There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “When the roots are deep, there’s no reason to fear the wind.” This is the essence of grounding—feeling so solid and rooted in yourself that you don’t have to resist anything. The opposite of this is when we feel unsupported and thus disoriented or spacey, like an uprooted plant flailing about in a storm. When we are grounded, we are resourced—we feel we have the capacity and tools to deal with what comes our way.
Getting grounded can help shift us out of a state of high nervous system arousal or shut down into a state of being settled and present. We can feel grounded through our legs and feet or through any part of the body that is touching the ground, a floor, a chair, and so forth. We can even ground through our hands, and for people who use wheelchairs or crutches, grounding can happen through contact with mobility devices. The breath can also be something that grounds us and helps us feel more solid and stable.
GROUNDING PRACTICE 1
Find a comfortable seated position. Bring your attention to the parts of your body that are touching the floor, or the parts of your body that are touching something that touches the floor—for example, a chair or cushion. Notice these areas— perhaps your feet, back of thighs, bottom, armszz or hands. If your feet are on the floor, gently press them down and notice how your legs feel. Are they strong? Weak? Heavy? Light?
Feel your seat bones on the chair, or your back against the chair. Allow your spine to lengthen the more you ground down, just like a tree that is able to rise to the sun as it deepens its roots. As you bring awareness to the places in your body that are being supported by the floor or chair, notice if anything settles in your body or just generally feels better.
GROUNDING PRACTICE 2
Cross your forearms in front of your body and squeeze your opposite arm with each hand. Gently squeeze your hands up the arms to your shoulders. Notice if anything settles in your body or your breath deepens and if there is a particular part of the movement that feels especially good.
GROUNDING PRACTICE 3
Stand with your feet a bit wider than hip-distance apart and your knees slightly bent, or you may sit, tuning in to your seat bones. Start to sway side to side. Notice the shift in weight in your feet (or seat bones) and how your legs feel. Tune in to your muscles and how they engage as you sway. Notice if anything settles in the rest of your body as you get more grounded in your lower body.
When we are centered, our sense of self and our center of power is inside of us, regardless of what is happening around us. We have a sense of personal agency and self-efficacy in our life. Although we may not be able to control everything that is happening around us, we are able to manage our own emotions and behavior. When our center is outside of us, we feel and experience that our safety and well-being is at the mercy of external forces; we may feel powerless and helpless.
Reclaiming our sense of center takes time. Track your body in different interactions and notice if there are some situations where you are able to be centered and others where you’re not. Journal about it, write it down, and consider what centering practice might bring yourself and your needs into the moment. It’s important to remember that being centered is not the same as being self- centered; it’s about being centered in yourself. This actually allows us to be more present with others without needing to manage them. It can be a very generous act.
This is a standing practice that can also be done seated. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, or find a comfortable seated position. Place one hand on your heart or the center of your chest and the other hand on your belly or solar plexus. Your eyes can be open or closed—whatever feels better. Feel the sensation of your hands on your body. Imagine a flame or a sphere at your belly— anything that can symbolize your center of power. Take a few deep breaths if that helps you settle.
Next, lean forward and come up on your toes, as if you were about to fall forward, then lean back onto your heels, then go side to side. Explore how your center keeps you from falling forward or back and can allow you, even if you do fall, to come back again. If seated, simply lean in each direction and feel for how your body keeps you from falling.
CENTERING PRACTICE WITH VISUALIZATION
Once you feel centered in yourself, imagine someone in your life standing near you. Notice if your capacity to stay in your center is harder in the presence of another person. (You can also choose to imagine someone who tends to take you off-center.) As you see them, put more of your attention on your hands on your body and your centering image. Feel in your body what it would be like to be centered while in relationship to someone else. (Hint: If this is really hard, you can shrink the person down in your imagination, or place them further away from you.)
From Peace from Anxiety: Get Grounded, Build Resilience, and Stay Connected Amidst the Chaos by Hala Khouri © 2021 by Hala Khouri. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, Colorado.