Pattern #41


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Credit: Oren Lyons – Faithkeeper of the Iroquois Confederacy by Göran Gennvi

The ground is the dependable fundamental upon which we stand. Groundedness involves centering ourselves in what is truly fundamental and dependable, like factual reality; reason; deep caring; strongly coherent connections to self, community, place, nature, earth; basic needs and deep aspirations. The more of these we are grounded in, individually and collectively, the wiser we can be.

  • What really matters here? Am I / Are we keeping aware of that and taking it seriously?
  • Do I feel well connected to myself right now – my body, my thinking and feeling, my sense of what makes sense to me, the space and situation I find myself in?
  • Are we staying grounded in what’s real and needed or bouncing all over the place in suppositions, assumptions, preferences and views that aren’t well connected to what we’re trying to deal with here? Do we really care about what we’re talking about?
  • Do we care enough to make sure we’re making sense – sense to ourselves, sense to each other, common sense, rational sense? How can we get centered and grounded again?
  • What do the Earth… and Life… and future generations need from us at this time?
  • Can you feel your breath and the ground beneath your feet at the same time?

Going Deeper …

This is an edited version of the video on this page.

Groundedness is about being fully present and responsive to what is, to what’s real and to what’s most important. Many people think this is just physical reality, but it is also being present with your own consciousness, your bias, the needs of others,  invisible fields that influence all sorts of things. Anything that “is” is relevant to be grounded in because we’re trying to take into account what needs to be taken into account. So being present with what is and responsive to it is fundamental to that.

There are different dimensions to it:

Personal grounding: What do you most deeply care about and know? What are you most connected to? It’s about connecting to your mind, your heart, your body, your consciousness… Like this guy in the pattern image – Native American faithkeeper and spokesman Oren Lyons – he is so present in himself and to everything around him.

Being grounded in the things that you are related to: your relationships, your place, your community, where you stand and all the connections you have. Where do you stand? So often this is thought of in terms of individual Presence, but it can be collective too. A couple could be grounded, a group could be grounded, a community or even a whole society can collectively center or ground themselves in these things. That’s true also for other forms of groundedness: the depth of life, the web of life, the earth, nature, evolution, deep time, groundedness in ancestors, in future generations … having them in your consciousness.

You can be grounded in the flow and fullness of the present moment.  I see that often embodied in images of Aikido masters like this one

You can be grounded in spirit, dynamic fields of awareness, or things related to ESP. If you have such capacities (such as “being attuned”) that is also part of groundedness.

You can be grounded in the narratives and knowledge base and educational systems of a group or a culture – you can be aware that those things are present whatever situation you’re in with those people. They have profound impact on the people and situations that you are dealing with.

Then there’s groundedness in reality, in reason, in the facts of the matter: Who are the other players? What are the larger contacts and connections around what’s going on that are influencing and shaping it? – systems dynamics, chains and fields of causality, histories and trajectories. There’s motion and vectors built into the situation. You need to be present with them.

There’s a funny way in which a lot of this is connected to the Capacitance pattern – being able to hold all these things at once. There’s individual capacities and responsibility to know what’s going on.  And we can readily see the profound impact of what’s collectively noted and attended to: What is assumed to be important and real in a group or society, and how that shapes individual and collective activities. That’s all a major piece of it.  So having forums where a well-grounded common ground can be developed is vital.

It’s another kind of attention we can bring:  We can help – not only by being grounded ourselves as individuals or as groups, but by helping societies and others be grounded.

Another thing is being grounded in the energies of a situation: What are the drivers, the needs, the purposes, the longings, the values, the interests, the passions,…? – all these have directional energy and caring that manifest their aspirations.  They’re all basic life energy.  They all manifest in somewhat different ways, but the life energy in the systems and people – the life and lives you are engaged with – those are profoundly important to take into account.

All these things are about taking things into account for long-term broad benefit – our definition of wisdom. That is the way this groundedness ties in.

So where is it trying to go, what’s it trying to do? Sometimes you have to understand the interests and passions and goals of people and groups in a situation that you aren’t in agreement with. If you fight them, if you resist them, you aren’t being grounded.  But if there is something in them that you can work with – some deeper needs underlying and driving their particular purposes and proposals – you can try to tap into what’s there and be responsive to it and figure out how to move with that energy.

It is no accident that Oren Lyons, a well-known native American, is pictured here.  He embodies that grounded quality applied to many other areas than the physical challenges of attack and battle and all the rest.

