For the three years I attended Withers Elementary in Columbia, May 1 was my favorite day of school. It was Barefoot Day.
As the name suggests, students were allowed to come to school barefoot. We walked the halls barefoot and went out for recess barefoot.
How amazing is that? I haven’t heard of such a holiday since I left there in third grade, back in the 1960s.
Oh, the freedom of being barefoot! I hated shoes, especially the dress up kind.
I was raised to play outside, especially in the summer. I ran, jumped rope, rode a bicycle, climbed trees, walked on stilts, played baseball, even kicked a football “barefooted.”
The soles of my feet could handle any terrain. Whether a gravel driveway, rocks at my aunt’s house in the country, or hot sand at the beach, my feet were fine.
Can you just imagine kids today going to school barefoot? Would they be able to walk across the parking lot?
Beyond that, the health and safety concerns of parents and the administration would never allow children to encounter the perils on the grounds of today’s public places: lawn chemicals, broken glass, cigarette butts, rusting soda cans.
Even I have become dependent on flip flops to protect my now-sensitive feet when I’m outdoors. At least, most of the time.
But once I get to a grassy spot or a beach, the shoes come off. Not only do I feel that childlike freedom again, but I get a sense of connection to the earth that’s hard to explain.
I think it stems from something a yoga teacher mentioned a few years ago. She said when we stand on the ground with nothing between our feet and the surface, we can draw energy from the earth.
I’ve learned that this practice is known in some wellness circles as “grounding” or “earthing.” This means, in simple terms, deliberately walking barefoot on sand, grass or soil in order to “absorb” the earth’s energy.
Some say this practice helps to stabilize our body rhythm and create a balanced “internal bioelectrical environment.”
Among the many benefits that some advocates name are reduced pain, less inflammation, better sleeping, improved immunity, better heart function, decreased anxiety and stress, more energy, and recalibration the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
As I have stated before, for the record, I’m not a health care professional nor a scientist.
But I have noticed that walking barefoot in my yard – consciously connecting with Mother Earth – brings me a certain level of calm, encourages deeper breathing, and seems to energize me.
Lately, afternoons at our home include relaxing in our lawn chairs in the grassy front yard, interacting with neighbors as they pass by or join us.
While our intention is simply to chill out and visit, I find that when I kick off my shoes, everything just feels better.
I noticed it again recently at the outdoor concert at Palmetto Bluff, sitting with friends and enjoying a lovely evening with conversation, snacks, beverages and music on the banks of the May River. Once I kicked off my flip flops, a deeper calm was recognizable.
Maybe we can’t have Barefoot Day at school or work, but in our off time, we can take advantage of the earth’s energy. Kick off your shoes, walk on the beach or through a meadow, or stroll around your backyard. Be open to the natural charge of the earth’s electrons and help get your body, mind and spirit reset naturally.