Touching the Earth

The first thing I did when moving to our new place two years ago.

This post was inspired by Trevor Malkinson’s “Why Lying on the Earth is Good for You” over at Beams and Struts, which was a great reminder for me about the value of body on the ground and hands in the dirt.

Trevor’s post points out some of the fascinating ideas out there about the electromagnetic field of the earth being a source of energy for our bodies. One book/website is promoting the practice of “Earthing“: “Throughout time, we humans have strolled, sat, stood, and slept on the ground—the skin of our bodies touching the skin of the Earth—oblivious to the fact that such physical contact transfers natural electrical energy to the body.

In this post I’ll share some of my photos and additional inspirations about connecting with the energy of the earth.

I remember the particular way my great-grandfather walked through those woods; few walk that way now…That way of walking has a particular smell, a particular gait, a particular rhythm, a particular integration with Earth and plant and water. As we walked through  those woods he would push aside a plant in his path. But it was not brusquely done. Rather he moved them from his path as if they were relatives he was setting aside. The soil was black with a bit of clay and it could be easily formed with the hands. A shovel would go in deeply and there were few stones. The roots of the plants entwined in that deep dark soil and our feet sank down a little as we walked – as if we were moving on the living tension of the soil – like the water spiders that skated on the pond where we fished. My great-grandfather’s feet knew the tension of that soil – they expected it and the soles of his feet spoke to it, conversed with Earth, each step of the way.
– Stephen Buhner, The Lost Language of Plants

Feet in communion at Inspiration Farm

When I took my Permaculture Design Course in 2009, we had a session with Mick “The Barefoot Sensei” Dodge, a former drill sergeant turned barefoot mountain man guru. He led us on a barefoot tour of the site, where we were able to experience the sensorial feast available through the bottom of the feet, and to identify variations and patterns of moisture, temperature and texture.

Frank Forencich at Exuberant Animal has a great piece, inspired by the Barefoot Sensei, called Earth Lust.  He writes,

“The first time I heard the Sensei speak around a campfire, I became entranced as he delivered an intriguing set of stories, opinions and visions, most of them crafted around the themes of bare feet, land, earth, training and activism. The conversation danced like the flames of the fire. Light faded and stars appeared as the tribe gathered around. Stories came and went, but Sensei held center stage.  After a string of compelling and often hilarious narrative, Sensei became philosophical and began to speak of his personal dream and life trajectory. He promised us that someday soon, he’d be “going back, deep into the wild.” We waited for more and passed the bottle around, anticipating the explanation that was sure to come.

“I’m headed out,” he told us, “back into the wild. I’ve got everything I need. I’m going to foot the path into the wilderness and have an orgasm with the earth.”

…As more and more experts begin to understand the dramatically health-positive effects of biophilia and nature contact, they may very well expand their recommendations. They may just start telling their patients to spend more time in natural settings, getting their bodies into intimate contact with wild habitat, dirt, plants, animals, rocks and water. It won’t be long before they’re writing prescriptions that say “Go outside and have an orgasm with the earth.” “And call me in the morning. I want to hear how it went.””

My friend Chris is a counselor, and she once told me that she gives clients a discount who walk or ride their bike to appointments with her.  One reason is that this aligns with her values of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as much as possible, but it also benefits the client.  She confided that the physical exercise and time outdoors might be doing more for their mental health than the counseling itself.

Psycho-therapists have exhaustively analyzed every form of dysfunctional family and social relations, but dysfunctional environmental relations does not exist even as a concept….The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual defines separation anxiety disorder as excessive anxiety concerning separation from home and from those to whom the individual is attached. But no separation is more pervasive in this age of anxiety than our disconnection from the natural world.
Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth

Students work with parents at our neighborhood School Garden

Herbalist Ryan Drum points out that WE ARE THE ONLY NAKED SPECIES. He recommends that we “lay naked on herbs for hours to promote transdermal perfusion of herbal stuff .”

I believe that physiologically significant essential substances, needed only in tiny amounts, ESSENTIAL NANONUTRIENTS, are required to pass through our skin to avoid the acid bath of the stomach. We need to have live plant contact for epidermal uptake and subsequent skin surface residency of nanonutrients…
– Herbalist Ryan Drum

Try saying this over and over:

“continual lifelong transdermal herbal molecular uptake is our inherited need”

My wife Angela recharges at Horseshoe Bend on the Nooksack River

E.O. Wilson, the famed Harvard biologist, says that an intimate relationship with the bioshpere is not a utopian fantasy but, rather, an ancient sensibility that is built into our biology but has sadly been lost over eons of human history. Wilson believes that human beings have an innate drive to affiliate with nature – what he calls “biophilia”…Wilson believes that this primal identification with our earliest phase as a species continues to exist deep inside our biological being as a kind of genetic recollection of our biophilic connection.
– Jeremy Rifkin, The Third Industrial Revolution

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake at night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s life may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the place of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

”If we seek the real source of the dance, if we go to nature,
we find that the dance of the future is the dance of the past,

the dance of eternity,

and has been and always will be the same…

The movement of waves, of winds, of the earth

is ever the same lasting harmony.”

– Isadora Duncan

9 comments on “Touching the Earth

  1. Iaato says:

    I have often wished, when working with depressed patients, for a system where counseling was conducted on walks. Instead, we create more and more obstacles to getting the sick out of doors, with larger buildings, schedules, and rules. My own therapy is long walks in woods or on tundra with girlfriends and dogs. When we lie down on the tundra, it is cooking with its own microclimate, to the point that it is 5 or 10 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature. You can feel the plants growing.

    • davidm58 says:

      Thanks for the comment Mary, and I appreciate the ecoliteracy link.

      A 1984 study by R. Ulrich, reported in Science, found that patients in hospitals that had window views of natural settings (trees, green landscapes, water features) recovered more quickly than those without such views.

      Richard Louv, in Last Child of the Woods, talks about “nature-deficit disorder.”

  2. Angela says:

    I love this post and everything you’ve included! Nicely done. You’ve brought together some of my favorite people/places and thoughts.

    I was wondering about Ryan Drum’s assertion that we are the only naked species. What about dolphins and whales? They don’t have fur. Or maybe he means the only Land species that is naked. In any case I totally agree with his ideas of our need to absorb the energies or nano-nurtrients through our skin. I would add through our breath and sight too. To directly take in the plant life and the earth organisms through the sight and smell is so much more than looking at a photo of it/them.

    • davidm58 says:

      Thank you Angela. Why am I not surprised to hear that I’ve brought together some of your favorite people/places and thoughts? Perhaps because I borrowed some of your books, found your bookmarks (Wendell Berry), and borrowed from your blog (Isadora Duncan), and payed attention to your email (Ryan Drum). 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!

      Good point about Ryan Drum’s assertion about being the only naked species. I guess he must be referring to land mammals.

  3. […] Touching the Earth ( […]

  4. Such a beautiful piece, with so much information…much gratitude to you for sharing!

  5. davidm58 says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, twotrees, thanks for stopping by!

  6. Joe lindsay says:

    Love it all. Thank you for these ancient, inborn wisdom reminders. The help me re-member.

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