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Quick, what definitions first come to mind when you hear the word "grounding"? For me, the first associations are either with electrical circuits or with the even more obviously metaphorical application of being stable and settled.  Since my kids were always very cooperative, I can't say that the other common use of "grounding" (as in a time-out, inside the house, for teens) has had much significance for me. I will also admit that I tend to use the past participle, grounded, rather than the gerundial form.

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I'd extend the invitation to ruminate a little on the concept, whether literal or metaphorical. I'll start by discussing the (very) little I know about the newly popular phenomenon of "earthing" or "grounding" as a method for encouraging health.

Is this something that you have already encountered, or is it completely unfamiliar to you? I first learned of it, as I recall, when I was at the detox center in the fall of 2011 ("enema farm," as we now call it at our house) and saw a periodical devoted to the health benefits of taking off one's shoes and walking around on the bare soil with one's bare feet. Whether the ground is cold or hot, wet or dry, re-establishing the connection between one's body via feet on the ground is supposed to be highly therapeutic.

I must admit to some skepticism, then and now. Surely the advantages of wearing shoes, I figure, far outweigh the advantages of going without them. However, I have encountered some barefoot advocates more recently who have encouraged me to open my mind to the idea.

One of my husband's oldest friends is a serious runner, a marathoner in fact, who has the kind of meditative and thoughtful attitude that I associate with long-distance runners. Last time we saw him, he was beginning to flirt with the idea of running barefoot at least some of the time, under controlled conditions. He had tried the "athletic toe shoes" (you know, the kind of socks that look like gloves and are also allegedly sturdy enough to walk or run in), and while they were all right in his judgment they weren't as satisfying as running barefoot. In his personal experience, his stride changed--became shorter, as I recall--and his posture became looser. Now, I am neither a sprinter nor a marathoner, so his example is not likely to apply to me directly. But I am still curious about the implications of getting closer to the ground on which we step.

Probably the closest I come to this version of "grounding" on a regular basis happens in the summer when I go camping. I love to camp, actually, and have done so happily for as long as I can remember. When I was a Girl Scout, back in the 1970s, our equipment was pretty primitive. The Scouts would supply the big tents, and we'd have our own bags and pads. All that was rudimentary compared to the equipment I have accumulated over the years, and I don't even do any winter camping or backpacking. Recently, I have acknowledged the demands of age and infirmity by acquiring good sleep mats, much thicker than the Therm-a-Rests and other compressible pads. I do not mind the greater comfort that they provide, even if they do lift me off the ground by another inch or two.

Now, I know that it's clearly an indication of some insularity (pun intended) that I can think about sleeping outside on the ground as being a good time. If it were a necessity, not a rare treat, either for me or for someone close to me I might think about it very differently. On the other hand, I am grateful for the very little bit of wildcraft I've acquired and would be happy to gain more; no telling when such skills might come in handy.

The other way in which I most like to get "grounded" is to go to the woods. There, it's not the ground--dirt--soil--that matters to me, but the big trees. Bigger and taller the better. Have you ever felt a tree's energy pulse through you? I have, most notably when I visited the Estivant Pines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the last stand of virgin white pine in the UP, according to the Michigan Nature Association, which was instrumental in the campaign to save them from logging in 1971. They're way too big around to be hugged by any one person, but it is still possible to get a sense of their energy by touching their bark. I don't quite know what I expected, if anything, but I still remember over twenty years later how charged that tree felt. It was far from grounded in one sense, of being electrically neutralized. Yet in another, it was a prime exemplar of groundedness, since it was obviously so deeply rooted and connected to the soil from which it sprang.

I know that for some of you, being outside is just not appealing for a variety of reasons. I'm not interested in limiting this discussion of "grounding" to the direct connection between body and earth, however. What matters to me for the purposes of this discussion is this: How do you feel connected, bonded, to the rest of the ecosystem in which you live? How do you understand your own place in the world? How has this sense of connection and relationship changed post-diagnosis (if it has, that is)? Thanks for sharing your thoughts about fostering a sense of being grounded.

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