When you think of staying grounded, or being mindful, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For some, it’s meditation. For others, it’s deep breathing or affirmation statements. Still others think of misty mornings with a cup of coffee or tea, planning their day and sending positive vibes into the ether.
Me? I think of a big metal clamp and a mistake I make five or six times per day.
Weird, right? It’s totally true, though.
See, I’m a welder– and I tend to make weird connections between my job and the regular world. The clamp I’m talking about is called, fittingly, a ground clamp. It’s what makes welding possible. And I can think of no better metaphor to help us stay mindful and grounded in our day to day lives.
Let’s start with some background.
For this metaphor to make any sense at all, you need to understand that welding is just one big electrical circuit. On one end you’ve got a welding machine which provides electrical current, and on the other you’ve got a ground cable (and the big clamp) that connects the material to be welded back to the machine. When I pull the trigger on my welding gun, filler-wire is advanced, connecting the current from the machine to what I’m working on via an intense electric arc. This arc creates a tremendous amount of heat, and when you add that heat to metal (along with the extra filler-wire), BOOM (or maybe ZAP!) you get a weld. Basically.
Unless, that is, the ground isn’t connected. Which, for me, it frequently isn’t.
Several times per day, I completely forget to connect the ground clamp to whatever new thing I happen to be working on. When this happens, I am rewarded with an obnoxious bump as my welding wire makes contact with an inert hunk of metal, and a feeling of resigned amazement that I forgot something so critical and obvious again. At this point I usually hang my head, roll my eyes, and moan “grooooound” as I walk over to get the clamp. It’s an easy mistake to make, and doesn’t hurt anything, but man is it annoying.
I think this is a really good –if somewhat weird– metaphor for us as we try to stay grounded and mindful in our daily lives.
In today’s world of phones, and internet, and jobs, and pandemics, and whatever else is constantly distracting us, it’s really easy to lose our way and become untethered from the things that help us be happy. Far too often, I find myself wrapped up in stress about work, spending hours staring at my phone, playing way too many video games, or doing any number of other mind-numbing pacifying activities, and then wondering why I’m unhappy.
How often do we forget, or ignore, the things which allow us to have rich, fulfilling lives? When this happens it’s important for us to take a step back and re-ground ourselves; to mindfully and intentionally refocus on things that center us.
And I don’t think we have to do anything specific to get there, we just have to try.
Sure, sitting and meditating, or following some kind of mindfulness practice, or something else that is stereotypically “mindful” would be great, but all it really takes is taking time to refocus on the things that matter most to us. Personally, when I’m trying to re-center, I’ll cuddle with my wife on the couch, or listen to some really loud music, or pick up my guitar and play the same four Jack Johnson songs over and over. The activity itself isn’t what matters, the benefits come from taking the time to notice that I’m in a bad place and then doing my best to refocus on something good. Much like how I can only weld once I’ve grounded a piece of material I’m working on.
So, now I invite you to do the same thing. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, or stressed out, or otherwise unhappy, try to remember me and my ground clamp. Then, hang your head, roll your eyes, moan “groooound” to yourself, and reach for the things that lift you up.
Thanks for reading, you’ve got this,