Last year, while alone in the New Mexican desert fasting, an amazing thing happened the first night out. It is something that continues to linger; having led to profound changes inside of me at a level beyond words, and yet, simultaneously, directly felt in my body.
You see, it is one thing to be on your own in the middle of nowhere in the daytime. But it becomes an entirely different entity in the night. Somehow in the darkness every rational and irrational fear you ever had, or might ever have, band together to form their own terrifying version of dark possibilities in your mind.
I could see this was coming as the sun began to set, and so, I started praying, begging really, that I be allowed to spend that first night out without “something getting me.” Now that something could have been real, but more than likely I knew that “that something” would be some internal, made-up, mind-driven horror show of my own making. So I asked to be protected from myself in this regard. And I asked if it were possible to have a good night’s sleep.
But mostly, I asked to have an experience that night of laying on the ground, in contact with the rhythms of the Earth, in a way that would help to restore my nervous system to a base line of ease, confidence, and resilience. A kind of going back in time to reset any of the ways my sense of safety and security in my body and in the world had been compromised.
To my great surprise, and eternal gratitude, I slept through the night; waking only once to open my eyes long enough to see a shooting star, and then easily falling back to sleep. When I awoke unafraid in the morning, it felt like nothing short of a miracle.
As if that wasn’t enough, that same miracle has continued in the most unexpected of ways since getting back home. Prior to my time in the desert, if I did not get at least 8 hours of sleep, I would feel absolutely ruined the next day. I would be touchy, edgy, physically unwell, and just plain exhausted to the bone if I did not get at least that amount of sleep. Prior to the desert I would feel absolutely unequipped to deal with life if my sleep was at all compromised. This left me working very, very hard. It was as if there was no reserve in my tank from which I could draw on. As if I were, on some level, closer to empty than would be expected given the resources available to me.
But since the desert, it somehow no longer matters, at all, how much sleep I get. Sure, I continue to gravitate to the 8 hours, but if it doesn’t happen, well, no big deal. It has been such a significant shift in me that those who know me best have commented on it.
Best of all, this goes well beyond sleep; directly supporting and shifting a deep and lasting change in my nervous system where better resilience around sleep deprivation is but one outcome. It feels as though I was somehow re-wired, leaving me better equipped to handle Life in all of its forms. The stuff that used to really get to me, rattle me, stay with me, rolls off of me now like water off a duck’s back.
I mention all of this to you to point out that for most of the history of our species, we laid down each night on the ground. More to the point, each and every day we came into direct and continuous contact with the earth. Many traditions point to the necessity and benefits of putting our bodies against the land for an experience of homeostasis-ness and healing. Even science has caught up to this reality. For now it can be measured that the earth has an electrical field; a kind of resonance, that puts us back in tune. Not only can it be felt, it can be measured.
It stands to reason then that if you are not feeling well in body, mind or spirit, or want to live more balanced and enlivened on a regular basis, go put yourself up against the Earth. You do not have to “know” anything because this is not a rational pursuit. You do not have to know what you are doing because it is not you who will be doing the doing. This is between your body and the body of the Earth. Just make it a point to regularly get at least your feet or butt on the ground. And then wait. Breathe. Receive. Feel.