You’re in Hawaii, on the rugged Big Island where you live off the land simply by walking the Red Road picking avocados, mangoes, guava, lilikoi, rombutan (and other tropical fruit you only know about because you got off the mainland), all as you make your way to the tide pools to bathe as the ocean crashes frighteningly loud against the black lava-rock walls of your private seaside pond.
You live off-grid in the middle of a remote jungle that is your yard. You don’t have hot water, and you get about half an hour of electricity once the sun goes down. Your house is basically a screened-in porch, or lanai, which sounds much better in Hawaiian. (Doesn’t everything?)
Now. Do you wear shoes?
Some would say, um, YEAH. (Those are the practical, proactively-thinking people who know that getting even the tiniest puncture wound in the hot, moist jungle can easily mean a wonderful window to a staph infection!)
But if you’re a carefree, nature freak with wild animal tendencies, you would answer: The beasts of the jungle don’t wear shoes. Why should I?
While I do consider myself practical and proactively safe (albeit mainly through intention-setting,) I am also a lover of nature and will gleefully leap at every chance to get intimate with it. So for me, while I was living the above-described existence, I did my best to be barefoot at every opportunity.
Going barefoot is one of the most powerful ways to get grounded, find your root, and connect with the earth.
This is all very pertinent because Tuesday, April 19, 2016 is National Go Barefoot Day!
Well, not technically. Actually, it is the first day of Grain Rain!
According to the Chinese seasonal calendar, this is the final stage of spring. Temperatures go up, the earth’s surface warms, and barefootedness becomes a state not just for hippie feet. (Apparently this is an actual term.) And for a more serious link, you can find out more about the Grain Rain phase from Robert Peng, one of my teachers and the authority on Seasonal Qigong.
All this escalating earthly qi doesn’t only mean we can finally stand to stand on the earth without shoes. It also means we have access to a very real sense of stability and confidence.
The ground is a symbol of stability. When you feel stable, secure, and safe, you are confident, capable, and creative.
Use the rising qi of the earth to cultivate your inner stability. Let the supportive, solid, and reliable ground beneath your feet give you the confidence to create inspired days, joyful stories, and success at every corner.
Greta the Great White Beast Photo by Brea Fisher
Take. Your. Shoes. Off.
And your socks.
Go outside. And stand on the earth.
Not on the porch, or the driveway, or the sidewalk.
Go find a patch of grass, or a great boulder overlooking a hillside, or a wildflower-lined riverside trail in the woods.
Now, I do know that certain parts of the globe are still snow-covered right now. If that’s you, just keep this exercise in mind for when it’s warm enough to do this without freezing your little toes off.
Stand barefoot and relax all the muscles in your soles. Feel yourself fully supported by the earth.
Use your mind and send your awareness deep into the Bubbling Well points (Yongquan). These are the main energy centers in the feet, located just below the ball of the foot, about a third of the way down from the base of the toes.
As you feel into the Bubbling Well points, send your breath through them and they will naturally open. This will let the flow of qi enter and exit more freely.
Now, get wild and go walking.
Take deliberate, slow, and sensitive steps. With each step, feel the soles of your fully relaxed feet melting into the earth.
Notice the texture of the ground. Is it warm or cold? When you step on a small pebble or stick, can you keep your soles relaxed so that it doesn’t cause you discomfort? Are your toes relaxed? Where is your place of balance on the bottom of your foot as you take each step?
Go barefoot at least once during this 15-day Grain Rain phase. Even just for a moment.
Soak up the rising earthly qi and be aware that it is supporting you. Tap into the confidence of stability and intend to apply that support to whatever it is you’re working toward in your life.
When it comes to grounding, the best way to dig your roots deep is to remove all barriers between you and the earth.
So go for it. Go barefoot like the beasts of the jungle. Wait for the sun to shine or brave the rain. Find a three-minute window in your busy day and make some space to get grounded. Because if you do, you’ll be able to go back to your busy and really get busy with it all—in a very solid way, and with the confidence of the earth beneath you.
Share your insights! What did you notice when you practiced the Qi Challenge this week? I'd love to hear about it, so please leave a comment below.
This post was originally published in The Listening Seed newsletter on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. To receive articles like this one, sent directly to your inbox every other week, please sign up to subscribe!
