What I will be introducing within this post are some practical techniques for everyone to use, whether old or young experienced or inexperienced, to bring yourself back to Earth and help the body and mind calm, and feel a little less up in the air or un-grounded, so to speak. When we are grounded we can manage life a bit better and therefore enjoy our every day experience of ourselves, others and our environment.
What Is Grounding?
It can be difficult to gain an understanding of what actually being Grounded or “Grounding” is, but what I will be doing here is hopefully giving insight, and understanding into what the concept of grounding is, and how to achieve it.
First off, grounding and staying grounded can be easy for some people and monumentally hard for others. This is because as individuals we have all had extremely different childhoods and upbringings, and indeed our relative culture has a huge amount to do with how Grounded we are, and can be.
When I speak of being Grounded, I am really asking “how IN my body am I right now”? The idea of being grounded and contemplating the thought of “What is being grounded, and am I doing it right now”? can actually keep us up in our heads and stop us from extending our awareness throughout our bodies’, which, is actually what being grounded is. So thinking on being grounded, although has to be done to understand what we are trying to achieve, most of the time doesn’t facilitate a true embodied grounding.
Complex, or Developmental Trauma can be a big factor in how grounded we are and can be. What I mean by this is for a million different reasons and experiences, we, at some point unconsciously leave our bodies’ because the Internal experience of dealing whatever we had to deal with in life became too much. We took care of ourselves by vacating our awareness from our bodies’ and because this helped us to navigate our worlds we kind of unconsciously decided it’s not best for us to come back in and deal with unprocessed experiences, such as feelings, emotions and physical sensations of incidents and situations that hurt us in our lives. An example of this would be if our Parents, through a genuine love and care, tried to protect us when we were children by telling us we should never feel anger or rage. This can make us ashamed of such an emotion and disconnect from our bodies’ any time we felt anger rise up inside us, because it is not “good” to feel or experience such emotions, as per our Parents demands and instruction on being a good boy or girl. Maybe it wasn’t as direct as this example portrays, but you can probably remember something that resonates with such an experience when you were a child or teenager.
Our job here is to reintroduce awareness gently back into the body so that we can feel that rootedness to the Earth, and we won’t be blown over if a strong gust of wind, which will come to everyone at some point, doesn’t actually have the power to blow us over, and make us feel like we can’t stand up to what life throws at us.
So hopefully some grounding meditation techniques and exercises I share with you here help you to gain some ground back, come back into the body, and root again into the Earth.
Benefits Of Grounding.
There are so many benefits to grounding or becoming more embodied, that it’s difficult to list or scale just how amazing it can be for mental, emotional and physical health. One of the main benefits and one that everyone in todays society can benefit from is less anxiety. Panic and anxiety issues are a constant experience for us modern humans, and becoming more grounded and accessing the resting place of the body is in my opinion the best way to dissolve the discomfort of panic and anxiety.
When we are grounded we feel so much more present for ourselves, others and our external experiences. We can feel the movement and joy of being embodied, and peace that is readily available to all of us when we feel like we are safe and secure within our own bodies’.
Being grounded is great for our overall health. It can bring us out of our chaotic and overused brains and minds and find the deep seclusion of the calm inner lake that resides in every single one of us. It will help with physical health because it helps calm the nervous system, so that the body can stop sending those non-stop SOS messages to the brain which in turn sends messages to the body to tense, hold on, and generally give a feeling of overall discomfort around the body.
When we embody we can experience and process emotion enjoyably. For most of our lives there is a strong possibility that we have learned to ignore and discount our emotional experiences. One of the ways we do this is through dissociation. Humans have incredible ability to ignore their internal experiences and you only have to look at how prevent, alcohol, and recreational and pharmaceutical drugs are in all aspects and levels of our society. These things help us to not feel what we feel, because we maybe were never encouraged or helped to be with our feelings and emotions, again because it may have been difficult for our Parents to see us in pain or anguish, and so encouraged us to not feel, but to dissociate in some way or another. You can literally pick any activity that we modern humans do and in so many circumstances we are avoiding our bodies’ and internal experience.
It’s not easy to work through some of these very powerful bodily experiences on our own so if you have had issues with panic or anxiety and you are worried or scared about what you might uncover when bringing awareness back to the body, please consider professional help from a psychotherapist or counselor to help with what may be coming up for you in terms of unprocessed or repressed emotions and experiences. This should not be taken lightly, and if something that is or has been traumatizing becomes conscious then do not hesitate in getting some professional help. My purpose here is to help, not hinder people.
