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Magic, Stardust, and Walking Barefoot: a Treatise
As a college student, I read a story about a Native American woman in the Southwest who, upon wearing shoes for the first time, complained that her feet were “blindfolded.” Although I’ve forgotten a good deal of what I learned in college, this has stayed with me all these many years.
Maybe I remember it because I also tend to eschew wearing shoes (say “eschew shoes” 10 times fast) and will go without them long after barefoot weather has departed. Or, maybe my rejection of footwear has something to do with the woman who spoke to me, over a century later in the pages of a book, about how the soles of my feet could possibly see something my eyes could not.
These days I am somewhat dogmatic about bare-footedness. I have a young nephew who doesn’t like to walk barefoot outside, so last summer I paid him $2 to take his shoes off in the grass and spin in circles with me, arms flung wide, reminding him the entire time that he was connecting to Mother Earth and balancing his energy (I have no idea what he thought about that but I know he heard me and it’s living in his brain somewhere). I had to pay him an extra dollar to walk to the car sans shoes. Worth every penny.
Why was it worth it? Because I’m helping him remember that he’s a magical creature living on a glorious planet in a mysterious universe, that’s why. The same reason I remind all the children in my life they are made of stardust, for how can they grow into anything but glorious and dazzling knowing they are made of something as magical as stardust?
Some say we modern homo sapiens are “disconnected” from nature, but this isn’t accurate. We are of nature. We are of this world. It is as impossible to become disconnected from nature as it is for water not to be wet or for a songbird to be born not knowing how to sing, or for my daughter to clean up her own peanut butter knife. It’s totally impossible. The Latin name bestowed on us by the scientists is their way of confirming the true state of our existence.
We are of the earth and the earth is of us forever and ever, Amen.
Most of us are, however, under the mass illusion of separateness; we believe we are separate from the earth and everything in it, including one another.
I learned something recently that astounded me and has forever changed the way I think about my own existence and the very nature of what it means to be de tierra. Scientists have discovered that trees in healthy forests are not only sentient but communal. They form alliances between species, communicate with one another, and even warn one another of danger.
This is all accomplished through the fungal network underground which some scientists refer to as the “wood wide web.” If you’d like to read more about this, see this article in the Smithsonian Magazine.
The next time you go to a healthy forest or even just a quiet piece of earth, close your eyes and listen. Listen with that part of yourself without ears. Then take off your shoes (no ifs, ands, or buts) and see what your eyes cannot. Gardens and natural settings are the most sacred spaces on the planet. The only place where your soles and your soul connect (Hallmark, I’m ready when you are!).
When outdoors, be it gardening, earthing, taking a walk, forest bathing, or something as simple as sitting under your favorite tree, we have the opportunity to remember:
>> Mother Nature isn’t perfect and neither are we. Nor should we want to be. Perfection is a value of the patriarchy and I can’t think of a better reason not to drop that bad habit like a hot potato.
>> We are all connected to something larger than ourselves. The Native Americans clearly know what’s what in this department.
>> We have a place in the universe and we are vitally important to its very existence, which is different from being special, a need and desire of the ego. Let’s blame this on the patriarchy, too. Shall we?
>> Mother Nature has an innate desire to live symbiotically with us, both physically and psychically, and we want that, too. We are what we seek in the garden.
>> In her natural state, Mother Nature is in harmony, and because we are her children, the same is true of us. When mama’s happy, we’re all happy.
>> There is a place and a season for everything, and change is our constant companion.
Summer is a season of making honey and gathering those things we need to sustain us later.
Fall is the season of letting go and surrendering to what is. Fall is the season that requires the most courage because letting go of a sure thing for something unknown is super scary, even when the sure thing is clearly not right for us anymore.
Winter is the season for gathering into yourself, resting, growing in the unseen places, rooting down deeply to prepare for meeting head-on the vicissitudes of life. Take it from the bears, hibernating is a legit, natural, and greatly needed activity.
Spring is the season of rebirth, renewal, new beginnings, flourishing. As Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party!”
As a yoga teacher, I sometimes instruct my students to breathe through the soles of their feet., knowing full well how our feet are a conduit to something sacred. When I focus, I can feel an undulating and tingling sensation where my body touches the earth.
To further guide people into an embodied sense of connecting, I sometimes end my classes with a suggestion during savasana to visualize becoming one with the earth. I might say something like, “As you take your last, intentional deep breath, filling your body with prana, the life force given to us by the trees, let your body melt into the earth beneath you. Become one with it. Imagine your bones becoming boulders, your veins becoming rivers flowing into the ocean. Think of your beating heart as the heart of a storm, releasing life-giving water to the earth.”
And to the young people in my life—the coolest people I know—I tell them that the trees know what’s up, have their own internet, and take care of each other. I remind them that the beautiful green giants not only talk to each other, but to us as well, and they are inviting us to the party. The magic, stardust, barefoot party.