I think I’ve always struggled with feeling grounded and rooted. I can trace this back to childhood, when as kids we moved every 2-3 years, from one country to the other. Swapping Europe for Asia, for South America, for Africa… I learnt that ‘home’ wasn’t always in one fixed place when people asked where we were from – it's still one of the hardest questions to answer now.
‘Home’ morphed into a bungalow in the desert, then a two-story in suburbia, then a castle in a cattlefield. I was always so jealous of my cousins who’d lived in one place their whole lives, in the same neighbourhood, with the same friends since they were in kindergarden. They, on the other hand, were jealous of me.
I suppose I was relatively ‘grounded’ in a location-based sense throughout my high school years – finally staying in one school for five years straight – but I craved change as I grew older, moving South for Uni and then down to London after that.
I was never quite content where I was. I always felt like I outgrew the environments I was in, that I needed more, or simply the grass was always greener somewhere else.
I found myself with itchy feet every few years, yearning for newness; yearning for change. And when opportunity was on my side, of course I would take it.
I’m writing about this because I’ve been experiencing it again, now.
Let me shed some light on the situation, first. Right now, I’m in a little coastal Caribbean town in Costa Rica. It’s beautiful, I can’t deny it, and life is good. I’ve been here just shy of a year.
Before ‘settling’ here I had been travelling for a year and a half. I reached a point in London when I wanted more and so I sold all my things except a backpack’s full, quit my desk job, and planned on moving to Australia. I craved change – and I could find it. So, I went.
When I was travelling, everything was constantly changing – my environment, the people I was with, the experiences I was having, the languages, the cuisine; even myself. Nothing was the same. Not even the bed I was in for more than two nights. It was exhilarating. The not knowing what was next was intoxicating. The newness and the challenge and the constant flow…
Then it become too much. I was tired. I felt like I needed the routine and the stability that I had left behind. A year and a half of moving will do that to you, or it did to me. I began to feel groundless.
I needed community. I needed friends. I needed familiarity. I needed to belong. I had lost any sense of feeling rooted – both physically and within myself.
While travelling through Central America, I was drawn to the town from which I’m writing this. I was sucked in by the energy, the beauty, the community, and the opportunity. It was time, and it made sense to stop a while and ‘settle’. However long that was going to be for was anyone’s guess, including my own. At the start settling looked like a few months, then it extended to ‘indefinitely’ as I flirted with the idea of owning land one day. In the end, I signed two six-month leases instead, and now, nearly a year later, that old friend Change has come knocking on the door. This time Change took the unexpected form of Canada. Somewhere very different. And cold.
As soon as that decision was made, to welcome in Change, the ‘settled’ feeling and feeling of groundedness changed also into a feeling of groundlessness. A limbo-like feeling of not being rooted ‘here’ anymore, but also not being ‘there’ yet. Life is still life, I’m still teaching my classes, my routine is the same - actually, life is busier - but it feels different now that there is an end date. I can’t help but feel the undercurrent of restlessness, of groundlessness, of a lack of roots, in everything.
As I am on my own personal journey towards transformation, and doing the inner work myself, taking harder and deeper looks into areas that I chose to gloss over before, I’m also noticing patterns – emotional and behavioural – that tend to remerge during periods of change and of feeling groundless.
As a very ‘air’ sign person – I’m a Libra and Vata dosha dominant – that I crave change, and often, makes sense.
I also know enough about the chakras and of mind-body theory to connect the dots, given my own personal history, in how an overly-airy type might show symptoms of struggle with feeling ungrounded and unrooted.
An imbalanced or blocked root chakra, which is your connection to ancestry, to family, to stability, to money, to security, can express itself in many ways in the physical body, commonly in the form of constipation and eating disorders – both reactions to a need to feel in control – both of which have shown up in my life on various occasions and always when I feel unrooted and groundless.
I’m also noticing Shadows resurfacing; cold negative thoughts making their way into a usually very warm and positive territory; body image BS; anxiety... The difference this time, though – and this is the most important difference – is that I am noticing it. Which means, cautioned from the Buddha, I am (doing my best) ruling the mind, so that it won’t rule me.
I am trying to observe and stay as witness, when, once again, the comfortable and the familiar is changing; when the uncertainly of the future, of having to make new friends, find a new job, fit into a different community, is expressing itself through the old samskaras and patterns. But this time I am aware. I am conscious. Which means I can work on un-learning and re-learning more positive patterns in their place.
When I catch myself in a spiral of negative thoughts, with that noticing alone I can guide myself to more loving compassion, to re-write the script in my head.
When I catch myself feeling like I’m literally floating and grasping and anxious, I can slow down and take a few deep breaths and ground myself in the garden or at the beach. When I hear a loop of lies, of shame or self-hate, I can tell myself that I am not my body, that I am beautiful.
Yoga is a huge tool in helping me locate the groundedness I seek externally, but internally. It helps me know that I am ‘home’ and that ‘home’ isn’t a place – but it is within me. I have everything I need to nourish myself, to root myself in me. Moving mindfully and with a focus on embodiment – ie, living, feeling, breathing, experiencing into every cell of my being – is such a centring practice to ground myself back into my body no matter if the ground beneath me feels unsteady.
Consciously observing my breath is another valuable tool to re-root and find groundedness within me to anchor myself in the present and in the now, amid the flow and the change. Standing outside with my feet on the earth to recharge with negative ions to rebalance my body on a bio-chemical level is so effective for a sense of stability and rooting, too - it's science!
Connecting myself with nature and the elements; practicing mindfulness; practicing an awareness of my felt senses, both internal and external sensations as I experience them in the moment, all help with grounding.
Even writing this right now is helping me tune in and see things from a more grounded perspective; I am tapping into my body and connecting to my body in this very moment as I write this fully present and aware.
These are all tools that I have learnt and that help me to cope with these feelings of groundlessness, tools to help me feel rooted within myself, tools that help unblock my root chakra so that energy can flow freely and rebalance my nervous system.
I also know, too, that the feelings of groundlessness will pass, that everything is temporary. This knowledge and trust alone is such a gift that I am only truly coming to terms with now – which, ironically, is the temporariness of change itself.
Amidst these feelings, I was inspired to theme a class I was teaching around cultivating groundedness and a feeling of being rooted. I wanted to provide tools for my students to use if they ever struggle with this themselves - especially those who are travelling.
As I was guiding the class with cues to ground hands and feet into the mat, to drop into and inhabit their bodies in the space, to take deep centring breaths, to devote the practice to a practice of self-care and nourishment, it rang true even for myself. I was re-centring myself as I was guiding them. In the 75-minutes I was fully rooted and grounded in presence and in full awareness of the now – not the changing.
After class I came home, had a shower, and stood out in the garden with bare feet. I felt the grass between my toes. I planted a cucumber seed into the earth with a new intention. I then played my favourite song and danced, by myself, for myself, around the living room (much to an onlooker's amusement). I reconnected myself to nature and to my body in just a few minutes and I felt such a sense of peace and release and of grounding.
So, it is possible, amid the change, to observe the Shadow and the shame and the resurfacing patterns (and sit with them), but also to know that when you have the tools within you to re-ground yourself when you feel groundless, that you can find your roots within. That you can guide yourself home. And that everything is temporary.
If this has struck a chord in you and you have experienced similar moments or sensations of groundlessness, I'd love to hear about it. We're in this journey of life together! I'm always at the end of a phone call or email, so reach out to email@example.com if you'd like to share in confidentiality.