Why You Need to Connect with the Earth and 7 Ways to Do It
The practice of Bhuta Shuddhi (Elemental purification) is fundamental to the Yogic sciences. Here, Sadhguru explains the significance of the earth element and 7 things you can do to stay connected to it.
The Significance of Connecting with Earth ElementSadhguru: I always tell people in the Isha Yoga Center, “No matter what work you are doing, you must stick your fingers into the earth for at least for one hour a day.” Do something with the garden where your hands get muddy. This will build a natural physical memory in you that you are mortal. If you are sticking your hands into the earth every day, your body will know that it is not permanent. The body has a memory of its own which is far more significant than the mental memory. Right now, the memory that your body carries is ruling you far more than the memories of your mind.
If you are close to the earth, you are constantly being reminded that you are mortal – physiologically, on the cellular level, and on the elemental level. This reminder of mortality is the most key element in your spiritual process. You would long to know something beyond the body only because you know it will end one day. If this body was immortal, who would sit and meditate, who would want to know anything beyond this? Even if you are not consciously aware, somewhere deep down, you know that your expiry date is on. Mortality is the fundamental of spiritual process. If you are reminded of your mortality, you will naturally want to know.
Create a Stable Base to Experience Life with Awareness
Animals are very connected to the earth because they do not have the intellect and awareness that human beings have. When it comes to humans, their psychological space dominates over their existential presence. In a way, an earthworm experientially knows the connection to the earth, but it cannot consciously realize it. If you pull it out of the earth, it wants to go straight back into the earth. If you pull a fish out of the water, it wants to go straight back into the water. This is not only essential for survival but also just because of the familiarity of habitat. In that sense, they know the connection. But they are not capable of being aware of it when they are in the earth or the water, respectively.
Most human beings are in the same state. Nature has evolved us to a different level of intelligence and awareness, but we are refusing to accept the promotion. Obviously, you cannot live without air, water, or earth. If someone tries to take any one of them away from you, you will desperately want to get it back. In that sense, you know the connection as an earthworm or a fish knows it. It is time you know it as only human beings are capable of knowing it.
There are ways and methods to do that, unless you are too engaged in a world of your own. Most people are living in their own world, which means they are living in a psychological space, not really on the earth. They get down to the earth only when they get buried or cremated. Their psychological space is much more important to them than the reality in which they exist. In other words, their own thoughts and emotions are working against them, because their intelligence has not been trained to be used in such a way that it enhances the way they experience life.
The whole focus of modern education and cultures is on how to use and exploit our physical environment including every creature and every substance. Nothing is being offered to enhance the way we experience life using our intellectual dominance and awareness. We have learnt to use everything around us, but wellbeing has not happened. If you try to enhance your physical situations, only those are getting enhanced, not you and your experience of life. When you breathe, there is not a certain quantity of air that is yours or mine. You cannot live without a constant exchange with your surroundings. Even an earthworm knows this, but most human beings do not have that level of awareness. Our intelligence and awareness have turned against us because we have not bothered to create a stable enough basis for ourselves. This is why the earth element is so important.
Methods to Connect with the Earth Element
If you want to live sensibly, you should have contact with the earth that you live on. Because we have lost this contact, life has become disorganized in certain ways. This disorganization can lead to disease, weakness, and ultimately destabilization of the system itself.
What you call as your body is just a piece of the planet. If you lose connection with the source, you will get disorganized. Fitness and wellbeing does not mean walking on a treadmill and having bulging muscles. It is very important to strengthen the integrity of the elements in our system. There are specific methods with which we can do this.
#1 Put Your Hands in the Earth
The Earth is the basis of life. The more you are in touch with it, it is better. If your hands and your bare feet are in contact with the earth, it will harmonize the physiological process in your system. Whenever it is in contact with the earth, the body reorganizes itself. Try to spend at least a few minutes a day in the garden, barefoot, touching plants or trees. This is a simple way to connect with the earth.
We had a Yogic hospital in the Isha Yoga Center in India. We did not want it to grow too much. We do not want to turn into a full-time hospital because we are a spiritual center. Once, a few American doctors came and stayed there, and after three days, one of the volunteers came and told me, “All the medical doctors are up in arms, they want to leave!”
I said, “What happened?”
They said, “It is best that you meet them.”
Then I went to meet them. I said “What’s the problem?”
They said, “You said there is a hospital! Where is the hospital? There is no hospital here!”
I said “Right now there are about sixty-odd patients.” Their idea of a hospital is that there must be beds and you must treat the sick well.
They said, “Where are the patients?”
I said “They are all in the garden. I put them to work.” We give them treatment, therapies, and medication, but the rest of the time I put them to work. They must do whatever they can do. Above all, they must sit and work barefoot, with bare hands in the soil, just being in touch with the planet.
Fundamentally, if there is a certain assurance of nourishment happening to the body in terms of food, and clean air to breathe, being in touch with the earth can complete the health process. If you cannot be in tune with that, because you are very affluent and fashionable, you can have a mud bath. That is another way.
#2 Earthing - Get Wet and Prostrate!
