My sister and I picked up this expression from an old Bob Hope movie and made it our goofy mantra for whenever we found ourselves in a difficult situation. More recently, I was teaching a class where I asked people if they knew where their feet were and everyone laughed. But upon examination, most people were not sure which way their toes pointed, how their foot contacted the floor while walking or how they pushed off. In fact, for most people, our feet are so far away, we only think of them when they hurt.
Yet every day, our feet take us to work, jogging, dancing, into and out of trouble. They help carry endless bags of groceries, babies, laptops, or bags of mulch. They lead us to job interviews, wars, first dates, parties, divorces, diplomatic negotiations, and the dreaded committee meeting. Another expression, “Putting your best foot forward,” can suddenly have a deeper meaning.
Your feet go where your mind takes them. On a mission? Your feet race to get you there on time. Daydreaming in the park? Your feet shuffle along, maybe kicking a stone, meandering over to a flower. Darwin once said that we stamp our feet when angry because we are frustrated that we can’t get what we want in the same way that a horse trapped in a barn will stomp his hooves.
So what happens when your feet won’t obey your mind? Maybe you’d like to be assertive and confident, but your feet insist on turning out like duck feet, forcing you to not move as efficiently as you like. Painful bunions and “fallen arches” likewise create limitations for “stepping up to the plate.” Often these foot challenges affect the knees, hips and even posture. Those two little supports down at the bottom of your body are really important after all!
There are many explorations you can do to develop awareness and comfort in your feet. Here is a simple movement sequence based on the Feldenkrais Method you can play with. If you find this helpful or intriguing, you can find a teacher or CDs to help you learn more.
This exercise works better if you can do it without shoes. Stand with your hands on a wall or on the back of a chair. Notice where the weight is under your feet without trying to fix anything. Shift your weight to your left leg and begin to raise and lower your right heel by bending your right knee. As you do it, notice if your pelvis is affected at all. Allow your pelvis to tilt as you raise your heel. Which way feels more logical? Rest, then try the same thing on the left. After resting again, (feel free to sit down) shift your weight to the left leg again, and this time, begin to raise the ball of your right foot. Which way would your pelvis go now? The leg remains straight, and you tilt your pelvis so that your tailbone reaches back and you create a bigger curve in your lower back. Try the same thing on the left, including the movement of the pelvis in each direction. Then try going from heel to toe a few times on each foot.
Just stand still a moment and notice if your feet touch differently now. Take a walk around and see if your feet and your mind are communicating differently than before.