A deep-rooted and effortless connection to the earth, when the plumb or upright line of our bones yields to gravity, means we are free of discomfort or strain because no extraneous muscular activity need occur and less metabolic energy is expended.
We experience intrinsic alignment when the parts of our body that touch the ground effectively become our structural base of support, which allows a sequential and clear flow of energy through the body.
We will recognise this native human state by the strength and ease we feel, because actively yielding to the earth creates a rebounding force away from the earth, elongating the body upwards into space, bringing a sense of buoyancy and levity.
The grounded areas of the body provide support for the exposed parts in space to release and our breathing becomes less restricted.
The human plant
The standing poses of yoga provide excellent encouragement for grounding, especially when we focus the powers of visualisation to experience the invisible roots that connect us to the earth, extending down to the earth’s core on a deep exhale and on the inhale drawing energy up through the feet, legs, spine and crown.
In effect, the body becomes a conveyer for the natural flow of prana or vital energy that animates the entire planet and we feel an interconnection with the matrix of life.
When we expand our consciousness to include the substratum upon which life is built, we tap into universal spiritual consciousness - Source - and discover there is so much beyond our own small self-absorption.
The Earthly mother and I are one. She gives the food of Life to my whole body.
- The Essene Tree of Life
Plants exemplify being grounded
Plants consummately exemplify ease and grace in their relationship with the earth. We might learn a lot from them and realise that we are not hugely dissimilar with our own instinctual impulses that propel us to root down and respectively aspire upwards to the light to flourish as living organisms.
Generally, leaves and stems grow upward, toward light sources, while roots grow downward, anchoring the plant body. Unlike we of the animal kingdom, plants do not have nervous systems or sensory organs: eyes, ears, or a vestibular system, plants somehow seem to “know” which way is up.
Though out of sight and apparently hibernating in slumber, plant roots are very busy indeed. The root system of a plant constantly provides the stems and leaves with water and dissolved minerals and it can also store reserve foods.
In order to accomplish this the roots must grow into new regions of the soil.
The way humans and plants absorb food is similar.
The human intestine and fertile soil both contain bacteria and fungi, which keep them healthy by killing harmful bacteria and breaking down substances to provide food.
Exploring the dark side
Like animals, plants sense changes in their surroundings and respond to them.
Plants are able to detect and respond to light, gravity, changes in temperature, chemicals, and even touch.
Unlike animals, with muscles that can move fast, a plant usually responds to change by gradually altering its growth rate or its direction of growth.
Light influences how shoots grow and they bend towards it, so that leaves will absorb the maximum amount for photosynthesis.
Roots usually respond to light by growing away from it; they push down through soil because of the effect of gravity, they may also be drawn towards water, or away from bright light.
More than meets the eye
Although confined in space, roots have an extremely large surface area; for example, a single rye plant has approximately thirteen million rootlets with a combined length of 680 miles.
Each rootlet is covered with root hairs, some fourteen billion of them, with a combined length of 6,600 miles.
This entire root surface releases differing amounts of chemicals at different locations, strongly regulating the local bio-community throughout the life of the plant.
These compounds promote the growth of bacteria and fungi, stimulate soil micro-flora respiration, and stimulate the growth of nitrogen fixing bacteria and increase the numbers and mass of nitrogen nodules.
The presence of mitochondria in both plants and humans mean they both have cellular respiration.
Plants are all chemists, tirelessly assembling the molecules of the world.
- Gary Snyder
Reliance on Roots
Throughout history, humans have co-evolved with plants and their roots have provided economically important food crops.
Taproots such as the beet, carrot, parsnip, radish, turnip, sweet potato, salsify and cassava are used as nourishing food staples that store well in case of future famines.
Carbohydrates, fat, minerals, protein and vitamins are vital to both human and plant life.
Both humans and plants have highly developed immune systems. Antioxidants in plants protect their own cells from oxidation as well as the cells of the humans who eat them.
Our bodies recognise the substances that occur in plants, and so are able to metabolise or process them.
Turmeric, burdock, dandelion, goldenseal, liquorice and wild yam roots were and still are commonly used in medicines.
Food flavourings are obtained from the roots of such plants as ginger, horseradish, arrowroot, angelica, and sarsaparilla. Fibrous root systems are also agriculturally important because they hold topsoil in place and prevent soil erosion.
Human roots - Invisible to the eye
On an energetic level an equally elegant relationship exists between the human being and the earth, however because we are not working with the easily perceptible visual field, we must rely on heightened awareness to tune into the complex deep and irrevocable relationship that we too have with the earth.
Ancient yogic texts talk about this relationship in terms of the flow of prana and subtle energies and here the focus is very much on the Muladhara or root chakra, which is very much responsible for our grounded state. It is through the root that arises the nadis, the subtle channels that carry life energy throughout the body.
Anchoring our spirit
The root chakra is the first of our energy centres and rests in the perineum, at the base of the spine and draws energy from the magnetic field at the earth’s core. This energy moves up through the feet and legs, energising blood and tissues in the body.
