I’ve never been fond of the word “grounded”. So, it should come as no surprise that when recently asked to get grounded by exploring my first chakra, I was a bit skeptical.
In my teen years, “getting grounded” was usually the result of staying out too late, or some mischief involving boys and beer. As I grew older, I was much more interested in staying on the high side of things than being grounded. Grounded was boring. Lame. I was looking for excitement. Transcendence...
Apparently the first chakra, or muladhara (Sanskrit for “root support), is the key to grounding ourselves energetically. It is highly influenced by our experience in the womb and through first 12 months of our lives.. and thus our survival instinct. Anondea Judith, in her impressive book Eastern Body Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self, notes:
If the child is unable to get her needs met, then she develops a growing mistrust of the outer world, a disassociation from the inner world, and a feeling of helplessness and inadequacy at the core of her being1… When a young infant faces danger or neglect, it forces [her] to fall back on [herself]—an independence which is developmentally impossible.2
Ding ding. A bell goes off in my opening mind. My mother struggled with PTSD and post-partum depression. Hmmmm. Anondea goes on to explain some of the other challenges with a deficient first chakra that ring true as well: Poor boundaries, a rich dream/fantasy life, strong focus on knowledge gathering. Disconnection from the body. Restless. (We’ve gone from ding ding to GONG on that one, folks!)
Ok, so perhaps I have a little first chakra issue. Busted. Luckily, Anondea had a few suggestions on healing my first chakra, and a quick Google search provided a host of others.
First up was a suggestion to focus on my energetic states rather than emotional states. This required staying in touch with bodily sensations, and trying to stay in awareness of them instead of focusing on the emotional state that tagged along. For example, “my heart is racing” is a bodily sensation. “I’m anxious” is an emotional state. This tip paid off. By not getting sucked into the emotion (for me “I’m anxious” makes me more anxious), I was able paradoxically to begin to relax even though my heart was racing.
The next suggestion was to “work on the feet”. I was momentarily excited about the prospects of a pedicure. And I wasn’t too far off. Foot massage is indeed good for first chakra healing. But I could go further. Anondea suggests keeping both feet on the ground, preferably with shoes off, and pressing hard into the ground. This has proven to be an excellent tactic for maintaining my sanity during stressful work meetings, since it is unnoticeable to my colleagues. (Although I expect in winter months, my shoes may need to stay on.)
A nice side benefit of this foot work was my posture got a lift. Which brought me to Anondea’s next suggestion, which was to bring my awareness to the location of the first chakra in my body. Luckily, illustrations of the chakras abound on the internet, and I was able to locate the area of my first chakra, right there at the bottom of my spine. Each time I sat, I tried to bring my attention there, rather than let my attention float off with my ideas into fantasy land. And an unexpected thing started to happen.
A brown fuzzy caterpillar climbed over the book I was reading. A cocoon-making worm dropped down in front of me and began spinning. A pair of mating dragonflies landed on my head. Ok, not all at once. But over a period of 3 weeks, I had an increasing number of fantastic experiences with insects. I was grounded. Physically. I was finally part of the Earth.
The final step in this chakra experiment happened unexpectedly, and without any suggestions from Anondea or the wise internet sages turned up by Google. I was spending the weekend at a retreat center in the lush Hudson Valley of New York. The retreat staff noted that a baby squirrel had fallen from a tree, and we should steer clear of the area. A staff member had located some sounds of “distressed baby squirrel” on her iPhone and was diligently using them to woo the mother back to take care of the baby (thus avoiding him having first chakra issues!)
I approached the staff member, noted I had “an animal thing”, and asked if I could sit for a minute in the area. This being a spiritual center, she looked at me, smiled, and said “sure!”
I sat under the tree and focused on grounding my first chakra. I watched my breath steady. In. Out. In. Out. I gently closed my eyes, and extended my hands open palmed. The left hand pointed to where we believed the mother to be. The right hand pointed to the fallen baby squirrel. I slowly waved the left hand toward the right. I repeated this ever so gently for a few minutes, while pressing my bottom into the base of the tree.
No the mother squirrel didn’t come rushing over. Light didn’t shoot out of my hands. The baby squirrel didn’t magically raise up in resurrection and resume its play. And I went about my day. But something was different. I felt grounded. I was no longer anxious and worried about the baby. I somehow felt he would be ok.
A few hours later, a staff member entered our session and announced… THE MOM SQUIRREL HAD RESCUED THE BABY SQUIRREL! Yes, I realize I was just all-cap shouting. It was miraculous. Miracles deserve caps. But I digress…
Now I certainly can’t claim that I saved the baby squirrel, nor am I trying to take credit. I have no idea what reunited the mother and baby. But what is remarkable, is the effect this literal grounding had on me.
No boys or beer in sight, but I was indeed grounded… this time in a healthy way.
1 page 69
2 pg 71
Read more from Sarah Bowen in Void if Detached: Seeking Modern Spirituality Through My Father's Old Sermons.