Above 11,000 feet the landscape is nothing but rock… a barren, Martian-like terrain that excites and haunts. I’m perched on the top of a pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, hiking the famous John Muir Trail. It’s a physically demanding venture, where my hiking pals and I traverse thousands of vertical feet every day up and over the passes to make sure we can break camp in the safety of the alpine meadows below. We maneuver around all manner of obstacles: roots, rocks, boulders, slippery sand, water, and the occasional horse droppings. Good old road apples! Still, no matter how many trees or clear lakes come our way, the rocks stand out: mysterious and powerful beacons.
I’ve been hiking with quite a bit of pain. For the past week or so, my feet have swelled, and now press against the top of my leather boots. Blisters on my toes have ballooned to twice the normal size. Every step makes me wince. And we are hiking 15 to 19 miles a day for eight or more hours. So I have a choice: either I can dwell in the pain or find another way to work with it.
Through the hours of silent, strenuous hiking and mountain passes, I become aware of the power of rocks. It’s an energy that is easy to miss: giants in the shadows. As I writhe away in self-pity, the rocks send an eerie, persistent signal. Worn out and with little else to grab on to, begrudgingly, I turn my attention to focus on the rocks, boulders, and solid features. The rocks vibrate with energy. They are calm and strong. And the pain starts to shift. I am gifted with wonder and mystery. Somehow the pain breaks free and I become solid, grounded, and strong. Supported. I am rocked.
Relevance: Grounded for collaboration
One way to think about collaboration is connecting with another in a way that makes you available to fresh possibilities. It’s like a dance. To allow for this connection, grounding yourself is foundational. Without it we can be taken away by physical or emotional pain, conflict, internal mind-chatter, and other distractions. We become unavailable for collaboration. Coming from a place of solidity — sometimes called centeredness — is a moment-by-moment practice: a muscle we build that helps us return again and again to what is taking place in front of us. While we may not always have rocks around, our feet and bodies can nearly always find this ground. And when we find our center, we are available for the mystery and wonder of what may come next. We unveil the limitless potential of collaboration.
Practice: Finding your rock
Focus on your feet. Really attend to them on the floor. Feel the balls of each foot. Feel each toe. Plant them firmly, but not rigidly. This rootedness connects you to the earth. Throughout your day keep returning to the feeling of your feet being planted on the floor. When distracted or taken away by strong emotion, physical pain, mental checklists, conflict with co-workers, or anything else, practice returning to your feet being rooted and connected — as solid, aware, and wise as a rock!