A therapist once told me that whenever I was feeling anxious, I should get as close to the ground as possible. Sit on the floor, lay down on grass, or fold my body over my knees connecting my forehead to the ground as if in child's pose. The very act of rooting my body to the earth brings a sense of calm in the midst of chaos. It’s something I return to when I need to re-center and reconnect with myself.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend the day with OutGrowth at Star Bright Farm. A group of students from Carey Business School worked with the family who owns the farm. We harvested herbs and learned a permaculture landscaping technique. We spent hours talking about the success of the farm, as well as the barriers to growth. It was a day filled with lasting connections, good conversations, fresh food, and innovative ideas on how small agricultural business can thrive.
I left the farm settled in a way I had not felt since starting my graduate program. The experience of being outside, connecting with the earth and being surrounded by brilliant, passionate people had offered a sense of purpose. The act of connecting deeply to a place, physically and emotionally, brought a sense of grounding. A sense of peace.
The feeling of being grounded was one of comfort, of returning to my metaphorical roots. I was raised in the fertile northern Central Valley of California, one of most productive agricultural regions in the world. My father worked for organic farms for years and memories of my childhood are colored by farming and food. The first food I ever ate were green beans from our garden. The Mediterranean climate meant satsumas, avocados, pomegranates, persimmons, asparagus and stone fruits filled my belly. Food and the land from which it comes has always been a part of my life.
In a very different way, the feeling of being grounded that day reflected my current life. Returning to graduate school after five years of working, moving across the country to a city where I did not know anyone, and throwing myself into a rigorous academic program was tumultuous. My academic days are filled with logistic regression models, price discrimination strategies, and debates over the generalizability of plausibility study designs. It is a rewarding but exhausting program. That day on the farm reminded me of what I value in my life that I do not always get in the classroom: the experience of connecting with the world at the most fundamental level.
Searching for ways to get grounded, to get as close as we can to the earth, to our roots, to the depth within each of us, that search is the essence of life. It is the essence of the lived experience. I am reminded of how important it is to find those moments – the days spent away from my computer and textbooks, the times spent in conversation with people about their own lived experience, and the hours spent reflecting on my own relationship to the earth and the world around me.
As I wrap up the end of my first few months of my graduate program and embrace the winter break, I am excited to return to my roots. I am excited to go home to California, to the farms near my childhood, to retrace the path my dreams, to breathe deeply, and to become grounded.
Jenna is a current MPH/MBA Candidate at Johns Hopkins University in the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Carey Business School. She believes in the power of healthy individuals and communities to change the world. Jenna sees her greatest opportunity for impact in implementing effective business models and systems to drive improvements in public health programs and organizations.