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  • Writer's pictureCandy Widdifield

Grounding, Centering & Resourcing

These words are quite often used in the context of nervous system regulation, brain retraining, and trauma therapy, but do we really understand what they mean and how to do them? This blog will explore exactly that.


First let's start with their definitions. Grounding refers to connecting to the earth/ground. Centering is about finding our centre of gravity within our bodies. It also is often used to refer to connecting more deeply to the center or essence of who we are. Resources are the things that fill us up, feed our soul, give back to us, increase our energy, elevate our emotions, or take us into flow states (where we are completely immersed in something and lose sense of time and space). They are the things that promote wellbeing on any or all levels (physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual). What these resources are specifically differs from person to person, although common ones include: being in nature, connecting with uplifting friends or family, engaging in creative endeavours or a favourite hobby, doing things we are good at, listening to certain types of music, physical movement/dance, spending time with animals, or engaging in spiritual practices.


The purpose of grounding is not only to help us be more anchored in our bodies (rather than living in our minds or being disconnected from our bodies altogether), but also to plant us firmly on the earth, with a connection to the earth. When we feet rooted, we are more present in our bodies and in the here and now. There are a few simple tools to help us do this. We can focus on our feet, rock them back and forth, side to side. We could also walk very mindfully and slowly, with our full attention on our feet, how they are moving, connecting and disconnecting from the ground with each step. Energy follows attention, so as we focus on our feet we build more grounding energy.


There is a visualization that I used to teach in Reiki classes to help people ground and stay connected. Imagine yourself as a tree (any kind of tree you would like to be), with roots coming out the bottoms of your feet and burrowing deep into the earth (this helps us feel more anchored to the ground). With the next few in-breaths imagine drawing up earth energy through the roots, into your feet and eventually up to the base of your spine, feeling and intending for the earth energy become stronger with each breath. Then, imagine your core as the trunk of the tree and your head & arms as the branches or leaves. Energy flows freely through your trunk, and yet it is solid and stable. The wind may rustle the leaves and branches, or rain pours down on them, but because you are solid in your trunk and so deeply rooted to the earth, the weather just blows by (same with our thoughts and emotions, they no longer disconnect us). Continue this visualization of yourself as a full tree for a few more breaths, then return to focusing on your feet, feeling your roots, giving thanks to the earth for the support, and then eventually returning to the present moment.


There is also a whole field of study called Earthing, which recognizes that our connection to the earth plays a great role in our healing and our overall wellbeing. Humans are electrical in nature, and so is the planet. The vibration of the earth vibrates at the same hertz that our nervous system does when we are in regulation or homeostasis. Earthing looks at using a physical connection between us and the earth to help restore our nervous system to more optimal functioning, which then activates our inner healing mechanisms. We do this primarily by getting barefoot on the ground (although there are grounding sheets, pads, etc. that we could use instead). The bottoms of our feet have a lot of nerve endings, as well as meridians (used in Chinese Medicine and Reflexology) that connect with the various organs and systems of the body. Thirty minutes is ideal; however, less time would still provide some benefit.


Centering and grounding often go hand in hand. We can combine finding our center of gravity (in our lower abdomen) and placing our hand there with grounding exercises. One exercise to help us locate our center of gravity is to stand tall with our feet firmly planted, then sway a little side to side, front and back while attending to our lower abdomen. With this slight movement it should help you more easily locate it. Centering in the other context also tends to come naturally as we bring our attention inward and become more grounded. We start to feel more connected with our true nature because we were intended, by nature, to be connected with nature. This helps to bring us back. We can also reflect on the kind of qualities and characteristics we have when we are more "ourselves" and start bringing more of those into our everyday though intention and actions.


Resourcing can happen in many ways, but it generally starts with some self reflection about what your resources are, based on the description above. What fills you up? What feeds your soul? What feels uplifting? What gives you vitality or a deeper sense of wellbeing? What do you love to do? What innate qualities or characteristics do you have that promote wellbeing? Once we have identified some resources, we can actively start to incorporate them more into our day to day lives.


Another aspect of resourcing is to create a context of safety within us so that our nervous system can relax and regulate better. This allows our inner healing mechanisms to be activated but also increases our capacity to tolerate emotions and stressors. It is only from a place of being resourced that we are able to release past traumas/stressors that we are still holding onto on a cellular level in the body. Creating a sense of safety is often done through exercises like the Safe Place visualization used in EMDR therapy. [For those of you doing the Gupta program, Ashok recently released a module on Somatic Retraining where he talks about creating a Safe Haven. This is very similar. Funny enough, I created this blog before he released his new module, so we must be on the same wavelength as to what would be supportive to retrainers at this time!]


To develop a safe place, think about a place you have been or imagine a place that would feel very safe and calm. Maybe you are sitting on the beach, by a mountain stream, or in a sacred garden. What would that place be for you?

Once you have your place, take some time to bring in all of your senses and make it even more real. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Taste (if applicable)? Are there other people/animals/beings there with you? What pleasant sensations do you notice in your body? What thoughts or feelings arise as you spend time in this place?


Now that you have a good sense of this place and how it feels internally to be there, we can use a tool from EMDR called the butterfly hug to anchor it even deeper. This involves us crossing our arms over our chest (or you can do it like you are giving yourself a hug) and then tap one hand and then the other, alternating, for about 8 - 10 times. If you wish, you can do this for a few rounds, making your safe place as real as possible, feeling what it is like to be there, and then doing the butterfly hug.


After you have created a strong connection with your safe place, you may want to come up with a word that represents that place for you. As we connected it to a word and repeat that pattern of association, it becomes stronger over time. After a while, all you have to do is think of or say the word and it will bring you right back to your place.


As with anything we are using for brain retraining, the more you use it the stronger and more supportive it becomes. Make this a part of your routine for a while to help calm and soothe your nervous system.


Grounding, centering and resourcing all help us to not only be in our physical bodies and in the present moment, but they also activate the nervous system states and inner resources required to help us heal and improve our overall wellbeing.


Best wishes on your retraining!


Caelum's Insights (A Functional Neurology Perspective):

The sympathetic nervous system tends to get a bad reputation as it is our “fight or flight” system, and we are often told that it is bad for us. However, this is not entirely true. Your sympathetic nervous system is very important, and we need and use it more than you think. Every time we get up and walk around or need to do something that involves a lot of thinking our sympathetic nervous system kicks in. It is its job to make sure that our brain or muscles are getting more blood and oxygen to fuel them in order to do their function. It is also very helpful when you are sitting down to take a test or doing something that makes you nervous. It is fueling the parts of our body that needs that extra blood and oxygen to get the job done. When it becomes a problem is if you are in a chronic state of fight or flight and are sympathetic dominant.


A great way to think of the nervous system is like a balancing scale, when one is more activated the other is less activated (not turned off). As such the times when we need a little more kick, the sympathetic is more active and during times when we need to rest and relax the parasympathetic nervous system is more active. While the parasympathetic nervous system is more active, the sympathetic system is still functioning and helping the body as needed. In retraining the brain, the goal is not to get rid of the sympathetic, but rather tip the balancing scale more toward the parasympathetic becoming dominant while at the same time having the flexibility to move the balance up and down as needed.


If you have any questions you would like answered in this blog, please email me at candy.thriving@gmail.com


P.S. I was recently interviewed by MysticMag for their blog. If you wish to read it, click here


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