When, or how did we get trained to go everywhere with a slab of rubber interposed between our feet and the earth?
When was the last time you walked outside barefoot? Having a wedge of rubber inserted between your feet and the ground is a pretty recent development in the deep time of the human origin story. Wearing shoes prevents us from experiencing the earth’s magnetic field viscerally. Many animals have brain organs that sense this field and its fluctuations: it is part of how they navigate. Both birds, navigating aerially, and whales navigating aquatically, have organs with this sensory function, but we humans do not (at least that science has yet discovered). Yet through our feet, we can feel the earth’s magnetic fields directly, should our feet actually be touching the earth.
The shape of our shoe’s’ soles also changes the way that our gait works. This is most exaggerated in high heels, but even shoes that don’t dramatically change the angle of your foot have a heal-bed that changes the distribution of weight as compared to walking barefoot. I spent 30 years wearing slip-in inserts that supplement the arch in a shoe, because my knees used to hurt when I wore shoes. A year ago I discovered barefoot shoes. I don’t really know how to explain to you the difference that wearing barefoot shoes has made in my quality of life. Nor can I fully explain why it has made such a difference. I’ll simply tell you that if you knew me well, you’d know I didn’t like to run before getting these shoes. From the standpoint of exercise, I’ve long preferred to swim. But from the moment I slipped into my first pair of barefoot shoes, on the second floor of an REI co-op in Seattle, my legs just got happy. It wasn’t me—my ordinary sense of myself—it literally felt like my legs themselves were like, Thank God! Finally! I bought them because I was on my way to a bird language training, and I don’t like to wear hiking boots in the forest, because I can’t feel the ground. Barefoot shoes feel like slippers, or moccasins, but they have technical soles that are remarkably durable, so your feet won’t get cut up by sharp rocks, or glass. Nonetheless, if you can truly be barefoot, in a place you know is safe to do this, there is something about the simplicity of having your feet on the earth that is very GROUNDING. If you engage in this as a practice, direct your attention to the felt contact with the earth. Feel, and visualize, the connection between the soles of your feet and Mother Earth. If you are someone sensitive to the energies of place, do be aware that memory is held in the land, and that some places hold energies that are particularly harmonious and healing, while others are not.
NB: Particularly for United Statesians (see Glossary), many of whom are socialized to reside in cognition, and particularly for folks who do some kind of knowledge-work, or spend a good deal of time in front of a computer screen, grounding practices are an essential element in returning to embodiment.
Video: Distill | Photography: Stein Egil Liland | Licensed from Pexels.com, used with permission.