There is a story in Greek mythology about a mighty wrestler named Antaeus. The half-giant son of Poseidon and the earth goddess Gaia, Antaeus would challenge anyone who passed by to a wrestling match. He would defeat and kill every opponent, and would add their skulls to the temple he had built in honour of his father.
The demigod Hercules happened by one day on his way to completing another of his twelve Labours. He accepted Antaeus’ challenge. To his very great surprise, though, he found himself unable to either throw or pin his opponent. With his strength waning and defeat near, Hercules suddenly realized something that would save his life.
Antaeus drew his strength from contact with the earth.
The instant this fact dawned upon him Hercules took action. He wrapped his arms around Antaeus in a bearhug and lifted him clear off the ground. Disconnected from the source of his power for the first time ever, Antaeus was instantly crushed and defeated.
Allegorical tales like this one offer us all a new way to consider the choices we have made and are making daily in our lives.
They contain the kinds of questions that we need to face if we want to make real, positive changes.
We might use the story of Antaeus to ask:
1. What is a true source of strength in my life? The one that makes me feel deeply ‘grounded’ or ‘connected’ to myself and to the world. Is it my family? The love of my spouse? The work I do? A wellness or spiritual practice?
2. Am I in contact with that source of strength right now? Do I make time on a regular basis for the people or the practices that help ground me when so much else feels uncertain in the world?
3. If I’m not in contact with one of my true sources of strength, how did I lose contact? What daily habits of mind or body do I engage in that work to ‘lift me off’ my ground and keep me disconnected?
4. Finally, what might it take to restore that connection? What conversation might I need to have, what might I need to let go of (or embrace) in order to start feeling more like ‘me’ again?
Questions like these are immensely valuable during this time of the pandemic. They help us realize how easy it is to lose touch with what is most essential for living well. They light the way forward too, alerting us to what we might need to do or change if we want a different sort of life.