Grounding, centering, shielding is one of those concepts that is ubiquitous to paganism and new age spirituality. You see it referenced in almost every article, passed around as key phrases like its an initiation password. But it is also a misunderstood concept, built into an idea of gigantic proportions. Since I will be teaching…. 3? classes on it and have found myself going over the basics quite a few times for different people in the past few days, I thought I would use you, my audience, as my guinea pigs.
At the core of grounding, centering and shielding (g/c/s for short) is our perception and interaction with reality itself. To cut to the core of this metaphysical ball of yarn, reality is the interpretation of the things around us through our senses. Reality is, in a very real sense, electrical impulses. The nerve endings transmit the signals to our brains, where other electrical impulses translate them into a 3D experience. I start with this idea because I find that people tend to say things like “I don’t” or “I can’t”, when in actuality they can, with the right coaching.
The other part of this is the intersection of reality and mental illness. If reality is electrical impulses, how do we decide what is acceptable and what isn’t? The last therapist I had said something to me that has stuck with me. She was reading her notes one day and commented “If anyone else read these, they would lock me up for not diagnosing you as schizophrenic.”This was in reference to my hearing voices, voices that I interpret as the Gods. For her, the line in the sand was my ability to live my life. The voices in my head did not impact my ability to hold a job, pay my bills, have a healthy relationship with my then-boyfriend, etc.
If reality is the interpretation of electrical impulses and mental illness is our inability to fulfill our basic needs as illustrated in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then the impetus to define our lives as healthy or unhealthy falls squarely in our laps.
How does this affect our ability to g/c/s? Too often we are taught to ignore our impulses, to write off the things that modern science can’t explain. But our ability to g/c/s is directly linked to our mental health and well-being. being able to build and maintain healthy boundaries in a world full of abrasive stimuli speaks to the core of our experiences as pagans.
G/c/s allows us to create the head and soul space in which to experience the Divine, whether that lies with nature, Deity or other people. BY being able to say no, we can choose when and how to say yes, rather than being at the mercy of the currents of modern life. G/c/s should be a foundational practice for all humans.
The reason I am prattling on about reality is because the opposite flow is also true, what we experience as impulses in our brains can become our external reality. In a simple word, we call this visualization. You see it in your minds eye and it because something in the external world that you can manipulate with your mind. This technique of visualization is the cornerstone of how we make g/c/s work for us. We imagine it and it becomes true. I know that sounds overly simplistic and didactic, but trust me when I say that it works.
So now that we have examined why, lets dissect the how.
Everyone has the ability to ground. Don’t shake your head at me, I know you can do it. I know you can because you are a human in a 3D world. How many of us have lost hours reading books, creating worlds in our minds? How about listening to music or watching a movie?
Grounding is the simple practice of visualization, as mentioned above. I want you to take a second right now and mentally connect with the bottom of your feet. Are they in shoes, pressed in with socks? Are they in contact with some insanely awesome grass or carpet or dirt? Or are they, like mine, propped up on the coffee table so we can use the laptop and watch cartoons at the same time?
The bottom of our feet are incredibly sensitive, with lots of nerve endings and energetic points, also chakras blah blah blah. (It’s 1 am, don’t hate on me too hard.) That energy is what we use in the visualization. It becomes roots that go down into the earth, through any floors that are in the way. As we imagine the roots going down we start to build an imagine in our minds. What is contained within the dirt? Worms? Other roots? Rocks? Bugs? At what point does it feel cold or hot? How deep can we go before we hit rock too hard to tunnel through? What are we searching for in the Earth? Can you feel the other roots around you, the grass whispering gossip, the trees with deep deep roots, the mushrooms spread out like a blanket.
Now bring your mind back to your body. How do you feel? If you feel calmer and more relaxed, congratulations. You are now grounded and centered. Oh, I snuck that one past you! Here you were grounding and you end up centered as well. Centering is simply bringing our awareness back into ourselves, so that we are no longer scattered. Grounding and centering allows us to deal with the chaos around us, filtering through everything to find the things we can deal with in the now.
On a spiritual level, grounding recycles the stagnant energy in our bodies, returning it to the earth and refreshing our chakras and energy flow. It keeps the mind and body level and minimizes stress, allowing us to handle anything that comes our way. It also lowers blood pressure and heart rate, helps us sleep better and improves communication.
Shielding uses the same visualization techniques that grounding does, but leaves a lot more up to the individual. A shield is exactly what it sounds like, a barrier between yourself and the world. It can be as solid or permeable as you desire it to be.
Let me use a few of my own shields as examples.
1) When needing to teach someone how to create a multilevel shield, I instruct them to imagine themselves as a willow tree. The roots are put down, as in the above grounding experience. The trunk comes up around you, protecting you at a very close, skin level. Then you shoot the branches up over your head and let them grow back down to kiss the ground. Let leaves grow upon the branches, silver green like the new spring. Now imagine a butterfly fluttering through the branches. It can kiss the leaves, land gently upon the earth at your roots, but you are always protected by the trunk that wraps gently around you.
2) For a very simple shield (when I need it to be permeable but there, as in pagan gatherings) I imagine my shield as an iridescent soap bubble, cloaked in the subtle colors of rainbow. It lets in what I choose, becomes mailable to protect against things I want to keep out. It can let energies in or keep them out, as I choose.
3) When I worked at the local mental hospital, with the gentlemen who were there for either sex offenses or crimes against people due to mental illness, I needed a shield that was impenetrable and would allow me to keep track of everything in 360 degrees. Part of my job was bed checks at night, down a very long, dark hallway. My shield of choice was a pack of wolves. I think I had about 8 of them in the pack. They would range in front of me and behind me, always alert, always keeping tabs on the energy and movement of the occupants. I never once was surprised or assaulted in my time working there. Neither did I ever back down from aggression. The clients might not have even known it, but being growled and by a pack of wolves was usually enough to get even the most manic to back down. It even helped to change my own body language, so that I did not carry myself in a passive or subordinate manner.
Other examples I have hear of are imagining a house with the doors and windows locked around you, using an element like fire or rock to protect you, visualizing a shower cascading over you, imagining armor, etc. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your own imagination.
The take away from this long post is to find a way of g/c/s that works for you and to practice at it until it is a seamless process, something you can do without conscious thought or focus. When you can g/c/s in a crowded store, on the road, in the middle of a fight with your BFF, that’s when you will reap the most benefits of this practice. That’s when you stop drifting on the emotional currents and start rowing your own damn boat.
And cursing is when I realize I’m too tired to be writing a blog post and should go grab some sleep. I hope someone out there finds this post useful.