I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I came upon a video of two baby ducks, which I promptly “hearted” and scrolled on. I paused. Scrolled back. Yep, there was my rug, in my art studio, with my husband’s name on the post. And there were my… ducklings? Peeping wildly and waddling around all freaked out and cute. He had titled it: Got some ducklings for my lady.
On a long list of his romantic gestures, this has proven to be more engaging than, say, a bouquet of handpicked wildflowers.
It has been one thing after another with these ducklings.
For one, they are much messier than our chickens were when they were babies. They take a clean dish of water and instead of drinking some, and saving the rest for later, they do this crazy duckling maneuver and the water is magically transferred from the fount to the wood shavings that make up their bedding. They do this with their food, too, which makes a bed of soggy wood shavings, feed, and poop. Cozy!
Then came Easter, a perfect day for ducklings. You would think. Not when the neighbor dog kills one of them. Cheese lost her best friend Quakers that day, ironically, at the exact moment of their pond’s completion.
Next, and urgent on the Ducklings To Do List, was getting Cheese some friends to snuggle up with. They are bonding creatures, and don’t do well alone. So we found some day-old babes and plopped them in with big Cheese, who, at 4 weeks old, looks like a giant duckling compared to the babies.
But even though she looks like she is their mother, she is still a baby herself, and she doesn’t know her size. She steps on her beloved babies sometimes, and drinks all the water. They love her though, and peep maniacally when she is not in view. Cheese has taken on a very nurturing way, keeping a keen eye on the goings on, and nuzzling them lovingly with her bill.
Dealing with three ducklings of one phase of development and one duckling of an entirely different stage, adds a whole new dimension of space challenges and feeder issues. I could literally be changing their water every hour and still not be on top of it. I could expand this into an even longer story, but I will spare you the dirty details of the duckling saga.
How did something so sweet as a bunch of ducklings become a massive chore in my already full day?
I found myself getting so worked up about keeping them clean, warm, fed, watered, and safe, at all points of the day, that it was beginning to drive me mad. I had to let go.
It was let go or go mad.
I let go.
This is my ducklings’ secret tai chi teaching; now more potent than ever, due to the time of year we are in. According to the Chinese seasonal calendar, we began the Clear and Bright stage of spring on Monday at 2:27am MDT. Qigong master Robert Peng describes it in his Seasonal Qigong Series article on Clear and Bright:
“During this phase, powerful Earth Qi that has been concentrating underground for many months is projecting skyward like a geyser…”
This is a lovely image, but what does it feel like to be spewed upward from your safe internal hibernation and shot out into the light? All the pieces of you sprayed out like a billion water droplets, scattered and in the air, with no ground to hold you?
It feels not that great, actually! At least for me. All that geyser energy has got me feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, and unsettled. So what do I do when I feel scattered, ungrounded, and down right fightin’ my upward flow?
I watch my ducklings.
I sit and do nothing but observe. I listen to them peep as they eat and drink slurpily. I see them nuzzle each other with love. I make myself sit back down when I’ve bolted up in panic because big Cheese has tiny baby’s head under her giant baby foot.
I watch, and I relax, and I let big mama Nature teach me this lesson yet again:
I am here. I am right here. And everything is okay.
Here is your homework: Go outside and sit. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing, who else is around, or whether or not you have abundant plant, animal, or mineral life happening around you. You can find nature anywhere.
This is an exercise in watching. It is a practice of listening, observing, and witnessing. This is a presence practice.
Drop your opinions, let go of all tendencies to interact and engage, release your judgments, and just be.
Watch the wind in the trees, examine a new bunch of leaves forming on the end of a branch, spy on some ants in their steadfast march. Listen to the song of Life playing joyously and peacefully, beating along in the wings of a raven or the silent descent of the sun into the horizon.
Do this at least five minutes every day. If you take on this challenge, it will bring you into a centered place no matter how scattered you were feeling beforehand.
You’ve got to get quiet and be still in order to hear Nature’s wisdom.
Once you really listen, you can be a witness to everything you need to know.
Let your own version of the crazy baby duckling saga return you to your true essence of presence, peace, patience, and trust.
If you've got a good technique you use to bring yourself back into the present moment, please share it! Leave a comment below. Thanks!