Spring has arrived here in Minnesota. Though the trees remain bare and the ground is still mostly brown, there is a fresh resonance outside — there’s an energy to the ground when you walk that wasn’t there just a few weeks ago. The frost has moved up and out, and the soil is regaining warmth. The moss on the shady hillsides is starting to come to life will new delicate light-green growth, and the silver maple trees are starting to bud. Things are waking up. Birdsong fills the air from dawn to dusk, I can hear the newest members of the beaver family barking to each other as they learn the lay of the lake, and the ice-free water sparkles with every breeze that ruffles its surface. I can sense the re-forging of winter dormant connections as the days progress and the sun regains power.
In my day job as a health coach, I talk to all sorts of people who work for large companies around the country. I talk to linemen who work in oil fields, coal miners, executives, sales people, secretaries, teachers, call center workers, managers, nurses, even the occasional big ag farmer or chemist….there are a lot of jobs and professions that are controlled by the corporate world today. And as I talk with this wide range of people, the theme that comes out is that there is not enough time for, well, anything and spending time outside in a natural setting is either a luxury for the weekend or something to be avoided unless it is sunny and 78 degrees. Even the farmers spend a fair of their time inside – or in the cab of a climate controlled piece of machinery. People are generally stressed out, have too much going on and spend most of their time working on their daily tasks indoors or commuting to the places where they need to be. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization and not every person who works for a corporation fits into this description. But overall, I have witnessed a huge disconnect in corporate culture between people and the natural environment.
The problems with this disconnect are many, but the one that I want to focus on today is that due to this “people as separate” approach to life and the ways that we literally disconnect our physical bodies from the bare earth, we are setting ourselves up for lowered immunity, increased inflammation in the body, and a less than desirable sense of wellbeing.
Dr. James Oschman states,
We have disconnected ourselves from the Earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottoms of our shoes.
Due to our indoor lifestyle and the perceived need to protect ourselves from natural elements, whether it is by wearing sturdy shoes at all times, living in concrete jungles or just being afraid to get dirty, we hinder our ability to ground ourselves and benefit from the freely given energy of the earth.
Oschman goes on to say,
When you’re grounded there’s a transfer of free electrons from the Earth into your body. And these free electrons are probably some of the most potent antioxidants known to man. These antioxidants are responsible for things like beneficial changes in heart rate, decreased skin resistance and decreased levels of inflammation as observed in clinical studies.
A few weeks ago, just after the last of the snow melted away and the ground became spongy again, I walked outside barefoot onto the mossy ground that covers much of my front yard. The earth was still cold to the touch and damp in this first week of spring, but it was warm enough to stand for a while on a little piece of moss and feel the rootedness that comes from such direct contact with the earth. I could feel my body relaxing into the more primal rhythms of the season, and I could feel the power of such a connection wake something up in my system that had gone to sleep in the depths of winter. I could feel into my place on the earth and the potential that a simple act can have toward the healing of the planet and all the communities that exist here.
The folks at Earth Runners write,
Unlike all other species ever to have lived on this planet, it seems that overall the human race has lost its way, our essential connection to this paradise [of earth], and our ability to live sustainably. We often forget or ignore that it’s only by this grace and generosity of the Earth, our original and true mother, that we may sustain this physical life at all. Our survival as a species is intimately linked to a healthy relationship with our environment.
So friends, the message is this: Go barefoot on the earth. Be in direct physical contact with this planet that provides a foundation from which to live. You can stand outside on the lawn, you can walk through the forest or a grassy field, you can lay down on the sand at the beach or you can wade in a creek. The options are many, and the benefits are beyond what we can imagine.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
―Rainer Maria Rilke