A Question of Grounding

A fellow learner came into the practice studio the other day and said she really needed some grounding. I showed her a few things I felt could help and we reached a new place of learning by the time practice ended. Later, I wondered that if we know we need grounding, why can’t we do it when we feel we need it? Didn’t ever really grasp what it is in the first place? It sounded to me like a concept presented by a teacher in the past that sounded like a reasonable means of alleviating stress. Makes sense at first.

In tai chi we don’t refer to grounding. We have something named “root,” but I would not say it is the same as “grounding.” We also have the concept of “no root,” which I like to refer to as “not root.” In my lineage, we also practice sinking qi, being “connected”, moving the whole body as a single unit, and being weighted in gravity as we move (plus much more, of course). Perhaps my fellow learner was seeking “quiet mind,” which is a very important concept in tai chi practice, as well. I will explore this more in a later post, because it is so fundamental in tai chi.

Perhaps the notion of “root” comes closest to “grounding,” but root is changeable and doesn’t readily adhere to any preconceived notion to what it should be. Too readily we hold on to a notion of what something is in attempts to find stability. Our emotional mind does this.

From my tai chi perspective, this tendency in us, which is not unnatural, actually hinders our exploration of the true changing nature of the taiji, the supreme ultimate expression of any practice. More than anything, we want stability in life … and yet, change is at the root of life and, consequently, tai chi.… flux … no idea lasts … only movement continues and our perspective changes with every changing moment. Our environment changes with every changing moment. Outside forces shift as conditions, intentions, and perspectives change.

Perhaps there is no real thing such as grounding, only shifting of awareness from one view to the next, to the next, endlessly. Yet, within tai chi movement, there is a center that is motionless around which endless motion occurs. It is a silent place. My friend and teacher, Susan Matthews, sometimes refers to it as a black hole that astronomers talk about. Within this center place exists our orientation, our “grounding,” if you want to call it that. Whatever it is defies naming, though. I am certain, however, that it is action and we are always at a point on a path of evolving our grasp of how to apply it in our tai chi journey.


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