Barefoot Medicine

This week I’ve been walking on the beach each day.  Walking barefoot at the edge of earth.  It is a living edge, a potent, changing edge, this place where heaven meets earth, where wind, water and sun flirt with each other endlessly. I walk barefoot so that I can feel the energy of the earth coming up through my feet.  The warmth of the earth goes right to my core.  Chinese medical thinking says that the sun radiates it's yang energy to the earth, which then we draw up through our connection to the earth and use in our bodies as warmth and strength.  Science calls this an electro-magnetic field, energy that you become influenced by and a part of if you are touching the earth.  Unfortunately, rubber-soled shoes do not conduct this energy.  Leather can conduct it, but man-made materials don’t.  So I walk barefoot. 

Feet on the sand Rushton's beach.jpg


Barefoot is freedom, wildness and some kind of danger. Sharp rocks, broken shells, bits of glass all lurk in the sand and in the shallow waters.  One day, I crossed the whole beach at low tide, a long walk across many rocks and sand bars.  And I stepped on a bit of something that punctured my heel.  A sharp pain, but one that didn’t stop my journey because I was so enjoying the warmth of the day, the sound of the water, the stretch of sky and ocean that ran before me.  But, by the time I arrived back at home, my foot was sore.  Bleeding and sore. 

There is something about bleeding that is slowing and almost sweet.  The presence of blood says this is real, it honors the pain.  It could, of course, be alarming too.  I wasn’t alarmed but I was aware that I had crossed a line.  I had pushed on through the day without tending to my foot in a timely manner.  It was sore, calling for my attention, for a nice soaking and a careful bandaging.  Simple, this tending, and yet even this, holds some kind of larger medicine for me, a kind of larger attention that feels tender and raw, soft somehow.

There are so many edges these days.  So many are bleeding and sore.  Political edges, emotional edges, physical edges.  It is not as though edges weren’t always there, but it does seem that in the last few years things have gotten edgier.  We are more divided culturally, more disparate emotionally, financially and spiritually as a nation than any time in my lifetime. How can we care for these edges? How can we allow the bleeding to bring us to honor the pain, our pain and the pain of others? How can we “bandage” “tend” to the wound without pretending it will never happen again?

Truth is, pain is a fact of life.  Wounding is a fact of life.  When you walk barefoot, open, exposed, you are vulnerable.  Edges represent contact in a very certain way.  A contact that has potential for change, for engagement and also for pain, conflict.  In these times you are always walking some edge, some rough space of knowing and not knowing, of edges that speak to both excitement and fear.

Yet as a human, you can also be fearless, brave, willing to show your heart, show your wounds, claim your whole human self.  One of my first and most profound teachers in this life, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, has said that life can be like “licking honey from a razor blade.” And so it is.  We are called to live at the edge in our fullness, yet never forgetting the edge is there, feeling the sharpness, the vividness of our discomfort, the thrill of our own knowing as we navigate. 

I like to walk barefoot, something that I’ve always loved to do. I want to walk this way in the world, on the edge, careful yet open, brave, but a little bit wild, adventurous.  How do you want to walk in the world?

P.S.  for more about grounding through our feet and through the earth, check out

Josephine SpilkaComment