The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Spiritual Practices to Finding Equilibrium in the Chaos: Grounding, and Flow through the Druid Elements July 22, 2016

A tremendous amount of really difficult occurrences are happening in the world right now. It seems like the more time that passes, the more we balance on the edge. The edge of what exactly, nobody can say.  But the edge of something, and likely, not something any of us are looking forward to. Things seem to be spinning faster, and faster; the light growing darker and darker.  A lot of folks are having difficulty just coping with reading the news or even being on social media, the enormity of everything–social, political, environmental, personal–weighing down.  Responses to this range from rage and anger to numbness. There is a heaviness in the air that cannot be discounted.

A good place to seek the stability of calas

A good place to seek the stability of calas

 

And so, many of us turn to spiritual practices as a way of helping make sense of it all, to find a way forward, finding a way to keep ourselves sane and to levy some positive change in the world. For me, any outer healing or change in the world begins with my own inner work, finding my own inner equilibrium in order to compassionately respond and enact change. I find myself returning, again and again, to the elemental work I did in my AODA and OBOD curriculum: working with the healing power of the elements, seeking balance within. And so, I’m not going to talk about everything that is happening (as a lot of it is well outside of the scope and purpose of this blog), but I am going to share with you some ways of self-care and balance seeking that I’ve found helpful in dealing with all of this. Specifically, I’m going to use the framework of the three druid elements: gwyar, calas, and nywfre, and discuss how we might use those elements (particularly the first two) to help maintain our own equilibrium during difficult times.

 

Equilibrium

We have a lot of terms that get raised when we are faced with instability (instability of any type: culturally, locally, politically, or personally). These terms most often focus on grounding, but may also include balance, composure, equilibrium. I actually prefer the world equilibrium, for a few reasons. One dictionary suggests that equilibrium is “a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced.” What I like about the definition and concept of equilibrium is that it doesn’t require one response (e.g. grounding) but rather a range of responses based on the needs of the moment.

For example, if I am feeling really disconnected, scattered, and unfocused, I might do some grounding techniques that help more firmly root me back in place. But there are times that being rooted firmly in place is not the best idea, and instead, I need to let go and simply learn to flow. Equilibrium implies both of these things: finding and maintaining it is situational based on the context and your own needs.

 

Grounding, or the work of Calas

When I talk to spiritual friends about these times and all that is happening, I think a lot of them talk about “grounding” and grounding strategies. Grounding usually happens when we connect with the energies of the earth, of stability, of calm. In the three druid element system, this grounding is clearly represented by calas, which is the principle of solidity and substance. Calas represents the physical substance of things, the strength in the cell walls of the plant, the stones beneath our feet, the stable and unchanging fathoms of the deepest caves. When we ground, we plant ourselves firmly and solidly on the living earth–we plant our feet strongly and with purpose. We stand our ground, so to speak, we dig in our heels, we spread ourselves out upon the earth and feel its stability and strength.  Now, there are times when grounding is the correct response, and there are also times where I actually think it does more harm than good. The key questions to determine whether or not grounding is an effective approach seems to be: do I need stability in my life right now? Do I need something firm to stand on, to hold on, and to simply be present with? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then by all means, ground away. But recognize that sometimes, holding fast to something is a reactionary response, rather than the best response.

 

There are so many practices and ways of grounding–I’ll just share a few of my favorites.

Earthing and forest walking. I really love to take a barefoot walk through a path in a very familiar forest (even better if it is raining, lol).  I wouldn’t do this in an unfamiliar forest, or one that has a lot of poison ivy or brambles. But certain forests, dirt paths, and mossy areas lend themselves really well to this kind of activity. It is the most simple thing–you take off your shoes and socks, and simply walk on the earth.  Feel the land beneath your toes.  Walk, perhaps in movement meditation, for a period of time. You can combine this with energetic work.

 

Energetic work. When I do the forest walking, I like to stand a spot and envision the energies of the telluric current, those of the deep earth (envisioned in green-gold) rising up through my soles of my feet and into my body, clearing me and filling me with a sense of calm and stability.  The OBOD’s Light Body Exercise, for those that practice it, works quite well as a grounding and clearing activity.  Really, most kinds of energetic work can be good during the forest walking.

Some shagbark hickories can provide amazing grounding!

Some shagbark hickories can provide amazing grounding!

 

Weeding and Garden tending. Spending time with earthy things, like in the garden, can be extremely grounding and stabilizing. Planting, harvesting, weeding–even laying in the garden with a good book is a sure way to help do some grounding work.

