The Theosophical Society in America

Explorations: Grounding Revealed

Originally printed in the September - October 2002 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Johnson,  Dwight. "Grounding Revealed." Quest  90.5 (SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2002):182-183.


By Dwight Johnson

Dwight JohnsonThe term grounding has become a buzzword among New Age healers and thinkers over the past decade. The importance of being grounded is emphasized in many articles, lectures, workshops, sessions, books, and therapies, and many meditative and physical exercises are prescribed for achieving this goal. But the concept has not been addressed in its totality.

At best, grounding is explained as contact with Mother Earth, being present in the now, in touch with nature, firmly planted on the ground, and in tune with our bodies. In martial arts (and especially in T’ai Chi), this notion is of even greater importance, with a more precise if narrower meaning. Each beginner is taught that the first and foremost principle for successful practice is to be fully grounded. In this context, the word means just what it says—to be connected with the ground, to establish a strong and powerful energy connection with the earth (the secret of immensely heavy and “unliftable” martial arts masters).

The frequent use of this word thus calls for deeper reflection and the more comprehensive understanding that grounding exists on four levels: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical.

Spiritual grounding manifests in two ways: as wisdom and as compassion. Grounding as wisdom means that we treat the world as real, all along knowing that it is an illusion. It is the ability to see things as they are, and not be personally involved in the manifestations. The compassion side of grounding implies that we treat all life in this illusory world with reverence and caring, because everything is on a spiritual pilgrimage and it is our duty to help life evolve.

The above is best illustrated by inspired advice from ancient wisdom: “Be in this world, but not of this world.” To be in the world represents the compassion side of grounding. As caring beings centered in spiritual consciousness, we realize that, although the world is an illusion, we are immortal souls evolving through and with this illusory world. Thus illusion is seen as a learning experience. To be not of this world represents the wisdom side of grounding—seeing things as they are. Or, in other words, wisdom is to be out of the world, whereas compassion is the opposite—to be in the world.

Without experiencing the world as an illusion, we cannot proceed to become centered in Higher Reality. Yet the state of enlightenment requires that we be both at the same time—wise and compassionate.

Mental grounding has to do with the knowledge of both the material and the metaphysical worlds, and the relationship between them. The whole of knowledge begins with an understanding that we live in a universe of opposites. All life is based on the interaction between opposites in both a descending and an ascending arc, leading to the realization of unity with what might be called the Prime Mover—the Source of all life. Hence to be grounded mentally means to be able to see the laws of this universe and how they work in interaction to create this manifest world. We strive to understand the mechanism that governs creation.

Emotional grounding requires that we make the Unconscious Conscious. This process involves unlearning and outgrowing our childhood conditioning, as well as deeply understanding the causal effects from past lives that have shaped our present incarnation. In Buddhist terms this is referred to as the “unraveling of skandhas”—skandhas being causal events, both positive and negative, that attach us to earthly life. These causal attachments are created by strong emotions generated in previous lives that bind us to the earthly plane: fear, love, anger, likes, and dislikes. It should be emphasized that without emotional grounding, we are like a rudderless ship on a stormy sea—soaring and sinking with the passions of worldly life. To outgrow our conditioning and unravel our skandas is, then, the goal of emotional grounding—to be free from all attachments and programming.

Physical grounding is generally understood as the alignment of our bodies with earth energy. Without this grounding one can become “spaced out,” “airy-fairy,” ineffectual, and even psychotic. Love for earth and its potential is the best means to establish physical grounding because our bodies contain earth atoms, and every atom-monad has its own potential and the need to evolve as part of a greater evolutionary complex. In this sense, physical grounding is inseparable from love for evolving life, which relates us to Mother Nature. This love aligns us more intimately with the earth and makes us more effective in helping life maximize its potential. Hence care and love are the key components of physical grounding. Put another way, compassion (as a spiritual attribute) applied in the material world grounds our physical atoms to the earth matrix.

Love for something or someone implies that we care for and direct our attention toward what we love.Thus we become attuned to the object we love. But if we are spiritually awake, we don’t mistake this love for Reality. We see that which we love—ultimately, the universe in its totality—as hosts of souls in the process of evolutionary growth. It is of utmost importance, however, that this love and compassion be accompanied by and complemented with wise detachment.

In conclusion, it is through wisdom and compassion that consciousness is brought down to the physical level and grounded there. To paraphrase T. S. Eliot, thus we end where we began, and know the world for the first time. All that is, was, and will be is embraced in an eternal Now:

All that is,
Is timelessly.
It is,
I am.

Dwight Johnson is the author of Spirals of Growth (Quest Books, 1983) and last contributed to the Quest journal in 1994. He was founder and Chair of the philosophy and psychology department of a private school in California and has recently been exploring sacred sites in India, Egypt, Greece, and western Europe.