When I think about grounding, a part of that concept is what most witches would recognize as daily practice: sitting at my altar, sending my roots deep into Mother Earth, breathing through those roots, achieving a deep sense of groundedness to carry me through my day. And another part of what I think of as grounding looks more like living a well-grounded existence: taking care of my physical body, living in a clean, organized space, managing my finances, arranging my personal situation so that I can live with integrity, getting where I’m supposed to get when I’m supposed to get there, doing what I say I’ll do, being able to remain grounded, rather than scattered. That kind of integrity is important for a witch because, if your word and intention aren’t any good, as someone once said, in this world, how can you expect them to count for much between the worlds?
I’m often surprised how many people who would never think of disregarding the laws of magic are willing to disregard the other laws of reality. You’re disregarding the laws of reality if you live beyond your means, ignore your health, fail to manage the details of your days with at least some measure of grace and courage. I’m not talking about obsessive control; in fact, I’m talking about the opposite. I’m talking about mastery over enough of your situation that you’re able to achieve what you want to achieve, rather than spending most of your time reacting to forces beyond your control.
I think it was Thomas Merton who explained that the highly-disciplined day of many religious monastics is actually a springboard to the freedom needed to achieve serious spiritual progress. Few of us will ever engage in that much structure, but I think the point’s still well-taken: it’s difficult to do serious magic, to grow spiritually, to help to turn the Wheel if you arrive harried and late for the ritual (do not get me started on “Pagan Standard Time” — ha ha — rude is rude, and those of us who have been wasting our time sitting around waiting for you aren’t amused; just saying), if you’re worried about being evicted, if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before because you stayed up way too late (again) watching Buffy or playing Wii.
In D.C. Pagan circles, I frequently bump into a lovely young woman who clearly really wants to live a magical life and grow as a witch. She signs up for classes that she then regularly misses because (pick one) she’s sick with another bad cold, she’s out of money for gas for her car and can’t get to class, her dysfunctional SO needs her to bail him out, she just lost another entry-level job because she doesn’t show up there very regularly, either, she just got evicted because she had 15 cats living in her apartment even though she signed a lease agreeing not to have more than one, . . . . She volunteers for responsibilities that she then regularly has to dump, at the last minute, onto someone else because she . . . you know. Anyone who’s been active in the Pagan community knows people from the same mold. It’s not really surprising, when you think about it; people are attracted to ecstatic, magical religions for a reason. But you want to just pull a witch like this aside and suggest that what she really needs to do — in order to live as a witch, in order to do magic — is to get her “mundane” life in order before she takes another class, buys another Tarot deck, heads to another festival.
Engaging in the daily practice of grounding, the first kind of grounding that I described above, provides a really good example of what I’m talking about. It, or some intentional practice quite like it, is really the foundation of any magical practice. But it’s almost impossible to engage in that practice if you haven’t set aside a space and time to do it, if you can’t find your altar for all the clutter, if you oversleep, again, and have to charge out of the house in a frantic dash in order to catch the last bus, etc. What it takes varies for each of us, and one witch’s well-lived life might look like chaos to another witch. A good test is integrity: are you able to do what you say you’ll do, are you able to meet your “mundane” responsibilities, or do you go through your days caught up in a whirlwind that blows you here and there?
No, you don’t have to be a black belt martial artist who eats only wheatgrass and tofu. But you have to take care of the physical body that is your vessel for magic on this planet. No, you don’t have to have a high-powered job and make a million dollars a year. But you have to live within your means. No, you don’t have to live in a palace, or a magical woodland cottage, or a temple by the sea. But you have to live in a safe-enough, clean-enough, organized-enough, comfortable place to which you can retreat and from which you can go forth and do what you want to do in the world. And, no, you don’t have to devote yourself to only one activity, but you can’t be so over-committed that you never really “do” anything deeply enough for it to change you.
If you don’t regularly do this sort of work as Samhein approaches, now, at the end of the secular year, is as good a time as any to take a grounding inventory. What areas of your life are well-grounded? How’d you do that? What areas of your life could stand to be placed upon more solid ground? How will you make that happen?