Life although amazing and beautiful can be really hard at times of grief and loss. We all have to deal with tragedy and every day life, and these experiences can cause stress in every aspect of our self experience. Coming back into the body using these techniques will help with an overbearing work schedule or a hectic school/grocery run. We don’t normally acknowledge how stressful these every day tasks can be and this can be part of an overall issue of self care, or acceptance that our lives are full of little stresses that all add up and make us crazy from time to time. With grounding, we can manage stress in a much healthier way because we are more likely to process our internal experiences as they come up, and not screaming at our kids because some guys cut us off in traffic and we weren’t embodied enough in the moment to deal with, and process this little blast to our nervous system!
Why People Find It Difficult To Stay Grounded.
In general people are not paying much attention to how they physically feel. We drift cognitively to completing future target to future target, paying little attention in most cases to what’s actually happening internally. We are generally focused on completing tasks, and because modern life is so frenetic it’s almost like we have this deep hidden belief that we can’t slow down and enjoy, or actually experience ourselves moment to moment.We use alcohol, drugs and caffeine to change how we feel in an attempt to blast through our work and family lives and we don’t take time to give our bodies’ and minds time to rest and process our experiences. Not saying there is anything wrong with a cup of coffee, but overuse of any stimulant is not goood for our nervous systems and andrenals.
My intention here is to shed some light, not destroy peoples self-worth or esteem in asking them to look at “how horribly” they are living their lives but to look at the reality in a non judgmental way, of how dis-embodied we can be because of all the habits and patterns we have built up over the years, to manage our lives with as much comfort as we could create for ourselves, in a sometimes very uncomfortable world. In other words what do you do in the life to disconnect from uncomfortable bodily sensations, emotions, feelings or thoughts? This question is really important for you to find out how and why you find it difficult to stay or bring awareness into the physical body.
The more attention and awareness we develop of how are bodies’ are moment to moment, the more we can access the incredible depth of experience that our body can offer us when we begin to pay attention to its cues and sensations.
One of the biggest reasons we are disembodied so to speak is because of shame, consciously and unconsciously attached to ideas of sex and sexual expression, orientation, etc. Sex and the idea that it is something to be ashamed of may not play a conscious role within our every day experience of it, but underneath our conscious cognition and ideas on the surface about sex we all have our hangups. This is for many reasons. Culturally we are oriented toward the top of the body, i.e the head, the heart and the hands. In general people pay very little attention to their feet all the way up to the pelvis, or sex center of the body. Deep generational, religious and familial ideas attached to shame and sex still pervade our modern thinking on deep but subtle levels. All these factors contribute to very little attention or awareness to the lower half of the body, and if you can’t feel the feet, how can you connect to the Earth and feel like you are really here within this reality?
Healthy sexual expression comes with being grounded in the body and experiencing it, not looking at yourself having sex from the head, but actually inhabiting the experience and feeling it for what it is. This will help with being grounded because once we can relax our lower bodies’ it’s almost like the upper body follows that and can relax with the lower body.
So some questions to ask are, how am I with sex? How am I with my lower body? Do I reside in my lower body the same as my upper body? Notice the subtle differences of where you are in the body. Where have you gathered the attention in the body?
Exercises To Help Become More Grounded.
Developing our awareness is critical to becoming more grounded. This means consciously following the internal experiences from moment to moment. Be with the natural breath as much as you can. Feel the sensations and slow your awareness down to notice the most minute details of breathing. Breathe into different parts of the body. See what it’s like to “send” breathing into the feet. See what it’s like to send breathing to a part of the body you rarely get to see. Breathe and conscious breathing are extremely important in gaining ground back into the body. Sometimes when we pay attention to our breath it can be an uncomfortable experience at first, its like “should I actually be doing this, it feels so weird!” With our breath we become aware really quickly and it can be strange to do it for the first time or pay attention for a sustained period. Be patient and take the time when starting. Don’t run from the discomfort but don’t put yourself under too much pressure in the beginning to grind through anything either. Find your own balance within the practices. So let’s get to the exercises.
1. Conscious Body Scan. Lie on the floor or mattress, scan the body from the toes all the way up to the scalp. As you do this, notice the areas of the body that you are holding, tense within, numb, or generally just sensing a disconnection from. Pay particular attention to areas of the body that you may overuse in the everyday work or tasks, an example of this would be if you walk a lot for work, that you would spend a bit more time feeling how the joints in the legs and the muscles and tendons feel after a long work day. Notice the areas that you want to move quickly away from and give some consideration as to why that may be.