When you earth the electrical connections, you keep it wet because it conducts better when it is wet. This is why in all the Indian temples, people are making their bodies wet, and lying down on the floor in prostration. This is not just earthing. You want the entire body to be in touch with that earth which is energized. Men go with their upper body bare, and women go with wet clothes.
This contact with nature, whether its earth, air or water is most important. Without this contact, the body will slowly lose its integrity and its stability. It may still survive, it may not die tomorrow morning, but it loses a variety of capabilities that it has come with. The possibilities that the human system carries is lost as you lose contact with the natural elements.
#3 Walk Barefoot During New Moons
A simple way to connect with the Earth is to walk barefoot. The time between Pradosham (two days before a new moon day) and new moon is particularly conducive for this experience. On these days, the moon’s gravity creates a certain level of inertia, and your body and its energies are much more connected with Earth than on other days, because it is pulling you in that direction. By contrast, on full moon days, it is pulling you up in the opposite direction. That is why there are different Yogic practices for full moon days, new moon days, Shivaratri, and Pradosham.
If not every day, at least for these three days from Pradosham to Amavasya or new moon day – if not outside, at least in the house – see if you can walk barefoot and sit on the floor, particularly cross-legged. Both bring a deep energy connection and create the experience of being a part of the earth. Lying down will not give you that kind of conscious experience, because of the way your energies function in that position.
#4 Walk Barefoot Before Lunch and Dinner
Especially before you go for dinner or lunch, walk without footwear for at least half an hour, either in the grass or in the mud. You will see that the food that you eat will integrate into the system in a very different way. Digestion will anyway happen, but how much you can integrate into the system depends on how much you are in tune with the earth. If you walk without footwear for even half an hour, you will see that the elements will function with a little more integrity than the way they are right now.
Especially for children, not only does this give them better balance, it also helps develop their cerebral capabilities. The nerves of the feet are sensitive, and as they come in contact with the ground, children develop a better understanding of their environment and also experiences better awareness of the body. Walking barefoot has been linked to better agility, stronger leg muscles, and lower risk of injury.
#5 Get Off Your Cot and Sleep on the Floor
If you have a very unstable body and tend to fall sick very easily, just get off your bed or cot and sleep on the floor. It will make a big difference. If you get just eighteen inches closer to the earth, you will see that it will make big difference in terms of reorganizing the system. I would say eighty percent of your health depends on how much in tune you are with the earth. Eighty percent of your chronic ailments can just vanish, simply because you found a little rapport with the earth on which you are walking or sitting right now.
#6 Cleansing the Elements with Bhuta Shuddhi
One simple practice that you can start if you have the time and focus is bhuta shuddhi. Pancha bhutas are the five elements. Shuddhi means to cleanse that. Whether it is the physical body, or the larger body of the creation, it is essentially made of five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space. What you call as “myself” is just a mischief of these five elements. If you know how to organize these five elements properly, then there is nothing more to life in terms of health, wellbeing, perception, knowing, or enlightenment. This elemental play happens in a different way when it is in touch with the earth.
The air that you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the earth that you walk upon, and the space which holds you – consciously bring a certain sense of a reverence to these five times a day, or if you are too preoccupied, at least three times a day. You are being told Matru prema, Pitru prema, etc. Prithvi prema is love for the planet on which you are walking, because that is not different from you.
Whether you eat, breathe, or drink something, be aware that you are taking in a part of this planet. Whatever you do – make it as conscious as possible. It will make a world of difference in how you experience life.
It would be best if you can be conscious of every breath you take. When you breathe air, be conscious that you are breathing a certain aspect of this planet. When you eat something, be conscious that you are eating a part of this planet. When you drink water, be conscious that you are drinking a part of this planet. You should intellectually understand and be conscious of the connection, but doing only that will not bring an experiential connection. A true experiential connection means that you experience the earth as much a part of you as your little finger.
#7 Buried Alive!
The planet has substantial influence upon the human body. For example, the physiological parameters of your body function in different ways depending on whether you stand up or lie down on the earth. The direction and impact of the planet’s magnetic forces on your body are the reason why we say you should not sleep with your head to the north, because that would not be good for you.
There are ways of getting more involved with the planet all of us live on and are made of. If you have a garden and some privacy, after you finish your sadhana in the morning, dig a hole in your backyard that is about two feet deep. Put your feet inside, close the hole up to just above your ankles, and stay there for thirty to forty minutes, simply stuck in the earth. There are many benefits to this practice. In terms of health, you will see that if you attune yourself to the ways of the planet, allergies will vanish. Fundamentally, allergies indicate that something within you is not in rapport with the life-making material of this planet.
You may have heard of Yogis being buried right up to the neck as a sadhana. You need not go that far, but being in touch with the earth is very beneficial in terms of health, wellbeing, and certain types of spiritual practices. When people acquire certain capabilities – let’s say they make their bodies like thin air, walk upon water, or do other kinds of things that are considered “supernatural” – in a way, it is all about the ability to align one’s physical existence with the celestial bodies. This competence and capability arises simply from the alignment with the forces that have shaped your physical body, and that have determined its nature and form. There are nine celestial bodies that play a significant role in making things happen for human beings. Out of these nine, the Earth, Moon, and Sun are the most important ones.
You could start with burying just the feet, and if it works for you, go up to your neck!