whose twisted branches looked as though they were clawing at the earth, and a tangle of leaves and vines that had grown into a beautiful natural arch. The leaves of the arch had a bluish tinge to them in the light that I found quite lovely and I thought of Alice stumbling through that archway into her magical world.

A bit father along, some logs had formed what were almost small steps and as I neared them, I heard a rabbit whom I’d apparently frightened scurry away through the brush. When I left the trail, the sight of the leaves fluttering slowly down to the ground so captivated me that I stopped to film them.

As I emerged from the tree-lined path, I saw that the sky was a brilliant, clear blue with only a few wisps of cloud. A lone woolly worm crawled across the asphalt in front of me and a bronze-colored object caught my eye. I’m not sure what the sparkly copper-colored object was, but I decided to leave it where I’d found it; it wasn’t mine to keep.

On my way back to my car, I passed other nature-lovers now who smiled or nodded, some exchanging a greeting or wave with me. Kindred souls, I knew, who also took solace in the wild beauty of this magical place. I spied another, smaller arch, this one a single vine, before I heard the shouts of children come to ride their bikes teasing their mother who balanced on the curb. I could feel the spell breaking.

As I neared the parking lot, I glanced down to see that some leaves had left star-shaped imprints on the sidewalk—shooting stars, I thought, smiling. I walked to my car and noticed the crude words my son had written in the condensation on the dirty windows a day earlier showing clearly and sighed. I should probably wash my car.

Ranée

The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Grounding is all about connecting with nature and the outdoors, which is root chakra, or muladhara, territory. Much of the work that I do involves using a computer and I tend to sit at my desk indoors while I work, so I try to spend at least some time every day outside. Sometimes, I’ll take my laptop with me and do some work outside or sit in the grass with my notebook and pen, writing, but generally, when I’m outside in nature, I want to enjoy it without distraction.

One of my favorite places to venture

One of my favorite ways to get in touch with nature or “get grounded” is to go for a walk. I live quite close to a nature preserve and park and that’s my absolute favorite place to go for walks. I also live in a relatively quiet neighborhood that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, so tend to go for daily walks by myself, with my dog, or with my family.

Most days when it’s warm weather and not raining, I’ll just step outside and stroll through the grass in my bare feet. I hate shoes and don’t even wear socks unless it’s super cold, but walking barefoot is more than that for me. I find the feel of the grass beneath my feet comforting; it’s a reminder that I’m always supported. You can’t accomplish much without first having a strong foundation. The ground beneath my feet is a tangible, literal reminder that I have one.

Apart from walking, I’ve also come to enjoy gardening, something I never really thought I’d be into. It was and still is one of my mom’s hobbies. And now I can sort of see what she loves about it—planting flowers, trees, vegetables, and herbs in the earth, cultivating life. I’ve come to love watching my plants grow and I hate seeing them dwindle. And, yes, I talk to them. I’ve even named some of them.

Whenever it’s raining or snowing or temperatures rise to sweltering (above 85 degrees tends to get intolerable for me) and I can’t go outside, I have to find alternatives. I’ve brought nature indoors by getting some indoor plants (a couple of succulents and Artemis, my aloe plant, who is thriving).

Root chakra isn’t just about getting in touch with nature, though, as I’m learning. It’s also about being at home in your body, nourishing it, caring for it, paying attention to its cues (eating when hungry, resting when tired, examining aches and pains). Now that I know this, it makes sense to feel invigorated after physical activity and to feel satisfied after eating a wholesome meal. The things that you put into (and, for that matter, onto) your body really do make a difference. I didn’t really start taking care of my body until a few years ago. I didn’t eat well, didn’t exercise, and ended up feeling really bad. I noticed such a difference when I began working out, eating healthier, and finally stopped hating my body. I felt like a new person! I have to say that I was only able to tap into higher spiritual levels and wake up the upper chakras after I got grounded. To me, that makes perfect sense. You can’t build on a shaky foundation.

A part of muladhara that I still wrestle with from time to time is fear and feelings of security. I experience some anxiety and worry at times over things like money and job security, though it’s nothing like what I previously went through. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that whenever I’m out among nature, with my feet on the ground, I don’t feel that stress. I guess in that way, grounding helps me to clear my mind, regain focus and clarity. And it brings me solace. As I reflect on that now, I realize that Mother Gaia has always brought me that sense of comfort. She was there when I was a little girl running around barefoot in the yard and she was there when as a teenager I’d lay out in the grass at night gazing up at the stars. I lost that sense of joy and peace for a while when school, work, and other obligations kept me more indoors than out, and I drifted for a long time. She was there all that time, though, waiting for me to finally get my feet on the ground once more, and she welcomed me back into her nurturing arms.

