This last week, I learned about Earthing. If this sounds like a hippie-influenced, granola-society type of activity… you’re probably right. Though it’s proponents claim that there is scientific research to validate the claims of this practice, the basic gist is that we as humans accumulate loads of electron imbalances from the stress, emotions, work, and events of life throughout the day. We amass “free radicals,” which are atoms, molecules, or ions with unpaired electrons in their outer valences. The more free radicals we accumulate, the more the body is put at risk, or hindered from healing. The cure, however, is “earthing” (sometimes called “grounding”), or the process of simply physically contacting the earth (sand soil, ocean water, etc) with our bodies and bare skin- it’s contact with nature “the way we were meant to” touch and connect and rest in it. The argument is that such contact with soil removes and balances these free radicals that amass in our bodies, and boasts health benefits such as reduced muscle soreness and fatigue, reduced stress, and improved pulse, respiratory rate, cortisol levels, psychological well being, and more balanced body voltage (I guess people can have “electric” and “magnetic” personalities).
There might be something to this. As more and more people begin to criticize the way we are “killing ourselves” with our processed and fast food diets, unbalanced lifestyles, and our always increasing supply of pharmaceuticals and other pills and medicines, I tend to have more and more sympathy with the perspective that he more raw and natural our diets, medicines, and lifestyles are, the more healthy they probably are as well. However, the fact that this then leads one to buying premium prices for organic and “natural” food and products by companies that support this the most leaves me suspicious sometimes (and don’t be surprised- these earthing people would LOVE to sell you a negatively-charged carbon sleeping mat to give you that “grounded” experience as you sleep without having to get dirty working or sleeping in your garden).
This weekend, I’m looking forward to a mountain retreat with a couple of friends to celebrate my birthday. I never get to escape into the beauty of nature as often as I would like. But I know that I’m now over due for this sort of oasis, and experience has told me that escaping the concrete jungle to behold and to live in the beauty of God’s nature landscape does have very therapeutic physical and spiritual effects on me. There is something invigorating about taking a brief hiatus from the rush and auto-pilot blur of life to fellowship with the rock, soil, flora and fauna of his creation.
However, as much sense as it makes, I have lately been convicted that my truest need for “grounding” is not to be planted in the dust of nature, but to be rooted in the nourishing streams of the word of God. For those who follow an American academic calendar, October can often be a brutal and daunting month- the month where the new semester honeymoon phase ends, and the demand of deadlines comes to the forefront. For organizations, it’s that time when teams begin to hit their strides again, with companies regrouped after the summer vacation season, and work needs to be done before the slowdown of the holiday season.
Yet, what these external rhythms of life can distract us from is the LifeSource of God’s word. And the separation anxiety the church has to the word of God is stark… and sad. For those familiar with the Barna Research Group, every year, generations of teens and youth demonstrate a dwindling knowledge of any sort of Bible fluency. While Jay Leno and Steven Colbert mock the “man-on-the-street” and even congressmen for not knowing the 10 commandments, or that Genesis is the first book in the OT canon, those who identify themselves as “Christians” in such polls don’t perform much better. And in fact, in a 2005 poll by Barna, in several areas of “spiritual maturity,” Christians were honesty most harsh on themselves in the area of knowing the sacred writings- where 25% labeled themselves “not too mature” or “not at all mature.”
While knowledge of the Bible does not equate to spiritual growth as a disciple, it’s tough conceive of someone calling themselves a die-hard baseball fan or player if they don’t even know that a “K” is a swinging-strikeout, that you score runs and not points, and that the bullpen has nothing to do with the rodeo.
The “grounding” that goes missing when we abandon time in the Word is our attachment to the authority that the Word breathes on us. In a world of increasing relativism, as well as an ever desperate and distraught quest for purpose and meaning, the absence of a biblical paradigm that places Jesus as the source of authority (not our own inklings) has resulted in what one professor and mentor of mine calls “a spiritual famine,” even when we sit saturated with more Bible’s and Bible resources than we have had at any time in history past.
I think these earthing institute people are onto something: we are missing some serious grounding. But the kind of carbon we need between our finders and before our eyes might not be the potting soil in our yards, but the daily holding and reading of the pages of the Word. As life get’s busy and the going gets tough this month, be praying for a bit of Bible revival in your habits and in your soul, and pray this also for the church everywhere.
 If you’re curious: http://earthinginstitute.net/studies/earthing_delayed_muscle_2010.pdf, http://earthinginstitute.net/studies/earthing_pulse_rate.pdf, http://earthinginstitute.net/studies/earthing_human_physiology_2006_pt1.pdf, http://earthinginstitute.net/studies/earthing_body_voltage_2005.pdf