I hit rock bottom after leaving a ten-year relationship and being laid off from my job. I had to move back in with my mother. When this happened, I turned to nature as my safe haven. I walked among the trees, grazing them with my fingertips; I climbed big rocks to work out the pain my body was holding onto. I let myself daydream and wander in the woods.
Before going out into nature, I always closed my eyes and breathed deeply, asking for my antepasados, spirit guides, and guardian angels to protect me on the trail. After all, I was hiking sola and could rely only on myself and my spiritual posse for protection.
Sometimes nature felt like an adventure I desperately needed; other times, I let myself just cry. I sometimes stopped in the middle of a hike to journal all my feelings, even the most uncomfortable ones. I always came back home better than I left, feeling more positive about my life. At the time I didn’t realize that I was healing in ways I didn’t know were possible. I was being grounded.
Grounding and Being Grounded
According to Oxford, grounding quite literally refers to being “well balanced and sensible.” And even though it's meant to apply to airplanes, the second definition is also worth mentioning: “prevented from flying." Because if you’re truly grounded like a tree, you won’t easily be shaken like a leaf in the wind.
Being grounded means feeling present in your body and connected to Pachamama. The opposite of being grounded is being fixated on the past or future, not present in the current moment. Every year, I set an intention to reground myself, focusing on a different pillar of well-being during each season to give me structure. I start in winter with the self, the first pillar, and work my way outward, through nature and movement, toward community.
The four pillars of grounding are the following:
Self: Checking in with yourself to see how you feel, making your space sacred, being compassionate with yourself in trying times, resting, and journaling. Intentional breathwork, including meditation, relaxes you and lets you focus on your thoughts.
Nature: Holding onto objects from nature like rocks, seeds, crystals, and herbal tea. Connecting with Pachamama heals just as well as planting our bare feet on the ground.
Movement: Dancing in the kitchen, doing slow yoga, or a healing hike. There is medicine in movement. Our ancestors knew this and practiced this in nature.
Community: Our tribe helps us feel seen, heard and celebrated. Before colonization, our tribe gathered around fires, discussed issues at hand, and healed in community. The medicine they passed on helps us move from surviving to thriving.
Grounding in Winter: Focus on the Self
Life naturally moves slowly, but why don’t we take advantage of it and look within ourselves? In winter, we have an opportunity to work with the season instead of against it. Winter is the ideal time to begin a grounding practice. We are at home more often, socializing less, adjusting to the cold. Instead of counting the days to spring, we can be present with ourselves right now, taking a deeper look at ourselves.
I use the winter time to unsubscribe from the corre corre of life, the hustle and grind, and settle into myself. Corriendo—comparing ourselves to others, moving on to the next thing without reflecting, living at speed—isn’t sustainable. I replace that with ease and flow. When we’re moving fast, when we’re ungrounded, it’s difficult to stop and check in with ourselves. Some of us are afraid to lose momentum, others aren’t entirely sure how to check in, and some don’t fully appreciate an intentional and quiet break with their thoughts. Here are some values to keep in mind during a winter grounding in the self.
Making Your Space Sacred
If every object carries energy, then you imagine how powerful it would be if everything in your space was useful to you or filled you with joy. We wouldn’t flinch at objects we wish we had donated or sigh at a mess in the corner we hoped we had tidied up. Those distracting thoughts about space make a big difference in how you feel day in and day out, in how you live and carry yourself in your space.
After living at my mother’s for about a year, I left to live on my own, vowing to make my space comfortable, inspiring, and intentional in every way. I threw out everything I had no emotional ties to, I decluttered my space of everything that had no real meaning for the person I was becoming. I made the art on my walls, or it carried a story for me. My altars had a defined space and I changed them seasonally. The books that lifted up my soul were front and center. My palo santo was handy, ritual candles ready, and a journal at my desk alongside the gel pens that lit my soul on fire. I spiritually cleanse this space once a week, setting out an offering for my spiritual posse and making sure there is intention in every part of my home.
Check your senses when in your own space. What do you smell, hear, or see? If you don’t like it, change it. You deserve to be in a space that makes you feel safe and loved.
Being Compassionate with Yourself
In winter, when you’ve set time aside to be with and ground yourself, it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself, especially if you’re trying something new. Think about how you might speak to a friend who didn’t get something right the first time or hasn’t yet landed where they want to be. Now double that effort and apply it to yourself. That’s how deep and intentional your self-compassion should be. What you say to yourself in times of trouble, reflection, and learning reveal a lot about your love for yourself, and this is especially important if you’re working on healing your traumas.
It was not easy for me to be compassionate with myself at first. I thought perfection was expected of me, so I had to work hard to remove myself from certain spaces. I had to change my self-talk from “Why aren’t I where I should be?” to “Well, damn, look how far I’ve come.”
Compassion goes a very long way. Moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset will change your life. Without self-compassion, without growth, I wouldn’t have been able to drive cross-country sola, launch my own business, or create a life different from the rest of my family.
What and how we breathe affects our mind, body, and spirit. Breathwork can be used to connect with yourself, ancestors, or simply relax. Breathwork has spiritual, emotional, and mental health benefits. You can call yourself back more quickly in moments of crisis, be aware of when you’re not grounded to avoid making major decisions, live a more peaceful life, feel more centered, and hear your own intuition more clearly.
Often though, we aren’t breathing the way we are supposed to. We need to breathe slowly, filling up our bellies with air and releasing it with ease. That has come to feel like a luxury found only in yoga studios, in meditation, or upon reaching a mountain top. But we can change this. We can learn to know when to slow down. If we’re caught up in the corre corre, we can’t truly take deep breaths.
