The importance of grounding can not be over-emphasised. In the past few decades I’ve noted how many people (including myself in my mid to late teens) are looking for ungrounded experiences such as those common to drug and alcohol use, and endeavours such as astral travel and out-of-body experiences. What is grounding and how can you ensure you’re grounded?
First and foremost grounding is about conscious participation with the physical body. In the “Western” construct of the world it is common for people to be very cerebral in their experience of and approach to Life. When did you last take a conscious breath? Did I catch you out? Chances are I did; that you’ve read all of the above words without taking a conscious breath. I’ve taken many since I started writing this, and it was my awareness of that fact which lead to me asking you when you last engaged with your breathing with conscious awareness.
An appropriate Yoga practice—such as that taught and encouraged in Hṛdaya Yoga—naturally brings us into a more grounded state. Far from taking us away from subtle and sublime spiritual experiences, appropriate grounding actually enables us to remain conscious during such experiences and provides the means to anchor awareness of subtle realities into our daily lives. What happens is that instead of floating off into the mind or becoming scattered into subtle realities by grounding we actually give ourselves a solid psycho-physiological foundation from which to explore the subtle realities without losing touch with the day-to-day reality of our physical and emotional experience.
Actually, I’ve noticed it is unresolved emotion that often leads to a person becoming and staying ungrounded. By drifting up into the mind (and beyond) we create a kind of buffer between our attention (the attentive-mind) and the pain we would otherwise feel within the body-mind. It’s a form of chronic—yet socially normal and therefore accepted—dissociation. Freedom is not possible when we live our lives in a dissociated state. As two of my early and primary Yoga teachers would say, “the only way out (of pain, suffering, separation, ignorance, etc.) is through“. We can’t skip around our shadow, and being ungrounded is often-times part of an attempt to avoid our shadow and the pain often associated with or imprinted into that shadow aspect of the persona.
Grounding is actually relatively simple. Connection with the natural world is perhaps one of the most essential steps we can take toward greater levels of grounding. Walk in nature; sit in nature; play in nature; be outside as much as possible; get out into the wild. Hikes in jungles and natural forests are great. Spending time by rivers, streams, and old growth trees all helps. As often as is practical walk barefoot. I’ve spent the better part of my life barefoot, and this includes hiking (even running) in high rocky mountains, walking through snow, tramping in forests, walking around coastal regions, and more. It takes a few weeks to a few months for the feet to toughen up, but once they do walking are barefoot is not only better for the body and one’s posture, but is also more enjoyable. It can even be more social, oddly enough. Just a few moths ago I was hiking in the Austrian Alps, barefoot, and just about every person or group of people I passed would stop and talk to me because they were astonished to see I had bare feet. Hiking barefoot has often given me so much energy I end up running up mountains, and back again.
When you’re out in the natural world be sure to not take the unnatural world with you, in the form of headphones plugged into various audio devices. Even leave the mobile phone at home if at all possible, or leave it in the car. Give yourself the opportunity (the freedom) to be completely present to the natural world and your relationship with it. Hear all the sounds; smell all the scents; and feel your feet in contact with the Earth.
Spending time in the ocean is also a great way to ground, and this include surfing to a degree. I say “to a degree” because surfing for many avid surfers becomes a form of addictive behaviour and an escape from unresolved life-challenges, relationship difficulties, social issues, and emotional pain. There’s a certain high that comes with riding a big wave, and if we end up craving and seeking that high in an addictive fashion the chances are we are escaping from some other aspect of our life (as is the case with most, if not all, addictive behaviour). There is also a drinking and drug-taking culture that often revolves around surfing and this must be avoided if we are to remain grounded and don’t wish to get spiritually stuck.
Hṛdaya yoga teaches that when practicing yoga we should remain very present to our heart and the “soul” of our feet. One is also aware of the subtle space above the head with a sense of connecting this into the heart and feet. The symmetry of the body, the movement of the breath, the feeling of our body moving through the space around it, these are all keys to practising yoga in a grounded way. This, as opposed to drifting off in our thoughts whilst the body is kind of in automatic doing various asana.
Technologies such as mobile phones can also un-ground us. They emit super high frequencies that can entrain our body-mind away from the natural frequency of the Earth. They also tend to overstimulate the mind. If you have a mobile phone—and I realise most people do—find a way to have it with you but not on your body. Get one with a speaker-phone, and use it in that mode whenever possible in order to avoid holding the phone up against your head or using headphones.
This is just a brief introduction into the subject of grounding. If you have any specific questions please feel free to ask them in the comments.