My St. Patrick’s Day celebration yesterday registered a pretty quiet blip. Although I had been raised with an awareness of my Irish heritage, and later received the genealogical findings of my ancestors, I never felt any strong cultural and familial affinity until I was almost thirty years old. I can almost envision the exact moment that it hit me; I was sitting on the curb with my two oldest children, who were then but a wee lad and lassie, watching the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Columbus, Ohio. It’s not much of a parade as far as fanfare goes, but I recall thinking how cool it was that on this day, every year, people of Irish descent, and so many others celebrating the culture and spirit of Ireland, could and would shut down central streets in major cities, just to join together and to celebrate “who they are.” I have never just “watched” a St. Patrick’s Day parade ever since.
“Being Irish” is certainly not “who I am,” and while I do not feel that it, or any legacy ought to give anyone some sense of superiority, knowing some things about my heritage is both intriguing and comforting. I am always fascinated when imagining the struggles and decisions that my ancestors must have made; and the simple, but fundamental, awareness of my “belonging” provides me quiet support. As I have come to a deeper appreciation of the genetic influences of my Irish heritage, I have also experienced, more importantly, the significance of my physical and metaphysical grounding.
We want and need balance in our lives - in all of its aspects – and good balance needs good grounding. The grounding, of course, doesn’t have to start with one’s heritage, but it is a deep and rich place to begin if it is accessible. But grounding can be, and hopefully is experienced by all in a variety of large and small communities, as well as in the more private encounters with our deepest Self. Of course, yoga helps to foster all of these. Standing on my mat in Tadasana, Mountain pose, lifting my toes up to draw more deeply into the earth of my mat with the balls of my feet and my heels, I can discover a physical manifestation of “being grounded.” This is where and how I stand. But, where do I stand? And for what? And why?
The ensuing movements and poses of my practice, the challenges and the successes, the fire and the flaw – all of these can sometimes draw me toward the answers to those important questions.
Knowing something about your roots can provide you self-understanding and self-compassion; and knowing where and how and why you “stand” can be the grounding of your stability and courage. Keep standing in your practice of yoga, and notice how it will move you toward firmer ground.
For those of you of (any!) Irish descent, a belated happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! And for all of us, may our individual practice of yoga support us with the grounding of stability, and may we as a community of yogis support one another by being the stable grounding that each of us likely needs in such a challenging time.