FAST WISDOM™ NEWSLETTER
By Lonner Holden
The Humility of Necessity: Going Barefoot
Recently, I viewed a Youtube compilation of pet dogs wearing dog booties. At first, the dog’s weird dance seemed funny to me. They performed arabesques, rear legs pointing unnaturally straight back. Their gestures were arhythmic, awkward and sometimes like a four-legged slow-mo tap dance on a hot floor or drunkard-like post-holing high steps as if in deep snow. Their lack of coordination was so contrary to their nature of athleticism and prowess. But slowly I began seeing it more from the dog’s perspective and I thought, these poor pups have lost connection with the earth which defines them and they are confused and disoriented. In a sense, they have lost their identities.
When Ishi, known as the last wild indian, walked barefoot, half-naked and starving out of the wilderness in Northern California over a hundred years ago, a few anglos attempted to befriend him with clothes and shoes. Ishi replied in his native tongue, “If I wear shoes, how will I know where I am?”
Ishi’s question inspired my own: How does the connection between bare feet and the ground orient us, even define us? So I began to go barefoot more often; around the house, in the yard, on hikes and out tracking. I wanted to know what Ishi meant.
Around that time, I attended a Summer writing workshop in Kings Canyon National Park with friend and author of Reclaiming the Wild Soul, Mary Reynolds Thompson. Each day we went on excursions down trails rich with new vistas and stimulations to the senses and imagination. One morning, under the canopy of a Giant Sequoia, I shed my shoes and socks and committed to not put them back on until we had returned from the six mile round-trip hike.
At first, the soft bed of Sequoia duff was an inviting carpet to my bare feet. As we continued on, the surface changed to more pointy sticks and sharp pebbles. With each transition, I experienced different discomforts. But, during this walking meditation, I became aware that the unpleasant sensations in my feet were more mental aversions than physical pain. I realized that my relationship with the ground was a state of mind. As I shifted my aversion to curiosity, my feet relaxed into the earth, softening around sharp objects, accommodating the subtleties of the substrate.
What remained was just sensation, which informed me of the terrain. My awareness became attuned to where rocks or soil were more predominant, informing me of what type of plants, and thus wildlife, would more likely be present. More rocks meant more likely marmots; more plants meant more likely insects, small rodents and reptiles. My feet told me where I could make a fire or a shelter; where it was safe and where there was food. Sometimes I walked more slowly to give my feet time to accommodate sharper objects, sometimes I moved more quickly when the ground was soft duff. Only once did I have to stop and pull a thorn from my sole.
As I relaxed into this conversation with the landscape, all my senses became more acute and working in concert. The environment became more vivid as I experienced a more holistic sense of my surroundings. A feeling of timelessness and of belonging to the environment I was becoming deeply connected to emerged.
For those six miles a growing intimacy with the terrain shaped who I was in it. I felt that I too, was a natural feature of the landscape in inter-related and inter-connected relationship with the animals by sensing the landscape as they did.
Perhaps those dogs will learn to navigate just fine with booties on, but I wonder at what cost to their deeper natural sense of connection to the earth which enlivens their joyful expression. When our human paws connect directly with the earth, accepting the soft duff and grass, sticks, sharp rocks or loamy soil, we deepen our acceptance of all the textures of life - of life itself.
How does this relationship enliven our senses and define who we are, the quality of our life experience? Isn’t connection necessary for happiness, resiliency and sense of purpose to coexist?
I wonder about the many ways we erect mental layers between ourselves, our basic vulnerability, and the flow of life so that being separate comes to feel “normal”.
What layer can you identify today to take off as your environment seeks to accept you vulnerable to it in a reciprocity of shared interdependency?
So take off your shoes, go barefoot. See for yourself if that vulnerability to the shifting landscape of pleasure and discomfort allows you to live closer and more deeply to the pulse of life in a humility of necessity.
Jin Shin Jyutsu:
The feet and toes are energetically connected to all the organs of the body.
- Gently massage your feet to relax and enhance all organ functioning. Don't be shy with tender spots. Time spent with a little pressure will enhance organ health as the tension subsides.
- Touch the opposite finger to the opposite toe for one minute to deepen flow of vital energy throughout the entire body (Right thumb to Left little toe, R index finger to L ring toe, R middle finger to L middle toe, R ring finger to L index toe, R little finger to L big toe). Repeat with Left and Fingers and Right toes in same finger/toe order.
In your yard or a nearby park, take off your shoes and socks.
Restorative Nature Practice:
With bare feet, compare the sensation of grass with that of mud, of gravel, of sand, of cement/asphalt. Walk, twist in place, jump lightly up and down. Stand while your eyes are closed. In each case, allow your feet to accept the texture under them.
How might the different textures relate to similar textures in your own life?
- How do the different ways of moving compare between the different substrates?
- What do you feel emotionally?
- Put your shoes back on. How do they affect your sense of connection to the broader environment?
Watch dogs moving across the ground. Imagine what the sensations are in their paws.
- What feels soft, prickly, hard, sharp?
- Where are you resistant, where more fluid?
- How do you think the sensations in their paws affects their connection to the place?
- How does your being barefoot affect your sense of connection to the dogs (or birds, deer, cats, worms).
Nutrition: The waters of winter are running, flushing out the watersheds and charging the earth for spring blooms. Winter is the time of kidney energy. It is also the time when thick skinned and root foods abound.
- Slice raw ginger and boil it for 20 minutes. Add slices of fresh lemon. Enjoy this cleansing tea 2-3 times a day.
- Dandelion root tea cleanses the kidneys and liver.
- You can alternate these teas every other day.
NEXT MONTH: Spring Buds: Regeneration of Authenticity
PICK OF THE MONTH: Renewal of Creative Path with Jon Young - What disconnects you in your life? What connects you?