As I’ve said elsewhere, grounding is the term used broadly in the Pagan community to talk about getting rid of excess energy that we have picked up, and also to replenish our energy when it is low.
A common grounding exercise: be a tree
There are many versions of this out there. The most basic is visualising yourself as a tree – roots reaching deeply into the ground, branches reaching up to the sky, with energy running down your body into the earth as you need to get rid of excess, or drawing up some if you need to renew yourself.
- Stand, centered physically and energetically.(You can try lying down, but most people find it’s easier to do this one standing up or at least sitting up straight.)
- Make sure your feet are rooted (about hip width apart, knees bent.)
- Feel a tendril of energy reaching down from the soles of your feet down into the earth, down through the floor you’re standing on, into the foundation and into the ground.
- Lift your hands, feeling energy stretch from your hands upwards, into the sky.
- You should start feeling energy begin to shift and flow within you. If you have excess energy jittering around in you, feel it slip off you like rain into dirt, and be absorbed from your roots.
- If you need a little boost, you can feel the energy flow into you from your roots and branches.
- Some people like colors for the visualisations: green for the roots and gold for the branches are common.
Practice this every day for a few weeks (or as close to that as you can). Again, practice will make it easier and smoother. Your goal is to get to the point where you can ground easily whenever and wherever you are – whether that’s about to cast a circle, standing in a frustrating line, or in a hospital waiting room.
Variations and other approaches:
There are many examples of this meditation. You can condense it as far down as “Branches up, roots down” or make it a long drawn out sense journey that takes you far into the depths of the earth. I am fond of the ones in Starhawk and Hilary Valentine’s Twelve Wild Swans book and the two versions in Diana Paxson’s Trance-portation. Thea Sabin also has instructions in her Wicca for Beginners. (More on all of these in the Suggested Reading section.)
Some other variations on grounding you might find interesting include:
- Some nice tips from Ravenari (a talented artist)
- A chakra based method from Robin Wood.
- A method from Starhawk used in teaching people to deal with activist settings.
- And a nice piece on disconnecting from distractions from Anne Hill
Additional grounding techniques:
Sometimes, the basic energy techniques we’ve described may not help all the way – or you may be too scattered or unfocused to make them work well. What I usually advise in this case is to use some of the following techniques, and then try grounding visualisations every 15-30 minutes until you’re recentered.
What do you do about it? Any of the following can work
- Salt under the tongue is a classic remedy. Salt is energetically grounding and dampening.
- Hold a stone used for grounding (either hematite, etc. or a quartz crystal charged to focus on grounding and containing excess energy.)
- Hug a tree or lie flat on the ground (arms and legs spread out from the body) for 5 minutes.
- Sitting somewhere quiet for a few minutes works too, but someone should check on you.
- Eat. Protein, dense grains, and dense veggies are best. Someone may only really want sugar, but get them to eat a bite or two of something sweet and *then* the dense stuff.
- Dark chocolate also helps a lot, interestingly. The best quality you have handy.
- Turning on the news or some other very mundane/practical conversation.
- Walking, stretching, or other activity that centers you in your body.
If you’re having problems grounding and centering:
Avoid the following until you’re firmly back.
- Sweet/sugary foods
- Listening to music (for many people, it continues to trigger a trance state)
- Be thoughtful about topics of conversation/reading/etc. Escapist reading may delay grounding – try something very practical and functional.
Physical activity like using the bathroom often helps – but sex can sometimes be an ‘in the body’ thing, and sometimes a ‘not in the body’ thing. Know your own tendencies. Same thing with dance, doing the dishes or other cleaning, cooking, etc.
Signs you need to center and ground:
There are some common signs that you need to pay particular attention to centering and grounding. These signs won’t be the same for everyone – they may vary depending on you, on what you’ve been doing, and various other factors. You might have one common set of responses, but a different ritual will bring something else out.
- You’re really jittery and can’t keep still. (This is probably the most common sign).
- Being unable to focus, chattering or babbling, things like that.
- You’re normally chatty, but you’re in a corner being totally silent.
- Absence of hunger when you’re normally happy to eat (this is a huge one.) Eat *something* – usually protein or cheese is best tolerated. Drink some water (or anything else without alcohol or caffeine.)
- You’re either really easily upset, or you feel totally ‘flat’ (without emotional affect). You’re not responding to jokes, stories, other people normally for you.
- You’re noticing something that’s abnormal for you. This can be very individual.
My story, on the last one:
I normally have an excellent sense of direction, and rarely get lost. The first time I did serious priestessing work, people were looking for cues (because it was a new thing for me) that I might be having trouble, but I looked outwardly fine. I was talking, laughing, not too jittery, etc.
And then we got in our cars to drive to where we were having dinner, and I got lost (and they then wondered where I was). I pulled over into a parking lot for a bit, and felt better once I dumped more energy. But I’d still gotten lost (and spacy) in an area I knew really well, going to a restaurant I’d been to many times before.
In general, I’ve found that new stuff tends to cause me far more issues the first time. It’s not that I can’t ground, but that new energetic roles or situations mean I have to ground more aggressively, and that my habitual methods don’t work as well. Being aware before the new thing that I should be especially conscious and aware of grounding afterwards has helped a lot.
Here’s one thing to consider, now that you’ve got the basics down. Magic works by acting on imbalance – like giving a little extra push to something already leaning in a direction. If you begin your magical work perfectly balanced and stable, it’s a lot harder to get that push started.
Because of this, while we center and ground at the start of ritual (when setting up the temple), we do not generally do it during the ritual until we are done with all of the workings of the ritual. (There are occasional exceptions – and obviously, if you’re having real problems functioning, try centering and grounding first.) Experiment, and see what works for you.
You might find the following articles of interest:
- Energy and you
- Energetic self-care (cleansing and shielding)
- Home, sacred home
[last edit January 8, 2011]