Blog: Mother Earth Heals
by Liora Leah

Earth Heals Pain

Lessons learned from Barefoot Mick and Sunshine Sam of the Barefoot Academy: Walking Barefoot on Mother Earth is Healing My Foot and Back Pain via Re-Connection to the Earth

Date:   5/29/2005 5:02:41 PM   ( 16 y ) ... viewed 2462 times

In my lower back, I have a slightly compressed disc that, on occasion, “slips”, causing nerve pain and muscle spasms. This condition is aggravated whenever I sit too long without getting up and stretching, as in driving the car for hours or sitting at the computer. The condition is helped greatly if I keep up with a regular walking program. I usually walk 2 to 3 miles at a time, 3 to 4 times a week; it is generally the only form of exercise I get. I had been rather tired in the past month, and let my walking go for a couple of weeks. This contributed to my back “going out” two weeks ago. Three trips to the chiropractor later, my back was feeling better, if somewhat stiff. The chiropractor said I would do well to “move some energy”, so back to my walking I went, with a passion I had not felt in a while. Last week, I walked 3 miles daily for 5 days in a row, took one day off, then walked 3 miles the next day. This helped my back enormously, but proved too much for my feet and ankles.

Like many women my age (I’ll be 49 this June), I ruined my feet by wearing high heeled, pointy-toed shoes for years, which led to the development of rather large bunions on each foot. Bunions, for those of you who aren’t familiar with them, are actual deformities in the bone of the foot, causing the large toes to turn inwards and a rather unpleasant-looking bone protrusion to develop on the large “knob” of bone at the base of the big toes. When irritated, they hurt, sending searing nerve pain into one’s foot. I also have weak ankles--from injuries too numerous to count--that tend to swell, an old bone fracture in my left foot that was allowed to heal poorly at a time I had no health insurance to pay for treatment, and life-long “falling arches”, or weak arch muscles, requiring me to wear arch supports. My feet and ankles are, all-in-all, a podiatrist’s nightmare.

After my renewed and more intensive walking regimen for one week, I woke up the next day and could barely walk. Every bunion, old injury, ankle, arch, and ball of foot decided to scream a protest of pain. I was reduced to wearing two pairs of socks to pad the bunions under thick, rubber-soled beach slides with the Velcro straps across the feet made as loose as possible. Not to offend any elders, but I was shuffling like a little old lady, and shuffled right off to the chiropractor after two days of misery. Because I couldn’t wear my arch supports with the slides, everything was “out of alignment” and in pain—shins, knees, hips, and back.

While he was working on me, I told the chiropractor about a man I’d met a few months ago at a spiritual gathering. He was barefoot, and told the group his experiences of how he became a barefoot man. At one time, Mick worked as a mechanic in an industrial setting. He had to wear thick-soled, steel-toed work boots. He developed excruciating pain in the arches of his feet, and nothing he did seemed to help. He took a long vacation and went up to the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. He spent weeks in the old growth forest first hobbling, then walking, then running, barefoot through the woods. He felt as though he had grown a connection with the Earth through the soles of his feet. His foot pain disappeared. He had more energy. Mentally and emotionally, he was at peace. When he went back to work, the pain returned. Every time he went up to the mountains and ran barefoot, his feet healed and his energy and mental/emotional stability was renewed. Eventually he quit his job. He now goes barefoot all the time, no matter the terrain or the weather. He has developed a spiritual philosophy that he teaches through the Barefoot Academy up in the Olympic Mountains, where he resides most of the year with his partner, Sunshine Sam. (They winter in Ojai, California.) His philosophy is that once a person begins to expose the soles of their feet to contact with the Earth, then the “disconnect” from the Earth begins to heal. As the person begins this process of reconnection, their “earth body” begins to grow, and the Earth then shows them the way for further healing. Mick believes that the Earth begins to “root up into the neural roots of the practitioner” through the soles of our feet. As the person begins to align with nature, the person is healed; this healing “spreads into the community, and the land begins to heal.” His healing philosophy is exemplified in his poem and motto:

"Dance With The Fire,
Run With The Wind
Embrace Into The Stone,
Flow as the Water Within,

Train in these four ways,
While in your naked feet,
And With your heart wide open,
The earth will teach."

I asked my chiropractor what he thought of my going barefoot. He raised his eyebrows, and said maybe that was good for some people, but he wouldn’t recommend it for me unless I was walking on grass or sand on the beach. I told him that right after I met Mick, I had walked a few times, barefoot, on dirt trails at the Nature Center close to my house, and that the ever-present pain in the arch of my left foot disappeared while I walked. The chiropractor shrugged his shoulders, but remained noncommittal.

My back and legs felt much better, although still somewhat stiff, after the chiropractic treatment, but my feet and ankles still hurt. I decided as I was leaving that I was going to take a walk at the Nature Center, come hell or high water. Later that afternoon, I arrived at the Center. The El Dorado Park Nature Center is a part of the City of Long Beach’s vast El Dorado Park, comprised of hundreds of acres. The Nature Center itself is man-made, built in 1956, but one wouldn’t know it by the foliage and animal life that fills this part of the park. I have seen a coyote, peregrine falcons, gophers, gopher snakes, great-blue herons, ducks and other water fowl, turtles, uncountable numbers of small lizards, and myriad insects, including butterflies, bumblebees, and grasshoppers, at the park over the years that I have walked there. Two dirt trails, one two miles, the other one mile, wind their way around two man-made ponds. The Center uses no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or commercial fertilizers of any kind. Instead, mulch, made from ground-up tree bark and leaves from “green waste” from the City’s other parks, that would otherwise become landfill, is used to provide nutrients to the soil. The ponds are stocked with fish that eat mosquito larvae, to reduce the danger of West Nile Virus. The maintenance workers drive around in little electric carts. In the suburbs and the surrounding cities where I live, the Nature Center is as close to nature as I can get, and only a 10 minute drive from my house.

I decided to walk the 2-miler, very slowly. Starting out with my double-socks and beach slides on, I shuffled along. “This is ridiculous,” I thought to myself. I walked a few yards, then reached down and yanked off shoes and socks, stuffing them in the pockets of my sweatshirt. Barefoot, I made my way slowly down the trail, picking up speed gradually as I went. As I walked, I prayed “Mother, I need your help. I am growing roots from the bottom of my feet into your Body, through Your crust and molten magma, all the way to Your iron core. Please send healing energy up my roots, through my feet, up my legs and into my back. Thank you. Amen.” As I walked, I envisioned roots growing from my soles into the Earth, and the Mother answering me, sending her Energy up my roots. As I walked, I felt the pain in the various parts of my feet and ankles intensify, then disappear, one pain spot after another. By the time I reached the end of the trail I was walking at a moderate clip, the stiffness in my legs, hips and lower back was diminished, and the pain in my feet and ankles was gone. The only thing I felt, and it was not uncomfortable, was the gently aching muscles of my feet, the kind of satisfying ache that one gets after a work-out when your muscles are not used to being used.

On my way home, I marveled at what had occurred, and thanked the Mother for her healing energies.


Liora Leah

Barefoot Mick and Sunshine Sam do not have a website. Please contact them via e-mail at:

See my other blogs on Mick and Sam, barefoot walking, and reconnecting to Mother Earth through the soles of our feet:

"Warrior Woman of the Shield" 
"Barefoot Walking: The Four Disciplines"
"Barefoot Practice"

"Wildman Barefoot Buddha"
"Deer Animal Totem":
"Walking Like a Deer"
"Earth Shoes"
"Barefoot Walkin' Blues"
"Barefoot Story"
"Re-connecting with Earth"

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