I spent my elementary school years among hundreds of other barefoot tootsies and digits. As soon as we arrived at school each day, all of the students ripped velcro apart, untied laces, and freed our feet from our shoes. It was my school's policy that all children must remain barefoot inside and outside during school hours. This meant that my feet didn’t go back into their synthetic protectors until it was time for me to walk home. It was like that for all seasons, all activities, including our outdoor gym classes and field days.
The school set up several foot washing stations, where jetted water sprayed our feet as we rubbed them together to get all the outside dirt off before reentering the classrooms. I still remember the initial shock of running a 50m dash on the dirt, the tingling sensations that reverberated up my legs, and later having the ice-cold water tickling between my toes at the washing station. “Your feet will get used to it!” My homeroom teacher hollered, as if her feet needed some encouragement too. Year by year more teachers started to join us, and eventually even the principle removed his indoor slippers for our Monday morning assemblies.
For many years now—especially in the health and wellness world where I operate—the benefits of being barefoot have been studied, advocated, made into products, captured on Pinterest and lauded in Listicles. It’s unquestioned that being barefoot is good for you and grounds you! And that’s not what I need to reiterate here.
Looking back at all those years I spent barefoot, it has also taught me how to be firmly grounded in who I am. You see, as an Empath and the only strawberry blond, curly haired, freckled, and half-white kid in the entire city of 1 million Japanese residents, I was literally an alien (gaijin) to everyone, young or old. I struggled to belong, because the world around me didn’t see me as a part of their tribe.
But one day I distinctively remember looking at all the other feet lined up next to mine, receiving the same blessings from the foot washing stations. Their sandy feet looked like mine and my dirty feet looked like theirs. In that moment I felt a powerful magnetic beam shooting out of my arches into the earth. Mother Earth had summoned me to come home, to belong. I planted my heels and expanded my toes like roots. In a flash, I became a magnificent ginkgo tree among a forest of other trees, a vast organism networked beyond the mind’s understanding.
I share this experience because we could use a reminder that we belong here—especially as we enter into a new month, a new season, with rapid shifts harrowing the world. We belong on this Earth right now as spiritual beings having a human experience. So whenever you feel out of place, lonely, or just can’t seem to find anyone that understands you, step outside barefoot and let the roots of your being expand and ground. Become a glorious tree that stand among other glorious trees, and allow Mother Earth to hold you in her arms…because you belong.