Listen to your feet.
Some mornings I hear my neighbors’ footsteps as they’re going down the stairs and it sounds like they’re just throwing themselves down. There are loud thuds as the feet strike into the steps hard, bearing all of their weight.
Their bodies are turned off.
And then there is the shuffling of someone coming behind me while running. They’re running faster than me and yet they are dragging their feet.
We all can be really disconnected.
We should take a moment to stop and listen.
When I’m running, I sometimes use the rhythm of my feet to fine-tune my breath. It’s not that I’m forcing or holding my breath. I just become aware. Sometimes I find I’m gasping for air and simply paying attention settles me down.
Bringing attention down to my feet grounds me. My feet lead my whole body.
I’ve seen my feet come alive, as I’ve switched from regular running shoes to “minimal” running shoes to five-fingers to running flip-flops. From inert pale bricks with mushed-together toes, my feet have bloomed. Mind you, they bloomed more into a kind of Incredible Hulk than to a lady-like flower. Still, they have truly transformed.
I don’t think every runner should run barefoot, but I think we should all pay more attention to our feet.
Having stronger feet has redrawn the muscles in my calf.
It has impacted how I use every fiber of my leg muscles. I’m sure this is the reason I no longer have hip pain. I don’t start feeling tension on my outer hips after running 15 kilometers.
My body is better aligned.
I feel it in my downward dog when I practice yoga.
And my whole practice has become richer.
My body shifts if I raise my toes in a chair pose squat; that’s the same thing that happens when my toes are free.
If you practice yoga, you can focus on your feet by raising your toes and putting them back on the floor, broadly separated. Then try gripping the floor.
We have all seen those reflexology foot maps showing points that access our inner organs. There’s something to that. Go ahead, touch your feet, close your eyes and listen. Pay attention.
And when the world around us is going mad and there are children screaming, cars honking and phone beeping, we can change our weight to our tippy toes, or sink our heels down, and feel it. Shift attention to our heels.
In times when we need to get out of our heads, we can find refuge in our own feet.
Truth be told, my feet haven’t ever been beautiful and I’ve never felt comfortable in heels. But things have shifted since I really started paying attention to my feet. I found a deep grounding freedom.
So maybe we should wear more flip-flops or at least shoes that are flexible and wide enough not to hurt our feet. Or just go naked…I mean, barefoot.
Maybe even step outside. Feel the magnetism of the earth! Or if that is too cosmic, then just feel how nice it is to step on grass and get our feet a little dirty, still connecting to the whole world somehow.
When we are light on our feet, we let them ignite us.
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Apprentice Editor: Hannah Harris/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum