Grounding - embodying vision with stability and focus

Grounding, is making a solid connection to the earth, in the way a tree roots into the earth, or electrical lines are grounded. You are able to deal with life in a practical and thoughtful manner when grounded. Your thoughts are logical and organized, and you are able to focus and accomplish tasks. When grounded, you are able to bring into being, visions, dreams and potential. You are able to ground possibility. The root is the source. You cannot keep giving out energy without connecting to ground and source, and being replenished. Without ground you becomes burned out and exhausted. Grounding is where strength is gathered.

An ungrounded state can present as spaciness, over-thinking, overwhelm, non-presence, inability to sleep, or a lack of focus. In this state it is difficult to imagine solutions, communicate thoughts, or accomplish tasks. There is an aspect of floating above one’s body, not quite touching the ground energetically. Excessive thinking and worry is ungrounded. Too much time on the computer, or driving can be ungrounding. Have you ever gotten home, late at night, from hours of driving, and it takes awhile to ground yourself before you are able to fall asleep.

As a therapist, I have noticed certain mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, OCD and psychotic disorders, are exasperated by lack of ground. People with nervous system problems, have too much energy running through their systems, and are not rooted to the ground. Ground is calming. In the case of anxiety and panic attacks, there is obsessive thinking about the future, and imaging the worst case scenario. With excessive anxiety, you are not able to address a problem, or keep yourself safe, or address life practically. There can be unreasonableness to the thought process. When a panic attack occurs, breath is held or it becomes shallow, and there is immense fear about things which often are not real. The first step in addressing a panic attack is to breathe deeply, and to return to an embodied and grounded state. It is a coming back to self and reality.

I often work with people in crisis, which is an extremely ungrounded state, with anxiety, fear and often agitation, with poor judgment and insight, and thought processes which are often not rational or linear. These are all qualities of not being grounded.

Clients on the Schizophrenia spectrum, or with drug induced psychosis, there are auditory (hear), visual (see), olfactory (smell), tactile (feel) or gustatory (taste) hallucinations. Delusions can be present, such as extreme paranoia- thoughts of being followed by the FBI, or a phone being tapped, or embedded with a chip. I have often been puzzled by Schizophrenia, as there is so little known about the cause. In my experience, Schizophrenia is a mental illness where people have been exposed to so much that is unbearable, and so much that cannot be integrated, that a crack happens, and an alternate reality is assumed, to somehow be able to cope with the pain. Energetically, the person leaves their body and floats.

In part, the increasing chaos in our world today has much to do with a disconnection between human beings and our earth. Some Native Americans call trees “standing people”, as humans are upright with a central core, and are the animal which is energetically most like a tree. When healthy and aware, humans have a core and are rooted to earth and to reality. Native peoples believe consciousness exists in all living things, trees, rocks, plants and animals, the earth and sky. They believe humans are the bridge between the earth and the sky, and like the trees, we are of both worlds. To accomplish this balance, they believe we live in harmony with all of our relations (ancestors), and are rooted in this world and allow our spirits to fly through the other worlds and be at one with those realities as well.

Nature is incredibly healing and grounding and can be used to calm and soothe oneself. The easiest way to ground is to lay or sit on the ground, or walk barefoot, or hold a rock. It is also grounding to simply walk outside and breathe deeply. Or to play music. Playing music is embodying and gives you a sense of self. If people were more attuned to nature, there would be less need for psych meds. People take benzos to calm down, but a walk in nature can be as calming . Nature and trees can give an experience of rootedness and ground, depth and core, and a knowing of self. Nature can be a template of the loving mother. Trees have firm bark boundaries, and have presence, holding their space even when other trees grow close by. Trees can be a nurturing mother to those with early trauma as they can be comforting and never go away like in the children’s story, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The giving tree is always there when the boy comes back to visit, even after the boy has harvested all the wood and apples, and the tree is but a stump. As a child, I found comfort in trees, and loved to climb, and sit in the nook of a favorite tree. My first memory of sitting in a tree was at my grandmother’s house. She had a live oak in her front yard with a huge branch running parallel to the ground and I would lay on the branch and watch the squirrels and deer. As I got older I always had a favorite tree close by, and I would sit in the tree when I felt upset, or needed grounding.

James Bugental says in Psychotherapy and Process “The true home of each of us is in inner experiencing. Thus the true mission of psychotherapy is to affect that experiencing in ways which improve the quality of life for the person. Symptoms are superficial. Whether a particular symptom is eliminated, changed, or unaffected is secondary to whether the person having that symptom experiences more vitality, potency, and opportunity in life. Behavior changes are by-products. Whether a specific behavior pattern continues unaffected, is replaced or is modified is trivial in contrast to whether the person having that pattern discovers more dignity, choice and personal meaningfulness in life.” I believe nature assists one in being with more vitality and potency in life. The beauty and silence deeply affects us. For a few moments we can forget ourselves and our problems and be present with what is. When we learn to be present with the natural world, nothing needs to be different or needs to change. We don’t need to be anywhere except where we are. Being in the natural world is meditation in action, with no effort, and no discipline.

Trees and nature help one feel a sense of self and connectedness, that one is part of an expansive interconnected world. Scientists have found that trees have a multidimensional energetic interconnectedness underground, like electrical wires in a city. Nature helps one track what is going on, such as wind rustling the leaves and blowing across one’s face, birds chirping, the warmth of the sun, the luminosity after a storm as everything sparkles. One can learn to pay attention to what is around us and how we are affecting others. We can walk through the woods with gentle care, or thrash through the woods trampling all in our path, leaving wreckage. The choice is: to be aware, or to not be aware. Nature is a wonderful place to cultivate awareness and to learn to track, as there is so much going on. Nature can be the safest place or the most frightening. One night camping, I kept myself awake all night as I was convinced a mountain lion was lurking about. I was terrified to leave my tent. As the morning light arrived, I discovered the mountain lion of my imagination, was in reality, a squirrel. I learned a lot about fear that night. My fear was no less real because it was imagined, as is the case with psychosis.

I believe balance and health involve embodiment and connection to the earth and our natural surroundings. Otherwise we float through life without substance. Healing is body, mind and spirit. Understanding the history of our childhood is an important piece but how do we ground that experience in our everyday world? Nature helps us embody feelings through awareness and presence as the natural world is the essence of awareness and presence. Alice Miller in The Drama of the Gifted Child says “We become free by transforming ourselves from unaware victims of the past into responsible individuals in the present, who are aware of our past and are thus able to live with it”.

Alice Miller asks if “it will ever be possible for us to grasp the extent of the loneliness and desertion to which we were exposed as children”. These feeling run so deep, and to fully integrate them, I imagine would require being with one self, slowly, for a lifetime. We have nature to ground us, and to mirror cycles and the perfection of being. What better place or better container as the natural world, to allow those things that are absolutely unbearable, to find an opening in our hearts. To feel those things we cannot imagine allowing ourselves to feel. For me this is healing.

Artwork by Andrew Wyneth

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