The Barefoot Difference
Recently, I took my family to Discovery Park. The kids were in strollers, Courtney and I walked/ran some on the trail and then enjoyed time at the playground. As is often the case, and perhaps even more because of pushing two rambunctious kids around, I found lots of curious glances being cast my way, particularly towards my feet. At one particularly muddy portion, I was getting ready to run through it (and faster) when the people in front of my awkwardly slowed down and skirted to the sides to avoid stepping in the mud. They were nicely dressed, one of them wearing white and orange shoes, so I can understand the hesitation. If the goal is to look good and stay clean, you have to pay meticulous attention to avoiding all the mess and chaos nature throws your way. In recounting the experience with my mom, I said, "The thing that people who wear shoes don't understand is they're missing out! The squishy mud, all the different sensations, it's where so much fun is!" "Sounds like the main difference is one of perspective," she said. To which I replied, "That's it, exactly!" The barefoot difference is one of perspective.
Do I choose to see the world as a threat or as an opportunity?
Do I choose to see muddy, dirty feet (and clothes) as something to avoid or an experience worth having?
Am I trying to avoid feeling things or am I trying to feel everything as fully as possible?
This may not be the road less traveled, but it is certainly the WAY less traveled.
Many of us spend out time operating out of our basic "sympathetic" programming, the fight or flight reflex, but to live primarily in a "parasympathetic" state requires we be grounded, at rest, objective, even in the face of chaos and uncertainty and pain. Much of what can keep us in an unhealthy state are the "shoulds" we all feel. We should stay clean, wear shoes, look presentable, avoid rocking the boat...
And so on and so on. Bleh. BORING! OR...
We can live passionately, daringly, artfully, evocatively, magically, and authentically.
When we tap into what we truly care about and we open ourselves up to express it, it can feel vulnerable. When we run through fields and trails without shoes, it can be messy. When we dare to see beneath the veneers we create and dive deeper in conversation and connection, it could seem easy to be hurt. But is there really another way?
Now, I also get that some of us like to follow the rules. I've never quite understood the appeal, but I can think of two characters that come to mind: WALL-E and Mo from the movie WALL-E. WALL-E feels things deeply, moving through the Axiom touching lives and changing trajectories, completely oblivious to the rules. Initially, Mo freaks out at the giant mess that is WALL-E, until even his desire to keep things clean (free of "foreign contaminants) leads him to a crossroads: Will he allow the mess to continue or will he jump off the line and break the rules? I think we all have a similar choice to make in our own lives, at least moments where this choice will present itself. Will we "do what we're supposed to," or do what makes us fully alive?
The barefoot way is the way of embodiment. The way of engagement. The way of muddy soles and open souls.
This is the barefoot difference.
From our soles to our souls, we can find life-giving perspective and embody a barefoot way of being.
With barefoot love,