“When you’re feeling off balance, see if you can feel your feet from your feet.”
Everything that grows naturally has its origin in the earth and grows in relation to the earth. The more we engage in intellectual, spiritual, and philosophical activities, the more important our grounding will be.
Balance and Integrity
It’s very easy to get interested in topics, problems, ideas, and concepts that mainly relate to our thinking mind. Our world is full of exciting activities, texts, and opinions. Complex thought systems are developed and maintained by people who are not always aware of their connection with the earth.
In my years at the university I was fascinated by a professor who mentioned a group of farmer’s wives as her “home base.” She met them regularly to stay connected to her ground and not get lost in the world of the intellect and academia.
How do we integrate grounding and balancing activities in our own lives? It’s a challenge: We tend to live above the ground, sitting up on chairs and using different vehicles to float over the ground, much faster than we could by foot. We prefer elevators to stairs and we pick our vegetables mainly in the supermarket. Many of us don’t have access to a nice garden and often we can’t find the time to rest on the floor after a long day. How do we stay grounded, how do we find our inner way home into balance?
Whoever spends their time thinking for a living dwells constantly in an environment in which it’s easy to lose the balance between theory and reality. Contemplative and spiritual activities can cause a similar imbalance. To stay integrated and healthy it’s good to ground ourselves regularly.
An Important Place in Tradition
Within the Indian yoga tradition the emphasis on building a posture from the ground up is very important. The Tibetan Buddhist traditions have different preliminary practices to ensure that the practice grows from a stable base. And in Zen Buddhism, simple daily activities are a main area of practice. If we find ourselves firmly grounded 🙂 within a tradition, then we may already have the practices that we need. But there are several grounding practices I like to do that you might also find useful, which include grounding through:
• The body
• The feet
Grounding through Attention
In many forms of therapy and other healing arts grounding is an essential aspect of the method. We can orient ourselves in the environment we find ourselves in simply by looking around. We continue by noticing our own breathing, our body, our feet on the floor, or whatever they touch. After a short experience of this we feel more present and grounded: We are “here.” In Tibetan Buddhism this is sometimes called “taking our seat.” If we measure our breathing and heart rate before and after, we will likely notice a change. Our body has calmed down and with it our mind, too.
Grounding through Imagination
For some of us it will be easier to remember nice places and moments and to go there in imagination. Such memories are inner resources that connect us to experiences of being grounded. They can be available at any time to calm and balance the nervous system.
Grounding through the Body
Maintaining good body awareness and a close connection with the surrounding nature and space help us to be balanced and grounded. There are many ways into this: morning yoga, daily evening walks, fun with the kids outside, house work in a mindful way, and also resting with the cat on the sofa. We can come back to those natural methods again and again, but often our hectic lives distract us.
Grounding through the Feet
To maintain an intimate connection with our experience in total, we need an openness to the senses, to our body, and to our breathing. Otherwise we might tend to filter everything through our mind first. Noticing our feet in a challenging situation can help us to stay grounded, to feel and act calm again. Otherwise we might remain in spinning thoughts and growing worries and lose our balance.
Where are we really?
In a similar way, to notice our own experience as it really is, shows us where we are. To have insight into this allows us to find the most supportive ground and the right methods so that our personal growth and meditation practice can develop naturally. Noticing our experience as it really is, is knowing our contemplative practice as it really is.
So easily we strive to reach high goals and get painfully put down by our day-to-day reality. This can become the root of many difficulties. This is the reason why the traditions mentioned above stress a stable authentic base and a patient, stepwise approach.
I wish that we all can be curious and at ease, authentic and engaged, sharing with each other what our challenges are, and helping one another to move through.
All the best for you,
P.S. Here’s a bit more about Sharon Salzberg’s teaching:
P.P.S. You can join the free 21-day online course Relaxing into Meditation. It’s seated here as another blog and you can move through it at your own pace. Enjoy…