 

Working with the stones. Carrying a small stone with you is a grounding activity in and of itself.  I have one that I’ve been placing above my heart if I am feeling really awful about all this stuff–I clear it once in a while by placing it in running water or sunlight, but at some point, I know I will be casting it off back into the earth permanently. This stone work is good for trauma and really deep healing.

 

Eating nurturing and nutrient-dense meals. Sometimes, when we are upset, we forget to eat.  But food has always been a grounding thing, and the more nutrient-dense and protein rich, the better.  An omelette of sausage and eggs and kale, for example, is just about as grounding as one can get!  Remember to eat.  The body and the soul both benefit.

 

Burying your feet in the earth. Similar to my earthing and forest walking, I have found great comfort in taking a shovel, digging a hole in my garden, and sticking my feet in it, covering them up with the soil. Sit there for a time in quietude, doing perhaps energetic work as well, or simply being and soaking up the sun while you sit. It works.

 

Sitting with Hardwood Nut Trees. When I am feeling ungrounded, I seek out hickory or oak trees and spend time sitting with them or hugging them. There is something about the energy of the hickory that I found extraordinarily grounding. Many of the hardwood nut trees also have this quality, as well as some others. I’m not sure I’d use a walnut, they have a bit different of an energy, like an expelling energy, which also has its own magic (but is not really well suited for this purpose). .

 

Sitting with a flock of chickens. Maybe this is just a personal thing, but I get great stability out of simply being near chickens. Chickens do many of the activities on this list, after all: dust baths, burying their feet in the earth, eating nutrient dense food, walking on the land barefoot–and they have tremendous connection to the energies of the earth. Spending time with them can be very grounding.  It is fun to watch them find bugs, peck, scratch, take dust baths–and most flocks that were raised with love will welcome your company and companionship.

 

Truthfully, as delightful as the above activities have been, I haven’t been drawn to grounding much lately–it seems like, in some ways, I am already too grounded and connected to what is happening.  Like my feet are planted so firmly that maybe I’ll just fall over if the wind comes by.  And so because of that, I have really been embracing the second druid element this year: the principle of gwyar.

Flowing, or the work of Gwyar

The element of Gwyar, often represented by water, represents the principle of fluidity and of flow.  Gwyar is the principle of change, opposite of the stability of Calas.  All things grow and change, and sometimes, we must learn to be adaptable and embrace that change.  Water teaches different lessons than the grounding of the earth–it teaches us the power of flow.  The babbling brook cascading over the stones, the water flowing off the leaves during a storm, the air flows pushing clouds and rain further across the landscape, the constant flow of time: these are all part of the power of gwyar.  Like Calas, there are times when embracing Gwyar is the right approach, and there are times when being too “go with the flow” is not the right strategy.  Questions I like to ask to determine this are:  Am I in need of letting go? Am I in need of trusting the universe to guide my path?  Am I feeling to rigid or inflexible?  Affirmative answers to these questions suggest a need to embrace Gwyar.

I have found that embracing Gwyar has been helpful for me as there are a number of things in my life, and certainly in the broader world, that are out of my immediate control. As much as I would like to control them, I am unable to do so, and attempting to exert control is only going to lead to my own suffering.  Instead, I must learn to accept these things at present, and flow with them, and the act of releasing my attempted firm hold is in itself a very powerful magical act.  And so, here are some ways to embrace the power of flow:

 

Getting on the water!

Getting on the water!

Get on the water. This summer, I bought a kayak, and have spent nearly all of my free time out on lakes and rivers, learning how to flow with the waves.  This has its own kind of healing work, but in a watery sense–rather than being firmly planted, I am learning the power of flow.  Of riding the waves, leaning into the current, anticipating–and simply moving along.  Not fighting the current. Putting up my kayak sail, and simply letting the wind and waves take me on an adventure.  Kayaks and other water vessels are easy to come by–you can rent them at many state parks or local lakes; you can also ask around and I’m sure at least 1-2 friends will have one you can borrow.  I would suggest a kayak, rowboat, or canoe for this kind of flowing work–you want to be closer to the water, as close as possible.  The other option is tubing–a lot of rivers offer a tubing option where you rent a tube, bring a cooler, and spend the next 4-6 hours floating down the stream.  This is really, really good for connecting to the principle of flow.

