It seems that whenever I’ve had discussions with spiritually inclined individuals, it’s inevitable that someone makes a reference to being grounded or centered. Most people don’t question what this means, but somehow we all seem to know. Just saying or suggesting the two words seems to quickly bring about a sense of calm. Some people may think the terms are synonymous, but there are some distinctions.
Being grounded is the ability to be completely aware and conscious during the present moment. If you’re grounded, you practice a deep sense of mindfulness and rarely think about “what ifs.” According to author Michael Daniels in his book, Shadow, Self, Spirit (2005), groundedness refers to “a sense of being fully embodied, whole, centered and balanced in ourselves and our relationships.” It’s also a deeper connection to the authentic self. He further explains that groundedness is associated “with an experience of clarity, wholeness, ‘rightness’ and harmony."
When you’re grounded, you’re in complete control of your mental and emotional self, and not easily influenced by other ideas or individuals. Those who are grounded allow life’s small mishaps to roll off their shoulders. For example, if someone cuts them off in a traffic circle, they may give a shoulder shrug, and think, "Oh, well, they must be in a hurry." Chances are, they won’t become overwhelmed by, or reactive to, the incident.
Even if people see you as a grounded person, there may be times when you feel “out of sorts,” or stressed. However, there are different types of exercises you can do to help ground you, including:
1) Breathing exercises. There are many types of breathing exercises. Here are two examples—try the one that works best for you. To the count of ten, take a deep inhalation through your nose. Hold your breath for the count of ten. Now exhale through your nose for the count of ten. Repeat as often as needed. Another breathing exercise involves taking ten slow breaths, one at a time, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Then to the count of ten, exhale through your nose.
2) Walking meditation. This exercise is about using walking as your focus. Try walking slowly, being mindful of each step you take. Feel the ground beneath you. This is best done outside in nature, but you can really do it anywhere.
3) Play music. Play instrumental music and give it all your attention, noticing all the instruments and the mood of the music.
4) Stop and listen carefully. If you’re talking to others, listen carefully to every word they’re saying. Focus. If you feel inclined, write down the dialogue in your journal.
5) Sip a hot drink from a mug. Cup the mug in both hands, feeling its warmth. Drink the beverage slowly. Take small sips and notice how it feels in your mouth and how it goes down.
6) Tune into your senses. Stop and notice two things that you see, smell, hear, and taste. You might choose to write down your impressions in your journal.
Being centered means that you have a reference point or a place to come back to when life’s challenges and emotions push you off balance. The center is the place you know you have to get back to. A good way to think of the center is to imagine the medicine wheel that is a part of many Native American cultures. The wheel represents the four directions in the physical world, and each direction refers to a part of you. For example, the north represents the mind, the south represents the heart, the east represents the place of spirit, and the west represents the body. To maintain a sense of well-being, all the directions must be balanced. You’re probably aware of the importance of balancing your body, mind, and spirit; so this is a similar concept, and a way to bring you to your center.
Similar to being grounded, another way to return to your center is to focus on the breath. Breathe in through your nose for a count of ten, hold your breath for a count of ten, and then exhale for a count of ten. Then, imagine a white light at your heart center. Feel that light emanating out to the world around you and then spreading out to the universe. Feel the positive energy and strength of the white light. Feel it supporting and grounding you.
In a recent issue of Tricycle Magazine (2017), there was an article called “Hold to the Center: Zen Advice for When Things Blow Up Around You.” The author discussed three tenets of his Zen practice—not knowing, bearing witness, and taking action.
Not knowing is about letting go, especially during turbulent or uncertain times. It allows you to put aside fixed points of view.
Bearing witness means being mindful of the world’s joy and suffering. It’s a way to come to terms with difficult situations and circumstances and to completely embody the lived experience. Bearing witness, in Buddhist meditation, is about being aware of sensations and thoughts as they arise, allowing them to pass like clouds in the sky before your eyes. Bearing witness is spontaneous and often surprising.
Taking action is the third tenet. For the most part, it’s impossible to predict the action for any situation. The main idea is to be with the intention, and that the best action will be taken for the situation, always being mindful of a caring and considerate action for yourself and everyone else involved. Taking action is sometimes connected to not knowing. Practicing the three tenets is one way to improve your sense of resiliency, helping you feel more grounded and centered.
Understanding the basics of being grounded and centered coupled with some simple tools can protect you and help you feel more balanced. This can lead to an overall sense of emotional, psychological, and physical well-being, and ultimately, a state of bliss.
Daniels, M. (2005). Shadow, Self, Spirit: Essays in Transpersonal Psychology. Charlottesville, VA: Imprint-Academic.com.
Roshi, W. E. N. (2017). Hold to the Center! Zen advice for when things blow up around you." Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Summer 2017. pp. 36–39.