Note: Please welcome guest writer Logan Marshall of Wild Movement.
Imagine walking a rocky trail barefoot. Imagine yourself high-stepping stones, hopping branches, and avoiding the roots that snake menacingly beneath your feet. Each step is carefully calculated, each motion instinctively self preserving. Your eyes are focused. Alert. Your entire awareness is fixed on this moment, on the texture of the ground, on your body as it moves through space…
Total presence through bare-footing: a simple yet profound concept.
The Human Predicament
How often are you fully present to experience life in this moment? If you’re like most people, moments of complete awareness are infrequent at best. Our minds reflect our busy lives, spinning 100 miles per hour, reeling from this to that, chasing thoughts down the rabbit hole of our minds. While many factors contribute to our widespread unconsciousness, all of them can be traced back to one common culprit: distraction.
When it comes to distracting us from what is actually happening in our lives, we are masters. Television and gaming consoles provide continual escape, iPods desensitize us from physical activity, music and cell-phones numb our commute into work. Each distraction in our lives is a barrier between us and the present moment, between us and happiness.
In this state of continual distraction, repetitive and harmful images, like television advertisements, flash spastically on the screen of our minds. Our brains occupy a constant state of analysis, worry and prediction, erratically spinning from one thought to the next. Moving in sync with the compulsive busyness of our western culture.
Taking the time to slow down, to clear your mind, to live in this moment, free from thoughts, doubts and worries can be extremely liberating, allowing us to experience life unbarred.
Living in the moment is all about awareness, about where your mental focus is directed. The difference between total presence and complete unconsciousness is small, it is an imperceptible shift out of thought and into being. Therefore, increased presence ultimately lies in increased awareness. Awareness of the sights, sounds, and smells that flood the senses every day. Awareness of your body in space, the air on your skin. Awareness of sensation.
This is the reason why bare-footing is so effective. Through discomfort (or the possibility of discomfort), bare-footing creates awareness. Being completely barefoot induces a sense of vulnerability that forces you to give the activity your utmost attention. If the mind wanders, sticks, rocks and roots quickly bring you back to the now.
By being entirely conscious of each movement, you enter the present moment. Thoughts subside. Peace and clarity increases.
How to Start Bare-footing
After being trapped in the dark, concealed in their laced-up fortress for years, most people’s feet are weak and delicate. To many, the thought of walking or running barefoot probably seems like painful, self imposed torture. However, the actual danger pales in comparison to what our minds create.
Our bodies are much smarter then we give them credit for. They react in unconscious and lightning fast ways in order to avoid physical injury. If I step on a sharp rock, my body will automatically transfer my weight to the other leg, preserving my sole. Of course accidents do and will happen, but outdoor bare-footing isn’t as treacherous as it sounds. I’ve run countless miles completely barefoot through the woods and rarely receive more than the occasional scrape.
That said, outdoor bare-footing is a serious and potentially dangerous activity that shouldn’t be taken lightly and should be given your full attention at all times. In addition, it may take some time to get used to. Before venturing onto rocky and wooded terrain, start on grass, dirt or manmade surfaces. Step lightly. Step mindfully. Pay attention.
Reclaim Your Life
In our modern world, we have become more and more sheltered from the natural sensations of life. Clothes have become heavier, houses more insulated, light artificial, soles thicker. Many people pass days, weeks and even years in a state of total isolation from the natural world. This disconnect from the organic oscillations of life is one of the biggest health challenges we as humans now face.
We’ve lost any sense of physical vulnerability and now find ourselves trapped in a state of near total unconsciousness. In short: Are lives are so easy, we no longer pay attention to them. While there are many ways of regaining this physical connection, few are more primal, more intimate, or more powerful than bare-footing.
Life is short, each day that passes is one that we can never get back. With this fundamental truth in mind, it is important for us to make the most of our limited time here on Earth, to be fully present to experience the tastes, smells and textures life has to offer. The difference between total presence and complete unconsciousness is small, but it makes all the difference.
So go outside, unlace your shoes, and experience the wonderful sensations life has to offer in this moment.
When he’s not running barefoot and climbing trees, Logan runs a health and fitness blog at www.WildMovement.com. If you liked this article, he invites you to join the Wild Movement and sign up for his free e-mail newsletter.