 

Whitewater Rafting: If you really want a more extreme version of “getting on the water,” whitewater rafting or kayaking is a good choice.  The stronger currents force you even more to get into the physical embodiment of flow and adaptability, which is a powerful spiritual lesson. In fact, the reason that this post is two days early from my normal schedule is that I am getting on the extreme waters this weekend and heading out to one of my very favorite rivers, the Youghiogheny, for some rafting!.

 

Water observations. Sitting by moving water (or even still water) can teach you a lot about flows and the importance of going with the flow. I love doing this by small streams and creeks–playing with the rocks, seeing the interplay between gwyar and calas as the water tumbles through and down the stream.  What amazes me even about still water, like lakes, is that the lakes themselves change as the weather conditions change–from choppy waters to still and clear waters–and this, too, is a powerful lesson.  As I observe the water, I think about the places in my life where I need to embrace gwyar and flow, and the places where calas is a more appropriate path.

 

Energetic work.  Similar to the work above, I have found that I can connect to the element of gywar energetically, especially at points of water or other kinds of movement or flow (a dance, for example).

 

Mindful drinking of water.  Drinking high quality water mindfully, paying attention to the taste and the feel of it as it flows, and sipping it quietly while you mediate, is another simple activity that you can do.  Try to find local spring water, if you can, for this, but any spring water or well water would do nicely!

 

Bathing.  We all need to be clean, and bathing rituals and activities can certainly help.  Even if it is simply a matter of turning your awareness for a few minutes to the flow of the shower around you, or the comfort of the tub, it can be tremendously useful for  connecting to gwyar.  I sometimes will let the water drain out of the tub as I sit within it, feeling the waters flowing around me and cleansing.

 

Getting in the mud....

Getting in the mud….

Standing and walking in the rain.  Take a walk in a rain without an umbrella (and preferably without shoes). Pay attention to how the water feels as it soaks you, flows around you.  Pay attention to how it runs down the road, down the trunk of the tree, see where it goes afterwards.  This is tremendously useful and I try to do it often!

 

Swimming in a lake or stream. Jumping in the water, and floating for a time, is a really fun way to embrace gwyar.  I have been combining this with kayaking–I kayak out to a secluded spot and then jump into the water for a bit.  It has really been great.  I’ve also been working to visit the many local swimming holes near this area!

 

Sitting with a flock of ducks.  If chickens epitomize an earthy and grounding being, the duck is a good representation of gwyar.  I like sitting with ducks a lot–they have a very different energy than chickens, and observing them can help teach the principles of flow.

 

Some Methods of Bringing Balance and Unity of Calas and Gwyar

A third possibility, of course, is that in order for equilibrium, you need both the energy of gywar and calas.  I have found that if I’m generally just so overwhelmed, feeling both ungrounded and unadaptable, the unification of these two elements in my life can really help me find my footing.  You can combine activities above together, or engage in activities that innately emphasize the unity of the two elements.  Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Playing in mud puddles. Playing in the mud should never be discounted as a fantastic method for seeking equilibrium.  We knew this well as children, but have often forgotten the most important truths as adults.  Wait for a good summer rain (it has been dry here, but I am waiting) and find a puddle in the field or abandoned dirt road somewhere–somewhere safe and clean.  And get on the oldest clothes you can, take off your shoes, and just jump in it. Or make your own mud puddle with the hose.  Make mud pies, just like when you are a kid.  This is a most healthy antidote to present day reality!

 

Natural Building. An alternative is to visit a natural building site and become one with the cob.  Natural building requires initial flow and wet materials that dry into strong structures.  Making some cob with the feet and the hands, and plastering it on there, is a great experience.

 

Frankfort Mineral Springs - Embracing Gwyar

Frankfort Mineral Springs – Embracing Gwyar

Visiting Springs.  Springs are another place where you can see the interplay and balance between gwyar and calas in a natural setting. I have been visiting springs all over Western PA since moving here a year ago. I recently went camping at Raccoon Creek State Park and had the delight of visiting the Franklin Mineral Springs while I was there. It was really a cool spring–completely unexpected–with heavy content of iron (I shared a photo of it above). It had a basin where the water flowed so cold–I dunked my head in it, soaked myself up in it, and observed the flow of this spring. It was awesome! What I have found about these natural springs is that, at least here, they really do represent the intersection of gwyar and calas–the flow interacting with the stability of the stone.  This particular spring resonated strongly with balance of the elements: the stone where the water issued forth and the basin for stability, the ever-flowing gush of the water from the stones, and the mineral content in the water itself representing the unification of the elements.

