Be where you are.
I woke up recently with this phrase in my brain and it stuck.
Be. Be you. Where you are. Here.
Existence coupled with presence. This is the dream, the aspiration.
How often are we doing the exact opposite of this (I know I can speak for myself here). Sometimes I am there while I am here, then while I am now. The net result of this, of course, is a foreboding sense of nowhereness, a no-time kind of place where there is nowhere to touch the ground.
The ground becomes a fantasy even when it is right underneath you. Without grounding, it’s so difficult to put our best foot forward in life (so to speak). We need a base from which to fly, a form from which to embrace all the rewards formlessness can bring.
You know grounding when you see it. I’m living in Japan now, and one day my husband and I were visiting his aunt deep in the countryside. She is a marvel of a woman, deeply rooted to where she comes from, and the meals she cooked were right from that gorgeous place where gut, heart, and mind merge.
After dinner, we were watching one of the seemingly endless variety shows that air on national television. They were featuring a man they called “the plant hunter.” His job is to track down exotic trees for import. He’s considered an expert in international plant life.
He climbs trees, (lovingly) uproots them with the utmost care, precision and sensitivity, prepares them for transport. He endures injuries of all kinds as he wades deep into the wildlife of countries the world over.
It was unmistakable. This guy would never fall over doing tree pose, whether he’s ever “done yoga” or not. His whole being emanated at-oneness with the Earth. He was broad-faced, shiny-eyed, utterly healthy-looking and bulked up with the muscles that come from a life spent in the forests of his dreams.
It’s been months since I’ve seen the show, but I haven’t been able to get him out of my mind, how easily his body moves, because he’s doing what he loves, and because what he loves is in accordance with the laws of nature that seem to elude us so often, despite our best intentions.
We can certainly all learn something from the plant hunger. Here are a few things we can do as we work toward leaving the confines of an over-thinking, core-challenged being and into a state of groundedness.
1. Pretend you’re a tree (visualization exercise).
You can do this standing or sitting straight-backed in a chair with your feet planted firmly in the ground. Either way, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and begin to visualize yourself as a tree. Imagine there are roots emerging from the soles of your feet, and on each deep exhale, picture the roots moving deeper and deeper into the core of the Earth. Your feet slowly become more firmly planted in the ground. Feel the top of your head reaching up toward the sky as your lower half roots more and more into the earth.
As a tree, you are as strong, unshakable and sure as you are gentle and upward-gazing. After a few minutes, come back to yourself, take a few deep breaths, and open your eyes.
Sometimes we hate what we know is good for us. Many of us know we love coffee. We also know that feeling we get when we drink too much of it – queasiness in the gut, flightiness, jittery nerves for hours, and an utter inability to keep the mind in one place. Not a great playmate for groundedness!
I couldn’t imagine why life would be fun without coffee when I first started reducing the amount I drank of the stuff, and was shocked to find out that my body could find a new normal after just a few days, and it felt great to be in control of myself in this way.
3. Practice walking meditation.
We can do this anywhere, any time. It feels best when you don’t have to be anywhere in particular, and when you can be in nature, but a city block is as good a place as any to find your footing through meditation. Simply walk slowly – or very slowly, if you don’t feel too conspicuous, being fully aware of how you raise one foot off the ground, move it through the air, and how it lands once again on the ground, followed by the other foot, again and again. You can even say to yourself, “Left foot rising, left foot in the air, left foot dropping,” and repeat with the right foot.
Try to notice every sensation, focusing on your feet but also including your legs and anywhere else on your body something might arise. Also be aware of how you meet – really encounter, become one with – the ground with as much sensitivity as possible.
4. Find your center and give it some love.
We can call it the dantian, dan tien, the core, the belly or navel, but it all boils down to finding that place in you that holds the key to your groundedness. Practitioners of Tai Chi, Qi Gong, the martial arts, and yoga work hard to achieve a perfect centering or grounding, from which power, strength and stability emerge. These are traits we can all learn to have.
I suggest lying down on a relatively hard, but comfortable surface. Close your eyes, and place your hands on your belly, palms down. Breathe, in and out, in and out, and visualize that you are pouring white light into your navel. You can even picture a luminous ball growing stronger and more vibrant in your navel area as you pour love into your center. Once you feel comfortable with this, try the same exercise standing up, feet shoulder-width apart.
5. Find a moment of stillness each day.
Busy lives don’t get any less busy by willing the busyness away. We need to work to find that place of peace, that will re-energize us for what comes next. Whether you meditate, sit outside while sipping your morning tea, take a few minutes to get re-acquainted with your yoga mat, or go into a room where you can be on your own for a few moments at some point in the day, find that time to connect with yourself, breathe, and calmly check in with your body and mind. They really want to tell you how they’re doing, and just need you to listen—they won’t be shy!
6. Do what you feel you don’t have time to do. And love it!
This ties into the last one. If you feel you don’t have time to clean the house, take an hour and think of nothing else but the actions required to clean. Become one with the space you are tidying up. No time to prepare a meal? Grab some fresh produce from the farmer’s market, devise a scrumptious recipe, and put love and care into your meal.
Can’t find time to read a book? Take even fifteen minutes to sit down with something inspiring and absorb every word. Your day, and your life, will be enriched because of it, and the ground beneath you will sing in support of your efforts to center, calm the mind and still the body.
“If a person’s basic state of mind is serene and calm, then it is possible for this inner peace to overwhelm a painful physical experience.” ~ The Dalai Lama
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own