April 19, 2010
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
- Kahlil Gibran
Walk barefoot on Earth Day.
It’s what breathing would be if we had Air Day.
It’s what cooking would be if we had Fire Day.
It’s what swimming would be if we had Water Day.
It doesn’t matter where. It could be in the backyard. It could be in the park. It could be at the beach. It could be on a hike. It could be all day long or it could be for five minutes. Just make time to touch the ground with your feet on Earth Day, April 22. If you don’t feel like walking, just have a seat and rest your feet on the natural surface below. Astroturf doesn’t count. Neither do sidewalks. Beach sand is fine. Grass is good. Dirt can be delightful. If you are fortunate enough to be working in your garden on Earth Day, and you love digging in the dirt with your bare hands, give your feet a chance to get in on the fun. If you are lucky enough to know where there is a reflexology path (official or unofficial) crafted with smooth stones, that would work, too.
We are of the Earth. The Earth takes the heat and light from the sun and the gravity of the moon and a plethora of other cosmic ingredients and somehow finds the perfect balance for you and me and everyone else, all creatures great and small. How lucky we are! How blessed! The Earth gives us our food, supports the structures we call home and so much more than we can name. As you walk or sit, become aware of the feelings in your soles as they experience the Earth below. This is our fundamental physical connection to the planet: Earth to soles, soles to Earth.
If you enjoy walking barefoot, you already get this on a very basic, non-verbal level. But if you rarely go barefoot, this idea and the sensations underfoot may feel unfamiliar to you. There may even be some apprehension:
“What if I step on a sharp rock?” “I hope there’s no broken glass.” “What if someone asks me why I am walking barefoot?”
At this point, In the spirit of Rob Brezny’s Homeopathic Medicine Spells in his fine book “Pronoia,” I interject these reminders: Steer clear of bees and debris and other things that might go bump down below on your brief light lark of the soles. If you have special circumstances that may prevent you from walking barefoot safely or comfortably, do not feel obliged to participate in this particular Earth Day activity. Mother Earth knows you love her, shod or unshod. She loves you right back.
For the rest of you, don’t worry – you will be fine. Relax. It’s going to be OK. Breathe as you walk, walk as you breathe. Notice the distinctions and similarities between breath and motion, feeling the Earth with every step . Feeling is what feet do, or used to, anyway. Richard Frazine, author of the 1993 guidebook “The Barefoot Hiker,” reminds us that our feet, like our hands, are finely tuned instruments of the sense of touch. Why should our feet only experience the touch of synthetic objects? The insides of shoes, carpeting in the bedroom and cold bathroom tiles can’t begin to compare with wave-packed sand at surf’s edge, green grass and soft, dusty trails. All these free gifts from the Earth, yet so many of us continue to subject our feet the stale, suffocating repetition of tight shoes made from manmade materials in places far, far away.
Imagine if our noses only smelled aromas developed in high-security laboratories somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike. No yellow roses, no sweet peas, no basil! No honeysuckles, no sticky pine cones, no sweet Georgia peaches! Just mass-produced cinnamon candles with no real cinnamon at all, pale imitations passing themselves off as improvements on the real thing. How sad it would be if our noses lost the ability to know that which noses have known since noses knew how to know. And yet, of all our senses – sight, sound, taste, smell and touch –this almost constant exposure to synthetic stimuli has affected the sense of touch in our feet more than anywhere else in our bodies.
The simple act of walking, one barefoot step at a time, can help us begin to heal from this far-reaching plague of low-level sensory deprivation. On Earth Day, feel free to engage a sensory smorgasbord for the soles that just may nourish your soul in the process, too.
Happy Footsteps, Happy Earth Day, and many more.
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