"Just as the foundation of a temple must be level to support all the structures above, so the feet must be balanced and sturdy..." -Tias Little
This fall, as we uncover our roots - and in the Shakti model, work with the element of Earth - we love playing with perhaps-familiar practices, and adding a focus on THE FEET! In many contexts and circles, we hear the word 'grounding' often; but what does that really mean? This offering is an embodied practice that can assist in finding and feeling one specific aspect of true grounding.
Most of our modern shoes have at least two unfortunate downfalls:
First, shoes are made not only from mostly synthetic materials in general, but specifically, often shoes are made of petroleum-based materials, which are insulating. What's the big deal?! Well, insulating materials like petroleum literally block our ability to connect with or pull in Earth energy through our "Kidney 1" point - or "Bubbling Spring," as it's called in Chinese Medicine" - on the bottoms of the feet; stay tuned, more to come about this! But the point is, most days, most of us are walking around in shoes that keep us from experiencing our natural state of Being: connected with and a part of the Earth, the elements and the ecosystem(s) we are living in.
Secondly, shoes do most or all of the "supporting" FOR us, causing us, over time, unable to support ourselves "from the ground up..." Don't get me wrong, shoes aren't inherently bad! It's just that our feet are forgetting how to be feet! And so we are coming to depend on the support of shoes - rather than our own foot structures, bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and plantar fascia - to 'walk through life.' Said another way, we are depending on something outside of ourselves, and made from foreign materials, to walk our paths. Pretty significant in its symbolism and real-ness, right?!
So, a practice we are inviting this fall is to pay more attention to and work with your feet! One of our favorite practices is to use a small ball (like the pink-eraser-like ball shown in the picture, or even a tennis ball; lacrosse balls work, too, but often create more intense sensations) to roll and massage the feet. A mini-practice series is below:
1. Go outside, if/when you can (but not required), and stand in some version of a neutral position: mountain pose (yoga) or horse stance (qi gong) work well. Feet parallel, soft knees, lengthened spine. Bring all of your attention to your feet and simply notice what they feel like. Do they feel rigid, or soft and supple? Tight and constricted, or broad and wide? Is there a difference between your left and right foot? Finally, do your feet feel open and receptive, or closed?
2. Take whatever ball you have and begin rolling along the full length of your first foot, from ball to heel and back again. In foot anatomy, we actually have 3 arches on each foot; the big-toe-side, or inner arch; the middle arch; and the pinky-toe-side, or outer arch. Roll the ball the full length of the foot 5-10 times along each arch: inner, middle and outer.
3. Once you've rolled, find a place, anywhere on your foot that feels particularly interesting, sweet or even spicy, to pause the ball. Begin to pour as much weight as you'd like, depending on intensity of sensation, into the ball in that spot. As you pause, pay attention to any sensations that run all the way up from the foot, to/through the ankle, knee, hips, low back and/or spine. Stay tall in your upper body (the tendency is to collapse through the shoulders and look down at your feet/the floor). Find any amount of relaxation through your foot (rather than tensing the foot around the ball), and feel your foot 'broadening' on/over the ball; as if it were spreading out and taking up more space. Open and spread your toes really wide, and then curl them around the ball; stretching in all directions. Pulse like this with your toes 5-10 times.
4. Find any more interesting places to pause, and repeat #3 as many times as you'd like.
5. Once you've completed the first side, return to a neutral stance (mountain pose or hose stance), close your eyes, and notice the difference in the feelings in your feet/legs/whole body. What's one word that describes the quality of feeling in the foot you just rolled? Then, open your eyes and look down at your feet - sometimes, the foot you just rolled is visibly broader/wider than the other!
6. Repeat the whole practice on the other side.
7. After you've rolled both feet, and returned to a neutral stance one last time, bring all of your attention to your feet again and simply notice what they feel like now. Do they feel rigid, or soft and supple? Tight and constricted, or broad and wide? Is there a difference between your left and right foot? Finally, do your feet feel open and receptive, or closed?
8. Take your attention to the middle of the top 1/3 of your feet where the "Kidney 1" or "Bubbling Spring" points are (shown in the diagram). Internally invite this place to open even a little bit more; connect with the feeling of the Earth's energy that is already flowing into you through these points on your feet. Our body and energy systems already do this for us, as the Bubbling Spring is one of our primary points for drawing in Earth energy into and through our meridians. And more specifically, this point pulls in 'yin' energy from the Earth. Scientifically-speaking, yin energy can be described, in one sense, as negative ions that are stored in/around the Earth (and are created by lightning strikes all around the world). Let yourself be filled from this point - the Bubbling Spring - all the way from your feet to the top/crown of your head, and into every cell and crevice of your whole body.
9. Close the practice by sending some gratitude to the Earth, as well as to your feet!
The Kidney 1 point's natural state is one of openness and receptivity. Drawing in negative ions (aka yin energy) from the Earth Herself is one of the true aspects of what grounding really means. There is a curious paradox here, which is that simply standing on the Earth, for example, brings us back into our natural state; our bodies and systems will organically re-orient from our petroleum-insulated shoes, to our natural state of receptivity and openness. Simultaneously, this practice of intentionally opening the feet, and drawing particular attention to the process by which we can intentionally stand either outside, or even inside, and connect with what/how grounding happens, and more importantly what it feels like in our whole bodies/systems, is a powerful way of working with the Earth element this Fall.
In closing, may your feet be well; may they be broad and wide; and may they be strong structures of foundation and support for the Temple of your whole Being!
Article by Breyn Hibbs - Oregon Tribal Guardian and Shakti Facilitator