Grounded


Grounded.  That’s the word I heard over and over at a recent Quaker Silent Retreat. During introductions before we entered into forty hours of silence, many of the twenty people in attendance said they had come with a hope of getting grounded. Many spoke of the annual retreat as a time to regain the Center that had been subsumed by work, causes, studies, care for family and friends. All came for time to reconnect with Spirit. That’s what I sought as well, and as I sank into the quiet at Huston Camp and Conference Center, surrounded by ragged ridges of the North Cascades, I carried that idea of being grounded with me.

Photo by NW Labyrinth Enthusiasts
Grounded. Several years ago, Camp Huston installed an outdoor labyrinth at the site of an abandoned swimming pool. Native plants mark the path; most are still so new I can’t identify them. This year, decaying alder and maple leaves covered the fledgling greenery, and the course was wet and muddy. Typically when I walk a labyrinth, even one I’ve treaded before, I have a moment of thinking I’ve made a wrong turn.  I have to remind myself that part of the message of the labyrinth is that there are no “wrong” turns, that I can trust the path, and that all I need to do is place one foot on the ground before me, followed by another step, then another.  It’s possible that this year, the leafy shroud obscured a turn and I repeated a section. Perhaps this year, the muck helped me to sink deeper into the ground of the winding route.
Grounded. When I was a teenager, being grounded was the typical penalty for staying out past curfew. It didn’t happen very often to me, but at any given time, one or more of my friends was sentenced to home, was denied use of the phone, and couldn’t have friends over.  I couldn’t know then how often I would seek ways to “ground” myself in order to renew and strengthen my connection with God and others.
Grounded. The first quarter mile of a trail at Camp Huston that leads to Wallace Falls is through a clearing under electrical power lines. I quicken my pace as I walk under the pop and sizzle of the wires spanning from the Cascades to the east and carrying hydroelectric power west. Exactly how grounding works with electrical currents is a mystery to me, but I do know that the utility poles that dot our landscapes have wires that connect to the ground. My trek along the Wallace River among the old-growth pines slows me down, grounds and connects me to Spirit. 
Grounded. My thesis advisor uses this word frequently in her critiques of my memoir. She urges me to “ground” my abstractions about fear, loss, and seeking in concrete details of the physical world.  To literally put my readers on the “ground” of my experience—smelling the smoke of a wildfire as we packed evacuation bags, hearing the rumble of boulders and cedars crashing down a flooding river, feeling the cold seep through my ski pants as I landed on my knees at the bottom of an icy cross-country trail.  The very act of writing roots me to the evidence of Spirit all around me.
 Grounded.  Mid-morning on the last day of the retreat, we all gathered in a circle for a final hour of unprogrammed worship. We broke the silence by again sharing, this time, reflections on the weekend.  Without exception, people reported that in the silence they had, indeed, reconnected with the wisdom and strength they too often ignore in daily life. I, too, renewed my awareness that in order to maintain my connection with Spirit, I must make regular efforts to ground myself. Usually, just as when I was a teen, I need to “go to my room” to reflect, at least for a few minutes every morning. Since the Silent Retreat, I’ve been more faithful in that practice. But as the days, weeks, and months of the year go by, I know I might succumb to the world’s messages to move faster and accomplish more. I’ve already put next January’s Silent Retreat on my calendar.
What grounds you?

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