This year, since the frosting season came to an end in early Spring, I tried to go for a barefoot walk every day. I immediately noticed an incredible difference compared to walking with shoes on. Actually, it made me wonder whether humanity has lost its connection with the Earth since we started to wear shoes thousands of years ago.
- To be ‘human’ means to belong to the Earth
Our feet could well be the part of the body most ignored and forgotten during the day. When you go to bed, ask yourself how many times you have been aware of your feet today. You probably don’t remember any occasion! Our feet, however, sustain the weight and structure of our body and are essential for our balance and mobility.
Also, our feet are the most immediate and direct means to feel the planet’s surface, as it is the only part of the body constantly in contact with the ground. Interestingly, they are one of the most sensitive areas of the body. This illustrates the inherent intimate connection between us and the Earth.
Nowadays, however, our attention goes more up into our head than down into our feet. Due to our custom of wearing shoes all the time, the potential for this intimate connection with the Earth intrinsic to our bodily features has got lost. Instead of being aware of the ground we step in, we keep lost in the intangible and fleeting world of thoughts.
Our mind, therefore, is not rooted anymore into the earth, into body and into our immediate environment as it used to be. Whether we are in the office working or in the field walking, we keep thinking of our plans, projects, preoccupations, past actions… From a phenomenal perspective, we could well be ghosts gliding through a dense layer of atmosphere rather than ‘human beings’, which literally means ‘beings belonging to the earth’ (as ‘human’ comes from the word humus, which in Latin means ‘earth’).
- Reversing the process of alienation with the Earth
However, whenever you go barefoot, you’ll notice that the sensations arising from touching the ground with the sole of your feet become the most prominent object of awareness in your mind, and your attention moves instantly down. You become grounded again. Your attention is not floating around anymore, but it is rooted in the body, in the Earth and in the present moment. Every barefoot step you take will remind you of these three things. If you try it, you will realize that you can’t turn your awareness away from them.
Because that connection with the Earth would be our natural and permanent state if we walked barefoot all the time, our present condition of alienation with the Earth could have well begun since humanity started to wear shoes, as wearing shoes prevents us to be fully in touch with the Earth’s surface. Barefoot walking, therefore, is a direct and immediate means of re-connecting again with the Earth, with Nature, with the place we come from and belong to.
- Benefits of walking barefoot
Going barefoot does not only make you feel more connected with the ground’s surface, but it radically changes your walking experience. You don’t only look at the shiny green grass, but you can also taste its freshness. You don’t only see with your eyes what is around you, but you can also perceive its texture. Areas of bare soil that appear coarse and rough to the eyes feel soft and gentle to the sole of your feet. And after a few hours of sunlight, the ground becomes welcomely and pleasingly warm.
Touching the skin of the Earth with your own skin is a precious gift. When you walk barefoot, there is no separation between you and the Earth, but an instant connection with it. Also, it does not only open you to a new way of perceiving things, but it grounds your attention and being into the place you belong to and into the ground you step in. It is a natural prevention against getting lost in mental chattering and distraction. In each step you remain effortlessly into the here and now through each sensation arising from the feet.
COVID-19 has showed us how much we still need to learn from our planet, and how much we have lost about our connection with it. The mind will always fight this cause with inappropriate means because it has forgotten that we don’t only belong to the realm of thoughts, but also to the realm of crops. A tiny virus will always be wiser than us if we remain disconnected from the state and needs of the planet. And to get wiser, we need to reconnect with the Earth.
Walking barefoot is a way of challenging the mind and becoming more attuned to our planet, but you can also start this process with meditation or mindfulness. Therefore, I invite you to join our free online self-development program today! You can also download our Mind stories app.