Gently breath into these areas of the body one by one. Some may relax, others may become more distant or tense. This is a great way to reacquaint yourself with body parts you’ve forgotten about and are now cut off from. Be gentle with yourself, don’t rush and hassle yourself for not being where you think you should be. It can be unsettling or uncomfortable to realize that you are cut of from certain areas of the body, but with a consistent practice you can learn to accept internal experiences as the body relaxes and comes back to a state of nervous system balance and efficient processing of external experiences. Take between 10 and 20 minutes to complete this and if you become regular with practice, it will become a very eye-opening and rewarding daily practice. Initially do not overdo it, just be patient and compassionate with yourself and orient yourself slowly to a new but familiar connection with yourself through the body. At some point within the practice the body will catch on and you can up the frequency and duration to get even more out of it. Investing in a workout or yoga mat can be beneficial to work on floors or surfaces that may not be very comfortable.
2. Supportive Chair Meditation. This meditation is great for people whom have a strong or active visualization sense. If, you find it easy to visualize, then this can really beneficial for connecting that sense of creativity to the body and what can come out of this is really amazing. What’s important here is that the visualization doesn’t overpower or dominate the sensate experience of the exercise. What this means is that you don’t get lost within the visualization and stop being aware of the body and the many subtle cues and experiences that can come with such an exercise. Stay with the body, and although it may be difficult to balance the two in the beginning, you will quickly adapt to visualizing and feeling at the same time.
Sit in a comfortable position, preferably with the back straight and shoulders relaxed. Begin by acknowledging this thing we’ve named “chair”, who’s job it is, to hold human beings up, allow them rest, and support them within that resting. It’s job is to hold you up. See what that’s like. Do you surrender to its strength and ability to hold you up? Or are you helping it by holding yourself in certain places? Why would it be difficult to accept support from a chair? Is accepting support and help something you find easy or difficult within life? Some of these questions can begin to shed some awareness on how you are with accepting support in the life. If we can’t surrender to a chair then it can show us a lot of how and why we are the way we are in everyday life.
As you find some surrender in the chair, begin to notice your breathing. Notice how far down breathing goes into the chest or abdomen. Notice what its like to pay attention to the movement of the breath. Feel the body as you do this, see how it responds. Keep an eye out for some thoughts or judgments that may come in and try to see what they are trying to do. We are quick to judge these movements of the mind as something to rid ourselves of but see if you can understand where they are coming from. If, you can, thank them for their input and bring attention back to breathing and the sensate experience of sitting in the chair, allowing that surrender to the support and relaxing as much as you can.
So right about now you may be drawn to different areas of the body and how uncomfortable or tense they are. Feel what it feels to bring awareness in these parts of the body, whilst maintaining a deep abdominal breathing. Notice what happens when you do this.
Feeling how we feel is the only way to move whatever may be there. Notice how the whole body is right now and visualize an object of what it reminds you of. This can be anything from a rock to a river to a bicycle, anything at all. Do this for about one minute and see yourself becoming the body again.
As you breath and are paying attention to the body and how it feels, visualize breathing as it comes in turning into powerful roots that stem from the pelvis and genital area all the way down to the feet. Slowly see the roots extending with each out breath from the body down into the ground beneath you. If, you are in an apartment, see the experience of rooting yourself all the way to the core of the Earth through the building itself. Go at whatever pace suits you and again try this for between 10 and 20 minutes. As you come to the finish don’t sever the roots but rather allow the feeling and experience of being rooted like a thousand year old sequoia tree in the Earth to be with you as you do whatever it is, like walking, chatting, cleaning, working, driving, etc.
These grounding meditation techniques can be very powerful so mind, and be kind with yourself. Take the time to acknowledge what may becoming up and again take care of yourself as best you can with professionals. If, you can’t afford such help, then go and find a pace that suits you to be able to compassionately take care of the most vulnerable parts. Some parts that come up can be very unsure about the light of awareness being shone on them. So slowly does it and check in with yourself regularly around how you are responding to these exercises.
3. Stress Postures and Shaking. Putting the body in certain postures and positions will help bring awareness really quickly to the body and the parts of the body that are being put in a stress position. Yoga is a perfect example of putting the body in a stress position, although it seems to have taken on a different goal or end product from a lot of westerners who want to achieve or “perfect” the postures ahead of developing and rooting awareness in the body. The idea of a perfect posture and the experience of achieving deep awareness within the posture are very different.
