Do you live most of your life in your head?....Yeah, I know how that goes. These days, I frequently hear from patients and friends that I’m the most grounded person they know, but it definitely wasn't always that way. I used to spend all of my waking hours thinking -- no, *obsessively* thinking, worrying, planning, and anxiously ruminating -- about literally every aspect of my life, work, relationships, and the world around me. I thought this was normal, and I actually managed to convince myself that I was “being productive” by thinking all the time (“I’m solving climate change while lying awake in bed at night. What are you doing to help the world?!”). I also conflated intellect with incessant mental activity, and I used intelligence as an excuse to live mostly above my neck, forgetting about the rest of my body (“Oh, this old sack of bones? It’s too bad I have to drag it around with me everywhere.”), which I remembered and cared for mostly as an afterthought. I was living in complete ignorance of my body and the bigger picture of my environment, totally ungrounded.
What is it to be grounded? To me, being grounded means being here, now...but, really. It means consciously saying hello to the present moment, and being willing to see and be with whatever is here. The thing that is most here, in my book? The planet that we are all stuck to, through gravity's pull. We are, simply and inevitably, on earth, but we've forgotten about this connection as we float up and live in our heads.
In order to be in the present moment, we simply can’t escape our sacks of bones; we must finally relax into our bodies and see how things feel, acknowledging any discomfort or pain that has been humming in the background, as we drop down into connection to the earth we're standing on. To say hello to the present and get grounded happens through conscious awareness of our bodies' full connection to the environment, the natural world we come from. When we get grounded, our energy moves down from our heads and spreads into the rest of us, as it travels to our feet to connect with the earth.
People like to talk about how there's no nature in New York City. I used to think this too, but my view shifted during my own process of learning to finally live on the earth, in my body, in the present moment. This was a huge deal for me, because, it turns out, by not being grounded -- by not being willing to be curious about what was happening in my body in the present moment, to see its connection to everything on earth and in the world around me -- I missed *so much* of living. I think that a big part of the agreement to be a human is accepting that we are from and of the earth, that we are always being pulled to its nurturing ground whether we are aware of it or not. We can’t get away from it, because we are it. As modern urban people, most of us don’t try to get comfortable in our bodies to feel this connection or take steps to cultivate it, but the tools are simple and available at any moment.
I wrote this post while awaiting the A train at the airport, probably the last place that comes to mind when you think of getting grounded, but I couldn’t help feeling pulled to and supported by the earth. I noticed that the sand from the nearby ocean was there too (bringing the water and earth elements), blowing around in the dry wind (bringing the wood and metal elements), reminding me that the natural world is always available -- underneath and throughout whatever we silly humans decide to put on top of it. As part of the natural world, I am constantly being invited to connect to the present moment through my body.
Acupuncture, herbal medicine, and breathwork are all exceptional methods that help you move more fully into a grounded and even state. If you’ve noticed that you have anxiety, headaches, anger, or constant worrying/obsessing/over-thinking, these modalities can all help you rebalance your energy as you find your true center through a grounded physical body. If it feels right, go ahead and set up an appointment with me or your favorite local practitioner.
In the meantime, here are 5 simple practices that you can use to bring your energy down, redirecting some of that stuck mental energy, finding your center, and recharging your body!
Close your eyes, and take a deep, slow inhale into your belly, counting to 4. Exhale longer than the inhale, counting to 6 or 8.
That’s it! This practice tells your nervous system that you can relax, as you have plenty of time to sit around and exhale slowly. Plus, your awareness is moving energy down from your head to your belly.
Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling slow deep breaths, and become aware of the soles of your feet. Can you feel all the corners and crannies of your feet as they connect to the ground below you? Can you sense the communication and support between your feet and the earth?
Feels good, no?! Advanced practice: go outside and take your shoes off, so your feet connect directly with the earth.
That's kind of self-explanatory. Dancing activates our energy and pulls it into every corner of our limbs, so that we are fully in our bodies. It doesn't matter if you're at a dance class, party, the bathroom at your office, or your apartment in your underwear!
Talk to yourself
I am rooted.
I am grounded.
The earth wants me.
I belong here.
It’s safe to exist.
I am secure.
You can do this in your head or aloud, depending on your location and comfort level.
Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling slow deep breaths, and become aware of the soles of your feet, feeling your feet on the floor. Imagine roots growing down from your feet, extending through the floor, the space and floors below you, the foundation of the building, the bedrock, the earth and water and lava, until the roots reach the center of the earth.
Feel your connection to the earth through the strong roots that are extending down, that are drawing in and delivering nutrients and energy from the earth back up to your body. Allow that energy to start rising from your feet, through your legs, knees, thighs, and hips, until your legs and torso are now the trunk of a tree. The energy continues up your body, out through your arms and hands, filling your face and head to the end of every strand of hair. You feel tall and strong and firm, and your spine is long and straight, extending up towards the sunlight above you.
Now bring your awareness back down to your heart, which is your true center. Remember who you are and why you are here, and set an intention for yourself, for today, whatever feels inspiring and joyful for you. Plant the intention as a seed in your heart, surrounded by all of the steady energy coming up from the earth.
Savor your connection to the earth, to the sun and sky, and to your heart. You are grounded, and safe, and supported by the universe.
Start to release the image of your tree self, and come back into an awareness of your human self. Take a few deep, slow breaths, and open your eyes when you're ready.
(Bonus : Find Kidney 1)
We can roam far and wide across the planet -- even up above the planet into space -- but we never fail to carry the potential to ground with us, in the form of an acupuncture point known as Kidney 1. This point is located on the soles of our feet, at the top of the arches. It has a strong grounding, sinking action, and it's here that we can consciously contact the earth to bring down our energy, which, among my fellow New Yorkers, is almost always completely tied up in our heads, churning away on mental stresses and puzzles. With Kidney 1, we bring awareness back into our physicality, then discharge some of that mental stress into the earth. Thanks, earth!