AK Reader: Centering and Grounding: Origins of My Daily Practice (2003)

I unearthed this old Sagewoman column yesterday; of course it appeared the same day that I published 

 My Journey into the Primacy of the Body (2001)

Because this essay is truly, a continuation of that one.

So glad to have a record of the time when I finally got serious about regular daily centering and grounding practice. For what’s primary for incorporated souls in this 3D life is not just the body itself, but the manner in which the body connects to the environment. And, looking back, I find it both wondrous and appropriate that the origins of my daily centering and grounding practice happened to be an insistent unconscious push to arise from bed to greet the sun as it rose behind the low hills at the yurts in Jackson Hole each morning. Why? Because that’s when I was born, just before sunrise. 

Here’s the yurt in summer, low eastern hills in background:



And here’s the view.

Centering and Grounding: Origins of My Daily Practice (2003)

by Ann Kreilkamp

My centering and grounding process began in May, 2000, the month of the rare Jupiter/Saturn conjunction. These two planets come together once every 20 years to inaugurate a new cycle fusing the principles of opportunity (Jupiter) and responsibility (Saturn). The May 2000 conjunction occurred in Taurus, the most earthy earth sign.

I decided to celebrate the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction by spending the entire weekend at our yurt, which sits in the rural village of Kelly, Wyoming, directly across from the Grand Teton mountains. I had made my home there for nearly two decades; but in the several years preceding this event I had been sleeping in the yurt and leaving early every morning to commute to our office in Jackson, 15 miles away. I was so preoccupied at work that, despite my promises to do so, I rarely spent even a full Sunday at home.

So this decision to be actually on the yurt grounds all weekend was momentous. I planned to start a flower garden, and generally do upkeep, picking up cottonwood branches that continuously litter the little yard, mow the lawn, tidy up the woodpile, and so on.

I managed that, and enjoyed it, too; my Taurus Moon had been craving just such a tactile, visceral experience, and finally I was giving in to that primal need. But as I raked and shoveled and pulled weeds and seeded, something peculiar was nagging at me.

Though I loved this glorious mountain valley, for the first time I was noticing something subtle but definite, something I could not ignore. I was attempting to consciously and deliberately ground and center into my home space during the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction in Taurus, and . . . I was not succeeding. Something kept me up in the air, nervous. And, I acknowledged, I had been feeling this way for a long time; perhaps as long as I had lived in the Tetons.

What was the cause of this chronic discontent? Was it an internal problem or did it result from my interaction with this environment? How had I managed to get so far out of my body that only now did I notice that I wasn’t in it?

I kept on gardening, bemused and intrigued, and, I must add, appalled. When did the disembodiment begin? How could I reinhabit myself? Digging in the dirt wasn’t really doing it.

I came away from that weekend with a conviction that though I was uncentered, to be sure, I also realized that I hadn’t been able to ground in that place. That though I had lived in Wyoming for 18 years — longer than I had ever lived anywhere — there was something about the entire Jackson Hole valley, or about my interaction with it — which didn’t allow me to truly settle in.

That evening I mentioned this discovery to my husband, Jeff — and suddenly, these words flew unbidden from my mouth: “We are going to leave Jackson Hole in two years.”

I was as shocked as he by this pronouncement. Certainly I didn’t mean it. Or didn’t think I did. And over these last two years there have been many times when I tried to wiggle out of what my intuition had told me, tried to convince myself that since I loved it in Jackson, I must remain.

Furthermore, I thought, it’s my problem that I’m ungrounded. I need to find ways to re-enter my body, to re-connect with the natural world. Shortly after that, without conscious intent, I began to do a simple personal ritual, on a daily basis. This involved rising from my bed to tiptoe outside the yurt at dawn. There I stood on a large flat rock and faced the direction in which the Sun was soon to rise.

Even before the glow of the eastern sky gave way to fire, the Sun announced its dominion by first spotlighting the sharp upthrusting tip of the Grand Teton to the west, then spread its rosy alpenglow over the sheer granite faces of the Teton range and leached down the bluish tree masses on the lower slopes. The ecstatic moment arrived: as Sun slowly and inexorably flooded the entire valley floor while simultaneously burning a hole in the eastern horizon, I joyfully raised my arms in greeting, while stealing brief glances directly into its fiery heart.