We’re trying to be aware of our own role, our own awareness, our own capacities individually and collectively. What are we doing in this situation? How is our individual and collective way of being here shaping what’s going? We’re trying to be aware of that while not being thrown off by it. Groundedness implies a certain stability, fundamentally you are standing on something that is really there. You are not acting as if it’s not. You are facing reality, and that’s fundamental.  We want to minimize the distractions and distortions that can arise within us and around us. “Let’s be real, what is happening here folks!?” That is basically of what this is about.

At a societal level, a systemic level, you have the media, watchdog groups and feedback forums, institutional reviews, and so on, playing this grounding role. There are all these things which can be established to return us to the grounded state. It’s almost like the meditator returning to their breathing, returning to whatever their attention is focused on (depending on their kind of meditation).

Life can be pulling us off our Presence, our stance on the ground, our connection to what’s fundamental and important. There are different ways at all levels of scale, of levels of reality to bring us back to what is most important and most real. That’s where we have (referring to the pattern heart) factual reality; reason; deep caring; strongly coherent connections to self, community, place, nature, earth; basic needs and deep aspirations. These are what we want to continually come back to and be grounded in, and having that groundedness inform what we are doing and trying to do, and seeing and taking into account.  That’s the basic underlying principle of groundedness.

Possible Resources

A resource which focuses on basic needs is Nonviolent Communication. Grounding in Fundamental Needs has its own pattern, but it’s one of the most important forms of groundedness. As resources: Nonviolent Communication is an archetypal one. But there’s also a comparable needs analysis for whole social systems, Manfred Max Neef’s economics work on what are fundamental needs of people and how do people get distracted from that and how the system gets distorted by pseudo-satisfiers of those needs – that logic of returning to fundamental needs is key.

I think of bioregionalism as a good form of earth groundedness that is sensitive to nature. There’s people for whom nature is spiritual, Earth is mother, Great Spirit,… this sense of having a spiritual presence in nature and nature as a spiritual presence in and around you – that’s a form of groundedness – the pagan consciousness. Scientific dimensions of that are like bioregionalism: we all live in watersheds, we all live in places that are defined by certain interrelationships. Water is one of the most fundamental ones. Where the streams are and how the rain falls and moves in its great cycles – we are deeply dependent on that. Bioregional people are aware of where did the things that flow through their community come from and where did they go, and what happens to them while they are here. It is the sense of being immersed in the flow and conscious of the flow and touching base with the flow of materials – particularly water – in their region. That’s a form of groundedness.

There’s lots of references talking about facts and fake news and all that. The deeper you go into that, the more complex it gets. How to measure media literacy on materials are important, the fact checking and so on.  But we also need to understand that different people see “reality” through different lenses and there are many resources to understand that. How do you deal with that? You can be dealing with people all around you who are seem to be operating in a totally different set of facts, “alternative facts”.

I have this great quote from Philip K. Dick about reality. He says: ““Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” The sense that many different frames of what is real and true are useful for different purposes and there are consequences to believing particular narratives about what’s real and true. You get beyond right and wrong (in their moral absolutist sense) and go: “What are the consequences of thinking that way?”

It’s like what are the consequences of buying into the framework of infinite material and technological progress? That is fundamental to the majority of civilization that we live in. There are consequences to that, there are great things that come out of that, and there are horrible things that come out of that. So being aware of that is part of being grounded.

The derivation of the word “truth” comes from an Indo-European root word for “tree”. Trust and truth all have the same root. It’s like that which is totally dependable, reliable, that’s the groundedness factor.

There’s many resources on reason. There is a philosophy discussion of reason that I link in the resources. There are many different ways to have deeper connection to yourself. Meditation, the overwhelming majority of meditative approaches have some focus point that you’re supposed to attend to as an exercise, like doing psycho-spiritual push-ups or whatever. Like physical exercise, meditation is a mental spiritual exercise. You focus your attention on a particular part of your body, or breathing, or chant, … you are trying to be fully present with that.  Just like physical exercise enables you to do many physical things in the real world, the meditative exercise of focusing your attention and/or spanning your attention helps you in your everyday life. It enhances your freedom from getting trapped in one perspective or another or getting distracted from what’s really real and important. So those are some of the resources that I offer some links to.

But it’s a vast subject. This is not something you can go: “Okay here are the four “How-to’s”. It is a very big subject and there is lots of room for people to contribute resources or ideas to this pattern to help us be grounded and pay attention to that which we should be taking into account in ways that will enable long-term broad benefit.

Video Introduction (16 min)

Examples and Resources