The other day, while walking through the park, I had a thought: isn’t it strange that I live on the earth, but I almost never touch the earth? I live in New York City, which I love, but shamanically speaking, comes at a price. Even if I walked around barefoot, I would seldom come into contact with dirt, grass, sand, rock. Everything’s paved over. (I know concrete is technically made of rock and other natural materials, but it’s been refined, and lacks the purity of, say, a sandy beach, or a rocky hillside.) Urban life, for all of its advantages, makes it hard to maintain a closeness with nature. But even if you live in the wilderness, while you are much closer to nature in some ways, when you spend time outdoors, most of that time, you’re still wearing shoes. So you’re still not touching the earth. Isn’t that strange? But is there any real benefit to actually touching the earth?
There is a practice that sprung up in the early 2000’s called “earthing”. Proponents of this practice claim that touching the earth directly has restorative benefits, is grounding (which sounds obvious), and can even help with things like sleep, blood flow, and detoxification. When I first heard about the “earthing” movement, I thought, “how sad”. How sad is it that we have become so far removed from having direct, regular, meaningful contact with the earth, that someone has launched a movement with the intention of getting us to reconnect? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that he did, but this movement is a clear reflection of just how disconnected we in the modern world have become.
For much of our human history, we walked around barefoot, and slept on the ground. Were things better then? Maybe, maybe not, depending on how you measure it. But I would wager that people felt a lot more connected to the land, to the rhythms of nature, to the local plant and animal life, to the food they ate, to the weather patterns, and in general to the world around them. I would also imagine that our ancestors experienced more vitality living in such close proximity to nature.
When we began domesticating ourselves, we were still using natural, minimally processed materials, and retaining a lot of contact with the earth. Then, somewhere along the way, we began really domesticating ourselves, wearing shoes, sleeping indoors, and processing things even more, to the point where we began developing synthetic materials to sleep on, and gradually, over time, we began spending most of our time indoors, with less and less direct contact with the earth, favoring our “new & improved” ways of living. We probably didn’t even notice we were losing touch with the earth, and now, it’s just an accepted part of life. We don’t touch the earth. Why would we?
As someone walking the shamanic path, I recognize the earth as a living, breathing entity, a creator, my mother, my home, a healer, and a nurturer of all life on this planet. I suppose that’s why the awareness of my lack of direct contact with her popped into my head in the first place. Who knows, maybe she put it there. I do make a point of connecting with her everyday through specific prayers and practices, and in ways like walking through the park and talking to the birds and the trees, but seldom do I bend down to touch her face in the grass. I invoke her presence and healing power when I work with my clients, but rarely do I create an opportunity for myself to receive healing by spending time laying in a field, walking barefoot down a beach, or swimming in the ocean (all of which is possible in New York). I have spent enough time in nature that I know it is balancing, harmonizing, and revitalizing me. I always feel better after a trip out of the city. It’s just not a regular practice of mine. But since this has all sprung up into my conscious awareness, I am going to look for opportunities to create a new practice of connecting with the earth on a regular basis, however I can. I invite you to join me, in whatever way works for you. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of this most precious and powerful healing presence, literally right beneath our feet?