The majority of us living “modern” lifestyles struggle to maintain a healthy balance and connection to our bodies. We move less, spend less time outdoors and consume things like sugar, conservation agents and caffeine in amounts never before seen on earth. Our energy is sapped by the pervasive electromagnetic fields of our innumerable gadgets. Assuming we’re not all going to go off-grid and return to the wild tomorrow, how do we find a sense of grounding amidst the hum and buzz of “society”?
When I say grounding I am referring to being connected to one’s body, to the earth and to one’s immediate environment. It is often equivalent to being present and in a relative state of calm. Feeling connected to ones surroundings and to a sense of inner balance. Grounding is an essential tool for people going through major shock or emotional pain. It’s also an incredibly useful thing to keep in mind in our daily lives as a practice to help us stay centered, focused and healthy.
At the moment I’d like to focus on the most basic aspects of grounding. Not dealing with a specific “out of body” crisis (though hey…come to think of it, I would consider the majority of our social norms these days to be related to a massive “out of body” crisis, but that’s for another time!). Rather, let’s look at why we might often be in less-than-grounded states and then some ways to re-center ourselves in the face of all these factors.
How do I know if I’m grounded?
Do you sometimes feel like you’re “floating,” cloudy-headed, “spaced-out” and giggly for no particular reason? Do you have a tendency to go through major energy fluctuations, revved up one moment and totally exhausted the next? Do you have a reaaaally hard time making decisions, a hard time sleeping, are you constantly distracted? Are you constantly craving sugar or caffeine? In all probability you could use some grounding!
Whether it’s a question of your work being mainly computer related (spending most of your time sitting and doing mind-activating tasks) or a stressful schedule that leads to a lot of late nights and eating out (irregular diet, stimulants, depressants and additives unless you’re very intentional about avoiding them), it’s very easy to end up in a frenetic tizzy where we no longer feel our feet, let alone the earth beneath them.
Cleaning out the closets
Aside from lifestyle factors a lot of us have more than a few reasons to avoid, consciously or unconsciously, being fully in our bodies. Sometimes our hectic schedules and endless list of things we have to do are actually sneaky ways of avoiding…ourselves.
But guess what? No matter how much you may not want to deal with your shadow, it’s stuck to you. Your subconscious is like a mini Peter Pan, constantly chasing said evasive shadow on our behalf until one day…wham! We are re-united and have to deal with the darkness. Besides which, our bodies accumulate and express all our repressed emotional and psychological scuzz anyways. Might as well consciously choose to take a look in the closet rather than spend all our time struggling to ignore the noise from the other side of that closed door, no?
On top of the temptation of emotional denial and the pressures of modern life, many of us also have to deal with a history of religious influences that elevated the spirit, and mind, over matter. Of course we’re going to walk around escaping from our bodies if our parents and their parents before them were taught that the body was the vile, dirty origin of sin and human suffering. I ain’t exaggerating. There are strong currents of belief still flowing in which physical life is seen as lowly, impure and altogether less worthy than pursuits of the intellect or soul.
Coming back to center, grounding ourselves in our bodies, might mean confronting some of these beliefs. It is my belief that a true definition of balance has to include an equal valuing and respect of the physical, material world in which we walk. Call me crazy. Or read on!
You can’t have Branches without Roots!
Seems pretty basic, right? Even in hydroponic situation (growing in water) plants still put down roots. So if you want to expand your consciousness, if you want to open your mind…think about starting from a solid base. Think of grounding as the gateway to elevation, or, depending on your worldview, as a fundamental element to personal growth and maintaining your effectiveness in other spheres of your life.
One of the most obvious ways of coming back to our bodies (remember, that’s how I’m defining grounding!) is movement. What better way to remind ourselves that we are a body? Incorporating regular movement into your daily life can be a great first step to living a more grounded life.
So, you have at least 11 hours of computer work ahead of you, you’re behind schedule and planning on cramming it all in to one day? Okay, Pace yourself! You may have developed a tolerance or strategies for long hours, but ignoring the needs of your body won’t do anyone any good. A walking, jumping, dancing, running break will not only feel good, it will increase your ability to focus and efficiently produce whatever masterpiece you are working on! Here is some purely mechanical reasoning for you. Oxygenation is a key factor in optimal brain functioning. Staring at a computer, or anything else, without interruption is a really good way to wreck your eyesight. Sitting in one position for long periods is a primary cause of back, shoulder, neck and joint problems. If you’re one for 10 year plans, you might want to plan in daily movement. Otherwise you are looking at a much less spritely version of yourself down the road.
It’s great to have a training routine, to go for jogs every couple days or take dance classes once a week. Yes! Do whatever you can to move more! But don’t consider those chunks of activity as way to write off moving for the rest of the week! In a society where comfort is our main deity, it might be hard to replace the easiest ways of doing things with the most all-around beneficial. The physical results are well worth it though. Walk or bike to your destination whenever possible. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Find fun ways of integrating movement in to your work days.
Head for the Hills!
Secondly, try getting out of urban environments! If you already live in the woods, congratulations! You probably are doing okay on this front. If not, you may need to figure out some way of accessing wild, or at least less concrete-covered, spaces. Even if you don’t think you’re affected by the noise, pollution and constant over-stimulation of the city or suburb in which you live you will notice a difference when you step out of it.
If your mind refuses to acknowledge the impact, your body will still breathe easier. Even if we reduce it to the fact that our genes evolved in environments without right angles, there is a benefit. Many studies exist about the positive impact of trees, the color green and fresh air on mental, physical and emotional health. If you feel destabilized by your own company, silence or wide open spaces, find someone to go on a hike with or go to a music festival in a remote area. Being immersed in nature doesn’t necessarily have to mean exiling yourself from society! Find what works for you and let yourself roam free. If you live in a city like Montreal you might even simply work in a visit to “the mountain” (a.k.a. the hill in the middle of the city) as a way of getting more nature-time.
If you’re a runner or jogger, running on soil has much less negative impact on the knees than running on concrete! Try it out!
Sleeping on the earth (camping or “roughing it”) is number one way to get back in touch with the energy of the earth. This is essentially the basis of all magnet therapies, where an injured body part will have a magnet placed on it that has been charged with the same electromagnetic field as the earths.
It may sound radical but…what about unplugging for a day? Per week, per month…whatever you can handle. Give yourself some time and space to be creative with. It was only when I got rid of my cell phone recently that I realized how within only a year of having it I had begun filling all my free time with it. Every moment of rest became an opportunity to fiddle with my phone and text someone I hadn’t spoken to in however long. Now I’m not suggesting everyone get rid of their phones (not that I would mind if you did!) but disconnecting from it for a day every now and then can really do a world of good if you are looking to be more grounded.
In writing this piece I’ve realized there are a lot of ways to get more grounded and that some of them might be worth a bit deeper exploration. Maybe I’ll get around to writing more about them…for now, enough screen time for me. 😉