What does it mean to be “grounded”? It is a fact of existence that we all share here on this planet: we are constantly subject to the law of gravity; constantly bound to this earth. One of the things we learn through our yoga practice is how to effectively work with gravity. We give our weight to the earth, and feel the sweet response from the ground helping us rise and move and sometimes even float through our practice. Rather than being dragged down into the inertia of gravity and feelings of heaviness, we cultivate a feeling of unconditional support, and consequently the ability to move through space.
We talk about gravity a lot, but what of that other force that complements gravity and helps up to rise to meet the sky? We could call this force levity. It is the force by means of which the stem of a flower grows up from the earth, and by which its bloom opens to receive the energy of the sky. It is the force by which mist rises from a calm lake in the morning, or smoke from a campfire at night. It is also the force by which laughter bubbles up from our bellies, and light shines from our eyes.
When we engage with gravity, we are not just collapsing into the earth. It is more of a yielding of force, giving weight, actively rooting. Like a plant, to the degree that we are able to actively root into the earth, we find the ability to rise. As we give our weight to the ground, we are simultaneously opening to receive the force that rises upwards through our very bones. We begin to understand in a real and tangible way that the sky isn’t just “up there”, but surrounds us and even exists inside the space of our seemingly dense physical bodies. This makes the difference between experiencing the body as a heavy thing to be dragged around, constantly fighting gravity, and an experience of the body as a vehicle for spirit to express itself through.
This can be true psychologically as well, if we look at the body as a metaphor for psyche and spirit. When we have a feeling that is “grave” – heavy, serious… instead of just letting it drag us down, what happens if we lean into that feeling, with a willingness to explore it? If we look deep into the nature of the sensation of heavier types of experience, with patience and compassion for ourselves, and with a knowledge that gravity is always intimately connected to levity, we may find awareness at the roots of our heavier thoughts. We may find that by yielding and engaging with the experience of heaviness, that that the experience does not have to be one of stagnation, but can be a catalyst for growth – perhaps even humor!
In yoga-speak, this is the play of Shiva and Shakti, and is the very essence of yoga. Shiva represents the “masculine” principal (present in each of us!), consciousness, stillness, space, the energy of the sky …. Shakti represents the “feminine” principal (also present in each of us!) of movement, that which changes, the dynamic material world. It is through the marriage of these forces that the earth spins, plants grow, seasons change, and we practice yoga.
As you walk the world this month, feel your feet touching the ground with each step, and how that energy send a current all the way up to your head. You might imagine your heart as a bloom, or you crown, or both. As you feel that energy rise up and out of your own eyes, shine that light of levity out on the world. Look around at the plants, the trees, and see how powerful their upward movement is, as well as their deep rootedness. Know that you are also that!