When we experience the discomfort of a stress posture our minds push us to stop, when we are doing these exercises the goal isn’t to harm but to extend our tolerance boundary of what we believe we can tolerate in terms of our sensate experience of ourselves. If, you push to hard the body will communicate this through pain, so listen to the body and listen to its communications when doing any exercise that pushes the boundaries, but keep yourself extended enough to make sure that you are gaining awareness and not floating off to ideas of what happened this morning in work, or the visit to the cinema later on that evening. Of course the mind will try to distract you but gently bring the awareness back to the body and breath and how they feel.
In general the most important aspects to these exercises is to breath and feel the body, whilst doing the exercises. When we are pushed to feel the body we can develop awareness in that area really quickly, so be patient and focus on the experience, and try not to rush. Rushing is a kind of avoidance of what’s genuinely coming up for you and this is counter-productive. The goal of all these exercises is to help with residing in the body and experiencing the body in a kind of multidimensional way.
Stand with bare feet and spend about 30 seconds feeling the feet and legs. Try to come up with a word or visual of what the feeling in the legs and feet might be e.g” blocks of wood” or “tired” or “alive”. Go with what comes up naturally and don’t overthink it. Next pull the front of the feet up and walk around for about 4-5 minutes on the heels.
The first few minutes might not be too hard but the last couple should create that stress feeling in the feet and/or legs. Go deeply into how it feels to do this. Connect deeply with the felt experience of doing this exercise. Breathe and feel your way through and experience the sense of what comes up in the legs and feet. By the end you may feel strange doing these exercises, but stick with it. If, you experience anything really uncomfortable try to stay with it. Tingling, buzzing or vibration is old holding patterns and emotional energy being moved. This can be very uncomfortable and don’t push too hard to “get through”. Listen to the body and ease off when needed. When we embrace a feeling sensation in general we can process it quicker but again don’t rush, take the time and respect the bodies’ process, not the idea of what you should be able for and where you should “be”.
This exercise is what’s called a bioenergetics exercise. There are many bioenergetic exercises that have been developed since the sixties, many by the founder of modern bioenergetics Alexander Lowen. Lowen was a body based psychotherapist and although many of these exercises can be traced back to indigenous cultures all over the world, Lowen popularized them in contemporary culture during his career. If this exercise works and feels helpful for you, please do some more research and try some amazing other bioenergetic exercises that can help you to gain awareness and release tension within anybody, hard-bodied, soft-bodied, fit, unfit, it will give huge benefits to everyone who consistently works with these exercises.
Shaking, or voluntarily shaking the body is very beneficial for relieving stress, tension and connecting the legs with Earth. When we shake or bodies’ recognize this as a natural release that is embedded in our ability to release stress and trauma. In nature almost every animal will shake out trauma or “fright” caused by danger of some sort or another. This somatic shaking is what keeps animals healthy. Most of the time this shaking will be involuntary and in humans when we exert the body through physical exercise or stress exercises can trigger a lot of involuntary shaking. In general when we shake our bodies’ voluntarily its as beneficial as involuntary shaking, but sometimes involuntary shaking can have very deep releases for the body.
Stand barefoot if possible, with comfortable loose clothing on. Bend the knees slightly and feel the change and connection to the Earth as you do this. Breathe deeply. Feel into the whole body from the feet all the way up to the head. Notice what the body feels as a whole. Again, visualize or sense a word or picture that describes the sense you get from yourself as you stand in this position. Feel the knees have some gentle suspension in the middle of the knees that will now allow you bounce very gently. Slowly increase the bounce and as you increase begin to shake out the shoulders and arms. Extend the shaking to the head and torso, gently at first and after a while allow the body to take over. Speed up or slow down the pace based on what you feel you need in the moment and again do this for between 10 and 20 minutes.
Slowly come to the end by gently and carefully bringing the shaking to an end. Observe, notice and be aware of the feeling of what its like to come to end of such an exercise and allow the body again to give you a picture or sense again of what it feels like. It may have started with you feeling tense and held, but hopefully finished with some fluidity and a sense of release by the end of this exercise.
