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Getting grounded enough to fly

By Randall Buskirk

MON AUG 02, 2021

This week we've been talking about the great Olympic champion Simone Biles, the paragon of a gymnast. 

She is also a paragon or even a kind of mythic figure of being human, her humanity on full display for the world from atop Mt. Olympus as she struggled with mighty forces in her events.

I presented a workshop the other day on situational depression and movement in terms of the “threat bucket,” and how depression can be a protective output of the brain or psyche, bringing you to a stop and draining you of energy.

Or perhaps its message is that something in your life is draining your energy or that somehow things are out of balance for you—physically, relationally, or sociologically.

I mentioned Simone Biles as an unfortunately fascinating example to think about. Some things that we kinda know about the brain are that the insular cortex is a hub that integrates a lot of information to give you a felt sense of yourself and how you are doing, of your state of being and wellness.

A big component of that is the connection of your vestibular system—your balance and information about orientation with respect to gravity. Emotion is also associated with your insula. Depression and anxiety, especially. And your gut, including digestive issues and motion sickness.

It is easy to speculate that someone with the weight of not just the world but also Mt. Olympus on their shoulders, with a social structure that might be chewing them up as food, and expectations of death-defying actions—that person might feel highly threatened and not in full ownership of themselves. And depression might be a way the brain has to bring you to a stop.

Movement and direction and orientation in one’s life might be in flux and turmoil. The vestibular system says “what’s going on here? Where am I?” One might feel as if literally spinning through space, disconnected from the ground. The brain, the psyche, the unconscious, whatever you prefer to call it, delivers a message that something has to change. It is time to seek support or an anchor in one form or another.

It’s of course impossible to know for sure what is going on inside someone else, but there are clues, and a story can be told.

And that story includes us at the mythic level. We might not be Olympians, but when it gets down to it, we are all athletes, and all too human, seeking our place somewhere between earth and sky.