Practice Instructions: Grounding

It is important to notice that formal meditation practice has a bio-energetic basis.

When we sit, we are primarily having a “felt-sense” experience. In fact, one of the things that practice does is “open up” increasingly subtle layers of feeling. Many people presume that intense bliss or other altered states arrive all at once as some kind of cosmic “knockout punch.” Interestingly, bliss, clarity and love often emerge totally naturally out of our sensory-energetic field. They are simply byproducts of perceiving the inner energy throughout the day and arrive non-volitionally as we get more and more attuned to the subtleties of our feeling states.

As we get more accustomed to feeling our inner body over time, we also notice when it is stuck, or volatile, or out of balance. We reflect the complex system that is nature! Our mind-stream is a dizzying combination of innumerable internal and external impressions. Thus, we require a certain kind of energetic calibration and maintenance to be balanced because we are so connected to the people, places and things around us. This is a core purpose of daily practice.

Our first priority in practice is grounding and clearing. We can blame the thinking mind all we want to, but until we deal directly with the nervous system and our internal energy, the condition of the mind is not going to adjust that much.

Grounding is not just a cognitive/attentional task. It is using the connection between “heaven & earth” to re-balance our core physiological and energetic systems.

We experience the frame of the body, and particularly the limbs, as channels of sensation that are simply allowed to move. We become a simple conduit with loving-awareness as the guardian. 

If we actually had to accomplish this re-balancing through some kind of complicated mental technique, we would be totally screwed! Our system is simply too complex for a conceptual mind to understand, let alone “heal.”

Fortunately, our job is pretty small. We basically just need to get out of the way of the process and stop interfering with our experience for a few minutes.

Here are a few simple pointers to play with:

You can start just by asking yourself what position your body naturally wants to be in to ground. Do whatever feels natural.

  • What we’re looking for is the feeling of being deeply connected with the earth, so the contact with whatever we are sitting, standing or lying on should feel solid/supportive. We should have the sense that we can “release into the ground.”

  • In the beginning, the sense of the having both feet touching the ground (either in the sitting, standing, or lying postures) can be helpful in feeling rooted. In particular, we want to select a posture where the 4 limbs feel sensitive and open. One simple posture to try out is sitting upright in a chair with feet shoulder-width apart and the hands resting gently, palms down, on top of each leg.

After you have found a comfortable position to be, you can “invite” the sense of grounding. Note that inclining the mind this way is not the same as “forcing it.” You are simply tuning into a process that will naturally occur as you pay gentle attention to it.

  • For the first few seconds, some find it helpful to lightly visualize a chord, tree or other object that connects them to the earth. You can play with dropping it down from the heart, through the center of the body, out through the perineum, and deep into the ground. Do not strain to get some kind of “perfect visual” in this exercise. The visual sense is intimately linked to the felt sense. We are simply using it as a doorway into “the feeling of being grounded.”

  • Also, let whatever your connection to the earth is “spontaneously appear” in awareness. It may be a redwood tree, a rope, or a red pole! Who knows... As you sit, the visual sense of this object may spontaneously “reappear” in awareness as the felt-sense gets stronger.

 After you have dropped your grounding chord, feel the energy of the whole body as it connects deeply and is supported by the earth. Feel how simply being receptive to this connection has a "clearing" and "calibrating" effect on all the systems of the body.

Finally, move the attention up the spine to the skull cavity. Put a little bit of attention in the head, right around the third-eye, and maybe a few inches back into the brain. The precise location varies for everyone. It's the feeling we are looking for, not so much a super precise physiological area. Inhabiting that space with a grounded energy system produces an unmistakable sense of neutral witnessing. You are not in anyone else's business and they are not in yours. There is a sense that you are the witness of the reality taking place around you and in front of you. Play with it a little bit.

Once settled, the core pointer is simply to rest as awareness and allow the body to be a conduit for the movement of sensation and energy.

As the “movement of feeling” intensifies, phrases can be useful. One we like is: “everything that needs to move is allowed to.”

There is a total non- manipulation of any aspect of our experience. As with the visualization, you should note that your mind spontaneously generates these pointers if you let it.

  • Notice that the system has its own intelligence. There will be waves of sensation, energy and sometimes emotion followed by periods of calm. Staying grounded, open and connected is what allows us to “shepherd” these cycles.

  • Do not “hold yourself still” or over-impose rigid physical instructions. Let the eyes open and close involuntarily. Let the body micro-adjust. Remember that deep states of consciousness are non-volitional in nature. It is impossible to enter into them if we are caught up in micro-managing our physical and mental experience. 

Grounding Throughout the Day

Get used to doing these instructions frequently throughout the day for short moments. After meetings, between emails, in the supermarket line, at a stoplight while driving, between bites of food, during lulls in conversation, lying in bed, etc. Do them as many times as you can remember. Eventually they will become automatic.

Finally, pay particular attention to this sequence if you are in interactions with people who are trying to manipulate some aspect of the dynamic, or make you responsible for how they feel, or otherwise hook you into a energetic or verbal response that goes against what you know is right in that moment/situation.

Having good boundaries is not a form of armoring. There is still deep receptivity. But the receptivity is protected by a profound sense of earth connection, centeredness, and neutrality. Living more from that sense is the way we actually know whether people, places, situations and things are truly "in accord" with our nature or not.

When something feels off, it usually is.