Monthly Archives: September 2013

3 Fast Ways to Get Centered & Grounded

Girl meditating against treeYesterday I wrote about the modern sense of being uncentered. I even got all high-falutin’ and looked at how one 1920s poet described this sense of losing one’s center. That’s all well and good, but how exactly does one go about getting centered in the moment of chaos? I have three ways –what’s your fave way to get grounded?

Portland Yoga Teacher’s 3 Fast Ways to Get Grounded and Centered.

1. Close Your Eyes and Breathe. Shut your eyes to shut out the visual world for a moment. (When we choose to limit the number of sensual experiences coming into our brains, it’s much easier to focus. This is what yogis call Pratyahara.) Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Take three full breaths in and out, pausing at the top of the bottom of the breaths to feel full and empty. As you breathe, feel each breath through your hands lifting and lowering. Aim to take such deep breaths that you feel your hands moving. Once you get the hang of taking deep “belly breaths” you can practice this technique anytime–even with the eyes open. Say when you’re driving, talking to a person, etc.

2. Feel Where Your Body Connects to Earth. Pay attentions to the parts of your body that are closest to the earth (your feet if you’re standing, your sit bones if you’re sitting, etc.) Trace the places where you are connected to the ground. Wiggle a little if it helps you feel those spots more. It may help to close your eyes. Gently press down into those grounding parts of your body, as if you were trying to grow roots. Finally, feel yourself sinking into those places–giving into gravity. Earth is our home; when we reconnect to it we feel more at peace in our own skin.

3. Listen With your Whole Body. In Eat, Pray, Love, one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s teachers commands her to “Smile with your liver!” while in seated meditation. I love this description. And I think it’s a helpful way to think about my last grounding technique, full body listening. Again, close your eyes. Direct all your attention to your sense of hearing, as if this were the first (or the last!) time you could ever hear sound. Thrill to every detail of what you hear around you, but see if you can avoid judging whether the sounds you hear are good or bad. Just listen. Once you’re fully tuned into hearing with your ears, imagine listening through your skin–listening to the air currents in the room. If your mind wanders, notice that and gently bring your attention back to what you can hear and feel. Practice for 30 seconds to start, and work your way up to longer intervals.

By the way, these three ways of getting grounded are also wonderful meditation techniques. The next time that it feels like life is spinning out of control (a common occurrence in our age) I hope you will try one of these techniques to feel centered. Oh, and by the way these exercises take practice! Please don’t become discouraged, just remember that we are all works in progress. And if you have a regular yoga or meditation practice it will (of course) be easier to implement these and other grounding techniques.
<photo: via crdotx>

Finding Your Own Center

The author William Carlos Williams. Via Wikipedia.

Last night Billy (my husband) and I enjoyed geeking out over a bit of literary analysis. We were reading a William Carlos Williams poem on the nature of modern life. Lines from the piece keep floating up in my mind today. The last few lines are perfectly haunting:

No one
to witness
and adjust, no one to drive the car

Although this poem was published in 1923, Carlos Williams is expressing something we still experience today– a lack of center. Modernists like Pablo Picasso, Hemmingway, and T.S. Elliot were experiencing the break from the traditional models of self-understanding. Before the arrival of modernity, people judged themselves and others by local traditions, regional mores, and religious dictums. As Carlos Williams refers to earlier in the poem, the young people he sees “have no / peasant traditions to give them / character.” It seems as we’ve gained the informational freedom and online connectedness of the modern era, this loss of center has only grown more acute.

We have more news than ever but few people question the quality of reporting. We can entertain ourselves with a huge array of television shows, video games, and online cat videos–but what lasting lessons do these superficial time fillers provide? TS Elliot wrote about how “the center cannot hold” in modern life–we’re all spinning away from the anchors that kept society stable in eras past: Family. Religion. Social hierarchy.

So how do we stay grounded and centered in this modern maelstrom?

We have to be our own centers now. We have to get quiet enough to listen to what’s true within our selves. We have an opportunity here to figure out what it is that matters for each of us, according to our own experiences. And to live by what we learn from our hearts.

Our scattered modern life gives us plenty of distractions–plenty of reasons to avoid witnessing our lives, to neglect readjusting our steering, as Carlos Williams would have it. But with a mindfulness ritual (yoga, tai chi, qi gong, martial arts, meditation, prayer) we can discover the center within each of us. We can learn how to step back for a moment from the endless distractions and adjust our directions.

Rather than giving in to the incredible pace and frenzy of our lives, we can slow down. We can stop. We can listen and breathe. And we can get to know the witnessing part of ourselves, the part that sees everything that happens to us. And the only part that can act as a grounding center in our own lives.