I went on my usual walk/run up Rattlesnake Gulch to visit my coffin rock a few mornings ago. I wanted to try out my new barefoot running shoes. At the store, I was uncertain about whether or not to buy them, full price. One friend had been running in these kinds of shoes and loved them. She was training for marathons. Another friend assured me the hype about barefoot running had been disproved and was afraid I would bruise my soles.
When I tried them on, they slipped on like a glove and felt so light that I didn’t want to take them off. So I bought them.
Starting off up the dirt trail, I felt the rocks underfoot. I recalled reading in Katie Bowman’s book Alignment Matters that heavily fortified footwear has desensitized our feet — the part of our body that is our foundational contact point with earth. Our feet evolved to have many, many bones and little muscles to help us move well in our upright stance. Our feet are designed give our body important sensory feedback. We also receive energetic nourishment from the earth’s electro-magnetic field through our feet.
Reflexology teaches there are many areas in our feet that contain reflex points that correspond to different body organs and systems. Applying pressure to these specific points can have therapeutic effects on the corresponding organs and systems.
Was I giving myself a reflexology treatment by walking up this trail?
I noticed how aware I felt of the ground. I could feel the pitch and cant. I could feel the texture of small or big or no rocks. My feet were amazed. So much going on!
The next day my feet were sore — like having worked out at the gym. It will take a while for my feet to get used to so much stimulation; its small muscles having to work like never before. Let me be clear that if you are walking ten miles over sharp rocks carrying a heavy pack, shoes with big thick soles is smart.
Sitting on my coffin rock I saw a giant patch of stinging nettle not far to my left. I recently learned the sting of stinging nettle is purported to reduce inflammation. And its leaves are delicious and nutritious sautéed. Walking over to the patch, I ran my hands through the leaves. My finger joints have been sore a lot this past year from harder climbing. I didn’t get stung very much which surprised and disappointed me slightly. But I did feel a bit of sting. It felt kind of good.
I imagine that because I believe the stinging reduces inflammation that the sensation feels good. The meaning I made no doubt influenced my experience.
I picked a bunch of leaves to take home with me.
All the forays into welcoming the uncomfortable that morning really made me think about much we protect ourselves from painful feeling, especially in American culture. Americans are scared shitless of feeling. We don’t want to be too hot, or too cold. We don’t want to be embarrassed or guilty or tread on. We want to be happy and pursue happiness. We want our dreams fulfilled, as we were taught they could be in the United States of America — land of the free, home of the brave.
I’m being dramatic to make a point.
I get that not wanting to feel pain is a smart move. I don’t want to feel pain. But, I do want to feel alive. I want to feel all of what it means to be human. I know that includes the feelings that hurt sometimes.
And I come from a place of privilege in that point of view. To be willing to fully feel is not so easy if you score high on the Adverse Childhood Experience test. To be able to fully feel in this case takes going back and working out hard stuff from earlier years that was too much at the time. The only way to survive was to armor yourself from the pain. Smart response.
But, like super insulated shoes, that armor now also keeps a person from feeling. It also may keep one from feeling one’s self — who you are, what you want, what you are here to do. It may keep you from feeling others, from direct contact. Perhaps you relate to others through a filter of heavy armor.
But how would you even know if you are protecting yourself? By now, it’s the water you swim in. You can’t feel the armor.
Some clues that you are not able to fully feel your feelings are depression, lack of engagement with life, a sense of meaninglessness.
This is a giant subject, and here I want to simply point to the protection we walk around with that we don’t know is there. Maybe, now that we are grown ups with more resources and strength, it’s as simple as asking the question: “How do I armor myself? What does this armor look like, feel like? Where in my body is it?
Food for thought.
I sautéed up the stinging nettle with mushrooms and eggs and a side of avocado and lime cilantro salsa for a late breakfast.
It tasted awesome.