The famed hero Hercules went to the garden of Hesperides for golden apples to bring to King Eurystheus. In the garden, he encountered Antaeus, a giant of invincible strength, who challenged Hercules to a wrestling match. Hercules threw Antaeus to the ground time and again, but Antaeus would not stay down. In fact, he seemed to grow stronger every time he stood up.
When Hercules remembered that the giant was the son of Gaia, the Mother Earth goddess, he finally understood that Antaeus’ strength and vigor was rejuvenated every time he touched the earth. So Hercules lifted Antaeus off the ground until he grew weak, then the great hero crushed the giant to death.
I too feel stronger when I’m grounded, feel vulnerable and distracted when I am disconnected from Mother Earth.
The practice of grounding – or earthing – is based on the idea that electrical conductivity affects the living matrix, meaning that living grass and living feet share cellular energy when connected. The ancient science of Ayurveda teaches that Earth’s natural electric charge stabilizes our physiology at the deepest levels by improving blood flow, energy, and health.
Humans were designed for connection and that crucial interdependence happens in four realms. We intuitively long to connect to ourselves, to others, to a higher spirit, and to nature. If any of these are missing, we unconsciously seek to fill that hole with a lesser substitute. We then strive towards fame, wealth, youthfulness, power, sex, anything that gives us a short burst of dopamine instead of lasting sustenance.
This morning I wiggled my feet deep in the dewey grass as the sunrise slowly inched heavenward. I’ve been thinking a lot about vanaprastha, the third yogic stage of life, a time of turning away from worldly affairs to move inward.
Hindu philosophy traditionally observes four stages of life, known as ashramas. The first stage is from birth to young adulthood, a time of learning about the history of the world and how we fit into it as individuals. The second stage is a time for building a family and a career.
Vanaprashta is the third stage, naturally occurring around age 50. Upon reaching this stage, people start detaching themselves from the pursuit of material gains by spending more time alone in spiritual endeavors. This stage, known as forest dwelling, encourages those in vanaprastha to spend as much time in nature as possible. The word vana means forest or garden. The idea is that living within walls creates a false sense of immortality. We feel safe, protected, and in control … but these are illusory. Nature offers solace, knowledge, peace, and, ultimately, freedom. The earth constantly reminds our bodies that the only guarantee is returning to the earth; this is where we came from and this is where we shall return.
Humans share about 97 percent of the same kind of atoms as those in our galaxy. We are made of the same building blocks that form stars, grass, ocean beds, and mountaintops. Like Antaeus, our strength and clarity are fortified by the earth. Our hubris tells us that we are the center of the universe, yet we forget that 90 percent of the cells in our body are not even human. Instead, they belong to other organisms. We are called to nature because we are nature. Nature nurtures and ultimately calls us home.
What I’m saying is this. Go outside right now, no matter the weather. Go outside and remember who you are.