Monday, February 08, 2010
Barefoot Earth Drumming....
A funny thing happened the other day....
I was walking home from a great training session at the gym, and when I was nearly home I passed a group of construction workers...As I walked past, their amusement which had been plainly evident only moments before, now broke into laughs as one of them said "We've all had nights like that!" to which I replied "I guess it's just what I do bro!"
Was I doing the 'walk of shame'?...And why the heck wasn't I wearing any shoes!? (The reason why they thought I had had one crazy night!)
The reality is and was (like most things in my life) that it wasn't by accident and was certainly no misfortune that I wasn't wearing shoes. You see not wearing shoes is one of those things that I 'just do bro!'
For many, many years I have done a lot of walking barefoot. I have considered that this is the healthiest, happiest way to walk. I also – to the chagrin of several podiatrist, therapist and physio friends of mine – think that many of the problems we have with our feet, many of the reasons that we have problems throughout the body is because we wear shoes all the time!
In his fantastic book The Brain that Changes Itself Dr Norman Doidge alludes to at least one situation arising from reliance on shoes - and that is that the loss of balance many people experience as they age cannot be accounted for solely by degeneration of the vestibular apparatus (our inner ear mechanism that lets us know what's up and what's down!) but also stems from the reduction in proprioception and the 'sensory amnesia' that we experience as a result of 'dumming' the mechanorecepetors of the soles of our feet by wearing shoes all the time and by constantly having heavy cushioning on our feet when we are performing activity.
In fact Dr Craig Richards of the University of Newcastle in Australia, published a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluding that after extensive research, he couldn't find any evidence that running shoes made you less prone to injury. He invited shoe manufacturers to respond if they did hold such evidence. None did...
Recently there has been an increased awareness of the detriment that we do to our feet and to our systemic structural integrity by wearing shoes. This has come part and parcel with an awareness of our primal basis of health, and that while we often think we know better than mother nature, there are real and tangible reasons why we have, over millenia taken on this form
[More references available at the Society for Barefoot Living website]
More important for me though than the physical, is the sprituality of barefoot walking.
I had wandered down to the beach from my house (only a few blocks away) in my jandals (flip flops for you North Americans and thongs for you Aussies!) and on hitting the beach had kicked them off and began to walk through the sand, feeling it with my toes, scrunching it with them and letting it dance playfully over the tops of my feet as I kicked my feet throygh the fine grains with glee. When I'm on the sand, or when I'm feeling mud squiah up between my toes I feel grounded. There is not better way to put it, and like so many other words that we have in language for 'feelings' it is no coincidence that we have chosen that word: grounded, to denote how we feel when we are at peace and connected with the world around us.
After strolling along the beach and around on the grass for a while I realised that I had to get home and change for a meeting. So I 'hit the pavement' and as I plodded home barefoot I found myself in a state of peace that I often do when 'mindful walking'. The vibrations of your feet hitting the earth seem to reverberate up through your body, realigning your prana, your 'chi' and restoring vitality... And this peace became profound to the point that I felt enwrapped in the earth itself and as my feet pounded on the pavement, with the sun on my face I had a moment of bliss when the earth became a giant drum and I was playing it's skin with my feet. I had but one thought of drumming the earth drum. It felt natural, primal, shamanic and so very, very connective.
I used to enjoy walking barefoot...
I did it as a child. I think in New Zealand for whatever reason it's just something that perhaps we do more of than in other places.
Here in my new home of Vancouver I'll be honest...people seem to think that I am CRAZY when they see me plodding around barefoot. I get all sorts of comments, ranging from “You do know it's still winter right?!” to “You're not wearing any shoes!” - And by the way thanks for that last comment...I think if I hadn't realised that I wasn't wearing any shoes you could justifiably call me crazy.
[I guess I kind of like being a little out of the norm too....challenging peoples perceptions has always been a bit of a hobby of mine!]
Now I adore my barefoot walks and drumming the earths skin. It is centring, grounding and wonderfully releasing.
I will be running several spiritual workshops and discussion groups throughout the summer that will start with a barefoot walk followed by food, drinks and a workshop/discussion group! Come and join the fun...and in the meantime get out and drum earths skin!
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