These words have been uttered by many a parent as punishment for mischief-making teenagers. “Grounding,” in this sense, means you are taking the kid out of the action and putting her on the sidelines for a bit.
One mom I know said that grounding doesn’t work as a deterrent for her son because he likes it. No iPhone, no TV, no friends for a period of time – and, whew, the kid is actually relieved. My guess is that he instinctively knows that a break would be good for him, but it’s not something he would impose upon himself. (Sidebar: Studies show that teens’ access to their frontal lobes is not quite fully developed enough for them to make insightful, rational decisions as adults do. See NPR story, “The Teen Brain: It’s Just Not Grown Up Yet”)
But we are adults, right? Our frontal lobes are functioning quite well, as far as we know. So why do we sometimes harbor a secret desire for “someone” to send us to our room? To withhold phone, tv and friends? To put us on the sidelines for a day or so? I read an article once where the writer fantasized about the internet being switched off for a year… and I could very much relate!
Stopping is a spiritual art. It is the refuge where we drink life in. ~ Sue Monk Kidd
Here’s the trick: It’s up to us! We’ve got to call upon our inner wise parent, who can gently ground us – our adult selves. Not as punishment, but as a way to get centered, to regroup, to find our bearings again. (Which is really what parents are ultimately hoping to accomplish with their teenagers, isn’t it?)
As adults, we get into our own kinds of trouble – we over commit, which makes us frazzled and frayed. We allow guilt and shoulds to crowd out what our gut knows is right for us. We put our own health and wellbeing, and our dearest relationships on the back burner as we fight the fires of urgency. And then we wonder why we are feeling so disconnected, resentful and crabby. And not getting the meaningful, important things done.
The truth is – we know what is right for each of us. But external forces keep us distracted and irritated, like pesky gnats darting at our attention.
Academics, philosophers and spiritual leaders take sabbaticals. Paid (usually) time off to regroup and get grounded. If they are to connect with the deep thoughts that are the fruit of their work, they must get this nurturing time away from the daily fray.
Perhaps it’s impractical to take deep-thinking time off from your business… but then again, why not work toward making that happen?
Even if you don’t take a full-fledged sabbatical, there are some techniques you can use to get grounded and centered, so that you can find your true bearings again. The good news is that you don’t need a year off, or a month or even a week! Centering yourself can take as little as a few minutes.
Here are three of my favorite ways to get grounded when the gnats of life are buzzing at me. All of them are proactive – in other words, I use them routinely to stay grounded, not reactively when a crisis arrives. Once lightning strikes, it’s too late to run out and hook up your home’s grounding rod – it must be in place beforehand!
1. Daily Practices
A martial arts sensei, as quoted in Susan Scott’s book, Fierce Leadership, said, “We are always practicing something. The question is – what are we practicing?” A practice is not a to-do list. It’s a state of mind, a guiding compass. There may be a physical action associated with it, but the point is much bigger than the obvious action. You may straighten your desk at the end of each day. Is it to look good? Or because a nagging “should” tells you to? Or is it to clear your mind? Or to punctuate your day? Or to prepare for the next day? Knowing the underlying intention behind each of your daily practices will help you know whether it’s a “to-do” item or a grounding practice. Study your current daily practices – which ones are centering? What new grounding practices can you add into your daily routine?
2. Tuning Out & Tuning In
I often invite my clients to try some form of reflective silence in their daily practice. For those who are used to being super busy, the idea of sitting quietly, “doing nothing,” literally freaks them out! Silent time, whether it’s a formal meditation ritual or simply sitting and being silent for a few minutes – it fills up your well with life-giving energy. How long do you think you could sit in silence? Double that number and commit to taking that creative silent time every day for the next week. Notice the impact in your work and life.
3. Body scan
Ever notice that when you are focused on your body – how it feels, not your opinion of it – you are instantly in the present moment. When we are fretting about the future or lamenting the past, we are in our heads. There’s nothing wrong with being in your head; we rely on our thinking and logic for many great purposes! But it’s difficult to get centered when our churning brains are on center stage. A great technique for getting grounded is to take a few minutes to put your full awareness on your physical sensations. Do a mental body scan – begin with focusing your attention on your toes and feet, move up to your calves, knees and on up your body until you reach the top of your scalp. Take your time, asking yourself for each body part: What are my toes feeling? What sensations is my left knee feeling? All questions are in the present tense and about your physical feelings. If you find yourself judging body parts – you have slipped into your head again. Put those judgments aside and place your awareness on the physical sensation of that body part and keep going. Puts you right into the moment.
Do yourself a big favor and ground yourself.