”and forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the Winds long to play with your hair”
Walking barefoot upon the Earth is like a silent prayer. Every blade of grass, every rock, every drop of dew invites you into the present, invites you to be conscious and connected to your world. There is a secret language spoken between the bottoms of your feet and the ground below it – a direct communication between spirit and earth that the mind can barely fathom.
For years my husband has been urging me to kick off my shoes. He’s become something of a barefoot fanatic these past few years, first tramping proudly around the yard and garden, then progressing to barefoot hiking, and now – even barefoot running. I’ve taken to calling him the “barefoot radical” and try very hard to ignore the disdainful looks he casts on my shoe-clad feet whenever we head outdoors. “Come on,” he’ll urge, “don’t you want to connect to the Earth?” I do want to connect to the Earth of course, who wouldn’t? But a quick mental tally of all the slivers I help remove from his feet each summer typically makes me resist.
Recently that has changed. I was going through a bout of inexplicable anxiety – the kind you can’t really pinpoint on any particular thing. I felt ungrounded. A teacher and good friend of mine suggested that I try walking barefoot, attesting to the sense of grounding it has provided to himself. ”We need to feel the earth – to contact it, to connect to it directly. It brings us back into ourselves and reminds us of our place.”
Impelled, I went home, kicked off my sandals, and set afoot. I took each step slowly, consciously, deliberately. I admit that at first, it was because I was afraid of stepping on something sharp or prickly, but then, it was because it felt so good to be aware of my feet – and most of all, to be aware of the Earth underneath them. There were a million sensations – blades of grass, dried leaves, mud, dew, dandelion flowers – my feet tingling as the over 200,000 nerve endings were actively responding to the ground. It was living reflexology. I’ve since been walking barefoot in the yard a little each day, and over the past weeks, I must admit that the vague sense of anxiety has all but disappeared.
As it turns out, the benefits of barefooting it are not simply of the esoteric spiritual kind, either. Walking barefoot, our most natural state of footwear, has been found to cause less impact stress on the body – reducing collision force by promoting a more natural gait. Indeed, studies show that those who run in padded running shoes suffer far more impact stress and are significantly more prone to injuries than those who run barefoot or in non-padded shoes.
On an even deeper level, barefoot walking, or “earthing” as some have come to call it, has been found to reduce a variety of stress-related and inflammatory markers in the body. Researchers speculate that this is possibly caused by an electrical shift in the body stimulated by the high concentration of electrons near the earth’s surface. The electrons absorb into the body through direct contact of the skin – slightly altering the electrical potential in the cells to a more optimal state where metabolism and biochemical process occur most efficiently. Really fascinating stuff.
So leave your shoes behind the next time you walk out the door. Your feet certainly won’t miss them, and I doubt you will either.
Check out this article, You Walk Wrong published in the NY Times to learn why your feet are better than sneakers, and visit the Earthing Institute for more information on the benefits of earthing.
Yay for barfooting it! It took me a little longer to come around, but now I’m a full barefoot convert. Just think what the world might be like if doctors prescribed barefoot walks instead of antidepressants
I love practising walking meditation but rarely do it barefoot, using the excuse that it’s too cold most of the year which is silly I know. I recently recommended it to a patient so I’ll have to send her a link to this post to inspire her to kick off her shoes too. I love the feeling of your feet spreading out and squishing into the ground… you are so right that it’s like a reflexology treatment. I am inspired to run outside right now but will probably wait till tomorrow as it’s currently dark and rainy.
This is my favourite walking meditation mantra written by Thich Nhat Hahn. When my mind is very busy I repeat it to myself as I walk.
Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.
Thanks so much for sharing that beautiful mantra! I love it so much, and what a perfect reminder to appreciate the loveliness of the world when the mind gets a little carried away. I’ll be trying it out the very next time I go out for a barefoot walk – which I think will be in the next 5 minutes hopefully By the way, I am also very wimpy about walking barefoot in the cold and wet. I’m a sunny day barefoot walker only
I was not familiar with that poem and I’m so glad you’ve introduced me to it! How poignant his words are! And yet, so hopeful too. “And for all this, nature is never spent.” Thank you so very much for sharing that with me, and for taking the time to leave a comment.
The Teacup Chronicles is a seasonally minded blog about health and wellness, written by a clinical herbalist and self proclaimed kitchen witch. It contains herb-lore, delicious recipes, dietary suggestions and more to encourage vibrant health, balance and delight in every season. Grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair and join me in exploring just how gratifying and delicious cultivating good health can be.