Remember our wise, old friend Tortoise, from the last post? She plods along, slow and steady, carrying her home on her back wherever she goes. She wanders the Earth, seeking wisdom and inner guidance in her quest to uncover her personal truth. Her body is close to the ground, with a low centre of gravity that enables her to maintain her stability and physical strength. In a deeply meditative state, Tortoise aligns herself with the rhythms and vibrations of life. Like Tortoise, we can tap into our own natural rhythms and build strength to help us embed our physical and spiritual selves into the everyday. This post is about body awareness, mindfulness, focusing our psychic energies and grounding ourselves in the world. Adopting a slower approach to life can also ensure more long-term, sustainable outcomes.
I am a deeply spiritual person, guided more by my heart than my head, yet acknowledge that I dwell in a material world, governed by physical laws. I take a rational, scientific approach to life when required. I read a wide variety of subject matter, even topics I don’t necessarily have a residual interest in, to broaden my intellectual horizons. I ask questions, and if something doesn’t make sense to me, I explore that area in depth.
I seek out reliable, credible sources for my information and I think critically about what I read. I accept the facts, even when they may contradict my current understanding of issues. I accept my own biases and understand they colour my perceptions and interpretations. I am still learning how to structure and argue my points and put forward my ideas with confidence and the evidence to back up my arguments.
I am open to new ideas – after all, scientific theories were once ideas in the minds of those who dared to dream there was something more. There is so much we don’t understand about the world, and the human mind. Science hasn’t yet discovered many of the world’s plant and animal species, while our psyches remain uncharted terrain – rich, fertile fields of untapped potential, treasures within waiting to be found.
Though I take a rational, grounded approach to life, I have a strong, spiritual side, but unless spiritual concepts have a practical application in my life, in the here and now, I have no interest in them. Some of the following ideas may not be supported by science, but that doesn’t mean they are without benefit or therapeutic value.
Creating a morning ritual
Rituals have been performed by indigenous and religious communities for centuries and form an important part of their daily life. These ancient practices are finding a place in our modern, secular society. Rituals serve to connect our spiritual and sacred power with our physical and mundane world, grounding our psychic energy to the Earth.
I prefer the term ‘ritual’ to ‘routine’, as routine suggests a process that is boring, something we must do, a robotic action void of meaning. Rituals are sacred, powerful and symbolic, and may be representative of some meaningful event we want to honour in our lives that holds deep significance.
Is the power of ritual supported by science? Yes, it is. Research suggests that rituals may have a rational basis as they can have a positive impact on our behaviour by reducing anxiety, increasing motivation, improving self-confidence and influencing performance.
In this study, researchers found that formulaic rituals intended to solve problems and produce a certain result were sufficient for that result to come true, despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome. Cognitive scientist Christine Legare says rituals provide us with the illusion of control over what we want to happen in a world that is chaotic and unpredictable.
When we talk about creating a morning ritual, this means forming a fixed, repeated sequence of specific actions that serve to embed our spiritual energy into the everyday. Rituals also help us to form new, positive habits as performing the same tasks every day over a long period of time cements these actions into our daily lives.
Morning rituals can be simple things like warm water and lemon juice, a green smoothie, a yoga sequence, meditation or writing in a journal, anything that creates rhythm in our lives, particularly a sequence of events in the morning that sets up a foundation from which everything else can flow naturally and spontaneously. For me, having structure in my life in this way allows me to stay grounded.
Building a psychic container
Being highly sensitive and constantly aware of everything that is happening in the world is often overwhelming. In trauma psychology, when we have a traumatic experience, we experience a loss of our physical boundaries, due to the disconnection of spirit or psyche from the body.
It is important in trauma therapy to create a sense of safety and containment in the body, so spirit or psyche feels safe enough to inhabit the body. This is done by learning how to ‘contain’ and focus our energy so we don’t become scattered.
In Healing Trauma, trauma therapist Peter A. Levine, PhD. says: “The body is the container of all of our sensation and feelings. It is also the boundary separating us from our environment and from others. This boundary gets ruptured in trauma so that we often feel raw and unprotected. Skin is our first line of defense. Then our muscles give us the sense of an ego-boundary between self and other.” (p38)
There are many ways to build a psychic container to help create body awareness and ground our energy, including exercises like clapping the hands, stamping the feet or tapping each part of the body in turn whilst acknowledging that body part belongs to us. Dry skin brushing using a vegetable bristle brush with a long handle is an effective method to establish body boundaries, with the added benefit of stimulating the skin and lymphatic system.
