"A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind."
Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido

There are certain survival benefits to having one’s brain and main sensory organs located high above the ground. Humans can see things relatively far away, for instance, compared to most quadrupeds. But an unfortunate consequence of our high off the ground brain location is that we tend to lose touch with the earth. We humans are prone to living in our heads, and our experience can be as if our brains were thought filled balloons floating along untethered.

This is not a healthy condition, and it is fair to say that one cannot be truly emotionally healthy if one is ungrounded. Connecting to the earth on a stable platform is step one of many physical and spiritual techniques for self-improvement whether they be meditation, Tai Chi or any of the martial arts, Chi Kung, Bioenergetics, or Yoga. If you plan to move your body, or if you intend for it to be very still, you need to feel your relationship with the earth and its gravity.

While it is OK to meditate sitting in a chair, sitting on a cushion on the ground is traditional, and not without reason. The quality of the experience is different. A proper meditation posture is stable and it gives one a sense of being part of the surface upon which one rests.

In Tai Chi or Chi Kung one would normally start in a standing position with feet firmly planted and knees unlocked or slightly bent. It is a position of balance, stability, flexibility and groundedness. From there one can move easily in any direction, or one can stand in that position for a long time without strain.

Why not practice standing and moving in such stable balance while engaged in the mundane activities of daily life. You could be standing at the sink, or the ironing board, or making copies at work and take a few seconds to recenter, connect with the earth and discharge some pent up energy.

Try this:

Stand with your feet two hand widths apart or maybe a little wider apart. Your toes are pointed straight ahead.

Your knees are unlocked and maybe even slightly bent.

Your spine is erect, so that your hips too are unlocked and floating comfortably.

Your head is up and balances comfortably upon your neck so that it takes almost no effort to hold it in position.

Your shoulders are, if anything, a little farther back than you usually hold them, so that your ribcage can expand fully with your breath, but they aren’t pulled back forcefully. Nothing is forced. 

Breath slowly. Allow the breath to flow out of you a little more completely than is your habit. Let the in-breath take care of itself.

Your elbows are at your sides hanging comfortably. Your hands may turn slightly palms forward as if you are ready to receive energy from the cosmos through them. Or they may be folded in some mudra of your choice.

Draw your awareness to your center point, which would be your hara (t'an-tien), which is a couple of inches below your navel. Imagine that this is the balance point of our personal universe. Everything moves from there.

Your body is relaxed. Relaxation is natural in this position because everything is balanced. You can stand this way for a long time, because so little effort is required. If you notice you are exerting effort, see what might be out of balance or stuck in rigidity.

Be aware of your body sensations. Notice your feelings. Notice vibrations, warmth or coolness, or tension. Notice if you have any mental imagery that comes up as you direct your attention to your body.

As you stand like this, be aware of your position relative to earth and especially to the force of gravity. As gravity pulls you, your balanced position creates the least possible resistance. You are like an arrow in the wind or a sleek ship cutting through water.

Imagine the energy of the universe flowing over you and through you. Good, powerful life-force flows down to you from the heavens, flows around you and through you, and you feel it discharge into the earth from your legs and the base of your spine. With it go your unwanted stress and any negative thought patterns you wish to dispose of.

Once you feel you have found your grounded, centered place, go ahead and move around. As you move, seek to maintain the balance, the connection, and the awareness of body in space.

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© 2003 Tom Barrett