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My older son, who travels a lot, tells me the latest theory about overcoming jetlag. As soon as you can after arriving in a new time zone, you take your shoes off and walk barefoot on the ground of the place you are in. Not on concrete or bitumen but right on the earth: grass or dirt or rock or sand.

It’s called ‘earthing’ apparently. Or grounding, which meant something altogether when I was a teen. The theory behind the idea is that the earth’s surface has a vast supply of electrons. Direct physical contact with these, it seems, is good for us.

Over the last month I have spent many hours of each day walking barefoot along the beach. I certainly have a vastly increased sense of well-being, but that could be more to do with the fact that I haven’t set an alarm in that entire time, or done anything more stressful or demanding than playing a game of scrabble.

But the concept makes a lot of sense, and puts me in mind of a line in my favourite poem, God’s Grandeur, by Gerard Manley Hopkins: ‘Nor can foot feel, being shod’.

Apparently, when foot was shod in leather, and when less of the earth’s surface was covered in concrete, this wasn’t such a problem, but now we are shod in rubber and plastic and all manner of artificial products. The two common styles of contemporary footwear that keep us furthest from the earth, in my view, are sky high stilettos, and the thick engineered soles of expensive running shoes, that deprive the delicate, multiple, custom-designed bones of the feet from doing exactly what they are designed to: be perfect shock-absorbers as they articulate around the different surfaces we traverse.

There is now a market in artificial ways you can become earthed if you aren’t able to walk barefoot, such as investing in bedsheets that are wired in such a way that you get the same effect. That seems counter-intuitive to me: surely the whole point is that lovely quasi-spiritual sense you get, when barefoot, of being connected to the earth, from which all good things come.

I guess that if you live in Iceland, or even Scotland, walking outside without footwear isn’t as realistic as it is for a beach dweller in the middle of an Australian summer. So I count myself lucky, being able to shuck off my shoes and place my bare soles deliciously, therapeutically and happily on the surface of my planet.

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Reader Comments (2)

Thanks Clare- such a great reminder. I also love to lie down on the earth and look up at the sky- to feel my whole body sink downwards into the earth and rest there, as I did today at one point in the middle of my morning walk. It was a wonderful thing also at that full on time when the children were little and there was little time to be still. When we were in a park I would stretch out on the earth, feel grounded, look up and get back a sense of perspective!

January 26, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSally Polmear

Loved this, Clare. Made my heart sing. And maybe the earth receives too? I recall words from Kahil Gibram..." And forget not that the earth loves to feel your bare feet and the wind loves to play with your hair." A happy thought....

January 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRicky

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