What is Grounding?
Recently in class the subject of grounding has been brought up a few times. So what is grounding? What does it mean to be grounded? Grounding (or Earthing) is being in direct contact with the Earth and literally sharing atoms with the planet through skin contact. This exchange of molecules with the planet helps keep our mindbody energies in balance with the natural world. This is an ancient concept that too often comes with an unnecessarily high modern price tag.
If you've ever had the experience of feeling flighty or like your head was stuck in the clouds, unable to collect your thoughts or energy, this is being ungrounded. Most of us have experienced this off-putting sensation at some point in our lives. It can leave us unable to concentrate and with an unsettling feeling of incompleteness. This jet lagged feeling leaves us out of synch with our surroundings and can be brought on by stress, nutrition/hydration issues, long travel and working night shifts or staying up too late, to name a few culprits. I even had one class participant express having her "days and nights mixed up." Thankfully, there are ways to re-ground ourselves so our energy isn't so scattered, just like grounding an electrical outlet so circuitry doesn't get fried.
With the 21st Century focus on all things technology, some pricey grounding or Earthing mats and blankets have now hit the markets. These are basically blankets or floor mats with copper wires sewn through them that either plug into the ground (bottom hole) of an electrical socket or go directly into the ground itself. Some of these products cost well into the hundreds of dollars and make claims to be the best way to get re-grounded and boost productivity.
Fortunately for our bank accounts, all you have to do to ground yourself, is take off your shoes and touch the Earth with bare feet. Living in a tropical climate near the beach makes this super fun and easy to accomplish on a daily basis and a great excuse to go put your toes in the sand every day. But you don't have to live near a beach to connect directly with the Earth. Any patch of bare ground or rock will do just fine. When we have direct contact with the Earth, we exchange energy with the Earth. Since we are energetic entities (our hearts and brains work on electrical signals) our energy can share with some of the energy emitted from the Earth. Have you every noticed in photos from space that the Earth has a glow around it? It's not because of our electrical grids, it's the Earth's own energy shining out, not as brightly as the Sun obviously, but it is aglow with energy. It is a living planet whose massive energy can and does affect our own in a variety of ways including helping to heal us, as we know being in nature does.
There's also an affordable way to remain grounded all that time that you can wear on your feet. For years kung fu masters from a variety of styles including tai chi frequently wear cotton-soled shoes instead of rubber soles. By replacing the insulating rubber on the bottom of the shoe with a non-insulating material (cotton in this case) ions can be freely exchanged
with the Earth through this porous material while walking even when wearing shoes. These tai chi shoes are my first choice of footwear all day long but they are not right for everyone and not all the time. Being basically layer upon layer of sheets on the bottom they have absolutely no support and no water resistance whatsoever. They become a soaking wet mess in even a little ground water. Because of this many people choose to simply wear them around the house or office instead of outdoors. Some people choose to wear them only when doing their tai chi or qigong practice to enhance energy flow and rooting or grounding.
For myself, when I wear rubber soled shoes to practice tai chi in, I do not get the same energy boost as when I am barefoot on the Earth or wearing my cotton tai chi shoes. If I practice massage while wearing rubber soled shoes, my feet get very hot very fast with the build up of energy work I'm doing not being able to release and the session is not nearly as complete as when I am barefoot or in my tai chi shoes. In fact, the energy exchange through this type of natural grounding is so noticeable, Dr. Joseph Mercola claims to have moved to Daytona Beach from Chicago just so he could walk barefoot on the beach every day to keep himself grounded and healthy. At his presentation I attended he told the story of slowly noticing a change in his ability to focus. Being a scientifically trained medical doctor he began experimenting on himself to discover what was causing this. Through a slow painful process of testing, trail and elimination he discovered that on the rare occasion he went and walked barefoot in the sand along the shoreline of Lake Michigan where he lived in Chicago, he was better able to concentrate. He came to discover that when he was barefoot and in direct contact with the Earth, he had clearer, more focused thought processes. That's quite a personal revelation for a Western medical doctor.
There are many ways in which grounding or not being grounded affects our health. I once had the privledge to witness and learn first hand from a world famous tai chi master of grounding, Master Jesse Tsao. At the event he demonstrated his ability to grow roots and not be pushed over when a whole slew of huge men from the audience tried to push him over and couldn't even when they all pushed together at the same time against this one man simply standing and rooting through his feet. Despite 10 large men pushing, shoving, huffing and puffing, struggling in their attempt to push him over, Master Tsao held his ground not by holding on to anything