As time went on, the sense of anticipation that accompanied this ritual grew immeasureably. The Sun was calling me from slumber, pulling me from my bed to stumble into my clothes and creep outside onto that flat rock.

The Sun’s fiery heart was activating my own heart, which swelled in response to each day’s greeting. I can only describe this process as that of profound gratitude. I was grateful for the life force pulsing around and through me, for my family and friends, for the breeze caressing my cheeks, for the little yurt and the trees and stream nearby, for the wild animals and glorious mountains of my dwelling place, for the infinite sheltering sky.

As the months wore on, this uprising of appreciation for the whole of creation grew so great that there were times when I burst into tears.

This was the beginning. First the Jupiter/Saturn in Taurus event that left me aware of my own feeling of restlessness in the Tetons; secondly — and paradoxically — the repeating morning ritual which deepened my sense of oneness, not just with the Tetons, but with the vast spacious fluid in which all sentient beings are held.

Unlike the Jupiter/Saturn weekend, my little daily ceremony stole in imperceptibly. I didn’t decide to do ceremony. It’s just that one morning I found myself outside the yurt, standing on that rock at dawn, facing east, awaiting the sun’s rise over the low sage-, pine- and aspen-covered hills. And then the next morning found me there too, and the next, and the next. Soon arising before dawn to greet the sun became a regular part of my day.

The next change was about a year later, initiated when I noticed that my right hand was beginning to subtly shake when held outstretched. I was 58 years old, with tremors in my family line, so I was not surprised to see this evidence of my own aging process. Instantly, the thought occurred to me: I need to learn tai chi. Now.

I had always known that someday I would learn this ancient Chinese art, and had actually attended a few tai chi classes over the years. But each time the fiery restlessness of my five planets in the Sagittarius/Gemini axis had impatiently pulled me away.

This time I was ready. The tremor announced the need and my internal resolve rose to match it. I began to take lessons in both tai chi and chi gong. The classes met twice a week, and on the other five days I practiced what I was learning, diligently, one hour each day. I would do this at dawn, outside, as a more extended ritual for my regular honoring of the sun’s warmth and light.

I was immediately grateful for the ch gong practice because it is not difficult to learn. There are hundreds of moving poses, and within one month I had mastered enough of them to be able to easily practice on my own.

Indeed, I was astonished to discover that within only a few weeks of chi gong practice my legs felt as solid and grounded as tree trunks. The process of moving back into my body had begun.

It took longer to begin the process of learning tai chi (I am told that mastering the fine points of tai chi and chi gong is an endless process). The particular form I practice can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on how slowly it is performed. And, as I gradually discovered, the slower the better: the more intense the experience, the more benefit for the various bodily systems, the more concentrated and relaxed the meditative state.

Whereas before I had been impatient with the slowness of tai chi movements, now I was using tai chi to move directly into my visceral reality, to experience its fullness and intensity.

Within four months I had “learned the form,” at least to the extent that my body/mind now could recreate the tai chi choreography from beginning to end. I was happy that I had found this discipline, as it can be done in a small space, needs no equipment, doesn’t depend on good weather, and every day upon completing it, I can feel the chi — the life force — flowing freely and smoothly throughout my entire being.

Now, one year after starting this practice, my tremor is only barely noticeable and my inner restlessness and impatience are subsiding. My huge innate fiery/airy energy, which all my life had been fractured into impulsive and scattered forays into many different directions, is now focused to an extent that I am actually in balance — most of the time. The ragged edge is smoothing out as I learn to dwell within the center of my being.

My original question in May, 2000, “Is it me or is it my environment?” has now proved to be a false dichotomy. For as I moved internally, so too I found myself inexorably moving to fulfill that prophetic intuition, “In two years we will be leaving Jackson Hole.”

Jeff and I are now 1,500 miles from Jackson, living in Bloomington, Indiana, where he is a first year law student at Indiana University. What this change portends for me is unknown. I focus on remaining open, on becoming looser and looser, so that whatever does want to move through me will find an expansive route. I practice tai chi and chi gong every morning in our new back yard, enclosed within the fertile green of a Midwestern summer. I breathe deeply the soft humid air. I listen intently for the next internal directive.

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