More or Less Grounded
“Feeling rooted in the earth is soothing to the body,
and it is our connection to the earth that gives us our
most basic sense of belonging, home, resilience, and safety”.
Describing someone as grounded appears to have become quite favorable as well as not grounded being somewhat pejorative. We can think of ground within the context of the four elements of air, water, fire, and earth, with ground referring to the latter. When we consider our culture as enamored with air, the call to more grounding might be an attempt to support more balance.
Air reflects ideas, beliefs, opinions, and vision, and is readily viewed as a statement about intelligence. Allegedly, a person with an abundance of air is intelligent. Institutions of formal education as well as many professions endorse air’s supposed confirmation of the intelligentsia. Could it be that we are instinctively reacting to the idealization of air by championing ground?
Curiously, there is a call for more ground rather than more fire or water. Could it be we feel ground provides more comfort and safety? Certainly, fire (passion) and water (emotion) can more easily disrupt the status quo, while ground provides images of a place to stand, possibly securely with a sense of predictability and reliability. Could it be that a healthy response to too much air would be a call for more water and fire as well as more ground? It is noteworthy that air seems to get our approval more than the other elements.
The Admiration of Air
It may be that there are both socio-economic and numerous psychological explanations for so many of us paying homage to air.
- Meaningful developments in all fields of study. Certainly, progress in science and medicine has taken place because some dedicated folks did their homework and important advancements benefiting humanity took place. It also can be rewarding to hear someone give a brief lecturette on a topic which you wish to be more knowledgeable.
- Our fondness for technology. Technology produces answers which dwell in the ether. Edward O. Wilson cautions about the love affair with technology. “We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall”. An obsession with technology will not issue an investment in the balance of the elements.
- Desire to be impressive. Typically, we do not leave a meeting or social gathering enamored by someone who was emotional, grounded, or fiery. We do however take note of someone carrying air and being viewed as bright, intelligent, or knowledgeable. Air easily grabs the favor of those gathered.
- Connecting to air protects. When interacting with others, the more disembodied we are, i.e., less ground, water, or fire, the less vulnerable we feel. We are also a bit less visible navigating from abstraction to abstraction, which also contributes to feeling safe, especially if people are impressed.
Acquiring More Ground
Essentially, acquiring more ground means having a more intentional relationship with our bodies, which places us in contact with the earth. Here are some suggestions for acquiring more ground.
- Listening more. Increasing the time we listen does expand our audio experience. Listening also contributes to a capacity to build rapport with others as well as a medium for taking in more information. Doug Larson points out, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you preferred to talk”. Listening to music can bring elements of beauty and inspiration to our experience of grounding.
- Eating slowly. When we eat slowly there is an honoring and nurturing of taste and renewal of bodily energy. The slowness places us in a relationship with our bodies which are taking in nourishment. Our kinship with the earth is confirmed as we take in products provided by the soil.
- Interacting with animals and children. Children and animals are more motivated from bodily instinct than adults. Playing with them can connect us to instinct and an enhanced experience of being bodily and grounded.
- Walking meditation. The slow pace of this process keeps us both moving and close to the present, enabling us to be informed by our bodily experiences.
- Yoga can be a moving meditation where we experience physical tension and release bringing us closer to being bodily.
- Dance can be a wonderful way to experience a connection to our bodies and the earth. Varying movements and rhythms express the body’s relationship with the earth.
- Interrupting rumination. Intervening upon a cascade of abstract concepts can reduce an obsession with air and bring us back to earth. I’ve been using the phrase, “Put that down”, which reminds me that my current thinking cannot be applied or is about what is out of my control.
- Everything from jogging, cycling, swimming, playing tennis, and a walk in nature can bring us closer to our bodily relationship with the earth.
- Soft knees. Each of our centers of gravity is approximately one inch below the navel. The closer the center of gravity is to the earth, the more balance, and more ground we have.
- Observing internal sensations. Observing happenings in the interior body such as abdominal tightness, shallow breathing or pulsation over the eyes can interrupt rumination and dissociation.
Benefits of Being Grounded
Let’s look at some of the benefits of being grounded. Of course, being grounded will offer these in varying degrees depending upon our personalities and where we are developmentally.
- Disinterest in excessive adaption and conforming. The stability offered by being grounded will keep you close to your beliefs.
- Not easily influenced. Again, the stability of ground wards off being swayed and moved in some direction away from our cores.
- Easily remain devoted to personal beliefs and values. Grounding offers a resilient attachment to what truly matters to you.
- Attached to ideas having clear behavioral application. There is a sensitivity to excessive air not allowing for a well-lived life.
- Some comfort living in the moment. Because grounding happens bodily in the moment, the present can be more easily stepped into.
- Comfort being committed. Commitment is typically viewed as a way to protect and live what is truly valued.
- Employing effective boundaries. Boundaries are seen as extensions of the grounding’s stability, bringing more strength and endurance to what is valued.
- Ease in being disciplined. Grounding affords a stable holding regarding remaining focused and bringing a task to fruition.
What About Too Much Ground
Regardless of which of the four elements comes easiest to us, the goal is balance. So, too much ground, while neglecting some other element, can be an issue.
- Can get stuck in unproductive patterns. Stability and solidity can easily morph into stuck. I notice than happening for me regarding making plans. I slipped into the pattern of planning a date with my wife a week before it was scheduled. It eliminated the possibility of change that might reflect an emerging need or mood.
- Overly attached to routine. Getting locked into a consistent schedule can preclude the exploration of possibility. Well, I can get caught here too.
- This can pertain to attitudes, beliefs, preferences, or schedules.
- Absence of spontaneity. It follows that inflexibility easily can diminish a willingness to be spontaneous.
- Can be unreceptive to strong expressions of fire and water. There can easily be an aversion to folks expressing exuberance, excitement, animation, and eagerness. I recall my granddaughter and I who were about to paint a picture with a whale at the local aquarium. Before we started sharing the craft with the whale, the aquarist asked me, with exuberance, “Do you feel excited?” When I responded, “Not really”. Her eyes widened; chin raised with her head cocked back in disbelief. I wanted to reassure her that my lack of excitement had nothing to do with her or the whale. I held back from sharing that I’m just a heavily grounded dude. There can also be a distaste for countless of abstract concepts linked together with no place to live except in rarified air.
It’s worth considering that we see the strong endorsement of grounding as a reaction to a cultural obsession with air. This affinity with grounding may be somewhat helpful as well as compensatory. When grounding is a compensation for too much air, we might run the risk of encouraging too much ground, as my wife Connie can confirm, acquainted with my rigidity.
We can ask if a more worthwhile approach might be to encourage more balance amongst the four elements of earth, fire, water, and air. Of course, we run the risk of welcoming that element offering the greatest degree of comfort. It simply means that we get to see where we are top heavy and whether or not we might be interested in more balance.
It would also be helpful if families, churches, and schools could encourage more balance amongst the elements. Authority figures inevitably champion the element giving them the most comfort and discouraging the one offering more angst. We can take responsibility to create opportunities for our children to explore balance. However, it may take a while in order to interrupt our adoration of air.