What are the rituals that ground you?

The world has changed dramatically since my last monthly roundup newsletter. In fact, the world is changing dramatically every single day. Never in my lifetime have I seen so much uncertainty, so much disruption, so much change in how we live, how we interact, how we think, even how we breathe.

We are on a boat, in a storm.

And we need to stay balanced on this boat that’s getting pummeled by waves, wind, lightning, and rain. A stock market that soars and plummets by 5-10% daily. New instructions, sometimes hourly, about what to do and what not to do, where to go and where not to go.

In order not to get seasick, we need to find solid ground. Somewhere we can breathe and be OK. A place where, even while the storm rages on, we can find our steady, safe, maybe even peaceful, selves.

Which is why, now more than ever, we need practices. Rituals we follow every day that ground us, settle us, keep us connected to what’s important to us. Things that, in the midst of change and uncertainty, don’t change. No matter what.

There are lots of things that help me feel grounded: Having dinner with my family every night. Listening to my wife Eleanor, hiking with 18-year-old Isabelle, watching Jane the Virgin with my 14-year-old Sophia, and shooting videos with my 12-year-old Daniel. Meditating. Putting on my Tefillin in the morning (A Jewish prayer ritual). Exercising (in our living room or outside, not in a gym!).

Yet there is one thing that grounds me more than any other, that settles me and moves me in deep ways, that helps me find myself at a time when I might otherwise get lost in stress or distraction:

Writing.

Sitting quietly, connecting to myself, choosing my words thoughtfully, reading what I’ve written back to myself, rearranging words and sentences, then reading it back to myself again, editing some more – I love it. It feels useful and it makes me happy. I feel it right now as I write these words to you.

I’ve come to realize that, along with my personal, familial, and spiritual practices, along with making sure we have enough food and toilet paper (I don’t quite understand the toilet paper anxiety but…), I need to protect my writing. To cordon off a solid amount of time, every day, to settle in, think, and write.

And while it helps tremendously to commit to those practices that ground us, I’ve also noticed a number of habits I’ve fallen into that unground me. Things that destabilize me, take me off balance, and distract me from my writing: Listening to the news (more than once a day). Texting (or simply even reading) group texts. Participating on large zoom calls. Fantasizing (in a negative way) about the demise of our civilization and the inevitable devastation to our economy and social structures.

It’s not that I can never have these thoughts or do these things. But I need to compartmentalize them. Limit them. Because doing them too much becomes a distraction. They don’t feed me like writing does.

My lists of grounding – and ungrounding – practices are highly personal and individual. Yours will be too. Think about what helps you find your ground. Then see if you can find the one thing that feeds you deeply in a grounding, settled way. Once you identify it, make time for it. Build it into your schedule. Commit to it.

What truly feeds you? Can you find time to do it every day? Can you feel the impact? Please share in the comments section; I’d love to hear about it.

Comments

  1. Great video accompanying the crucial message – ‘Compassion for self and the importance of disciplined rituals’
    I love it

    1. Peter Bregman says:

      Thanks Raju – I know the self compassion is helpful to me!! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Grounding can be something as subtle as being the last one who goes to bed. Quiet on the couch with the dog. Today’s contemplation so different than 3 weeks ago.

    1. Peter Bregman says:

      Hi Mary Anne – yes – so different in just three weeks – it’s kind of unfathomable (though, of course, we’re living it) – It’s grounding just to think of the image of you sitting on a couch with your dog.

  3. Helen says:

    Peter, I’ve been following you and your work from Australia for years.

    Just this morning, my time, I was wondering, not for the first time, what is Peter going to make of this, what’s his take, his advice?

    I had been really looking forward to your email.

    It didn’t disappoint. Thanks for being so real and accessible.

    It was very grounding for me to see you and your lovely family so positive and cohesive right now.

    I think relistening to one of your podcasts will be my grounding oasis in each day.

    All the best to you and yours,

    Helen

    1. Rowan Fraser says:

      Ditto! I was wondering the same re Peter’s take / response / advice. And not disappointed either. Peter, you’re definately a grounding source! Thank you for what you do. Blessings on you and co.!

    2. Peter Bregman says:

      Thank you Helen (and Rowan) – it feels so good to hear that you were looking forward to my email – it’s super motivating to keep writing and sharing even when I’m not sure it’s of value (These days I often don’t know specifically what to do. I can feel a little lost) – thanks for sharing your appreciation – it makes a difference.

  4. Emily Ennis says:

    Peter,
    Thanks for pulling together so eloquently what we all need to stay sane and focused during such turbulent times. It certainly helped me identify some things I’ve been struggling with lately. The grounding is so important and so easy to lose sight of with the upheaval to usual routines. For me, it’s the simple peace, solitude and sheer “happiness in the moment” from time I spend with my dog, the beauty she sees in the world around her, the excitement in the mundane, how utterly oblivious she is to the craziness enveloping us humans and how happy and excited she is to see me every day. So I am trying to be more like her and see and feel/ find the joy in all the many aspects of my life, ignoring momentarily everything Corona- related.
    Emily

    1. Peter Bregman says:

      Thanks Emily! I love the thought (feeling?) of seeing things through the eyes of your dog. It’s all about being present (I’m assuming . . .I don’t really know for sure what dogs think about :-) But they do seem to be present very well). A great reminder – thanks Emily.

  5. Josephine says:

    I appreciate your list of things that unground you. You saved me from a large group Zoom call that I was ambivalent about making. I too have returned to the practice of writing.

    It opens the door to solitude, and if I can be there long enough, it brings me home to myself.

    1. Peter Bregman says:

      I love it! Glad I saved you from it :-)

  6. DAVALENE L LIVINGSTON says:

    Peter – I needed this today after a trying ordeal with a couple situations that are mostly resolved. I have been writing more lately as it does ground me. What I wrote last week was The Toilet Paper Experience suitable for these crazy times. Best to you.

    1. Peter Bregman says:

      Sounds funny just from the title! Thanks for sharing . . .

  7. Sunil Gamage says:

    Thanks Peter, I have been following your articles well over a 3 years and now. This video of compassion, and kindness to own thoughts and feelings well grounded and forwarded in a passion of resilient way. This is Great!

    1. Peter Bregman says:

      Thanks Sunil!

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