I have found a new tool to add to my treasure chest of self-care tactics. Among therapy, running, hiking, calling a friend, etc., I have recently entered into the joy of Earthing.
Earthing, basically, is walking on the earth barefoot.
Walking on grass, sand, mud and the like, void of any foot covering. These days we don't connect with the electrons, vitamins and ions of the earth as much, since we have pavement, flooring and shoes separating us from the natural ground beneath us. Earthing is way of a reconnecting to all of that.
But for me it's more: it's pulling away for a few moments, it's meditative, it’s mindful.
It's also about pushing through anything fearful, rigid, stuck or stagnant within me. Every day (when I remember) for a few minutes, I kick off my shoes or sandals and walk carefully (explanation below) through the grass.
I then look for some good, clean mud to stand still in for a few minutes, sinking into the warm, sticky earth. I breathe in deeply a few times, inhaling peace…exhaling stress, nonsense and all unnecessary BS.
I then rinse my feet off and hurry them back into the protection of my shoes.
After, I feel different, lighter, somehow more present and alive. It could be that the action of it is causing me to believe it works, or perhaps it truly works. Does it matter when something makes you feel better and aware of life in the moment? Not to me.
Fears Come Forward
One summer when I was little, I was running in the yard and accidentally stepped on a bee. I was painfully stung on the bottom of my foot. Not long after, I stepped out of a car barefoot and onto a lit cigarette someone had pitched form a car. The sting was unbearable. Lesson learned. I did not go without shoes, at least flip-flops, ever again. For decades. Not even indoors. I later projected the fear limitation onto my son, never allowing him outdoors with bare feet. Once, when he was about 3 years old he came running outside toward me, I stopped him and asked "Are you out here in bare feet?" He looked down and said "I'm out here with people feet."
Even though that was the cutest thing ever, I warned him about running through the grass without protection from the terrors that lurk. Dramatically I warned him of a painful lesson I learned myself.
Earthing at first felt very new and even a little unsafe for me. But I like it, I'm doing it and I am starting to look forward to it every day.
Earthing feels similar to those unexpected moments when you find yourself running through the rain and stop, hold your hands up to the sky and allow yourself to feel heaven rain down. Healing. Freeing. Alive. A moment of distraction from the stresses of what is going on around us.
For a few minutes out of my day, Earthing brings me back to earth. It’s as simple as that. If you can't find mud to play in, however, or don't have grass in your life, even bare feet on a safe pavement can connect you with the calming, grounding powers of the earth.
Annie Highwater is a regular contributor to the Allies in Recovery blog, and co-hosts our podcast series for families, Coming Up for Air. She is long distance runner, health and wellness advocate, and researcher of behavioral science. She is particularly interested in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction and conflict. Annie resides in Columbus, Ohio where she enjoys writing, hiking, the great outdoors. She also visits her son in Southern California as often as possible. In 2016, Annie published her memoir, 'Unhooked: A Mother's Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son's Addiction'. Her story is especially relevant in helping us all understand the personal challenges facing parents and family members, and how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process.