 

Stillness. Stillness of the body and of the mind is another way to embrace the intersection of gywar and calas.  We spend so much of our time running around, dashing to and fro, and never really just being present in the moment, in ourselves. After the AODA’s practices, I like to sit in stillness in nature, quiet my mind, and simply be present in the world around me. This work requires us to both physically stop moving and be more stable, but also flow into the moment and simply observe what comes. It is powerful and profound!

 

Dancing: The principle of dance is all about the intersection of the stable earth and other objects with flow, and participating in some dance yourself (even if you aren’t very good, it doesn’t matter, go do it in the forest or wild areas where nobody can see you). I like to do this with ribbons or flags or something to even more appropriately attend to the energies of flow.

 

Throwing Pots. Any art forms that encourage the intersection of calas and gwyar are useful activities for seeking equilibrium. I have found that pottery, for example, is one of the best ones (for reasons similar to natural building/cob building, above). The intersection of the water to shape the clay, and then the application of heat, offers powerful spiritual lessons and opportunities.

 

As we all navigate these difficult times, I hope that the above material will provide you with some strategies for seeking equilibrium.  Blessings upon your path and journey!

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37 Responses to “Spiritual Practices to Finding Equilibrium in the Chaos: Grounding, and Flow through the Druid Elements”

  1. Dawn Vierra Says:

    Reblogged this on Reiki Dawn and commented:
    Love love love this post. Such beautiful sharing. I appreciate the thoughtfulness included in the post.

  2. […] via Spiritual Practices to Finding Equilibrium in the Chaos: Grounding, and Flow through the Druid Eleme… […]

  3. CindyW Says:

    oops! on my subscription to your blog, the photograph is labeled “Frankfort Mineral Springs” instead of “Franklin”, and I’m only noting this because I live in a town called “Frankfort” which is NOT conducive to being aware, but I’m taking this as a sign from the universe to lighten up about it and see the flow – even in rigid, controlling, limited Frankfort! love the practices, already do some, will try some more.

  4. laurabruno Says:

    Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    Here are some excellent coping strategies and awareness for all the crazy energies being reflected on the world stage right now. As always, Dana provides detailed instructions and wisdom. Many thanks!

  5. Reblogged this on ravenhawks' magazine and commented:
    Great Information thank you.

  6. quarksire Says:

    well, one thing u did not mention that is releasing to do is to free fly in an ultralight trike, hang glider er paraglider like i do,,,,to me is the ultimate form of freedom! yes indeed..most energetic i get is when i am sailing through da’ air …… Q

    • Dana Says:

      Yes, those are certainly amazing ways of experiencing joy! I too, feel energized. Zip lining is another good thing for that 🙂

  7. I love the symbolism of the druidic elements. For me, they’re more intuitively applicable to a broader range of concepts than the traditional four elements.

    Thoughts of balance and equilibrium are definitely running through the ether these days, aren’t they? Much of it is in direct response to the high volume of unbalanced energy in the human sphere, but I feel it runs deeper than that.

    There’s a word I learned recently, from those helpful Germans who always seem ready to fill a linguistic void: fleisgleichgewich. It means “flowing balance”, and it refers to a fundamental characteristic of living beings.

    We’re more or less individual things, maintaining a more or less discrete form and identity over time. We’re manifestations of calas, in other words. But we’re always in flux. We respond to our external and internal environments constantly, a process that requires action and changes in our states of being. We grow and we learn. Our very cells are always reproducing and dying. We’re very much manifestations of gwyar as well. This characterization of life as solid and fluid at the same time is fleisgleichgewich.

    Which brings us to the deeper imbalance. Gaia is a singular life form. (I honestly don’t even see how that’s debatable.) I feel that the instability we’re experiencing in the human sphere has its roots in the growing instability of Gaia’s own homeostasis. She must soon respond, and flow toward a new balance. I believe we’re feeling that in the same way many animals sense a coming tsunami. But Gaia’s response will happen on her own time scale, not ours, leaving a lot of humans reacting like ants who’s colony has been disrupted.

    And now I’ve bummed myself out. This is why I come to your website, though. You’ve always got solid practical advice.

    Which reminds me, I still mean to submit a description of my color-based Sphere of Protection for the Trilithon. Would it be possible to include a color illustration? It isn’t absolutely necessary, it would just save me some descriptive text.

