The barefoot theme came up in different places for me over the last few months. Firstly, as an injured runner I had to consider whether barefoot running could be the answer to becoming pain-free. Secondly as a spiritual seeker I read about sun-gazing practices, part of which entails a period of walking barefoot on the earth for an hour every day. Finally, a few days ago I read a post on facebook about the benefits of going barefoot, one of which was reduced levels of depression. I don’t recall seeing any source of authority or research but the thought stayed with me. A few hours later I had the opportunity and couldn’t resist the urge to walk barefoot on the grass in the park. I use the word “urge” because my soul yearned to touch the earth through my soles. We have forgotten how sensitive our feet are.
As soon as my feet touched the grass, the effect was potent and instant. Not only did it feel very good but I became aware of the Earth talking to me even louder than usual, its spirit so very present in the hill called Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh. I then recalled how good it feels when someone I love or at least like touches the soles of my feet.
Whilst the theme of going barefoot came under my attention through the barefoot running debate, it turns out to be much more than that. Being barefoot on a man-made surface is not the same as physically touching the bare earth with bare feet. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that humans generally see the earth as just a solid platform that provides a base for us to carry out our daily activities. Ironically, the word “human” is derived from the Latin word “humus” which means “soil” or “dust”. But we have lost touch with our roots. If we can’t hear the Earth talking then perhaps it is no wonder that our souls are still asleep.
The phrase “as above, so below” comes to mind, meaning that there is a material parallel for all things energetic/spiritual. The shaman knows about the relationship between energy and matter and how intent is transferred through and shapes matter. This also pertains to our different levels of being, our essence not being limited to our physical bodies. In the same way that individual consciousness comes from the sea of the collective, so also our bodies spring forth from the soil from which we get our nourishment. The Earth represents the sacred circle of all things being connected. On a physical level she is our Source, providing all that we need for ourselves to be sustained. We may not be aware of this but our cells know and our feet remember, which is why the effect on my mood could instantly be felt the minute my feet touched the earth.
It is common knowledge that touch is very important in relationships, especially between mothers and children. We instinctively long to touch our lovers as a way of promoting intimacy, which also fosters a feeling of safety. If we have long since forgotten the importance of touching the Earth then it’s no wonder that we generally see her as cold and dead. In reality it’s the other way round – we have turned cold towards the organism that continues to sustain us with life.
What I find particularly interesting is that even our concept of career and vocation which supposedly revolves around our work on Earth seems to operate in a void. The range of valid careers in our cultural mind seems to be limited to the system we have created, all based on a concept of money which doesn’t exist. I often feel that my desire to work with Earth energies seems airy fairy. However seeing that our world revolves around a system of money that is based on thin air I am quite tempted to believe that our reality is less substantial than the actual forces that make the world keep turning. The world we have created seems to operate in a space on a solid empty platform whilst nature is largely ignored. I wonder how many people still notice the sun coming up in the morning, the plants teeming with a life of their own or the subtle magic contained in mountains and the ocean. These things have become completely irrelevant to us as human beings except as a backdrop to “doing” that either goes unnoticed or at best provides some pleasant decoration. We have forgotten about “being”, perhaps nature’s most important lesson. The world actually goes round of its own accord and we don’t have to interfere with the process. Being ourselves is enough as it is in this way that we feel connected to the essence of everything else.
Returning to barefoot running, this is actually a topic of its own. A runner that attempts to go barefoot having worn shoes for a very long time will discover in the initial phases that his lower legs aren’t nearly as strong as they should be. A lot of muscles will need to be rebuilt in order for him/her to attain proper balance, which will eliminate injuries. On a symbolic level I don’t think this only pertains to running. As human beings we have become disconnected from our roots because we haven’t been in touch with them. Maybe feeling the earth with our bare feet could be a step towards becoming aware of the larger picture, outside of what we concern ourselves with in our daily lives. Figuratively speaking, our lower legs have become too weak due to being out of practice. Only when we restore our point of contact with the earth will we return to balance and be free of the injuries caused by disconnection.