“So how do you stay grounded, Keven?”
I get this question a lot. Usually, I steer the ensuing conversations away from myself, suggesting that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. I encourage individuals to recall a time when they felt relatively grounded and suggest they begin there, unpacking their own experiences of success rather than borrowing someone else’s.
Though it’s true that common threads of practice pass through all our lives, how we weave them together to support our well-being reflects our surprisingly diverse natures.
And I do mean threads, plural. It’s seldom a single strand that holds our self-construct together, giving us a sense that we’re solid in who we are. We string together imperfect thoughts, sometimes philosophical, sometimes theological. We draw on narratives about what’s happened to us in the past, interpretations and details changing over time. We turn to our network of companions, some whose role is simply to distract and others whose role is to hold us accountable, cajoling and provoking in timely ways. We tend our physical selves, paying particular attention to food, sleep, and exercise. We make room for reflection, whether it be through contemplation or meditation. Sometimes we even establish rituals that weave most or all of these strands together – a simple, concrete doing that reinforces a complex, elusive way of being.
I find this last thread, rituals, particularly powerful. Perhaps the most meaningful one in my life involves – wait for it – a bottle of champagne in our fridge, ready to drink, always.
Before you surmise that I’m promoting alcohol as the single strand answer to being grounded, let me explain.
When something good happens, Jenn and I reach into the fridge, pull out the bottle, and toast life. It could be a work accomplishment. It could be a physical achievement. It could be a milestone successfully marked. A specific example? We cracked a bottle when our daughter got into her Master programme. If it’s something good and something big, we raise a glass.
No surprise there.
What makes this ritual meaningful (and hopefully not a dependency problem) is that the reverse is also true. When something bad happens and it’s big, we reach into the fridge, pull out the bottle, and toast life. It could be a relationship gone painfully awry. It could be a profound, personal disappointment. It could be the death of a friend. A specific example? We raised a glass when we received news that Jenn would undergo an amputation. That very evening we sat across from each other and clinked glasses.
Don’t confuse this with avoiding life.
For us, this is a deliberate celebration of life, even in the face of its deepest lows. It’s a head-on, no-holds-barred recognition of harsh realities, combined with a dogged determination to focus on the good life affords. By the concrete act of intentionally raising a glass to life, we reinforce our core philosophies, narratives, and, if you happen to drop by at the right moment, friendships – all of which helps us engage more fully with whatever comes our way in a somewhat balanced way.
The ritual could just as easily be a commitment to watch a particular movie or donate to a local charity or walk along a certain route. It’s not about the form; it’s about the meaning. Our added bonus is that because the bottle stands at the ready, we’re reminded of our stance every time we open the fridge door. It’s a constant.
All this is not to suggest that I do a particularly good job at remaining grounded. Rather, it’s to say that I wouldn’t be where I am without the intentional tending of my threads. It’s a practice very much tied to the great spiritual traditions, made relevant by our individual willingness to engage – each in our own way.
Which leads me to ask, ‘How do you stay grounded?’ I’d love to hear.
Keven Fletcher, 2016