Get Grounded Like an Earth Bender
Welcome back to our Avatar: The Last Airbender mindfulness series! In prior posts, we have covered fire bending, Air Bending, and Water Bending. These have given us skills based in breathing techniques, movement techniques, and worked to develop fluid types of expression. Today, we will be moving on to the domain of Earth Bending! In this post, we will be exploring techniques for groundedness, better developing an awareness of the present and connecting to the world around us. In the world of Avatar, the Last Airbender, Earth Benders are known for their steadfastness, resilience, and strength. They can change and shape the world around them, but the core of this ability is their connectedness to the strength and balance of the earth. Their connection with the physical world is their strength, and we can use similar principles to develop skills that enable us to remain connected to our surroundings and ourselves. Connecting with the Earth Earth Benders emphasize a strong bond with their element and incorporate it as a major part of their identity. We will also be harnessing this philosophy and working to establish a strong physical presence and connection with our surroundings. For the following exercises, I recommend being outside and connected with nature. If you are in a location where it is safe to be barefoot, then take off your shoes. Imagine you are an Earth Bender, feel the ground beneath you, sense its solidity and appreciate the support the earth provides us everyday as we tread upon its surface. Root yourself into the present moment. And as always, make time for reflection. Sculpt the Stone Earth Striding – This exercise has us in our bare feet, so be sure to pick somewhere that you are able to keep your feet safe. This can be done in the grass in your yard, soil, or mud in a park/forest, or on the sand of the beach. You can also bring the soil to you! All you need in a shallow tote and natural/organic potting soil or sandbox sand (do not use anything with manures or added chemicals). Find a location where you can stand or walk on the earth with your bare feet so that you can have a direct connection with the ground. Bring your awareness to the ground beneath you and notice the temperature, texture, and sensation of it beneath your feet. Visualize your connection to the earth beneath you. Maybe this is a flow of energy or imagining you are a tree, and your roots are growing deep down into the dirt. Sense this connection to the earth and your current presence and allow it to fill you with strength and resiliency. Know that no matter where you are, the earth is always there to support you. Stone’s Focus – For this exercise, you will need a rock or a stone, preferably with an interesting color, shape, and/or texture. Find a comfortable place where you can sit; either on the ground or in a chair with your feet on the floor. Take the rock in your hand and close your eyes. Feel the weight of it, the temperature, and the texture. Notice if there are any rough or smooth areas. Hold it for a minute or two, paying full attention to the sensations in your hand. Open your eyes and look at the rock. Notice the color, shape, and any patterns. Is it uniform, or does it have different shades or hues? Look at it from different angles and in different light, if possible. Think about where the rock may have come from. How was it formed? What natural forces shaped it? What human hands may have touched it before yours? Reflect on its age and what it has "witnessed" in its lifetime. As you hold and examine the rock, consider what it represents for you at this moment. It could symbolize strength, stability, or the enduring nature of the world around you. It might remind you of a particular place or memory. Take a few deep breaths, holding the rock as you do. Focus on the sensation of breathing in and out, and the feeling of the rock in your hand as you do this. Try to align your breath with a quality of the rock that resonates with you, such as its solidity or its agelessness. Thank the rock for being your focus and offering you this moment of mindfulness. You might choose to place it in a special spot or return it to nature Pebble’s Path – With this exercise, we will be creating a mandala which symbolizes our connection and place on this earth. Find a quiet, outdoor space where you can sit comfortably. It could be a garden, a park, or even your backyard. Look for fallen pieces of nature such as leaves, twigs, petals, seeds, stones, or shells. Be mindful and respectful as you collect these materials, taking only what has naturally fallen and what you need. Once you have your materials, take a moment to feel your connection with the earth and set a grounding intention. When you feel grounded, begin to place the materials you've gathered in a circular pattern. You may start with a single object in the center and work your way outward, or you may choose a more complex design. As you place each object, pay attention to its texture, color, and shape. Focus on the sensation in your hands as you touch each piece and notice any thoughts or feelings that arise. Take your time. This is not about creating a perfect piece of art but rather about the process and connection with the Earth. Allow the mandala to unfold organically, without rushing. You may wish to end with a gratitude practice, thanking the Earth for the materials and the experience. Guarding the Kingdom In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Earth Bending is more than simply a technique; it’s also an approach to life. These exercises will help to cultivate a mindset and philosophy of patience, presence, and peace. While these exercises can be useful for managing stress, we can also look at the principles underpinning these practices and use them to change the way we approach life. When we walk, we can be aware of the stability of the Earth right beneath our feet. When we eat, we can be aware of the connection that we (and our food!) have to the greater web of existence but appreciate and focus on the moment where we are experiencing the flavor, texture, and aroma of our food. Just as an Earth Bender changes and sculpts the earth around them, we can also be agents of change in our mental landscape. It takes time, but if we are consistent and patient with our practice, we can learn to tap into the stability and resilience that comes from this approach to life. Even when storms surge around us, we can be as steadfast as mountains. Zachary Dehler Egan (Zac, He/Him) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a focus for helping people foster emotional and social growth and healing. He is passionate about utilizing geek/pop culture based therapy for individuals 14 and older. This includes tapping into people's fandoms, utilizing board and tabletop games, and even video games to help people achieve their mental health and social skills goals. Zac has received training in using Solutions Focused Brief Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, and Mindfulness therapy which he incorporates into his sessions and interventions. He also loves playing Tabletop Role Playing Games, Tabletop Wargames; reading Fantasy and Science Fiction books; watching movies and video gaming. Some of his fandoms include Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Comics, Disney/Pixar and animation in general, and The Wheel of Time series.