What does it mean to be “grounded”?

Meditating Lemur

Our family determines how we find our ground, how we form our territory.  If we do not have plenty of touching and holding, we may never be sure of ourselves emotionally, of the ground we stand on, since we cannot trust others to hold us.  It’s been my experience, as well as others’, that people who are not held enough have a fear of falling and hold themselves stiffly away from the earth.  Those who feel shame for their sexuality and dislike for their bodily responses never really hold their ground with others.

– Stanley Keleman, The Human Ground

Being ungrounded in this world is dangerous.  The invisible energy that grounds or leaves us ungrounded plays a critical role in our successful functioning.  Some people appear to accompany their bodies as if riding like a parrot on their own shoulder.  Other people treat their bodies like a possession, a rental horse driven over rock and hill and then abandoned to the stable.  The body is attended to, exercised regularly, but the pleasure is mainly an ego experience.  The rider and horse appear to be one, but there is no heart in the relationship.  How can they be grounded when they are so reluctantly embodied?

To be ungrounded is to be unstable and unsupported by the very earth we walk on.  We have no foundation.  We are lightweights disconnected from our feeling and unrelated to others.  An ungrounded person, oblivious to surroundings, trips over himself and other people’s feelings.  Such a person is likely to lack a sense of inner support and to suffer a loss of confidence.  The ungrounded person holds too rigidly to a viewpoint or capitulates quickly to avoid conflict.

The warriors of the world, the athletes, have paid enormous attention to grounding, to establishing firm footing and balance, since it is not enough to plant oneself down like a tree.  We must be able to move and stay grounded, to put down roots and pick them up again.  I knew someone who found it necessary to travel frequently and made each hotel room his home.  Each night he unpacked completely and placed family pictures on the bedside table.  If he were a wolf, he would have declared his territory by urinating on the four courners to declare his boundaries and establish his ground.  If he were a dog, he would circle the place he lies down in, a magic instinctual, protective circle.  To establish our territory and protective boundary is the inevitable accompaniment to grounding.

A grounded person feels she has a right to stand here, to be here, to be heard in her silence or her voice.  A grounded person need not speak to be heard while an ungrounded person may talk endlessly without result.  Being grounded inevitably leads to developing boundaries, allowing oneself a protective space which challenges unwanted intruders.  Being grounded is the prerequisite for feeling centered and being fully in contact.  And if we are loving toward others and seek peaceful relations with the life around us, the attention to boundary heightens our awareness in relationship so that we are respectful rather than intrusive.  We are intrigued by the delicate interplay of closeness and distance.

How do we become so ungrounded? 

Growing up we may have been faced with developmental tasks that were too difficult to accomplish satisfactorily.  Perhaps we learned to stand independently, for instance, but not with confidence.  We came into our genital sexuality, but we were distressed.  We learned to function sexually, but never with pleasure and ease, never as fully related to ourselves or out lover.  Our sexual grounding is a powerful key to our being “at
home” in our body.  Our sexual life reflects our strengths and injuries and the functional and durable nature of our sense of self.

Grounding is quite rightly cooperating with the earth, accepting the pull of gravity and learning to do that gracefully.  But we are not rooted like trees, so that I prefer to think of grounding as a function of movement, as a moving wheel that touches the earth.  Grounding is about relatedness, not only the rim as it touches, but the connectedness through the spokes of the wheel.  We cannot be grounded and be disconnected in our bodies.  Just bringing our energy down into our feet and legs in a grounding exercise won’t do.  We contain polarities which must not be disowned.  We reach for the sky, extending up and out, as well as root in the earth.

In so far as we refuse to relate to others, the outer world, or inner agents of our own character which remain in shadow, disowned or undeveloped, we unplug from our grounded nature.  Groundedness demands that we honor the polarities in our nature.  When we center ourselves in the hub of the moving wheel, we feel the edges of our being through a relaxed connectedness and enjoy for that moment a sense of wholeness which extends far beyond ourselves.

Excerpted from The Body In Recovery by John P. Conger, pages 61, 62, 63.  Compiled by Barbara English for Living Ubuntu. 

2 thoughts on “What does it mean to be “grounded”?

  1. Pingback: The gargantuan challenge of living this paradoxical, contradictory, incongruous, beautiful, awful life « Living Ubuntu Blog

  2. Pingback: What is Bioenergetics? | Living Ubuntu Blog

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