In magical and spiritual work, we often use the term "personal practice" to describe our daily discipline of meditation or exercises. "Practice" means just that--repeating something over and over again until it becomes easy and automatic, just as we might practice a piece on the piano. To become adept at magic, at what occultist Dion Fortune termed "the art of changing consciousness at will," practice is required.

As the basis of a magical practice, grounding is the single most important thing you can do. In reclaiming tradition, we begin every ritual or magical activity with a grounding. But in traveling and teaching, I often find that even experienced Witches sometimes don't really understand what grounding means.

I teach grounding both to Pagans preparing for rituals and to activists preparing to face potential police violence, and the skill is the same.

If I ask for a volunteer to lead a grounding, I might get a song or a 45-minute meditation--which may be beautiful, but may or may not accomplish the purpose. Grounding means making an energetic connection to the earth. It's more than a metaphor--it's as real as that third prong on your electrical plug. It means being present in a given situation, with all your senses awakened, aware of what is going on around you, relaxed and calm but able to access power.

I teach grounding both to Pagans preparing for rituals and to activists preparing to face potential police violence, and the skill is the same--even though the language I use might be somewhat different. It's a tool that can help you keep calm, whether you're speaking to the great powers of the universe or to your City Council, whether your coven-mate's sanity is teetering on the brink or your 3-year-old is precariously balanced on top of the slide. Whatever you're doing or confronting, you'll come through it best if you don't panic and remain clear, centered, and able to make a conscious choice about your actions.

Grounding begins in the body. Try this: Tighten up your chest, clench your muscles, and think about a situation that scares you. Notice what fear and panic feel like. Then relax. Loosen your muscles, take some deep breaths that flow down into your belly. Pay special attention to your jaw and the base of your spine. Notice what feels different. Already you are starting to ground.

Keep your eyes open. We often lead closed-eye meditations for grounding, but when the altar catches on fire at the Brigid ritual, you don't want to close your eyes--you want to be able to quickly center and react calmly and intelligently.

Notice the soles of your feet, how they make contact with the ground. In a tense situation, just focusing on that contact may be enough to bring you back to a more grounded state.

Feel roots of energy push down from your feet through the earth below you. Like a tree, you can send things down through those roots and draw things up. With a breath, release any energies you don't want to carry--like panic! With another breath, feel how you can draw on the immensely powerful nurturing energies of the earth.

Imagine the energy rising just as water rises up through a tree's root system. Bring it up through your feet and legs and into the base of your spine, consciously relaxing any tense muscles. Again, this is more than a metaphor--it's reinforcing the natural energy flow of the body.

Bring the energy up your spine, paying special attention to your belly, solar plexus, and heart. Let it branch out through your arms and hands, and rise up through your throat and out the top of your head, just like a tree's branches reach up to the sky. Then feel those branches curve back down to reach the earth so that they surround you, creating a filter of protection. Just as a tree draws in energy through its leaves, you can pull in the sun's energy, or the moon, stars, or night sky, through that filter.

This is the basic grounding we use for ritual, and it can grow more elaborate. You can visualize all the different layers beneath the earth, of soil, rock, water, and fire. You can link the images to the seasons, to layers of history and ancestry. You can even do a geologically correct grounding, unique to your area. You can choose some metaphor other than a tree. Many psychics use a simple visualization of a grounding cord. Some people prefer a tail. But whatever you do, the point is to create your energetic connection to the earth and then to run that energy through your body, following the natural lines of energy flow. Then draw in the solar and sky energies and link them to the energies of the earth.

With practice, you can do this quickly, with a simple breath. But don't stop here. Remember, your eyes are open. Notice what's going on around you. Be aware of all your senses: what you hear, what you feel on your skin, what you smell and taste. Practice moving while grounded. Pick up one foot, then another. Feel those roots stretch; imagine they grip the ground and melt into it with each step. Move around the room, head up, eyes open and looking around you (not at your feet!). Feel how your body moves when you are grounded and breathing deep. Then come back to stillness and notice what changes.

Set a time each day to practice grounding--perhaps when you first wake up and step out of bed. But also practice grounding throughout the day, when you walk through the park on your lunch hour, while you wait for the bus, when you walk your dog. Notice how it feels to ground in different situations--in the midst of the city, in nature, at home. Learn to ground anywhere--because you may need your grounding even more in the noisy subway than in the quiet woods.

Remember, magic is not just for moonlit nights and secluded, sacred temples. Our magical practice gives us the tools we need to live more effectively in every moment and to ground our spirituality in everyday life.
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