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Rooting Grounding, Centering, Stabilizing, Sinking, Balancing Central Equilibrium, Zhong Ding, Gravity Powers, Vertical Forces

Most human beings can stand and walk capably on their own by the age of two.  The experience of learning to stand and walk, and our lifelong experience with standing and walking is deeply "rooted" in our consciousness.  Many metaphors essential to our thinking about life's experiences are based upon our bodily experience of standing and walking in a balanced, coordinated, efficient, and safe manner.  

    Good health is dependent upon standing and walking.  When in poor physical health we speak of lightheadedness, feeling faint, being dizzy, uneasy, too weak to stand, disorientated, unable to walk, being unbalanced, loosing ground, unstable, shaky, bedfast, disabled, crippled, collapsing, slipping away, etc.  

    Falling down is an unpleasant, painful, and possibly injurious experience at any age.  Nobody wants to loose their balance and fall, or trip, stumble, slip, tumble, be clumsy, or bump into things, etc.  Stumbling and falling out of a window, off of a roof, off a bridge or boat, or off a ledge or cliff in the mountains can all mean serious injury or death for the unlucky person.  Staying balanced and grounded and not falling are essential to our physical and mental well being.  

    When in good mental health we speak of being grounded, standing on our own two feet, being stable minded, balanced, level headed, being down to earth, earthy, etc.  Moral goodness is spoken of as being upright, standing firm, standing one's ground, standing up and being counted, rock solid, true grit, walking tall, etc.   We speak of our early upbringing as our "roots."  Strong "roots in the community" or "good moral roots" are admired.  Persons in poor mental health are unstable, out of touch, flighty, unbalanced, disorientated, off the edge, off their rocker, uprooted, drifting, fallen away, displaced, slipping, spaced out, on shaky ground, etc.  People with unethical behavior are on the wrong path, weak kneed, stumbling along, running away from responsibilities, fallen away, etc.  

    The "Tao or Dao" means "The Path" or "The Way."  Yes, we must stand and walk along the correct path in our lives, one step at at time, not falling, being upright, walking tall.  

    Beauty is associated with proportion, grace, nimbleness, strength, etc.; whereas ugliness is associated with clumsiness, awkwardness, stumbling, being ungainly, being unbalanced or disproportionate in some way.  

    Trees and shrubs require secure and strong roots for their well being.  They draw moisture and nutrients up from the earth through their roots.  Without secure and deep or wide roots the plant will fall down or be toppled in strong winds and die.   Being uprooted for a plant is death.  Likewise, human beings cannot be "uprooted" from familiar and safe surroundings without significant stress.  Metaphors, similes, and analogies connected with trees and plants are innumerable.  In Chinese, Gen = 根 = root, long slender objects; Shu Gen = 树根 = tree roots; Zhi Gen = 植根 = to take root or establish a base; Ben = 本 = roots or stems of plants, source, origin, basis.  The word "root" in English has over a dozen meanings and can be used as a noun and a verb.    

    Without plants all human beings and animals would die.  Without food from Mother Earth (Gaia) we die.  What Mother Earth gives us to eat we become.  Mother Earth is Our Home.  We are all married to Mother Earth.  When we lie down and die, Mother Earth swallows us.  

    Our ever-present connection with our Earth because of gravity is fundamental to our consciousness, sensation, and mind-body reality.  Our good health is dependent upon the role gravity plays in our lives, and the health of astronauts is adversely affected by living in a zero gravity environment.  Gravity "connects" us to the earth, fixes us in our place, roots us down.  Our lower bodies, legs and feet, are like our "roots" connected with the earth.  In Chinese, Di =  = earth, ground, field, place, land.  

    "Roots" are associated with fundamentals, basics, essentials, causes, origins, reasons, etc.  In Chinese, Yuan =  = root, source, origin; Gen Ben = 根本 = fundamental, basic, simply; Huo Gen = = root of the trouble, cause of the ruin.  

    One of the traditional Chinese Five Elements, Phases or Forces is the Earth Element (Chinese: 土, pinyin: Tu).  Likewise, in Western cosmology, alchemy, and neopagan metaphysics one of the essential Four Elements is "Earth."  Generally, Earth energy in the West is associated with Feminine Powers, mothers, goddesses, nurturing, fertility, eating, birth, stability, grounding, body, sensations, touch, soil, roots, darkness, death, north, dark green or blue, winter, permanence and snakes.  In Chinese cosmology, the Earth Element or Phase is associated with the Supreme Yin, mothers, nurturing, stability, rootedness, inwardness, centering, patience, practicality, late summer, yellow, spleen, stomach, mouth, empathy, and the Yellow Dragon.  

    One common symbol or image used to represent Taoist philosophy is the T'ai Chi Tun or the Yin/Yang symbol.  This image is now recognized worldwide.  One of the primary implications of the image is balance, balancing forces, and the interplay and fluctuation of two complimentary forces that ultimately must reach a balanced and harmonious state (Tao Te ChingChapter 42).  Striving to be in harmony and balance with the Tao is an essential goal of a Daoist lifestyle.  



The many examples and metaphors mentioned above point to our preference for staying balanced, properly connected with the earth, being upright, centered on the correct path, not falling, being grounded in reality, and not being pushed around.  Therefore, it is easy to see our attraction to mind-body arts and practices that speak often of rooting, grounding, balancing, and centering.

