Being fully present depends on your capacity to be grounded directly in your actual experience – in what is happening now.
Grounding consists of contact. Contact with the body, the earth, the psyche, and with your energy, your pleasures, your pains, your sexuality. It’s about being in your senses, over and over. Being with what is really there. Being with your actual experience.
Being in contact means in touch with. So being in contact with your bodily experience means being in touch with what is actually there. We touch it, with our awareness, with our sensing. Being in contact with our experience is not thinking about how the experience should be different. Thinking about the experience is being out of contact with the experience. Being in denial of pain, excitement, longing, sadness, anger – this is being out of contact with our experience. We cannot be fully present if we are out of contact with – resisting – what is actually happening with us.
Grounding supports our presence. One of the key benefits of grounding (and other body-mind) work is to be able to tune into emotions as sensations in our body. Being able to be with emotions in this way helps us to process them – to “digest” them. Having worked with grounding, we can increasingly discover that as we’re having strong feelings, we can turn our awareness toward those feelings and let them be there as sensations. We discover that strong feelings are workable, that we can have them and be OK. This requires the intention to tune into our body when we have a feeling.
- The next time you have a feeling of excitement, sadness, anger, anxiety (or whatever), take a minute or two to sink your awareness into your body and tune into where and how you experience that feeling as a sensation. Is the anger focused in your chest, gut, shoulders? Pick an area where you sense it, and notice its shape, size, how it changes (or doesn’t), any pulsation, and so forth. Be curious and intend to keep your awareness up close to the sensation as sensation. Let stories in your head go for a moment.
I said that we can’t be present – can’t be in contact with ourselves – if we are resisting experience. How do we know we are resisting our experience? Two strong clues are, (1) we hold our breath, and (2) we tense our muscles.
- While attending to your feeling as sensation, notice if you hold your breath and/or if you are tensing anywhere in your body – perhaps as a way to fight having the feeling. Attending to the feeling as sensation can help you – possibly – fight it a little less.
In bioenergetic body-mind work, grounding also speaks to the sensation of the free movement of energy through your body – from feet to head, and back again. Since emotions/feelings are experienced as movement/energy in our bodies, this is simply another way of saying that being grounded supports us in letting ourselves have whatever experience we are having. Energy cannot flow freely in us if we hold our breath, or if we tense our muscles. We hold our breath and tense our muscles to resist experience – and in this case, to resist feeling experiences.
- As you attend to the sensations of the feeling in our body, remember to breathe and don’t will yourself to relax, but simply remain aware of any tension as a sensation. As you breathe, notice if and how the sensation of the feeling changes – perhaps flows, expands, contracts, pulses, holds steady. Stay with the sensations with your awareness. This ability to bring awareness to your felt/sensed experience key to discovering where and how you interrupt or allow the flow of experience in your body. Many describe this as a feeling of energy, or streaming.
When we resist our experience (e.g., our anger, our tiredness, our fear, our excitement), we limit our ability to work with “negative” feelings or have our genuine excitements and pleasures. Being able to be with emotions as sensations in the body helps us learn to have and process those feelings. And to learn what needs to come next for our wellbeing.
Grounding is both an activity and an experience – an ongoing action and a state of being. Being in relationship with our body, with the earth, is an ongoing creative activity, because our body, energy, the earth, and our relationship to these are moving and changing. We can also talk about grounding as a state of being; in this way “grounding” is a noun. That is, one experiences being grounded. In this state of being grounded, we feel settled, a sense of solid support that is able to negotiate the changing experiences of our relationship to the ground, to our feelings, our energy, and our connection with others.
Returning to the now of our physical/energetic body (sensing into it with awareness) is a fundamental route to grounding, to developing an ongoing sense of resilience and support, and to learning to tend to our needs when we are under stress.
Note – there is an upcoming two-day workshop, “Ground, Heart, Intent, Openness: Embodying Presence and Embracing Life” being offered October 19-20, 2019 in Alachua, Florida.