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. 

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.