Day Sixteen: Ground Control

I was heading out the door to teach my 8:30 a.m. class this morning when Mia called. The instant I saw her number at that hour, I knew: fender bender. A minor dust-up in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot involving a blind spot in our CR-V, morning sun glare, and senior spring (friends, academics, theater, no downtime, lack of sleep, college uncertainty all swirled into a frothy blend of anxiety-latte). In a panicky voice, she told me she was this close to a meltdown. In her case, once the train gets up a head of steam for meltdown station, you just have to buckle up and wait for the ride to end. Telling her to calm down (she would if she could) or trying to reassure her verbally is unhelpful to her. She purses her facial muscles and presses the heels of her hands against her brow, as if she is literally trying to hold herself together. Her breathing shallows; everything makes her angry, mostly with herself for being unable to control her rising sense of panic. If she could only breathe more deeply, release her muscles instead of trying so hard to contain herself. But she is too caught in her head.

By the time I had pulled into the parking lot at the club where I teach Nia, a text confirmed she was safely at school and presumably, feeling better. I was now the one who was rattled. I was running late. I hadn’t had time to prepare, check my playlist, craft a focus for this morning’s class, or plug in to my own sensations. Even though I hadn’t had any coffee this morning, I felt over-caffeinated and jittery.

In Nia, you have permission to teach the class you need to take. Chances are, if it’s what you need, everyone else does, too. It never fails to amaze me how true this is – Jung’s web of associations. The second I stepped out of the car and my foot met the pavement, it came to me, almost in a jolt: I need to get grounded. My energy is staticky and all over the place – who knows who I might inadvertently shock if I don’t close the circuit and ground myself?

Grabbing the mic and heading into the studio, I was stopped by a lovely, high-energy “regular” who always dances with delight and is especially light on her feet. She wanted to apologize that she might not participate with her usual verve this morning. She tucked aside her blonde bangs to reveal a nasty gash in her eyebrow. Ouch! On Monday, she’d walked smack into the corner of a kitchen cabinet at her house. “I guess I just wasn’t being mindful,” she said thoughtfully. I laughed with her: I think perhaps you weren’t being body-full. It’s the same thing for Mia when her anxiety mounts: she loses a sense of being tethered to her body, anchored and safe. Her mind, if anything, is too full. As was mine, when I was sitting in the parking lot, feeling rattled and unfocused, chasing a nestful of rabbit-thoughts down their little holes: should I call Mia? Should I text one of her friends to make sure she settled down? Should I call our insurance agent? How much was this going to cost us? Could I focus for class? Were my students going to have a lousy class because my mind was so jumpy? Did I remember to put Westley back inside before I left home? Oh, crap, did I forget my Ipad?

In class, we focused on feeling the hardwood boards under our bare feet, on sensing our leg and buttock muscles and their connection to the floor. We scooped up armfuls of air and brought our palms together to close the circuit. We squatted down and placed our fingertips on the floor, grounding hands and feet, feeling the solidity of the earth underneath us. We stomped our feet and shimmied our shoulders and played with the contrasting sensations of being supported and solid from below, and freaking out into the space around our heads, hands swatting imaginary bees from around our ears. We stood still and listened to the music, grounding in sounds and melody. We dug in our heels, as if the floor was wet sand. We danced, bodies-full.

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