At its basest level, it stimulates the aggressive drives that are linked to our survival; whereas on the subtle level it anchors our spirit on the material plane, establishing our worldly existence.
On a physical level the root chakra controls the adrenal cortex (on the upper end of each kidney), which is the storehouse for our inherited energy.
This chakra holds our genetic inheritance for vitality as well as our innate predispositions to disease.
Knowing our roots
The human genome is similar to that of plant genomes in that both contain around 25,000 genes.
Unearthing our roots reveals that each of us is a piece of the larger puzzle of a unique and complex network of individuals, settings and circumstances that constitute our heritage.
Delving into our family history can be an effective part of self-enquiry, empowering us to understand that we are a tiny rootlet that branches into a vast expanse of human drama and interaction; our personal tap root into the “mother lode” of universal human heritage. The genetic code of our ancestors is the force that has helped shape our values and world view and on a cellular level, it determines such things as our personality traits, how we age and our blood type.
Don’t just survive, thrive
Some attributes are keepers - those solid, dependable and persevering qualities that helped our ancestors survive - such as courage, stamina and resilience.
These are available to us within the domain of the root chakra, which forms the physical and psychological foundation of our lives.
Other traits from the darker side of our legacy have arisen from the hardships, deprivation and resultant suffering that our peoples surely experienced and are also bequeathed to us disguised in a predisposition for anger, resentment and insecurity.
People still exist within the primitive and dysfunctional ‘predator/prey’ mentality; that of aggression, greed, grasping, hoarding and over- attachment.
All of us have been uprooted or affected by the hardships of life, if not directly then through family history.
We grow towards the light
When we consciously balance our root chakra with nature’s help, we elevate our awareness to not be pulled down by patterns that are neither adaptable nor essential.
The weight of tradition, family values and religious precepts, which limit and prescribe how we ‘ought to be’ is lifted, freeing up a lot of energy for better purposes.
When we realise that the past has no hold over us and that we are so much more than our family, upbringing, schooling and religious beliefs, we subsequently rid ourselves of narrow beliefs so we are liberated to withhold the integrity of our own perceptions and love who we are.
Plant oils balance a dysfunctional root chakra
The sense of smell is very much a part of the base chakra and accordingly using earthy aroma can be far reaching in our efforts to become more grounded.
They allow us to become aware of the emotional charge surrounding us when we defend our territory.
Grounding scents from plants open up reserves of energy that we never knew we had, which can be better put to use for promoting health and creativity.
Being grounded allows us to come to terms with anger which when continued to be unexpressed turns into aggression and violence.
If your life is threatened or your beliefs are attacked, these feelings will surface and stimulate the adrenaline flow into the blood, causing sympathetic arousal of the nervous system when you become defensive and frightened.
Dysfunction breeds suffering
These negative states of emotional being can lead to physical problems associated with the root chakra; conditions that affect the feet and knees, kidney stones, osteoporosis, bone problems and auto-immune diseases.
Despair and victimhood are the eventual outcomes for continual ungroundedness that later generate violent or hateful feelings - negative attitudes that attest to a malignant disassociation from life.
This is when life becomes overwhelming and one questions one’s worthiness, and in some extreme cases death is seen as an escape.
We must nurture awareness of being grounded earlier, before things get so overwhelming.
This unwholesome human condition may be overcome by instigating innumerable simple things to encourage groundedness to create an inner stability, whereby we cope more effectively with change.
Using base essential oils and roots of plants, for example, help us administer our life force, which is based on energetic economy, security and structure to lead a viable existence.
This encourages attitudes that cultivate the trust in the goodness of life to provide for us through challenging and difficult times and firmly establish our right to the life we feel we deserve; our birthright.
The deep, dark base notes
In aromatherapy the base notes are those essential oils with the lowest volatility and highest tenacity.
They act as fixatives in a perfume blend because they have staying power and, being intense and profound, they bring out the depth to a composition.
It is these base notes that have the most resonating effect on our root chakra, freeing up constrictions that impede energy here.
These grounding smells anchor the root chakra to the earth and render us more patient and resourceful.
Fixatives or base notes are the most enduring aspect of perfume, capable of remaining present in someone’s sensual consciousness for longest.
Essential Oil base notes: patchouli, sandalwood, ginger, vetivert, cedarwood, benzoin, guaiacwood, amyris, frankincense, galbanum, costus, Peru balsam, oakmoss, labdanum, vanilla absolute, manuka, champaka, clove, nutmeg, turmeric.
Inert and resistant to release
The deep, mysterious base notes invariably consist of all the root oils as well as the earthy scents from resins, woods and barks.
They tend to be dark in colour, quite thick and heavy in consistency and sometimes they need to be melted or tinctured to be incorporated into a blend.
These denser, unformed base notes don’t always stand alone as complete, being foundational to a fragrant construction.
More fixed, obscure and less accessible than their flighty sibling essential oils, base notes are like our defining shadowed unconscious, inert and resistant to be revealed.
They transport us to hidden places in the memory and sensuality, calling up the impenetrable wild aspects of the external world and nature and the unfathomable internal world of the unconscious.
Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.
- Thomas Merton