[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
When I was a child I wanted to walk barefoot but my parents, particularly my mother, forbade it. I believe she thought it would make us look poor in the eyes of other villagers, as if we were anything but poor and our poverty was any different than anyone else living in that forgotten place. Perhaps there were deeper reasons she would never share.
It was to be much later in life that I would find or create my own personal type of freedom. That was when I rediscovered the joy of walking barefoot upon the earth, a joy I am constantly rediscovering even now at 71 years of age. I walk barefoot as much as my life allows, mostly in my own yard, in sunshine, rain, snow, mud, crush, mulch among the shrubs, in the garden, and I love to kick off my sandals and drive barefoot.
It’s not just the freedom of it, or the life-long rebellion against societal mores, so many of which are not just ridiculous but downright insane and unhealthy. There is much more.
When I walk barefoot, I can feel the earth reaching through my feet all the way up to my brain. I become aware of my body touching the rest of life. I care what I step on, and how I step on it; how I stand or where I put pressure on the earth. I feel a throbbing that is blocked by the wearing of artificial soles. I can feel the earth’s joy and also her sorrow.
In unfamiliar territory, bare feet become inquisitive and protective of themselves. This brings me to look down at what is around me. I will explain why that is important but before, I must say that I wish, oh I so wish, that I had had parents and teachers who had known about the powerful healing effects of the barefoot walk and had not only encouraged me (us children) to walk thus, but had explained why we should do so. But such knowing people do not exist, certainly not in Western societies.
Now I must do the explaining, although I know quite well that it is much, much too late for this society to learn how to walk barefoot by renouncing its societal mores.
When I walk barefoot I am both, mentally empowered and physically weakened. I want to focus on the benefits of such physical weakening because it is directly conducive to developing humility, probably one of the most maligned “virtues” in these societies built on entitlement.
In this hard and harsh materialistic society, feet are dangerously vulnerable to many dangers: stubbing of toes, cutting by broken glass, broken rocks and pieces of cement; slivers from chunks of metal or wood; crushing from falling crates, bottles, tools and various kinds of implements, burning from spilled chemicals, puncturing from rusty nails protruding from a fallen fence picket hidden in grass, or a number of such impediments.
In teaching myself the art of walking barefoot I have experienced all of the above. It’s inevitable really because people are incredibly careless, lacking the empathy needed to prevent them from being crass about leaving dangerous garbage about. This is a dirty, filthy, unhealthy society. How does the barefoot person approach such a condition?
One word describes it best: humility. Indeed. There is a park behind my house where I like to go and walk, or run, barefoot. I’ve had people tell me it was a stupid thing to do because there are those “horrible” homeless people that go there at night to shoot up and who leave needles on the ground. I don’t know, I’ve never seen “needles” in the park. More to the point, there are those who walk their dogs and can’t be bothered to pick up after their animals. I have stepped in dog poo with my bare feet many times. At first I was incensed. But it forced me to walk down to the river at the bottom of the park and walk in the water, rubbing my feet in its mud, or sand, or weeds, depending where I was and feel the washing and healing action of the water. That was an amazing realization.
After a few times in the dog poo, I learned to accept it as the consequences of barefooting. Whether people despoil their public or private spaces is really none of my business. I’m a walking observer, not really much of a participant. I don’t engage most of the things people around me seem to find pleasure in doing, certainly not in drugs, and I don’t have pets. I find my pleasure in things they know nothing about, or would not find pleasurable if they had to do them. I accept that now, as part of the change process.
When I speak of “barefoot humility” I’m not thinking of being poor, unable to afford shoes, sandals or flip-flops. I’m thinking of what it means to approach this hard/harsh world with my vulnerable bare feet. I’m thinking of having to bow my head and look down; look at the ground, the floor, the sidewalk, the road, the site, and guide my feet through obstacles that could prove painful or detrimental to them. There is no room for pride here.
In this barefoot exercise, I have the choice of cursing those who ignorantly leave dangerous or filthy things in the way of others, particularly on public streets, sidewalks, parking lots or parks. Or I can accept this aspect of society, refusing to react in anger, but rather with a sadness at the overt self-destructiveness of human nature. I allow my feet to do the talking, and I listen, very carefully.
Feet, in our materialistic society are jewels encased in hard boxes or crates called shoes, never to be exposed to what lies under them. We have no idea, until we remove our shoes and relearn how to walk on the earth, how much our protective equipment we call shoes and clothes, have taken away from our identity with our world.
Encased in our various types of armour; driving our polluting and destructive machines; locked in our equally unhealthy air-conditioned/centrally heated box homes, we storm and stomp through the earth as conquerors, rapists, violators and murderers. We do not feel because we cannot feel. We live in artificial exoskeletons that deny us our natural heritage which demands that we daily touch the earth with our natural nakedness. We are denied, and we deny ourselves and we become “more machine than man” as we progress towards the ringing bells of our earth’s death knell.
There is a movement under way called “Free the Nipple” by people who believe that women should have the same right to go topless in public as men do. Perhaps we need a movement called “Free the Feet” so we can once again walk barefoot wherever we choose, including in restaurants and all other type of stores or offices.
Beautiful feet are not found inside prisons called shoes. They are found naked and free.
Totally out of context perhaps but a truly fine expression: “As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” [Isaiah 52:7]”