Poised between Earth Day and Mothers Day, my heart is full of gratitude to the Earth, the ultimate Mother. There is no end to the blessings we receive from our precious blue-green home. Perfectly positioned in Space, our Goldilocks planet is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right for the three phases of that magical substance H2O (ice, water and vapour) to occur naturally. And this makes possible the water cycle, that huge planetary process that draws on the power of the sun to turn sea water into fresh water, drive climate systems, bring rain and mild temperatures, and allow life to flourish.
So far, we’re the only place we know of in the Universe where life just happened to happen. As gifts from Mother Earth go, Life is one pretty profound reason to give thanks.
Each individual cell is a miracle of complexity, in which exquisitely delicate organelles carry out all the functions of the body as a whole, from providing structure, to communicating, absorbing food, burning fuel, voiding wastes, and maintaining an environment conducive to life. And then trillions of these cells get together and interact in countless ways to create a human body that might score in the Olympics, dance the tango, plot sedition, and give – or even take – the gift of life.
However miraculous human life may be, I’m submitting an application to be a plant in my next incarnation. I’m in awe of plants. For one thing, they’re seldom in a hurry. Just to spend time with plants (especially trees) is calming. Imagine standing for 5,000 years in contemplation as a bristlecone pine! More than their presence though, it is the magic trick of photosynthesis to which I aspire. How delicious is the design that allows one to be nourished by basking in the sun! And how elegant is the chemistry that combines almost intangible air, with a dilute solution of minerals in water, to create a being as substantial as a giant redwood tree, or as delicate as a maidenhair fern.
Unlike our chemical industries that manufacture products by subjecting raw materials to huge temperatures and pressures, plants produce wood, fibre, food and beauty at the temperatures and atmospheric pressures of everyday life. And instead of producing noxious by-products that pollute and sicken, as a by-product of producing food, plants spew out life-giving oxygen!
Grounding and guidance through earthing
Our position in Space, the water cycle, photosynthesis – what magical and miraculous tales! I know these stories well, yet far from becoming blasé about them, the more I contemplate these gifts of life from Mother Earth, the more I experience awe.
… and a gift of healing. In addition to these three familiar gifts of life, I’ve recently learnt about a surprising gift of healing freely offered to us by Mother Earth. This gift is known as Earthing, and authors of the book by this name suggest that it could be one of the most important health discoveries ever. Earthing simply means making direct contact with the Earth by walking barefoot, sitting, or lying on the ground. And just as it is necessary to earth electrical appliances via a conducting wire that connects them to the ground, it appears that our human bodies also need this connection. In fact, we know this intuitively. Many of us feel better after a barefoot walk along the beach, or spending time lying on a lawn. It’s as if the stress drops off us, and we feel relaxed again.
According to Clint Ober who discovered Earthing, it appears that there is more to ‘getting in touch with the Earth’ than just taking time out and feeling more relaxed. Ober was a cable TV technician, and having spent much of his life dealing with electricity and insulation, he recognised that most of us spend our lives electrically insulated from the Earth. We wear rubber- or plastic-soled shoes, we live indoors with synthetic carpets and furniture, we travel in vehicles with rubber tyres, and many of us spend most of our time in multi-storey buildings, elevated above the ground.
Diffusing oxidative stress into the earth
At the same time as we have become ever-more insulated from the Earth, we have also become increasingly exposed to things that cause our bodies to build up a charge, and to develop what scientists call ‘oxidative stress’. Electrical appliances and sources of electro-magnetic radiation induce in our bodies a charge. In addition, stress, allergens, injuries and infections all contribute to inflammation in the body, and the production of free radicals. These free radicals temporarily play an important role in healing the body, but they must be ‘mopped up’ very quickly by anti-oxidants – or they run amok and start to destroy healthy tissue.
So what does this have to do with Earthing? Well, it turns out that Mother Earth is the biggest source of anti-oxidants there is. The Earth’s surface has an overall negative charge, or an excess of electrons. And these electrons are just what our bodies need to neutralise the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This doesn’t just enable our bodies to heal in the short term – it also helps us to avoid the development of chronic disease conditions, which research is showing are caused by chronic inflammation in the body.
In the past, most people experienced Earthing as a natural part of everyday life – they walked barefoot or in shoes with leather soles, and many slept on the ground on sleeping mats of natural fibres. For most of their lives they lived in contact with the Earth, enabling them to literally ‘de-fuse’ their oxidative stress into the Earth.
How to receive this free gift
Now that we are aware of this amazing free gift of health that Mother Earth offers, how can we access it? The simplest is to make time each day to sit with your bare feet in contact with grass, earth or concrete paving (not asphalt), and to walk barefoot, or swim in the sea (salt water being an effective conductor). And while it is probably not practical to move your office or bedroom outside (although, why not?), Earthing pads and sheets are available (although not easily sourced in South Africa) to ground you while you work and sleep. For the practically-inclined, you can find step-by-step instructions to earth your bed on the internet!
So, “… forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” (The Prophet, Khalil Gibran). Let’s kick off our shoes, lie on the grass, and snuggle up to Mother Earth. The feeling of delight is mutual.
By Alice Ashwell