Go Barefoot: The Practice of Walking on Earth


Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are.

The trail was listed as 2 miles. But it felt much longer.

It’s been a few years now since we walked this trail. In one of the last remaining virgin forests in North Carolina—the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest—the view was grand.

But the terrain was touchy. You had to go slow. Not only because of the incline, but because of tree roots and rocks and stumps.

You had to pay attention to where each foot landed.

You had to notice.

You had to stay grounded.

It’s a spiritual discipline to stay grounded. To remember how to walk on the earth as we live in the Spirit.

To remember that where our feet are now is also where our heart needs to be. In this moment is where I AM resides.

Sometimes we do not know what we know until it comes to us through the soles of our feet, the embrace of a tender lover, or the kindness of a stranger.

Touching the truth with our minds alone is not enough.

We are made to touch it with our bodies.

Back home, the walk is easier. I leave my shoes unlaced in the closet. I walk barefoot outside, stepping quickly over the hot pavement to cool my toes in the grass. Ever watchful for thorny weeds or ant resorts, I still enjoy the sensation of nothing under my feet but earth.

It’s when feet are uncovered they’re most aware of the ground.

To go barefoot is to live raw.
To notice each step.
To track the refined nuances of pain and pleasure.

To watch for prints of love around you to match its stride and pace your journey to its walking speed, slow enough to pay attention but fast enough to keep moving.

So I walk.

With shoes off. On holy ground. Here and now.

When we stepped off the mountain trail after the supposed two miles had ended, our feet were tired.

But our souls were grounded.

* * *

revised from the archives

What holy ground have you stepped on lately? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Practice of Walking on Earth is #4 of 12 spiritual disciplines from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful book, An Altar in the World.

Read more here about each discipline.

  1. The practice of waking up to God
  2. The practice of paying attention
  3. The practice of wearing skin
  4. The practice of walking on the earth
  5. The practice of getting lost
  6. The practice of encountering others
  7. The practice of living with purpose
  8. The practice of saying no
  9. The practice of carrying water
    (Physical labor)
  10. The practice of feeling pain
  11. The practice of being present to God
  12. The practice of pronouncing blessings

6 thoughts on “Go Barefoot: The Practice of Walking on Earth

  1. Linda Stoll

    Lisa, hi! Your words today remind me how much I appreciate Barbara Brown Taylor’s work. I think the last book she published was in 2020? I hope she’ll be back soon …

  2. Martha J Orlando

    The Joyce Kilmer forest is breathtaking, Lisa; it’s been many years since Danny and I visited it, and I’d sure like to go again.
    I’m looking forward to warmer weather so I can go barefoot on our new decks and on the springy moss we have in our yard.
    Blessings, and stay grounded!

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, this is especially meaningful as I contemplate w/ you what it means to be human. I read just today in The Voice bible version (new to me) about our dustedness (my term, but the idea that we humans are from dust and to dust we’ll return–at least when we shed our mortal coil). So to walk barefoot, on the ground like A & E did in the Garden, is natural to our humanness. And so is frailty, so I prefer good shoes. 🙂 And I wonder, now that i’m so imbalanced how I can possibly stay grounded on ground? It’s tough. Now, I usually avoid walking across lawns, due to their unevenness and holes, etc. Solid pavement feels safer and I’m more steady. But just yesterday, I took the plunge, still at Michael’s elbow for support, and dared, “Let’s walk across the lawn rather than the driveway to go inside.” And we did. And in this trial of mine, which seems unending, I must recall, *especially* in my humanness, that it is the Lord on whose strong arm I must always lean and that He alone remains “the stability of my times.” (Isa. 33:6, ESV, paraphrased)

    Keep walking, dearest human, barefoot and fancy free!

  4. Jean Wise

    Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are.

    isn’t that so true? I have been practicing saying the word NOW NOW to keep being present. I fail often but am capturing some present moment too. Happy Weekend, Lisa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *