For years, I have aspired to be a really grounded guy. I have mused that this new age expression ‘grounded’ is a term is a reference to electronics, because my sketchy recall is that an electrical current prefers to follow a pathway that leads into the ground. Thus, if an electrical cord is grounded, then it is unable to easily short-circuit. It is safer. Someone who is grounded is unlikely to short-circuit. They are safe to be around.
I also think about “groundedness” when I think about the rootedness of certain trees. When the roots go deep, there is longevity. A storm will always bend a tree, but if it is deeply rooted, the tree that was bent will be standing upright after the storm. It isn’t easy for an amateur like myself to pick which trees are deeply rooted, and in a windstorm last year in Spokane, there were huge trees that came down. Arborists can predict with some accuracy which trees are at risk to fall during the next storm, and their estimate of risk has a lot to do with the root system, and how deep the roots go. And what is it that these roots find, when they burrow into the ground? They find a lot more than nutrients. They find strength. There are rocks and there is soil, that have rested below them for perhaps thousands of years. The roots of the tree find a connection to history itself. There is a stability that is proportionate to the deepness of their connection.
What does it mean to be ungrounded? Am I ungrounded when I have a random lightness of being? I really don’t think so, necessarily, because sometimes such qualities are also found at the heart of creativity. If I am fearful, does that mean I am ungrounded? It all depends. Sometimes, fear can be a healthy reflex that brings a sense of real danger to our awareness. Wild creativity can easily arise within the field of awareness. So can fear. I think that fear and creativity are not the exact opposite of being grounded. For me, the opposite of being grounded is unawareness. It is unawareness that allows fear to gain control of our being. It is unawareness of our own fear or other kinds of discomfort (like sadness) that may motivate flights of mindless activity or escape. Unawareness is really what is at the heart of un-groundedness.
This is why meditative exercises for groundedness use our imagination in order to pull us into awareness. These are exercises that draw our attention to what is below us, and to notice what is supporting us in the moment. Sometimes, grounding exercises draw attention to our breath. This is because, if we are aware of our own breath, then we are in the present moment. We are aware. If we are aware of the chair that supports the very weight of our physical body, then we are in the present moment. We are aware. Even if fear comes up, we can be aware of it. Being aware of fear is quite different than being fearful. It is even momentary awareness and consciousness that will make us grounded. Instantly.
I have been lucky enough to have had several mentors who have each encouraged me to sit daily in quietness, to pay attention to my breath, and to use my imagination as I breathe. Sometimes when I do this, as I breathe deeply I will imagine that I am like a tree, with roots that descend deep below me. My roots reach into the soil and rocks below me and they reach beyond my own history, my family history, and my cultural history. My roots descend into nature itself, that gently holds my existence in the present moment. I imagine how my roots connect me to an unseen reality. No matter what kind of storm is blowing, I am deeply rooted by something that you cannot see. I am grounded.