And no I don’t mean on city streets in the rubber feet-shoe thingies. I’m talking old-school barefoot. Adam and Eve style.
Try this on the beach or anywhere you’re willing to walk without shoes.
(I’m hoping to challenge you to walk barefoot in places outside your comfort zone. Tender feet are untrained feet but do get tougher with training.)
So this is a “barefoot challenge,” so to speak.
Take it easy if you like-
on a hot summers’ day, agitated by the temperature, walking cool shaded grass is a mood soother.
Choose a “road” less travelled, like a more challenging rocky beach, a gravelly dirt road, a paved road. Maybe in colder climates where the ground is chilly.
The point is to pool the attention into the feet, and feel:
- the spot where you actually step
- how you step, what the feet do in a step
- how the rest of the body feels as your feet feel
- reactions to all the feelings- how a feeling feels to feel
All at once! Without creating a verbal story.
Let the emerging words continually melt down into the sensing feet. Let your feet be the conduits through which your body takes in “information.”
The sensations bubbling up through the feet are the foreground, the other senses accompany, enhancing the feet’s narration.
The feet’s symbolic eyes, ears, noses and tongues – look, hear, taste, smell, as well as touch – where we step.
An easy path can actually turn out to be a challenge in disguise. We drift off into daydreams and other distractions having nothing to do with the walk.
Yet, an easy path is the perfect antidote if we’re tired, stressed or overstimulated. Just Savor the sweetness and ease inherent in the pleasant feeling earth. Just like savoring the deliciousness of really healthy food. A dose of happiness and comfort increases the food’s medicinal value just like a dose of pleasant feeling earth brings a sense of well-being to the feet.
Conversely, the more difficult the path or terrain, the further we’re taken outside our comfort zone, the more we are required to watch and feel where and how we step. When the path feels cold, uneven, loose or is obstructed, it’s easier to be conscious and focused on the mission.
- Our whole mind-body is recruited to assist our feet.
- Our mind-body integration gets more and more sophisticated the longer we walk and with increased practice.
To me, this meditation is more than a mindfulness practice.
It’s a somatic engagement of mind, feet and earth. Our usual sense is that the mind is in the head. The sense in this barefoot meditation is that the mind is in the feet.
Here’s how it works from a practical standpoint. Our brain actually has a map of our moving body. Whether the path is easy or not, when we walk the brain map “opens” through the feet to include the ground we walk on. To help our feet “read” their way.
What occurs during our walking narrative symbolizes how we do or don’t fully engage with our destiny.
Now we have a metaphor for life. We can watch how we manage obstacles, react to discomfort and pleasure, strategize the “best way to go.”
We learn about ourselves just by taking steps.
We don’t even have to go very far. The intention doesn’t necessarily have to involve “getting anywhere.”
Why is barefoot better? Walking with shoes allows us to disconnect from what we tread upon. We can look ahead at where we think we’re going rather than where we step in each moment.
- Walking barefoot requires looking where we step.
- We can listen to the sounds of our steps that correspond to what our feet feel.
- Perhaps the taste and smell of the air add to the story our feet tell us as we walk.
The truth of the earth’s experience.
However we find it: decayed, preserved, pleasurable or not, we sense through the feet the truth about each piece of the land. What each piece actually is and what it’s been through. We aren’t looking for words to label each step.
What we feel might not translate into words, but each step is unique, has it’s own colors and tones to contribute to the narrative of sensation.
The feet and the earth speak a very intimate wordless language.
We’re amazing beings. Our heads, mouths, ears and eyes can translate, but only loosely.
This is the mystery seeded in the barefoot walking meditation.
This meditation enhances our sensitivity and use of nuance as we listen and hope to understand where we tread.