The Gifts of Feeling Groundless

Published on 18 Apr, 2023

The Gifts of Feeling Groundless [HMHE Podcast Show Notes – Ep 32]

Groundlessness is a state that I am very familiar with as a child of divorced parents and a digital nomad. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling. But over the past couple of months, I’ve been leaning into my groundless feelings, accepting them, and opening up to the gifts of groundlessness.

Last week I shared eight powerful grounding techniques that you can use to ground yourself when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or off-center. Today I want to talk about the other side of that coin – feeling groundless.

I’ve learned a lot about the art of feeling groundless from American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. By studying her book, When Things Fall Apart, I’ve been able to understand and accept what groundlessness is and the gifts that it has to offer.

Today I’ll be sharing some inspiring quotes from the book along with my reflections and ah-ha moments.

Below is an outline of this week’s episode of the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast, Ep 032: The Gifts of Feeling Groundless. Please listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to hear the full episode and my personal anecdotes!

This is a picture of a groundless woman floating in water with her eyes closed and a smile on her face. Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash.

Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash

The Art of Feeling Groundless

There are so many things in life that can throw us into a groundless state. Plans falling through, hearing about the latest supreme court decision on the news, or an unexpected medical diagnosis to name a few.

We feel groundless when we’re confronted with unexpected life obstacles and we realize just how little control we actually have over our lives.

During these stressful and hectic seasons of life, we can use grounding techniques to bring ourselves back to our center. However, sometimes no amount of time spent grounding or processing our emotions will make us feel better.

In these moments we have a choice. We can either face reality and lean into groundlessness or we can repress our emotions, distract ourselves, and indulge in things that bring us temporary relief. And of course, this isn’t an either-or thing. Oftentimes we do a bit of both.

Leaning Into Groundlessness

A couple of weeks ago when I was feeling particularly low and groundless I decided to walk myself over to Subway and get three chocolate chip cookies. Soft chocolate chip cookies are my comfort food, and Subway gets it right every time! I sat on a park bench and indulged, savoring every bite.

Earlier that day, when I sat down to work I had a hard time focusing. I kept grabbing my phone, and getting up to do one thing or another. I was fighting a desire to go for a walk and listen to a podcast, or cue up Love is Blind on Netflix. And eventually, I gave in.

I also spent a lot of time that day in meditation, writing in my journal, facing the reality of my situation, and feeling my feelings.

In my low, I remembered that I had a book with me called When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. This realization made me laugh because in this book Chödrön basically writes – shit happens, we can’t avoid it, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. These groundless moments are gifts if we treat them as such!

In the words of Pema Chödrön,

“We use these situations either to wake ourselves up or to put ourselves to sleep.”

Below are three quotes from the book that had a powerful effect on me. I hope that they will also help you to accept and lean into the gifts of groundlessness.

Gift #1: “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” – Pema Chödrön

I still remember the first time I read this line years ago. I was listening to the audio book and this line stopped me in my tracks.

Over the past few years, I’ve honed my work and my personal mission in this world, and as I’ve taken action to fulfill that mission a lot of fear has come up. Each time I speak out or step up or put an offering out into the world I expose myself to judgment and feelings of shame. Making a full effort to fulfill your personal mission (AKA your North Star) is vulnerable!

For a long time, I let that fear of judgment stop me from speaking up and stepping out, but now my fear typically has the opposite effect. I see it as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction.

If we want to get to know ourselves better and align our lives and our work more closely with what truly matters to us, then we are going to experience fear. It’s inevitable.
And our ability to fully lean in to and experience that fear, feel it in our bodies, let it shake us to our core, and take action anyway will determine how close we can get to our truth.

Will we face the fear or let it stop us in our tracks?

You can feel fear and still record a podcast, speak up at the conference table, launch that new course, facilitate a workshop, and do your change-making work. Courage is taking action when we feel afraid.

Gift #2: “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” – Pema Chödrön

Earlier in this chapter Chödrön uses the word “groundlessness” for the first time. Groundlessness is reality. In my case, by trying so hard to create stability and then being surprised and disappointed when it doesn’t work I’m basically fighting reality.

I can lay down my weapons and stop fighting. I can stop making groundlessness wrong, and stop making myself wrong for feeling groundless. Instead, I can accept it. Accept the groundless state that I’m in and find the beauty in it.

There is a paradox here that I’m now holding.

On one hand, I can ground my body and my nervous system by using the techniques that I discussed in last week’s podcast. I can also ground into the stability currently present in my life – my solid relationship with my husband, my friends, and my family. And I can continue to create more stability for myself.

On the other hand, I can accept that everything is groundless. Nothing is guaranteed. Everything may, and probably will, fall apart again and again.

I have some control over my life, and I have none. Both are true.

Gift #3: “We don’t have to go hunting for anything. We don’t need to try to create situations in which we reach our limit. They occur all by themselves, with clockwork regularity…This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” – Pema Chödrön

This passage felt like a deep exhale. A weight was lifted off my shoulders.

You see, I love self-development. I love growing as a person, getting closer to my authentic self, dismantling my biases, and rooting out my limiting beliefs. I love it so much!

But sometimes it can be exhausting to pick myself up time and again when I make a mistake or fail or a series of jarring and unexpected events occur. In these difficult moments, the above passage helps me to relax.

I’m going through enough. I don’t need to push myself even more and seek out new ways to grow and transform myself. I can just be with what is. And that is plenty! It is the perfect teacher.

Relaxing into “what is” is my most important task in the moments when I am facing groundlessness head-on. Just be there. Feel my feelings. Be present with what is.

Enjoying the Groundless Times

These groundless seasons of life are hard. And the truth is, I don’t actually want an easy life.

I think I do, but when I dig deeper I know that’s not actually true. I’m on a mission to build a better, more equitable world. That’s not easy.

If you, like me, aren’t satisfied with sitting back and following the status quo then you’re not setting yourself up for an easy life.

So our work is to learn how to enjoy the hard parts of life. Learn how to enjoy and find the beauty in the groundlessness.

Let’s connect!

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Podcast music: “Bounce” by Coma-Media on Pixbay

Featured image: Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash

This is a picture of Eva Peterson. She is the host of the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast and a life coach for changemakers and aspiring activists.

Welcome! I'm Eva, host of the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast and blog. This is a place for changemakers, advocates, and aspiring activists to learn, heal, and get inspired. As a certified Life Coach, Ayurvedic Health Counselor, and follow activist I'm here to support you in expanding your impact while thoroughly enjoying your life!

Self-care for Changemakers:
Be an Agent of Change Without Sacrificing Your Health