The characteristic manifestations, aspects, and qualities of "Rooting" in Taijiquan and Qigong 
to be cultivated through body-mind-spirit practices are as follows: 

Maintain an upright posture, head lifted, chin tucked, back straight;
Keep the head, torso, and hips in a relatively straight "plumb" line;
Draw energy (Qi) up from the earth (Di and allow energy to flow down into the earth through the "bubbling well" point on the bottom of the front pad of your foot (the Yong Quan acupoint KI-1); 
Sink the body weight through the legs and feet into the Earth;  
Stay balanced and relaxed (sung) while moving gracefully;
Keep the kneecaps over the center of the foot in settled positions; 
Imagine roots branching out and down 3 feet or more into the earth from the "bubbling well" point on your foot with roots that are deep, strong, and flexible; 
Develop an improved proprioceptive awareness of the skills needed for the specific activity;
Maintain a steady feeling state of being centered, stable, fixed, and strong in your position; 
Resist pushes from others by sinking into the Earth and holding a fixed, strong, stable, and settled stance and footwork; 
When pushing others use the earth, your feet, and your legs to generate leverage and power; 
Connect with the Earth, relate to Earth energies, integrate with the Powers of the Earth, feel the Earth's Forces;
Keep a calm, grounded, relaxed, and centered mind; 
Don't be so stiff and locked you cannot move with some fluidity and grace in response to situations and others; 
Align the postures with the path of least resistance (wu wei) in the body; 
Rooting is a feeling state and sensation-motor skill and less an intellectual concept; 
Maintain postures and footwork while moving that prevent you from loosing balance, slipping, or falling;
Breathe easily, deeply, and effortlessly through the nose;
Be aware of one's footing, i.e., uneven surfaces, slippery or wet surfaces, poorly fitting or inappropriate shoes, hazards, etc.;
Avoid practicing when ill, uneasy, rushed or upset;  
Maintain one's central equilibrium (Zhongding) in the postures and movements.  

The characteristic manifestations, aspects, and qualities of "Central Equilibrium" (Zhongding 中定)
in Taijiquan and Qigong to be cultivated through body-mind-spirit practices are as follows: 

Maintain an upright posture, head lifted, chin tucked, back straight;
Keep the head, torso, and hips in a relatively straight "plumb" line;
dynamic stability, be stabilized within, be centered, be settled;
Develop an improved proprioceptive awareness of the skills needed for the specific activity;
Be calm, still and settled in one's mind and emotions;
Allow one's body to sink and settle into the ground; 
Keep the kneecaps over the center of the foot in settled positions; 
Direct bodily energy (Qi, Chi) downward into the earth;
Relax (Sung), loosen, untense, and unlock the joints of the body; 
Avoid wobbling, getting out of balance, or straining.  

"Qi" is the Chinese word for energy, life-force, vitality, and aliveness.  Qi (or Chi) is similar in meaning to the term Prana in Hatha Yoga, and Ki in Japanese.  Qi is associated with breathing, the energetic aspects of respiration, blood flow, and the pathways for energy flow in the body.  "Gong" is the word for achievement through a disciplined practice, hard work towards mastery, and dedicated self-development.  Qigong (or Chi Kung) is a modern Chinese term for the ancient Chinese fitness exercises (Dao Yin), self-help health practices, longevity methods (Yangsheng Fa), meditation methods, internal alchemy (Nei Gong) and transformational body-mind practices.  All Qigong styles emphasize being centered, balanced, grounded, and being rooted in the Earth.  

T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan) means "Grand Ultimate Fist" or "Supreme Boxing." Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and Hsing Yi Quan are all considered "Internal Marial Arts."  The majority of the popular Taijiquan styles created in China are all less than 350 years old.  The most popular Taijiquan styles practiced in the United States of America are the YangChen, Wu, and Sun styles of Taijiquan.  Taijiquan movements are most often practiced by persons who have no interest in the martial arts, but can be.  All Taijiquan styles emphasize moving gracefully, attacking and defending while being centered, balanced, grounded, and rooted in the Earth.    

Many older persons choose to practice Qigong or Taijiquan because it improves their balance, coordination, and steadiness on their feet.  Elderly persons have good reason to fear the serious consequences of falling. Scientific studies have demonstrated that practicing Taijiquan improves leg strength and balance, and prevents falls.   

Taijiquan uses Sensing Hands (Tui Shou) or Pushing Hands to develop rooting power.  The regular practice of two people pushing hands will improve one's rooting and centering skills, and enable one to feel or sense this power in other people.  

The practice of Yoga also emphasizes being grounded.  Seated (e.g. Half Lotus Pose, Ardha Padmasana) and supine (e.g., Corpse Pose, Shavasana) meditation postures, and many yoga stretching postures, emphasize being in direct contact with the earth, comfortable, centered, settled, and fully grounded.  Seated and settled meditation postures held for long periods of time are very common in Taoist and Buddhist meditation methods.  The word "asana" in Yoga refers to being seated, settled, relaxed, secure, and maintaining an relatively straight and erect back.  

Static standing isometric postures are often held for long periods of time to develop rooting power and central equilibrium.  Static standing postures, Zhan Zhuang, are often used in Qigong and Taijiquan practices.  Yoga has numerous static standing postures (Kriyas), e.g., Mountain Pose, Tadasana, or Tree Pose, Virksasana.  

Best wishes for good health, happiness, and balance in the Year of the Water Dragon in 2012.


Mike Garofalo  
Valley Spirit Center
Red Bluff, California
January 2012 


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