Last summer at a Reclaiming witch camp, I (re)discovered the joys of going barefoot. It was a very rainy week, and the terrain was hilly, rocky and muddy. Soon all three of the pairs of shoes I had brought (sandals, sneakers and hiking boots) were completely soaked through, and the notion of dry socks was a laughing matter. So, I decided to go barefoot. My studies that week were focused on connecting with nature and the divine, and I soon found that having my skin directly connected to the earth with each step was a profound experience. By the time I came home, I could hardly wear shoes at all. The chakras on the bottom of my feet were wide open and the energy between myself and Mother Earth was flowing freely.
Over time, as the weather grew colder and wetter, I forgot about going barefoot. During the winter, I resumed wearing socks and shoes, and wore slippers in the house so that my feet would stay warm. I ordered some new Birkenstocks online, thinking ahead to spring, not recalling the way my feet felt on the cool grass. Spring came, and it was rainy and cool, so I stayed with socks and close-toed shoes. But at last, the sun peeked through, and I started hiking.
Not wanting to get my new Birks muddy on a hike with Quester, I decided to take them off and put them in my backpack. Within moments, I could feel the energy of the forest more strongly: the trees breathing, the earth's heartbeat, the life force of the moss and flowers, the humbling strength of the rocks. My awareness continued to expand as I walked, placing each foot as if in a moving meditation. As my consciousness shifted, colors seemed brighter, my love and joy for Quester seemed bigger, and I could feel the attention of the Goddess upon me. Barefoot hiking made a beautiful day even more magickal and meaningful.
Recently I was able to introduce a close friend of mine, B., to the pleasures of barefoot hiking. Getting past the initial discomfort of roots and sharp stones, he opened himself to the experience, as I had done at witch camp. I could see the shift in his consciousness as he allowed the direct connection with the earth to flow up through his feet. We also did some silent hiking, which again expanded our awareness of the energies surrounding us and connecting us. The cool mud soothed our feet, and we headed for low spots on the trail, rather than going around them. Flat rocks in the sun also became favorite spots for a moment of rest, and we picnicked with our feet in the stream, feeling ourselves fully open to all of the elements: the cold water, hot sun, soothing breeze, and patient rocks.
The reaction of the other hikers was interesting and amusing. Most people were incredulous that we would hike barefoot, and said things like “you must have really tough feet!” One woman said she “could never do that,” to which B. quipped, “sure you could, just take off your shoes.” A little girl told my friend intently “you have mud on your feet.” An older woman stopped us to tell us about a friend of hers who always hiked barefoot, and who had written a philosophical treatise about the benefits. That led me to do a little bit of research when I got home, and I found a cool website, Barefoot Hikers.org, that will give you more information if you’re interested.
Hiking has long been one of my favorite summer activities, and now it has taken on a new dimension, directly related to the energy work I’ve been doing. Go ahead and try it, with a friend or on your own. Or if you don’t hike, take a barefoot walk around your yard or a park. Open yourself to the loving energies of the earth, grounding and releasing with each deliberate step. Enjoy the warmth and aliveness of the earth at this vibrant time of the year.