Finding Ground in Groundlessness


My friend Jean Esther, a practicing Buddhist and insight meditation teacher, recently told me that she was teaching a class on ground and groundlessness. I have not stopped thinking about that phrase since she uttered those words.

 So much of my work is about that: finding ground in groundlessness through the body.  I find ground through the body practices that I teach and use myself.

You might wonder what I mean by being grounded. What does it feel like to be grounded? What does it feel like to be groundless?

The best example I can offer is what I notice in myself. When I am grounded, I feel physically stable and rooted to the earth. I experience myself as being emotionally present to what my surroundings are telling me. I am aware of my physical sensations, and my internal landscape and external landscape feel in sync or at least in alignment.

When I am not grounded, my nervous system feels stressed. My mind is easily distracted, and I am often irritable and anxious. When I lose my ground, it is as if my head is ruling and not my heart. When I am grounded, I can direct my energy through the core of my body and down into my bones. I focus on my lower body and especially my connection to the earth.

 When it comes to my clients and students, I can feel when someone is ungrounded because their energy feels to me as if they are living from the waist up, as if their body is cut in half.

Our sense of being grounded is deeply dependent on our breath. If someone’s breath is short, they often feel not grounded. The more comfortable you are in your breath, the more depth you have in your physical reality. The breath itself is not only an indicator but can help to improve the experience of being rooted. I can feel when someone is grounded, because I can feel their energy moving down their legs and into the earth. The quality of their presence is solid and calming.

 I am curious to know how you personally experience groundedness and groundlessness. I would love to hear your reflections.

For those of you who have studied with me, you know that I often start my classes by having my students anchor their bodies on a mat with an elevation under them, such as a ball or bolster. Then once they are situated on the platform, I have them physically explore the surface of their pelvic floor muscles and see their sitz bones in their mind’s eye. I actually tell them to take their monkey minds and direct those thoughts into the floor they are sitting on.

If you want to try it now as you are reading this, go ahead. It is actually a simple practice of getting out of the noise of the head and bringing your attention down to the floor of the torso and putting attention into the bones.

Often, meditation teachers offer the instruction to sit up straight and feel as though your head is being pulled by a string. I actually think although being upright is important, it’s even more important to anchoring down into the bones to allow the energy to rise up along the free column of support inside called our spine.

To do this, simply sit on your chair and put your attention down into the bones of your pelvis and your sitz bones—the two little bones that are touching the chair. Feel the sensation of weight and contact and go down in the chair with your thought. With your mind’s eye, put tiny sneakers on those sitz bones and imagine standing in those sneakers as if your sitz bones were feet.

Try this and see if you can feel your center of gravity, and by connecting that sensation with an imaginary internal column of light along your spine, you can, for a few minutes, ground your experience into the present moment and thereby release the floating experience of groundlessness.

NOTICE: Is your breath fuller? Do you feel less nervous? Do you feel a greater sense of well-being? I find this to be a simple but effective practice. Enjoy.


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