Respira hondo, my mother would say whenever I was anxious as a child. As I breathed deeply I could feel the vibration in my body change, zapping away the stressful state I had just been in. I still use this practice. Ten deep belly breaths can take me from a fear-based place to a safe one.
Grounding Yourself in Winter’s Nature
We can learn from plants and animals about winter—they don’t fight it; instead, they prepare and adapt. In winter we get our life in order, slow down, and rest. This realization brings us transformation. Winter is not the end of a life cycle but its slow replenishment. This is the time to intentionally move slowly. The winter can also be an opportunity to go deep into ourselves and focus on what’s going on beneath us, like the roots of trees. Thus, in winter we focus on the self.
Healing and grounding don’t stop when it’s cold outside. For example, your intuition loves the winter woods. When you’re truly grounded, you can begin to receive messages and guidance from deep within. This is a process and a practice. The slower you move, the more you feel—even in the cold grips of winter on our souls.
For me, being grounded in winter has meant continuing to hike in the freezing cold. Being cold teaches me to sit with discomfort but challenges me to find the warmth and rhythm inside to help me get through it. Winter hikes can bring deep healing as our bodies work twice as hard to stay warm. But we also have to practice self-control and pace ourselves—sweating too much will cause dehydration. The sense of accomplishment after a winter hike, knowing damn well that I defeated the cold (and was even too warm sometimes!), changed my outlook on what I am capable of and on making the most out of my situation. And doing something I never thought I would—like winter hiking—keeps my spirit lit for the rest of the winter.
Another perk of being outdoors in winter? It’s extra quiet, which can give new meaning to the phrase “calm after the (snow) storm.” The quietness of winter snow is serene.
Grounding Yourself at Home
Nature is not the only place where you can get grounded. You can also get grounded at home. Before you choose any of the options below, it’s important to note two things. There will be times when it will be difficult to get grounded, for example, if you’re tired or sad. For those low-energy days, you might not go outside, but you might do breathwork, repeating to yourself, “I am safe,” and affirming, “I am grounded.” As with any spiritual practice, find out which of these ways resonates most with you and adjust them to your liking, add your own intention, and be sure to journal about what comes up:
Sit with a cup of tea (even for just five minutes) and focus on your breathing. For an immunity boost, boil ginger slices and lemon in water. Voilà: medicina.
Grow your own herbs or fruits and vegetables indoors at home.
Get your hands in your plantitas’ soil. Plant mamas and papas rejoice!
Take magnesium salt baths for stress relief and to ease headaches, joint pain, and cramps.
Use crystals and listen to music at healing frequency (432 Hertz)..
Stock up on eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, and other essential oils to breathe in during the transition from “work” to home.
Turn off electronics an hour before bed. Electronics drain your energy.
Learning from Being Grounded
The tools in this article can help you reclaim parts of you thought were gone. If someone had told me that all the coping mechanisms I’ve tapped into to help me heal my mind, body, and spirit were backed up by science and grounded in ancestral knowledge and tradition, I would have never believed them. It would have sounded too easy.
When I began grounding myself, I thought at first that I only missed my family. Later I realized I also missed having land to walk around barefoot. And farming—my grandparents helping to harvest, family reunions, staying up all night talking under the stars. I needed to touch that land, but the Andean highlands weren’t available, so I settled on day hikes in New Jersey along the Hudson River. I went sola or with friends or primas. Each time I came home absolutely empty, like a vessel ready to be filled up with purpose and joy. I started to journal in that state and found that I needed that time to tap into my highest self, to allow me to sift through my life with compassion and kindness. I know now that what I was doing was getting grounded, deeply and with real intention.
Every season offers an opportunity for grounding, and in every season we need one. Never have we ever been exposed to so much information. We have become a pretty distracted and disconnected society. This is why it’s vital that we all find ways to ground ourselves throughout all the seasons. In the spring, we look forward to the flowers blooming. Summer’s high energy gives us life at the beach or swimming in the ocean. Autumn’s leaves teach us the beauty of letting things go. But in winter, we ground ourselves by coming back to ourselves. We allow ourselves to be complete, at ease, or at peace with who we are. We are not lost. We are buried under layers of colonization, unwarranted expectations, unproductive criticisms, microaggressions, and childhood trauma.
As I was learning to be grounded, nature taught me that there is still a place in this world where we can be lost in wonder, restore our souls, and feel connected to the earth and our antepasados like never before. One way to help Mother Earth stay alive and well is restoring our connection to her to make sure we help her stay intact for future generations. Sharing this experience and knowledge is my way of reciprocating all that nature has done for me.
Cindy Y. Rodriguez (she/her) has worked in journalism for over 10 years for companies like NBC, CNN, Latina magazine, and Vivala.com, which she co-launched. One of her greatest successes was assisting in the launch HuffPost’s LatinoVoices. In 2015, she and her childhood friend co-founded the award-nominated feminist podcast Morado Lens where she and her childhood friend discuss sex, culture, and embracing intuition as a form of empowerment, all from a Latina’s perspective.
She loves creating impactful and diverse content for English-dominant Latinos. Recently, she’s collaborated with two women to launch Only in NoHu, a community project bringing together locals and highlighting North Jersey’s best local events, eats, and more. When she’s not at her 9-5 at WNET as a senior digital producer, she’s working on Reclama’s spiritual hikes and retreats for women of color.
Cindy was born and raised in New Jersey by her immigrant Peruvian parents and identifies as indigenous. Photo courtesy Cindy Rodriguez.
Ofrenda Magazine™ explores Xicanx and Latinx spiritualities, earth-centered wisdom traditions, and healing arts. Our mission is to inspire holistic wellness, ancestral connection, social and ecological justice, and spiritual creativity.