Grounding and Centering

Fundamental Skills of Contact
Compiled form the work of Peter Levine, Marianne Eckberg

Bring to your awareness how you are organized physically, what your body does on a physical level when you dissociate
or becomes hyper-aroused.  Note muscle tone; tense or flaccid? Control is everything to a survivor.  Grounding while
telling your story keeps you in the present and past, safe and in danger, at the same time.   

“…..The art of life lies in going with the flow rather than trying to control it.  Happiness arises, not out of
pushing away pain and pushing the pleasure button.  That makes us into addicts, and causes untold
suffering.  Happiness comes when we dance with the flow, when we participate with whatever arises.  So
we come upon the radical idea that happiness is not about how many good times we’ve had and
bummers we haven’t had, but from being willing to greet life as it occurs, to meet it and respond in its
gush and flow.  We don’t attach to the contents of life, but we celebrate the very process of being
Christine Caldwell,
Getting out Bodies Back

Find the area in the lower back, behind and below the navel, on the front side of the backbone.  Notice
the sensations at the core of you.  This is the balance point between halfway up and halfway down
when standing.  Move your awareness slightly around your lower backbone and notice core the
sensations as you do so.  Twist at the waist to gently to feel the lower back muscles move.  Slowly and
deliberately, slightly arch your back, and notice the sensations, and then, notice again as you reverse
and bend forwards.  Tense the deep stomach muscles and pull slightly forward to feel them.  Notice the
sensations as you release.  Breathe to pull the diaphragm downwards and push the belly outwards.  
Notice the emotions held in the core of you; deep feelings of sorrow, happiness, anger, wanting and
longing.  Find the feeling of ''being me'', and the ''right to be myself''.  
Feel the muscles under your skin.  Get a sense of their presence, strength, and tone. Get a sense of
your core, center, and imagine pushing against someone's resistance.  Tense the stomach muscles
and lower back against resistance.  Notice the feeling of concentration, power. Feel the strength of
resistance all the way to the ground.   Imagine the need to flee an overpowering threat, and how your
sense of your core can carry you faster, balance you as you escape.  Your legs hang from your center
and carry you.   

Staying grounded means staying connected to ones' self and to the ground.  There is expansiveness in
the body tissues rather then constriction.  Breathing is open, and there is fluidity and movement of
energy through the body.    
When there’s trauma, it’s like the legs get knocked out from under us, and we lose contact with the
ground that supports us.   Gravity is the force that keeps you on the ground.  Feel the different
sensations of pressure on your feet as they touch the ground. [and/or your body supported by the
chair]. If you pay attention to it, you can sense your physical weight, and each ounce is carried by your
body’s frame into the ground whether you sit, stand or lie down.  Try surrendering to the force that
holds you to the earth, and trust that gravity will actually hold you.  Imagine trusting your surroundings
and the ground under you to support and hold you. The emotional contact with the ground is what
creates the sense of support beneath us. Gravity works, and you can trust the ground beneath you to
hold you and the reality you are in.   Move your energy down the body, from the torso to the legs and
feet, from the interior of the body to the extremities and the surface of the skin.  Release the
constriction [tightness], in the tissues by working the tensions downward.  [as though grounding static
electricity].  At the same time, energy can flow upwards from the ground.  The postural muscles can
work in your lower legs, your thighs, and your back to keep you standing with a flexible cooperation
between downwards and upwards energy.  Become more grounded in present reality, sensing your
strength and capacity for self-support, to move, fight, flee.  
Exaggerate a particular aspect of physical organization, such as tightening a supporting muscle group,  
slowly and deliberately, and then come out of the exaggeration with awareness.  Test the chair or the
floor and be sure it will always be there for you.
Stand.  Place feet shoulder width apart.  Lock your knees and imagine a push against you. [or feel a
real one].  Imagine pushing back.  Now, bend your knees.  Feel your center over your flexed knees and
feet.  Balance your center over your knees and feet.  
What can a sensation of grounding give us?   When we get frightened, we often lose the sensation of
the ground beneath us, and it is impossible to contain the fear.  It is not possible to hold such a strong
feeling without the sensation of the earth beneath.  To feel the ground beneath you makes it possible to
hold the fear.  Grounding gives balance, a place to stand, a possibility to contain life, a possibility to be
able to differ, a possibility to stay on the earth in reality when things get hard, intense or powerful.  
Develop awareness of the moments of somatic organizing at the moment of panic, anxiety,
immobilization, dissociating, helplessness.  

The earliest boundary is moving into the  baby’s body, and over time learning its skin borders.  It is
sensed on the bodily surface, the skin.  Many adults barely feel their skin; with some it is forgotten or
neglected, and needs to be rediscovered.  The sensation of tapping the skin or tensing the muscles
helps clarify the energetic boundary.  
The next boundary is the energetic boundary of your personal space, the air around you so close that it
belongs to you and that you have the right to control.  You can feel in your body what is happening to
your energy, whether it is respected, bothered, invaded, or met by other people.  You can tell when
someone is too close and your personal space is crowded or invaded by another.  Notice the changing
sensations of heartbeat, sweaty palms, held breath, an impulse to push with the arms, or similar
reactions.    Conversely, you can tell by a warm flow in the chest, a sensation of feet against the floor,
calmness in the stomach that say when the space is just right.  
The ultimate boundary is the word “no”.    You can find ''no'' in your impulses to say ''stop'' when you
don't want to continue, the impulse in the feet and legs to move away, the impulse to state what you
want, other impulses to pull and push in the arms, the impulse to make the physical distance I want from
another person, and the impulse to fill up my personal body and space with ''me''.  

Develop the ability to ''let down'' when breathing.  Exhale fully.  Now, find that little bit of air left in your
lungs, and let it out.  Be empty for a moment.  They call that a ''still point".  Put a little pressure on the
feet to inhale  fully to the bottom of the lungs.  Expand the belly, and then surrender to the out breath,
exhaling all the air.  Pay attention to the exhale, and the inhale will take care of itself.
Next, shrug the shoulders into the in breath as you let out the belly.  Exaggerate the tension as the
shoulders reach the ears as you breathe in.  Now, bring the shoulders back as you begin to exhale.  
Now, let the shoulders drop as you exhale.  
Levine's Breathing;  Place one hand over your chest, and the other on your abdomen.  Breathe deep
into your belly so that the hand on the abdomen rises with the in-breath.  The top hand should be
relatively still.  Feel the belly expand with the in breath and contract with the out breath. Continue until
....Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in
silence.  As far as possible without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.  Speak
your truth quietly and clearly and listen to
others.  They, too, have their story.  Be
yourself.  Especially, do not feign affection.  
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of
all aridity and disenchantment, it is as
perennial as the grass....nurture strength of
spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.  
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.   
Many fears are born of fatigue and
  Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.   You are a child of the
universe...the universe is unfolding as it
should.  Therefore, be at peace with
the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with
your soul.  Go in peace.  
Anonymous benediction
Kayaderosseras Creek, Saratoga County