Moving your body
A great way to build a psychic container is through exercise, anything that gets us into our bodies, moving through time and space. As Dr. Levine says above “our muscles give us the sense of an ego-boundary between self and other”, so building and strengthening our muscles through weight training makes us strong, focused and grounded.
Yoga is a useful modality to unite the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical aspects of ourselves – the word ‘yoga’ means ‘to yoke’ or to bring together, as two oxen are tied together to perform a task that neither one of them could do on their own. This is a wonderful metaphor for uniting all aspects of the self.
Meditation and deep breathing also help ground our energy. By focusing our mental energy we learn to centre ourselves and inhabit our bodies without becoming scattered, and we can quiet our minds so we can hear the voice of our internal guidance and wisdom. Meditating with the eyes open while focusing on the breath will anchor us in the present moment.
Getting back to nature
Being in nature nurtures us and grounds us naturally. Movement in nature creates negative ions, found in abundance around mountains, trees, waterfalls and the ocean. Think of how everything feels energized, fresh and alive after a fierce thunderstorm. Negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions in the body to alleviate depression and relieve stress.
Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing was developed in Japan during the 1980’s as a preventative health measure and is now widely used in Japanese medicine. There is a robust body of scientific evidence to support what the Japanese people have always known intuitively – that being in a forest or any natural place is calming, restorative and rejuvenating to the human spirit, with positive benefits for physical health also. I’ve always loved the word ‘forest’ – it has always been for me a place ‘for rest’.
While in the forest, engage in a little tree hugging. Trees are magnificent beings of nature, grounded in the soil by powerful roots that anchor their bodies securely and safely to the Earth. Trees are wonderful role models for learning how to ground ourselves in the world and ‘stand our ground’. And science supports the health benefits of tree hugging.
Swimming in the ocean may improve our health and our moods. There are many benefits to bathing in seawater, including improving immune system function and circulation, promoting wellbeing and hydrating skin. Salt is a wonderful cleanser of mind, body and soul. We can incorporate salt therapy into our lives in many ways. We can add salt to a hot bath. We can combine coconut oil with sea salt in a body scrub. Massaging salt into our skin increases body awareness and teaches us how to value our bodies. Floating in water saturated with magnesium sulphate has many benefits.
Walking barefoot on the beach is grounding. Whenever I’m feeling scattered, I get my feet into the sand, into the ocean and onto the rocks and stones. In our modern lives we are separated and insulated from this healing energy through wearing shoes and walking on surfaces made from non-conductive materials. This is the theory behind earthing. When we make direct contact with the ground, our bodies (that are mostly water and minerals and therefore a good conductor of electricity) are recharged by the Earth’s electrical energy. Sleeping close to the ground on a futon as the Japanese do may also be good practice for our health.
I always feel incredibly grounded when I pick up a stone and hold it in my hands. I love the feel of the stone’s smooth texture against my skin. Stones are the Earth made manifest. Hot stone massage is a modality where basalt stones are heated up and placed on the body or used in place of the massage therapists’ hands to walk along the muscles, bringing warmth, relaxation and re-connection with the Earth.
Hot stone therapy has many benefits, including improving the lymphatic, circulatory and immune systems, reducing stress and increasing wellbeing. Hot stone therapy is grounding, and massage is a wonderful physical modality to help us reconnect with our bodies. Whenever I have a hot stone massage, my therapist always gets me to hold the heated stones in my hands to ground myself.
Engaging the mind in repetitive, physical activity while using our hands helps us to focus and ground our concentration in the here and now. Doing crosswords, Sudoku, playing Scrabble, backgammon, completing a jigsaw, writing in a journal, cooking or gardening help ground our mental energy into our bodies. Doing these things the old-fashioned way, using pen and paper, not on a computer, is essential to get the full benefit.
Being creative and artistic is another way to ground ourselves in the everyday – drawing, painting and sculpture all help to focus our creative energy. When we are focusing our minds and engaging our hearts in activities like these, we are less likely to be wasting our energy on over-consumption out of boredom or because we have nothing else to do.
A principle of formal art analysis is repetition closely related to two other principles – rhythm and movement – that help to produce unity in the organization of an artistic composition. Movement in composition leads the viewer’s eye across and into the picture plane, while rhythm is the natural flow created by the repetition of related elements in a composition. The ground is the material applied to a support – canvas, paper or stone – to prepare it for painting.
Grounding must enable the medium, the material used to create the art, for example, paint, charcoal, to adhere permanently to the support. An artist, a musician or writer will often say their creative work doesn’t come from them, but through them. The artist is the medium through which spirit is able to be channeled onto the canvas, the paper, or the stone. This is a wonderful artistic metaphor for grounding the spiritual self into the physical world.