Remove the blindfolds from you feet and have a mindful walk, paying special attention to the sensations of the soles of your feet.
I had a barefoot catharsis on a fine SF summer day. I’d just finished recording a podcast with one of my favorite humans, sound designer Robin Arnott. There was so much restless energy I had to go for a walk. I wandered from SOMA to the foot of Coit Tower before flopping down in a square of grass and gazing up at the sky. A voice queried me: How would being barefoot change where you walk?
I didn’t know the answer, but I did know how to find out. I spent the next three hours wandering around barefoot along the sidewalks of Chinatown (no, I didn’t step on any needles), up Telegraph Hill, into Cole Hardware. The insights about myself flowed so fast I had to record voice memos to keep track. That simple act of following my guidance tumbled some secret inner combination which unlocked a pile of unhelpful beliefs which had been holding me back.
I love small acts of disobedience. Walking in public spaces violates a little rule — thou shalt be civilized. Sauntering into Cole Hardware sans shoes brought up real anxiety in me. As much as I think of myself as a risk-taker, the tiny act of being in a business without shoes challenged me. Am I really willing to break the rules which don’t serve me? What am I afraid will happen? Am I really that scared of being embarrassed if a store employee shooes me away?
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?” when you’re barefoot is just the right amount of pushing my comfort zone. You’re not going to go to jail, but you do get to play with the risk of getting noticed.
I feel like in some ways we’re still trapped in the prison of junior high school fears — don’t be a jerk, don’t be weird, don’t be silly — best just not to call any attention to yourself. I’ve spent way too much of my adult life cutting deals with my junior high demons that fear rejection above all else. But at what cost? Paying off my demons comes at the price of censoring the bizarre, silly, fully-expressed six your old love child within. Guess what? I’m done with silencing her. She’s great.
Give your inner six-year-old permission to break some tiny rules. Discover the part of yourself that questions why those rules even exist.
The other aspect of going barefoot is that it connects you to more sensory info about your environment. Our feet have many nerve endings that get muffled when we’re wearing shoes. It’s easier to notice what a hot day it is when the pavement burns your feet. You’re much more motivated to find a nice cool patch of grass to walk on when you’re barefoot. Shoes blindfold us to our connection to the earth.
You’re more likely to notice that the floor needs sweeping if you feel the crumbs under your feet. Notice what shape of the place you find yourself in. Is it comfy or abrasive? Hot or cold? Sharp or welcoming? Your feet can’t ignore these qualities. In truth we are always resting our weight on our little patch of earth. Your bare feet keep you in contact with your reality instead of in your self-created bubble of Nike AIRS. It’s good to be reminded of the world outside of your bubble.