Ever ‘woken up’ in the middle of a conversation and realized you don’t know what was being said? Or arrived at a familiar place and not remembered how you got there?
It’s probably fair to say that most of us know we’re awake but sense we’re not fully present. It’s only when something shocks us that we’re suddenly intensely aware of life, and possibly even grateful for the things we’ve previously assumed were ours by right.
When we do get the chance to stop and think about it, do we really want to sleepwalk through life? To be blunt about it, before we know it the show could be over and we’ll have missed much of what makes life worth living. So how do we overcome this habitual unconsciousness? And preferably right now, without needing a big, nasty shock to appreciate what we have?
As with most things, simple approaches are the best, and this is where we get to make better friends with our feet.
Why focus on feet? Well, given they’re the furthest part of the body away from the head (where four out of five senses are*), it’s easy for them to get forgotten. When we pay attention to them, we start to “connect the dots” in our body as well as our life.
So here are three simple things to try
1. Move As you take a walk across the room, the office, the garden or anywhere else, focus your attention on your feet. Notice the sensations in the soles of your feet as you walk. Become a little bit curious as to which parts of your feet are actually making contact with your shoes or the floor. What does it really feel like as the foot articulates from the heel to the toe?
The simple act of walking can turn into a grounding experience, as the thoughts that are often swirling in your head subside and your attention is becomes absorbed in the various intriguing sensations in your feet.
- Bonus points for walking barefoot on grass, particularly if you can also imagine your feet gently kissing the earth with each step.
2. Massage Take some body/foot cream and gently massage each foot in turn. Give yourself time to notice the texture of the cream, its temperature as it touches your skin, the patterns it makes as you blend it in, how the toes feel compared with the arches, how each part of the foot moves naturally in response to your hand.
Turning this simple foot massage into a nightly ritual can help relax your whole body and induce a good night’s sleep.
- Bonus points for using a favourite-smelling cream, as awakening more senses will provide an even more rounded and absorbing experience.
3. Marvel You probably already know that the feet have more bones than any other body part, and they are anatomically astounding. Taking a moment to appreciate the complexity of the bones, joint, muscles, ligaments and skin that constitute ‘feet’ can awaken some profound questions about the origins and meaning of life!
That may be a big claim, but please consider your perspective on this:
- how amazing it is that 26 bones, 33 joints and over 7,000 nerves create each foot;
- that they do so in a co-ordinated dance on a moment-to-moment basis;
- that all of this goes on largely out of our conscious awareness (bar a stubbed toe, a bunion, a sprained ligament or athlete’s foot!).
Feet are the basis of our literal and figurative grounding in daily life. By paying a little bit of attention on a regular basis to this overlooked part of the body, we can feel more stable, more present, more connected to our environment and more energized.
Each of these 3 suggestions need take only 5-15 minutes to do. This small amount of time belies their impact on us feeling awake, alive, grounded and connected.
- Bonus points for trying all 3 suggestions!
For an overview of how the feet can be fully awakened in yoga practice, see Doug Keller’s detailed article on postures and Marma points in the foot.
Waking up is one of the things that mindfulness helps us to do. It can seriously enhance life in unexpected ways. To find out how, sign up for one of my programmes.
Which works for you?
If you’ve tried these in the past or have given them a try after reading this, please let me know what your experience is in the comments below. And if you have other ways of feeling more awake, please share what they are.