I find it odd that in the past week pictures and discussions of cairns have become more prevalent in my everyday life. We see these little towers along trails to mark our path frequently and I have often been known to add a stone as I pass. What has struck me about these little piles of rocks is that I would expect to see them and hear more about them in summer when outdoor activities are more common, but in the winter, I first of all do a lot less activities that follow a trail and when I do it’s mostly down a mountain that is clearly marked as a ski run. So why are these stone structures showing up more frequently in my life now?
This spurred me to do a little research and piggy-back off a recent yoga class theme that focused on the idea of cairns. First, the cairn is best known as a trail marker, guiding you down the path and showing you the way in which to continue on your journey. Second, the idea of stacking, building upon a foundation, is relevant in relation to our bodies, physically and emotionally.
This all may sound a bit symbolic, abstract even, but being the believer in symbols that I am I can’t help but wonder how this can relate to my life and those of my clients. Have you ever had a time in your life where it felt like you lost the path, maybe every few years even? Yeah, me too. That feeling where it seems we have no direction, resulting in confusion and possibly depression. Although we might not have a physical cairn to guide us, there are indeed sometimes little signs that give us hope that we are on a path (whether it is the one we expected or hoped for or not). Maybe it is a new job opportunity, a new relationship, or that intuitive feeling that tomorrow is a new day. For me, it has been all of these at different times in my life. However, the one element that is the same is continuing to search for that feeling of groundedness. When I’m lost and disconnected I often feel more like a feather floating somewhere aimlessly than a rock stacked solidly on the ground.
How do we become grounded when everything seems to be a blur around us? I have found that there are as many ways to find balance as there are people. Some of mine include yoga, nature, and alone time (all of which go into my self-care toolbox). If we think of the cairn and its physical structure each stone is stacked upon another, gently making a whole. In relation to our physical body we stack our joints and bones on top of one another to remain upright. Even in cases where we use our bodies differently than the typical standing upright position, we stack ourselves on ourselves. Now think of this analogy in relation to our emotional bodies. If we keep piling and piling without the proper foundation and throwing stones aimlessly on top of each other, it is inevitable that eventually it will come tumbling down. (I’m talking about stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, unhealthy relationships, grief and loss, old habits, anything that causes us to lose our balance in life).
If our journey is analogous to the cairn we must remain balanced, we must deal with issues as they arise, we must have courage to know that when each stone falls off it makes room for another to be placed. We can stack our bodies full of strength, rebuild when it all comes crashing down, and know that our path is just that. OURS. Create your journey, move through obstacles, construct cairns along the way, and choose to be the builder of your own path.