For as long as I can remember I’ve walked on my tiptoes.
I bounce around like Jan Brady, my feet never fully making contact with the ground.
Friends tell me they can spot my gait a mile away.
Originally I assumed it was the result of wearing stilettos almost exclusively from the time I was a preteen. In fact I’ve even heard that old Italian nonnas wear slippers with wedges because their Achilles tendons are so shortened from wearing heels their entire lives.
However after two years of traveling the world barefoot
I’ve come to believe that this behavior has less to do with my footwear and much more to do with my muladhara.
Have I totally lost you?
In the yogic belief system, muladhara, also known as root chakra, is the energy center at the base of our spines that connects us with the grounding energy of the Earth. This ball of nerves sends our brains important messages about whether we are safe or whether we are threatened. Consequently it triggers our response to tense or to relax. Why? Because our root, our foundation, communicates our state of survival, the basis of all of our fears.
When our root chakras are balanced we feel secure, fulfilled, and present. We know that our needs are met and that our safety is ensured. We have the confidence to chase our dreams. When our root chakras are imbalanced we can become anxious and needy. We often fixate on the past or worry about the future. Worst of all, we may act based on fear.
As the basis of our entire foundation, our root chakra establishes our connection with our selves, our family, our surroundings, and our earth. Therefore having a balanced root chakra is clearly imperative in being balanced in life.
Do you see what I’m getting at here?
Being grounded is like, really important.
So how is a nomad, thousands of miles from family, whose surroundings constantly change, who never stands on one patch of earth long enough to call it home, supposed to be grounded? How does someone with this lifestyle solidify her foundation to be a stable human being, rooted in the present moment? Especially someone who has never even been able to plant her feet fully on the ground?
One word: practice.
When I lived in the jungle of Costa Rica with little more on my agenda than practicing yoga, swimming in the ocean, and dancing to reggae, feeling grounded was easy. But today, backpacking through Southeast Asia, never spending more than a week in a town or a month in a country, operating almost exclusively in survival mode, I feel my heels creep up often.
I find my mind drifting to the last country I visited, the last guy I felt for, and my god does my mind wader back to Costa Rica. Other times it moves forward. Where should I go next? How will I sustain this lifestyle? Will I ever find love again?
When this happens, I turn to these practices:
Do Something Physical
Beyond the man made structures we dwell in and the cities and countries we come from, we have one physical home that never changes. Our bodies. Our bodies are our physical manifestation of ourselves and therefore our vessel for connecting with everything that surrounds us. Sometimes we become so caught up in our thoughts and our worries that we forget about the flesh and bones that is also us.
Go for a run until your heart pounds. Dance until you drip with sweat. Stretch and notice where you hold tension. Let someone touch you and let it feel good. Do something that reminds you that despite your bank balance or the hurtful thing someone said, you are still alive.
Without breath our bodies would lay lifeless. So clearly the way in which we breathe affects our connection to our physical selves. Notice how you breathe when you are stressed, fearful, or approaching a difficult moment. Most of us naturally hold or shorten our breath in these moments.
By using pranayama exercises we can actually train ourselves to control and deepen our breath. One method is to inhale deeply and hold the breath. Count to ten. Release the breath then hold it at the bottom of the exhale. Count to ten. Repeat. This simple practice immediately calms us, reconnecting us with our bodies and keeping us in the present.
Make Peace With Family
Our root chakra, our sense of survival, originates from our creation. Often our level of security depends on our upbringing and our relationship with our families. If these relationships feel solid, then we feel solid.
Familial relationships are always complex, but by accepting our parents for who they are, and our relationships with them for what they are, we can feel greater stability within ourselves. They are, after all, who we come from.
Spend Time in Nature
Our parents may have created us, but our deepest origin is the earth. Connecting with the ground, the forest, the mountains, and the ocean, reminds us of our humble roots. Ever noticed a deep feeling of calm after walking barefoot on the beach and listening to the ocean? How about a serene peace looking at a valley from the top of a summit? There’s a reason why it’s called being grounded.
Walking barefoot on the earth has actually been scientifically proven to decrease inflammation, lower stress, improve sleep, and help a whole host of health problems. How exactly? Just like an electrical device, our bodies are charged with positive ions. We acquire them from working on computers, flying on airplanes, even going about our normal routines. In excess these ions can leave us wired, depleted, and inflamed. When we make contact with the ground these positive ions are actually discharged from the negative electrons in the earth, just like a grounded electrical plug. Our bodies are thus designed to seek balance through physical contact with the earth.
The problem is, most of us never actually ground ourselves. Rubber soles, tiled floors, and paved roads all put barriers between our bodies and the actual ground.
So why not throw off your shoes and run through a field? Walk barefoot on the sand even when if air and the sea is cold? Wiggle your toes in the soft, powdery dirt? I promise that if you do you will instantly feel more present and calm than you have all day.
Nothing hones our ability to be rooted in the present more than mindfulness meditation. Try focusing on one thing. It can be an object, a mantra, or even your breath, but as your mind begins to stray, bring it back. I like to inhale the word “let” and exhale the word “go” or imagine the tide pulling out with each inhale and crashing in with each exhale.
This practice trains the mind to remain on an intention rather than aimlessly wandering. With the ability to have full awareness of what is actually happening around us we gain greater agency in steering the direction of our lives.
Resist the Urge to Move
My life often becomes a compromise between my wanderlust tendencies and my internal wisdom. As someone deeply passionate about travel, movement is inevitable. However I recognize that often the best way to find balance, clarity, and grounding, is in stillness.
When we sit still we begin to minimize the distracting changes around us. We begin to focus inwardly more than outwardly. This practice shows us where we, as individuals, are physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Most importantly, if we don’t like what we see we can’t move to distract ourselves. We must face our discomfort and ourselves. This brings us incredible awareness of who we are on our most base, earthly level.
There is nothing more grounding that remembering everything that we have to be grateful for. When we worry about whether our bus will come on time, if our business deal will fall through, or how we will afford luxuries like a new car or a bigger home, remembering that we have everything that we need in ABUNDANCE already brings us right back down to Earth.
We can always find a silver lining and we can always find something to be grateful for. The world is full of magic and blessings in every single moment. When we root ourselves in the now we can fully see and appreciate them.