You know those memories that stick in your head for no apparent reason? Today’s example is the clear echo in my mind of the words on Bruce (now Caitlin) Jenner’s T-shirt during the 1976 Olympic decathalon: “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!”
Why would I remember such a thing, when I can’t remember what I did two days ago? Perhaps it is the boot I have been hobbling around in for almost five weeks that has jarred loose this memory.
Yes, dear reader, I have injured my Achilles Tendon, and after months of stretching, icing, resting, and PT-ing, I am now in a boot that is supposed to immobilize the tendon so that it may heal.
May it be so.
It is not, however, the boot, the tendon, or even Jenner, that I wish to talk about here. (Although I do want to mention that it was rude of the podiatrist to opine that I have a “disorganized tendon.”)
What I want to address here is the seemingly mundane subject of feet themselves.
Why feet? No, I haven’t run out of more interesting topics. I just think (at this moment when one of mine is not working as it should) that it’s time to give feet their due.
Feet, of course, keep us upright and mobile. They allow us rise from sitting, to stand, to balance, to walk, to run, to dance, to hike, to climb stairs and mountains. They are, in short, indispensable to ease of living, as I am now only too well aware.
Still it is not their everyday heroics that I want to write about here. I instead wish to describe two ways in which our feet can keep us from losing our way – metaphorically that is, not while hiking.
1. Our feet remind us that we are embodied.
We human beings often forget that we are embodied, that we are in fact creatures -- animals. It is so easy for us to live in, and rely upon, our heads alone and to believe that we are different from other embodied beings.
Nothing brings me out of this delusion faster than taking a good look at my feet. Try it yourself the next time you are in the shower. Is there anything more creaturely than a foot?
You can paint the nails. You can admire a slim ankle. But, come on. Take a really good look. Stare at them for a while.
Yep. You are an animal.
Periodically spending some time with this knowledge is a good way to deflate the ego and remember that we are part of, and dependent upon, an intricate web of other beings. Whereas, living in the head alone can lead to anxiety and a feeling of separation from the rest of creation.
When we come back into our bodies and really abide there, instead of treating them as nothing more than conveyances for our brains, we experience life differently. I don’t know about you, but when I am fully in my body, I am more open to intuition. I experience, and am able to better regulate, my emotions. My ego quiets.
And moving my body calms and centers me. A solitary walk or swim or bike ride can settle an unquiet mind. A half an hour of yoga can bring body and mind into balance.
2. Our feet remind us to stay grounded.
Our feet literally connect us to the ground as we move through our days. And they can remind us to stay emotionally and spiritually grounded.
Every morning I stand in front of my bedroom window and do the yoga tree pose.
(No that isn’t me – it someone younger and more coordinated, but it’s a good illustration.)
Outside my window, is a giant Douglas Fir. I stand in front of its trunk and feel my foot connecting with the floor, while picturing the tree’s roots connecting to the earth. After switching feet, I take a moment to remember to ground myself in the earth and in what is important to me.
On a good day, this helps me to keep from losing my way in the thicket of information, noise, and obligations that obscures my path. It just might work for you too.
So, please don’t wait for your feet to fail you. Take a good look at them, and let them remind you to live in your body as well as your brain. And if they are working well, appreciate them and notice how they ground you as you move forward through your days.