4. Deep Abdomanal Breathing. Breathing deeply is a natural aspect of the human body, there is probably nothing more natural too human beings than breathing deeply into the abdomen and having the centeredness and sense of embodiment that comes with it. For almost every person at some point in life our natural deep breath becomes affected by our experiences. When we get a fright we hold our breath as part of our fight or flight mechanism. If this happens a lot to us when we are children, it can have an adverse effect how we breath which can have a really big impact on our nervous systems ability to recover to a point of calmness and regulation. The body will keep us in a state of flight, fight or worse again even freeze when we are in danger over and over again. Danger can be a Parent who always screams or shouts when communicating. Or a household constantly under financial pressure can be a “dangerous” place for a young developing nervous system within a childs body. These are experiences we can all relate to in some way as children, the problem is we take our conditioning into adulthood with us, and in general we carry these ways of dealing with danger into adulthood even though they don’t always serve us as adults. So hopefully this breathing exercise can bring some openness to the breathing and reset breathing and nervous systems in some way that’s beneficial.
Start by sitting upright in a chair or by lying down arms out to the side, palms facing up and legs about a foot and a half away from each other in a symmetrical pose. Whatever position you are in feel the body. Scan the body from the feet all the way up to the head. Don’t judge what you find if you can but rather try to bring some compassion and acceptance to how you find yourself, no matter what that may be. Try to keep that sense of compassion and self acceptance throughout the whole exercise, and just be aware when you may switch to self-criticism or even a sense of shame when you enter the body in such a powerful way. Place one hand on the chest and one hand on the abdomen. Feel the contact of the hands in these very different body centers. Notice if you welcome the contact. Feel the bodies’ reaction to the touch of the hands.
Now begin to notice breathing. Notice how deeply it goes. Does it stop at the throat, the chest? Or do you breath right down into the feet!? Don’t try change breathing initially because you want to get a feel for the natural breath and how it has set up within the body. Notice how breathing is and try to give it some life in another way by associating it with something in nature like a rock or an animal of some kind. This is not to be used as a criticism but rather another lens by which you get to know and experience breathing.
Slowly begin to bring the attention to the hands again. Bring both hands into the chest and breath deeply for 7 breaths into the chest. Feel how it feels to do this. Notice what it does to you, and remember there is no right or wrong just the reality and immediacy of the experience. I’m going to repeat that, there is no right or wrong, so go easy on yourself please.
Bring both hands down to the abdomen, notice and feel what that is like. Again begin to direct breathing deeply into the abdomen and use the hands to guide you in where breathing needs to go. The hands should move up or out depending on the posture by at least one inch when on the in breath, hold the breath for a slight pause after you’ve filled the lungs of in breath and slowly let your exhalation take over and feel the wave motion of the abdomen coming back in as breathing leaves the body. Notice the difference between breathing into the abdomen versus the chest. How do you recognize the differences? Again try to find a word or visual to help experience the feeling differently. What is it like to center within the body using the breath?
Do this exercise for between 5 and 10 minutes initially and work the way up to 15 to 20 minutes when you become more comfortable with the developing awareness of the body and what may be held there. If strong emotions come up, be with them and process these feelings by honoring how they feel. Don’t push them away, rather try to understand the information within them. What are they telling you? How do you make sense of how you feel, what emotions you are experiencing and how the body feels housing such internal experiences. Be patient with yourself and don’t force anything. Just be the depth of experience was much as you can and move on with the rest of the day after the exercise.
Finding the stillness that resides within each of us can be a challenging road and journey. But make no mistake about it, it is definitely a road worth taking. These grounding meditation techniques are little ways of building awareness through consistent effort and development of understanding of what is going on internally for us. Using meditation techniques to leave our physical experience is something that all too many people are moving toward today. So with these exercises the challenge is to find peace and awareness within the body and not away from it in some higher level of vibration or consciousness. We are embodied beings experiencing a wonderful world of physicality and Earthly experiences. How can we do that if we are not in the body? Or be present too and with ourselves, our experiences and other people?
So I hope that these exercises that you can practice in a short space of time and in the comfort of the own homes can be part of a journey back into the body for you, and that you ultimately reach and reside within that deep peace hidden within all of us, beneath the unprocessed pain and emotional repression that we as humans carry, sometimes our whole lives long. Be patient and compassionate with yourself and you will get to where you need to be. Take care of the pained, vulnerable parts of yourself and the wounds can heal. It’s not about if you can get there but when, so enjoy the ride and embrace whatever life brings internally and externally and at the very least you can say you have lived an alive life in doing so.