When a great long, flat box appears in the hands of my post mistress, I am curious. “Is it a book?” I ask. “Pretty thin, and big,” she says. Opening the carefully constructed cardboard casing, I discover a copy of Barefoot Wisdom: Better Health through Grounding, by Sharon Whiteley and Ann Marie Chiasson, MD, and happily skip out of the post office heading for home.
Containing just 112 pages, this six-inch by nine-inch book was both bigger and slimmer than usual. A photograph of a barefoot woman stretching outdoors covers the entire front and wraps around to the back. The woman in the picture appears to be one of the authors, Dr. Ann Marie Chiasson, and she has gorgeous hair! I was drawn into the book by its cover, and I often judge books by their cover, even though the old adage warns against it. I already liked Barefoot Wisdom before I opened it.
Pictures of the two authors also appear on the back cover below the short description of contents. Dr. Chiasson is a practicing integrative and energy medicine physician. Her co-author, Sharon Whiteley, is the CEO of Listen, the wellness-oriented brand. Her personal story starts the book and is what inspired her research and collaboration on the topic of grounding.
Each chapter begins with a colour photograph overlaid by the chapter’s title. Some of these pages also have quotes, such as Albert Einstein’s “there are two ways to live your life, one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is.”1 Many chapters include an additional photograph; they are colourful and delightfully engage the senses. Both the quotes and photographs impart a lushness to the book that invokes quietude and attention.
Chapters one through three lay the groundwork for Barefoot Wisdom, outlining the basic principles of physics, atom construction, and how ions become polarized to be good or bad. “Bad ions” are molecules that have lost one electron or more, so learning that they hold a positive charge was counter-intuitive. These free radicals are created by pollution, tobacco smoke, alcohol, stress, pesticides, and a wide range of other sources. They can affect humans by inducing oxidative stress, which can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurologically degenerative conditions like MS, ALS, and Parkinson’s.
“Good ions,” also known as “negative ions,” are oxygen atoms with extra negatively charged electrons. They are abundant in nature, created by moving water, and are present in the earth, the beach, the mountains, and nature. Negative ions neutralize free radicals, promote healing, and balance the autonomic nervous system.
Building on the understanding of the simple physics, the authors cite a variety of sources from history which indicate how cultures who were daily in touch with the earth enjoyed health, vitality and longevity. Indigenous cultures who walked barefoot, or wore moccasins made of hide, enjoyed the therapeutic contact with the natural negative ion-rich energy of the earth. Our modern shoes, with their rubber and plastic soles, insulate us from a natural exchange of electromagnetic energy with the earth.
In chapter 10, a variety of methods are suggested to enable us to consciously re-establish the natural exchange with the earth’s energy.
The title, Barefoot Wisdom, comes from the easiest and most accessible of these, simply sitting on a chair or bench with our bare feet on the ground. Other accessible methods include wearing shoes with a natural leather or suede sole, walking barefoot on the beach, gardening with bare hands in the soil, hugging trees, standing under a shower stream, napping on the ground, picnicking in the park and going camping.2
Peppered with inspirational quotes focusing on the healing power of nature, Barefoot Wisdom feels very accessible, like I could pick it up and browse any section and find something inspirational and educational. Personal stories of health transformation are juxtaposed with the findings and citations of academic research documenting the efficacy of grounding. In a chapter entirely devoted to “Myths, Misconceptions, and Downright Skeptics,” the authors patiently take time to refute the naysayers with data generated through research, and their own learning and understanding of the far-reaching effects of grounding.
Already aware of the effects of nature on my disposition, I use water to reset my emotional and neurological system when I get overloaded, meditate on the rocks beside the lake because of the increased transcendental effect, and regularly choose to get out into nature in order to restore, and retain my mental health.
Barefoot Wisdom: Better Health Through Grounding is a book that I will loan to friends, and recommend to people who could benefit from increased grounding. Best of all, I will refer to it time and time again whenever I need to remember, or gain new techniques, enabling me to connect with my own barefoot wisdom. When I walk with Mother Earth, I walk in wisdom.
Image credit: Carl Jones