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.
What is grounding?
While many people talk about ‘grounding and centering’, really, they go the other way around. It makes the most sense to center first, and then ground. Think of centering like creating an outlet in your body, and grounding as connecting that outlet to a source of energy or a place to put it.
One image I’ve used is that centering is like creating a little faucet in you (that you can use). Grounding is attaching a hose to that faucet, and directing the water wherever you want to send it. However, remember that it works both ways! You can also draw energy out of something if you are low.
Exercise: Be a tree
One of the most common grounding exercises you’ll see involves being 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.
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.)
It is also possible to ground using different elements, or varying approaches to breathing. For example, if the tree example above doesn’t work for you, you might explore working with other elements: what does it feel like to lie on your back in the sun and let the sun fill you up?
What does it feel like if you approach grounding like water: standing in the shower, letting excess energy run off of you, and clean fresh energy run through you? (Try this in the shower, then try it when you’re not getting actually wet.)
If air speaks to you, what about letting excess energy be carried away from you on a breeze, or taking in new energy as you breathe?
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.
- This blog post from Little Red Tarot collects various comments from a variety of people about grounding, how they use it, and techniques they find helpful.
Another approach to grounding is to release excess energy into an element, or draw up energy from an element. (You may want to read the article on elements if you haven’t already)
I know a number of people who bounce off the tree grounding method – and I think it’s because trees are just not a natural conduit for some people.
My experience is that most people are strongly comfortable with one (sometimes two) elements, have a really hard time with at least one, and are somewhere in the middle with the other two, using the Western four element system.
If the one you have a hard time with is Earth, the tree meditation is going to be really hard for you.
If that’s the case, try exploring other elements. Do you really love the feeling after a storm, when everything feels fresh and clean and new? Do you get lost in the flames of a bonfire, or recharge when you’re on the beach on a sunny day? Do you love swimming or being immersed in water? Does being in your garden renew you?
In all of these cases, I suggest dispersing energy into large bodies of the element: this is not a technique to try with a candle or a small stone. Put the excess energy into things that are so big, or moving, so that they won’t notice the excess.
Air: You might try going outside and releasing excess energy into the breeze (try this the first time on a windy day or right after a storm, when the air is clean and fresh and significant.) You might try regaining energy through breathing exercises, and see how that works for you.
Fire: If you have access to a (safe, well-managed) bonfire, that’s the first thing I’d suggest for grounding. Spend some quality time watching the flames, letting your excess energy flow into them. To regain energy, try basking in the sun, or using a meditation that connects the sun above you and the deep magma pools of molten rock nearer the earth’s core rather than pretending to be a tree.
Water: Find a moving body of water (a stream or river or ocean) or barring that, start with a large pond or lake, and release your excess energy into that. Once you get better at this, you can use a similar technique in the shower or bathtub or while swimming. To recharge, immerse yourself in water (keep breathing, but you know what I mean! Bathe, shower, swim, let water run over your hands), and let it fill you up with energy.
Earth: If earth is an easy element for you to work with, chances are the tree meditation will work for you. But if you like stones instead, you can dissipate your excess energy in a large stone (like a boulder: bigger than you can move is a good size). Try recharging by lying on the ground (outside is greaet if you can, but inside often works) and opening yourself up to fresh energy running into you.
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:
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 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, or other people normally for you.
- You’re noticing something that’s abnormal for you. This can be very individual.
My story, as an example:
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.
Last edit May 5, 2017. Reformatted November 2020.