I know in my last blog post, I said I’d share what visions were coming up for me while I was on my spiritual retreat after doing a TON of healing work.
But...I wanted to talk a pause in my story (which you can start reading about here).
To share with you the primary self-grounding practice I was using that got me through all the pain, anger, and grief I was processing - so you may be able to practice it too!
Please know that I’m speaking about how this practice works for me and how I personally think about it. It will be slightly to very different for other people - and that’s ok.
I think about it differently then how I was taught it (thanks Sister Diamond!) because I integrated it into my existing way of life.
I hope that by sharing it with you, you get a sense of what else is possible and hopefully will want to experiment with it and make it your own too!
What Is Self-Grounding and Why Is It Important?
First, let me explain what being self-grounded means since it’s a word I kinda made up.
Being self-grounded means that you’re grounded in yourself - genius, I know, right?
While it may feel self-explanatory, I find that many of us, myself included, don’t often feel deeply grounded in ourselves - where we feel solid within ourselves and feel spaciousness around us.
It’s kinda like being an island, which is how it’s often described in the Thich Nhat Hanh Buddhist tradition I practice in.
When it’s hard for me be deeply self-grounded, I find that it’s often because I’m focused on people or situations outside of my inner self.
For example, I have a habit of being vigilant of my surroundings and how people are feeling around me as a way of keeping myself safe.
Or if I’m angry, I can focus on the other person or the situation and how I want them to change.
While this is understandable - and human, this leaves me thinking a lot about them - and very little about me, independent of external world.
And when I think about myself, it’s often in reaction to the external world. So I’m still all tied up with them - with no spaciousness around me.
If we understand that energy follows though and therefore what we pay attention to is where our energy flows to, then we can begin to understand why focusing on the external world leaves us un-grounded in our inner selves.
I have found that while my energy can grow and change in any moment, in every moment it is finite too.
So if I’m sending the majority of my energy out to the external world with my thoughts, I have little energy in my inner world.
So I have little capacity to hear my inner voice. I’m literally (figuratively?) not inside of myself.
Being empty of energy inside of myself also means that I am easily filled by other energies - and often indiscriminately being filled by whatever energy I’m around.
For me, that means I can easily get sucked into a YouTube hole (tiny houses obsession anyone?) or social media or reading. For other people, it may be other forms of distraction like being social, tv, food, being busy, etc.
Being filled by external energies isn’t inherently problematic but it often is.
If I’m not intentionally choosing what I’m being filled up by and it’s not an energy that nourishes me, then I’m being filled by something toxic or benign at best.
That’s why doing this self-grounding practice was so helpful to me returning to myself and being at home in myself on my island.
It’s what allowed me to gently and patiently hold space for what was coming up for me without being tossed around by all my really strong feelings.
So What Is This Self-Grounding Practice?
This self-grounding practice is based on a type of meditation called guarding our senses. Please note that I only got a short introduction to it and tend to synthesize and integrate everything I do. So this is my personal experience of my version of it.
Steps To Guide You
1. I consciously reduce how much I take in via my senses. So I just focus looking at a single spot in down in front of me or close my eyes. I stop trying to hear, smell, taste, or feel more with my body.
2. I shift my thoughts from the external world and back into my body. It can help me to visualize pulling my energy from our in the external world and back into my body, kinda like seeing streams of water flowing back into my chest.
3. I notice where I’m sensing the biggest sensations in my body and just keep a gentle patient focus on there - while consciously breathing.
4. I notice what sensations and feelings are coming up and let them arise and arise and arise - while consciously breathing.
5. When I get distracted (which will happen and often!), I simply gently notice where the biggest sensation is in my body and patiently keep noticing it.
Some Don'ts and One Do
It may sound very simple (and it is!) but it can be hard to actually do, especially for a sustained period.
So to help you stay focused, please remember to NOT do the following:
1. Do not try to deny what sensations and feelings are arising. Just let them arise.
2. Do not try to make them change or go away. Just let them arise.
3. Do not try to make yourself wrong for having them. Just let them arise.
It’s kinda like feeling the wind on our skin. It’s not useful to fight the wind, argue with the wind, deny the wind.
We just notice the wind blowing across our skin. As it blows, notice the sensations it causes and any feelings it brings up. As it stops blowing, notice the sensations its absence causes and any feeling that brings up.
Just notice your sensations and feelings like it’s the wind that comes and goes.
You may not know how long it’ll blow for, but it will come and go. Nothing lasts forever.
If you want to try out this self-grounding practice, here are some tips.
1. Go for small wins and gradually build up: Try it out for just 1 minute, then 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, and so on. Do what feels ridiculously possible for you and then stretch for more.
2. Do it in a physically safe and quiet space: Maybe that’s your bedroom, the bathroom, or quiet park. In time, you’ll be able to be aware of your surroundings and stay grounded in your body - but better to start out in a controlled environment.
3. Choose a regular time to do it: Remembering to do it is half the battle. So connect it with something you’re already doing like after you hit the snooze button on your alarm, when you’re in the shower, or on the subway.
Here's some additional tips that can really help you keep this practice going. But if you find them overwhelming, stick to the foundational tips!
1. Track your progress: Note whether or not you’ve done it that day and see how many days in a row you can do it! If you realize you haven’t done it, you can just spend 1 minute doing it and then mark it for that day!
2. Share what you’re practicing with someone: Sharing is caring - and helps give more energy to your practice since you’re talking about it. So share why you’re doing this and what you’re noticing in the process.
3. Get a practice buddy: Ask someone who's interested in your journey with this practice to join you in doing it and sharing how it's going on a regular basis.
Now that I’m out of the quiet safe environment of the Buddhist monastery, I’ve been practicing staying self-grounded and embodied in this way while going about my life and this busy world.
It’s obviously a lot harder!
But I’ve been able to consistently return to my body and stay there for periods of time before I get distracted by the world (again!).
And then I just notice when I’m not in my body and take some time to do some extra long form of meditation to return.
In the next blog post, I’ll share more about what’s opened up for me as I’ve become far more embodied due to my self-grounding practice.
Being able to engage in embodied thinking - versus just mind thinking - has made a world of difference in my life and envisioning process.
If you find this interesting or helpful, please send me an email! I love hearing from folks experimenting with what I teach!
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Sandra’s the Founder of Re-Becoming Human and Everyday Feminism. She’s committed to living into spiritual and social liberation in each and every moment. Sandra shares her (often painfully earned) learnings from her ongoing journey of healing and co-creation so that your journey may move faster and have less pain and more joy!