    • Dana Says:

      I think your insights are really keen here, and add much to this conversation. Fleisgleichgewich is a powerful synthesis of these two things. This reminds me of the whitewater rafting I was doing this past weekend. It is a kind of flowing balance: the waters are going to take you where they take you, the rapids are going at their pace, shaped by the rocks and riverbed and mountains (their flowing balance). But you also must engage in flowing balance: using the solidity of the oar, your own muscles, the balance of your body, the raft itself, the collaboration of others, to navigate. And when you are in the rapids, it is a matter of “flowing balance” to ensure that you are not thrown overboard (I was not, but others in my raft were!) Powerful lessons from the waves.

      Gaia will self correct, yes. I think your metaphor of the tsunami is apt. I’ve been thinking about it in similar terms, kind of like a forest fire. The animals are fleeing, you are starting to smell the smoke. Only in this case, the fire seems burning all around us….hence this post, lol. I keep returning to my spiritual practices in all of this, and seeing healing in nature.

      And yes! You are welcome to include an illustration. The problem is that we can’t publish a color one since the journal is grayscale. Could you do it in grayscale and label the colors? And then we could put it up on the AODA website, perhaps? Or even put it on the back cover, etc. I’m sure we will figure out something. I’m glad you are going to submit 🙂

  8. Ashtara Says:

    Reblogged this on by divine-design and commented:
    A tremendous amount of really difficult occurrences are happening in the world right now. It seems like the more time that passes, the more we balance on the edge. The edge of what exactly, nobody can say. But the edge of something, and likely, not something any of us are looking forward to.

  9. I saw this on Laura’s blog and wondered how does one reblog or be reblogged? I blog on similar topics at Boomer Muse.

    • Dana Says:

      Layla, you can choose to reblog anything if you see when there is a little “reblog” button at the bottom of the page. Some bloggers disable that button, but a lot (like myself) don’t ;). Feel free to reblog anything here that you’d like!

  10. Max Rogers Says:

    Hi Dana,
    Lovely article! I spent the day on neighbouring Hornby Island visiting friends and swimming at the clothing-optional beach. The sun and the cool glass-green waves did me a power of good. I have to say that I do not feel Gaia is much out of humor. We are facing a silly crisis based on idiotic economic policy and wanting too much stuff. I feel that paying less attention to the news, about which we can do nothing, and paying more attention to the beauty of waves reflecting the blue sky and clouds would do everyone a world of good.
    Thank you for your teaching.
    Yours under the red cedar,
    Max

    • Dana Says:

      Thank you, Max. It sounds like you had a lovely day under the waves. Gaia will self adjust, as she has always done. The question is: can we?

    • Dana Says:

      Thank you, Max. It sounds like you had a lovely day under the waves. Gaia will self adjust, as she has always done. The question is: can we?

  11. Reblogged this on Green Owl Druid and commented:
    This is a beautiful article and so needed in this dark times.

  12. Sarah Beeching Says:

    beautiful thank you for this post it is very helpful.

    Sent from Outlook

    ________________________________

  13. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature Says:

    Great post, Dana. Lot’s of great ideas!
    Peace
    Mary

  14. David Says:

    After being, perhaps, excessively grounded lately, thanks for the reminder to flow! I had the wonderful opportunity last weekend to do the AODA’s Sphere of Protection ritual while standing up to my knees in the Atlantic Ocean, and it really brought that flowing energy, in a stronger way that it never has on dry land!

    • Dana Says:

      David – thanks for the comment! Oh my goodness, I have done the SOP in water, including the Atlantic, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. It is INCREDIBLE! In fact, today, for my Lughnassadh ritual, I went to the lake and did it while waist-high in the lake. It was fantastic. 🙂

  15. […] Source: Spiritual Practices to Finding Equilibrium in the Chaos: Grounding, and Flow through the Druid Eleme… […]

  16. Anne Gilmer Says:

    Very very good…esp as we encounter life changing events

  17. Talis Says:

    Finding this post today was true serendipity. Thank you for discussing the fact that being more grounded is not always what we need. Your discussion of the concept of cultivating equilibrium is insightful and right-on-time for me. I’m actually a dancer and have generally felt that ability it has to cultivate both grounding and flow, especially because part of my practice is a form of group improvised dance. Lately, I have really been struggling with it, though, which is odd and unsettling for me. You’ve made me realize that I might well be too grounded in the structures, restrictions and demands of Calas lately and that I need to intentionally incorporate more flow, to balance the two.

    Blessings to you!

    • Dana Says:

      Talis, thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad that you found it helpful. Seems like embracing the flow of the dance might be helpful. I’ve done some group improv dance myself and it was very liberating!


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