At Brookhaven Retreat’s Alumnae Reunion in March, I had the pleasure of kicking off the day’s events with a body and mind tuning exercise. I chose grounding as a theme this year to symbolize a connection for the start of the day and as a reminder to check in with the body. We all get caught up in our own thoughts and anticipations at times. We forget that the foundation of mindfulness and staying present comes from within the entire body. I once heard a saying, “A strong core equals a strong mind.” I’m not sure who originally told me that or where they had heard it from but the saying has stuck with me over the years. It is the foundation for my own mindfulness practice and I always check in with my feet, core, and mind to feel present and remind myself not to drift into thought or worry.
I would like to share the exercise I led at the Alumnae Reunion. I use this during Daily Reflection at Brookhaven Retreat and get a lot of positive feedback, especially from our ladies struggling with depression, anxiety, and addiction. It is an easy imagery exercise for creating a connection and moving attention back to the body and away from a busy mind…
Grounding Tree Guided Imagery
Let yourself be comfortable. This reflection has the best results if done sitting up but can be done lying back or sitting on the ground. Lift tall from the base of your spine, creating length in your body and begin to notice your breath. Taking the next few breaths in slowly and deeply, allow yourself to quiet the mind for the next few moments - knowing that there is nowhere to be, there is nothing pressing, and that you have no responsibilities besides taking a moment for yourself. The only thing that matters is your breath, staying present, connected, within your body, and setting a calm platform for the rest of your day.
Notice how the belly rises as you inhale, and how it slowly falls on each exhale. Take a moment to scan your body, noticing if there is an area that feels tense or tight. If you find tension, send a breath to that area creating space with your inhalation; and ask for that tension to leave on the exhale. Take 3 more breaths focusing on staying present while you inhale, and letting go of tension, anything that no longer serves you on the exhalation.
Grow your root.
Bring your attention now to the base of your spine, your hips, into the top of your legs, knees, shins, and finally your feet. Begin to imagine that with each breath, you are stretching roots down from your tailbone, into your legs, until those roots reach out from the bottom of your feet… connecting to the floor, down through the rich soil, and growing strongly into the earth. Take a few slow breaths, and with each breath, imagine your roots getting even deeper, getting stronger, feel yourself connecting into the earth. This is the beginning of grounding, establishing a solid connection to your body and the ground at your feet.
Send it down.
Now that you’ve become connected, more grounded, I want you to think of some things that you feel may be holding you back or maybe something that is irritating you. Maybe these are negative feelings that you know are limiting you but are lingering. Let yourself feel just one of those feelings and connect back to your roots, begin to imagine those stagnant feelings moving down your roots and disappearing out into the soil, into the ground. If this is difficult for you, just ask that negativity in general leave through your roots and move into the earth. Over time and with practice this is something that gets cultivated and easier to do. As you are allowing those stagnant feelings or thoughts that no longer serve you to leave through your roots, know that the earth is a neutral place that can absorb anything and recycle it into something rich and full of life. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with negativity, you can ground those feelings and the earth will take on what is needed and knows how to transform waste and let it go.
With your breath, just let go, stay connected to your roots, but invite the idea of letting go on your exhalation.
Draw it up
Now that you’ve let go of lingering negativity, I want you to imagine that you can draw that earth energy up through your roots and into your own body. Think of earth energy as strong, solid, the foundation that keeps you guided and connected on your path. Think of this energy as stable, calm, nurturing, while also confident. This is what we draw upon to keep us clear and protected, able to complete needed tasks while bringing a sense of wholeness and determination. With each breath, invite that nurturing energy and feel that connection with your roots grow even stronger. Feeling that earth energy draw up the feet… into the shins… reach your knees…. Upper legs, all the way into the hips and the spine…
Take a deep breath, feeling the lower belly expand and exhale…
Strengthen and Grow
Now that you’ve grounded and invited strength to your present moment and into your body, imagine what type of tree you might look like if you grew branches and expanded them. Imagine your leaves, the foliage… what does your tree look like? Maybe you are bearing fruit or blossoms, or maybe your roots twist from the earth like a playful banyan tree? Imagine for the next few breaths what you might look like if you were a strong, sturdy tree with beautiful branches and foliage, with roots connected deep into the earth…
Now it’s time to bring your roots back in and settle back into your present surroundings and the day ahead. Take a deep breath; begin to wiggle your fingers and toes… Let yourself begin your day with a strong sense of purpose and connection. Congratulate yourself for practicing mindfulness and for grounding yourself. Know that any time you need, you can grow your roots into the earth for strength and protection. You can send your negative thoughts down into the ground, and even blossom through your connection, just like a tree.
Begin the day.