Ranée

Rainbow Connection

Site of the momentous occasion

Today marks a major milestone for me—I did an unassisted handstand! A couple of months ago, I set a goal for myself that I would do a handstand for real, by which I meant nothing supporting me but my hands. I’d been practicing against the wall during my third-eye and crown chakra yoga routines. I started by balancing on my hands, with my feet braced against the wall, my body in an L shape. I gradually started inching my feet farther up the wall. My husband eventually cleared the PERFECT space for me to practice right next to the Army of Darkness poster in our basement. I say perfect because (a) it’s Army of Darkness and Bruce Campbell and my goal was to kick fear’s ass just like Ash kicked those demons’ asses, and (b) when I fully stretched out, my feet just managed to touch that area of dropped ceiling. Well, today, I braced myself with my hands like I always do, then stretched my legs up toward the ceiling. As the toes of one foot brushed the lower ceiling, I thought to myself, I don’t need to brace my feet. In that moment, I let go, and I did it! I did a handstand! Then I got so excited about the fact that I was doing it that I fell, but that’s OK. The important thing was I did it and now I know that I can do it again.

Today’s milestone is pretty significant for me in terms of both my personal healing process and my growth as a practitioner of both yoga and meditation. I am so incredibly grateful for the progress I’ve made. A few years ago, when I decided to rehaul my lifestyle in the name of self-care, I vowed that exercise would be a part of my daily regimen. Although it took me a while to settle on specific cardio exercises that I liked and could stick with, there was never any question that yoga would be a part of my daily fitness routine.

I’ve been practicing yoga in general for several years now and I like using the Yoga Studio app for iPhone. A few years ago, before the rehaul, I felt drawn to practice their series of chakra yoga classes. Right around the same time, I began doing some guided meditation and read Mindfulness In Plain English. Although neither yoga nor meditation became a daily thing for me until post-awakening or rebirth or whatever you want to call it, my intro to meditation and chakras was the start of something pretty major—a step in my path toward achieving balance in my life. Since I’ve begun to practice both daily, they’ve made a HUGE difference in my life and healing journey.

Although I’ve been practicing chakra yoga for a couple of years now, I only recently read Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga. That book was a game-changer. Judith includes overviews of each of the seven major chakras and discusses specific yoga poses that target each one. She also includes a whole sequence of poses designed for each of the chakras. A sequence focused on the root chakra (muladhara), which is all about connection to the ground/earth, involves standing poses such as tree and mountain that stress a strong foundation. The second chakra, svadhistana, or sacral chakra, is stimulated by hip-opening poses like happy baby, lizard, monkey, and mermaid, one of my favorites (see a pic of my rendition below). Manipura, the solar plexus chakra, is all about ab work. The fourth chakra, anahata, is (literally) the heart of it all. Heart-opening poses include the aptly named melting heart pose, bow, camel, cobra, and wheel. Visuddha, the throat chakra, is stimulated by poses involving the neck and shoulders. Ajna, the third-eye chakra, is best activated by balancing poses and inversions such as headstands and handstands, which require exceptional focus to maintain. The seventh chakra, sahasrara, is the crown chakra. Judith admits that this chakra is much better served by meditation and says that there are not many poses devoted specifically to sahasrara. Her recommended sahasrara sequence follows the path of the kundalini, moving through each of the other chakras in turn, and is designed to open up all of the chakras, activating the crown chakra in the process. I have to admit, it’s one of my favorites. Today’s focus for me happened to be the third-eye and crown chakras, hence the handstand I did as part of this morning’s routine.

After reading Judith’s book, I wanted to put her suggested routines into practice. I used the Seconds App to create custom classes based on the routines in Judith’s book. Because I’m a huge dork who’s totally obsessed with music—I also created custom playlists to accompany each one. I’ve been practicing one or more of these routines every day since. I noticed a profound difference. Since day 1, my practice has become much more wholistic—an integrated mind-body-soul experience. Each day, both my yoga practice and my daily meditation are dedicated to whatever chakras are in need of focus or out of balance. I’ve become quite passionate about yoga this past year in particular; it’s right up there with writing and music for me now. I’ve contemplated getting an instructor certification, but that for now, I continue to develop my personal practice and I look forward to where it takes me next.