What do the words ‘Grounding’, ‘Centering’ & ‘Orienting’ mean??
In a nutshell, if you are interested in developing a regular mindfulness meditation practice, and this may include yoga, it is very important aspect of your practice to remain as centered, grounded and oriented as you can. As we develop our practice, it can sometimes leave us feeling very ‘floaty’, and not in touch with reality. This can be quite a pleasant feeling: let’s face it, sometimes it is a relief not to be so in touch with this reality! In psychotherapy however, this is known as ‘dissociation’ or ‘spiritual bypassing’, where we use our spiritual practice in order to bypass difficult feelings hanging out in our body. Below, I have tried to give my own definition to these words:
Grounding is the practice of noticing your feet on the ground, of noticing our connection to the earth. To ground is to remember your place. Your roots. To remember you. When we have a strong network of roots, we are able to weather powerful storms of emotion: both our own as well as other people’s. With our feet on the ground, we are able to respond with humility to the world around us: after all, we are just one of many animals on the face of this earth. We remember the fact that we are fallible, slightly broken, perfectly imperfect human beings.
There is also a bodily and energetic way to earth or ground, through connecting physically with the ground in order to reduce inflamation in the body. There is a lot of peer reviewed research showing the many benefits to ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding’. You can find out more about this here. Being electrical, energetic beings, it turns out that we need to ground, in much the same way as our electrical appliances do, so take off those rubber soled shoes and sink your toes into the earth!
If grounding is remembering our root, centering is remaining aware of our trunk: our backbone, our being. It is also about bringing everything into focus. It is easy in mindfulness meditation for our attention to remain in the head and upper body (or even float off into space!) As we move through our days, we tend to ‘hang out’ in this upper half: its the part we use for communicating with others and thinking. When we lose touch with our lower half however, we lose touch with ourselves, and we can end up neglecting our own wants and needs, and prioritising other peoples instead. Sound familiar? I believe it is an epidemic in our Western society. To center is to remember our trunk: our ‘staff’, which we can use to ensure our steps are sure footed and true. I also believe centering to be about bringing our ‘scattered’ focus and concentration to one point: single point meditation on an anchor in the present moment. One of the trickiest feats of all: can I remain grounded and centered in my own existance and truly open my heart to someone else? A work in progress perhaps…! Which takes us on to:
Orienting is noticing ourself and our external environment at the same time: it is knitting together our internal and external realities. It is one thing to notice one or the other, but it can feel quite vulnerable to really notice yourself, your true authentic, vulnerable self, and the world / someone else AT THE SAME TIME. Totally. By practicing this knitting together of internal and external experiences through orienting, we can build new neural pathways which help our nervous systems to remain regulated, and return to equilibrium more quickly when we are triggered. Below is a short orienting mindfulness meditation to help build these neural pathways. You can do this as you move through your day, beacuse this one focuses the attention on what we can see. Enjoy!
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