"Ground and Center" is certainly the most fundamental technique in practicing Magick. From my experience Magic and Ritual are most effective when an individual participates with a stable and focused frame of mind. We call that frame of mind ?Grounded and Centered.?
Ritual experiences are both psychic and psychological. which means that Ground and Center exercises must be oriented on both levels. The Tree exercise focuses your mind on a concrete image, then guides your psyche to a Grounded and Centered state. The image of the tree evokes feelings of stability and connectedness with the Earth, when these feelings and images are focused upon, the associated psychic state follows right along. This may take some practice, but with diligence I'm sure you'll find Ground and Center for yourself.
Being grounded means that you have established a firm connection with the physical world. The largest physical object that each of us experiences throughout our entire life is beneath our feet, the Earth. Focusing on the Earth makes us more aware of the physical world that surrounds us. Awareness of the physical world keeps us from being swept away by the subjective feelings and inner experiences of the moment. Instead, we become able to experience these feelings with a balanced awareness that is both objective and subjective.
Psychically, a firm connection with the Earth hook: us to the largest psychic battery that we have available to us. The Earth is a storehouse of psychic energy, and when we connect with Her. we channel that energy through us instead of relying solely on our own energy reserves. Grounding properly helps prevent weakness, headaches, and the other possible side effects of energy work.
Centering, although linked with grounding, is quite a different thing. Centering involves clearing your mind of outside business and focusing upon the task at hand. For rituals and magic to be meaningful and effective, you should not be dwelling on what you had for lunch today, or your plans for tomorrow. "Be Here Now" is a phrase that nicely sums up the idea of centering.
Another important part of centering is your awareness of yourself; becoming aware of the Goddess that lies within us all. This awareness promotes stability, confidence, and a healthy ability to express your will.
Psychically, centering allows you to work from a stable foundation, helping to keep you from being magically thrown off balance. The Eastern philosophy of chi is a very good way of explaining the psychic aspect of centering. Our physical bodies have a center of gravity that moves and shifts as we move. Likewise, our energy field has a center that corresponds to our center of gravity.
Male and Female bodies are shaped different, and so have different centers of gravity. The center of gravity for a man is usually between the navel and the base of the sternum (solar plexus), whereas the center of gravity for a woman is usually between the navel and the pelvis. Focusing your mind on this area brings your awareness to the center of your energy field. This allows you to use more of the energy you have available, while still drawing energy from Mother Earth. There are several good books on increasing the chi, with exercises that are excellent for working on centering
One last thing that needs to be cleared. up is that Ground and Center is not the same thing as a Trance state; in fact, the two are polar opposites. If you seem to be having trance-like symptoms while trying to ground and center, talk with your teacher. These symptoms can include dreamlike visions, or a general feeling of being disconnected from your surroundings, as if they don't seem real.
If Ground and Center exercises seem to take too long, you may be trying too hard; or you may be achieving Ground and Center without recognizing it. If this happens, do something else for a while and try again later. Ground and Center is a skill, like any other, which only gets easier with practice; so practice. practice, practice.
Here's an exercise from Starhawk. I also recommend the "Tree Exercise" in her book "Spiral Dance"
Grounding begins with the breath. Try this: clench your stomach, tighten your muscles, breath up high in your chest. How do you begin to feel? (People often say, "anxious," "Tense," "Panicky.")
Now relax your stomach, let your breath drop down into your belly, into your toes as your belly expands. Do you start to feel different? For some of you, this might be hard to do. At first it might seem unnatural. Put your hand on your belly, breathe so that your belly pushes your hand out. Practice this, sometimes you need time before you can do it easily and naturally.
Now close your eyes for a moment. Imagine that breath pushing down through your feet, through the base of your spine, as if you were a tree pushing down roots. Let those roots go down through the floor, through the soil below us. Imagine they can feel something of the quality of that earth, what it likes to grow, how healthy it is. Push down through the waters under the earth, down through the bedrock, down into the fire below us. If there's still any tension or fear, let that go into the fire and just burn away into pure energy.
Now imagine you can draw some of that fire up. Feel it as the earth's living, creative energy, and bring it up through the rock and the water and the soil. Bring it up into your legs and feet and the base of your spine. Bring it up your spine and let your spine grow like a flexible tree trunk, reaching up to the sky. Bring some fire into your heart, into any place inside you that needs healing or extra energy.
Bring that energy up through your arms and out your hands, and up through your neck and throat and out the top of your head like branches that reach up to the sky and then spread around you and reach back down to touch the earth. They create a protective filter around you. Take a moment, look at that energy web, notice if there's any places that need to be repaired or strengthened. And notice how the energy in this room feels when we all do this.
Now feel the energy of the sun, shining down on your leaves and branches. Breathe deep, draw that energy in. Breathe it down through your leaves and branches, down through your heart and your belly and your hands. Take it in, feed on it like a tree feeds on sunlight.
Now open your eyes. Look around you, notice how other people look to you when you're grounded. Notice what's changed.
When you're grounded, when your energy is linked to the earth energy, you can still move. Imagine your feet have sticky roots, that can sink into the earth and then release when you move. Walk around a little, really feeling your contact with the earth, feeling those roots grip and release.
Now as you move, stretch your arms out to your sides, as far as they'll go, until you can't see your hands if you look straight ahead. Now wiggle your thumbs, and slowly bring your arms in until your thumbs are just visible on the edge of your peripheral vision. Notice how wide your field of vision can be. As you walk,breathing deep, grounded, activate that peripheral vision. Know that you can be aware of what's going on around you.
And now notice whether you are making eye contact with the people you pass. Keep breathing, stay grounded, keep your awareness wide, but now also make eye contact with each person you pass. How does it feel to be this present in a situation?
Now come back to stillness. As you breathe, feel where it is in your body this grounded place seems to live, and touch that place. Can you find an image for this grounded state? A word or phrase you can say? When you use these three together, touch, image, and phrase, you create an anchor to help you ground quickly in any situation. Try it -- use it.
Now relax. How did that go for you all? What did you notice?
Remember, the more you practice grounding, the more automatic it becomes. If you take even a few minutes a day to practice, you will not only have better energy in your daily life, you'll be able to ground quickly and instantly when you're in a tense situation.