In my first summer at Amherst College (2008), I took a teaching job for the Pipeline Project in Amherst. Pipeline Project helped out disadvantaged kids who had a risk of falling behind in school and the goal was to get them some extra instruction and community during the summer. My parents didn’t want me to do it, but I’m glad I did (and it was that summer I met David!). In the first week, we worked closely with the instructors to get to know them better and to get a crash course in teaching. I don’t know how well I did, but I distinctly remember being very anxious about doing a good job, and I love it. Anyways, one teacher had one piece of advice for me which I found very curious and remembered all this time:
Feel your feet.
I’m pretty sure I asked a lot of follow-up questions, but the advice left me very much baffled. At that time I had never really been told to feel anything in my body and if I did I was conditioned to ignore it at all costs so that my brain could keep going.
I figured out what the advice meant this morning. Every morning now I wake up and feel my body by doing Controlled Articular Rotations, or CARs for short. If you don’t know what CARs are, go to Sam Faulhaber’s instagram here and check it out (no account needed for those of you who are blessedly off the socials). And I don’t think Sam is on this email list, but those things don’t matter to me anymore, and I love it.
CARs is what works for me. I move around and feel all the joints in my body and see where the ranges are at that moment. I set a timer for 15 minutes and try not to do anything else during that time including play music or pet my cats. Sometimes I don’t last the entire 15 minutes, and I love that.
Today I went for the entire 15 minutes and for some reason that I can’t articulate I focused on my feet. There’s an exercise you can do where you try to raise your big toe up and keep your little toes down, and then raise your little toes up and try to keep your big toes down. It’s a fun exercise and if I’m not careful my feet can cramp from it, but most times I find it fun to do.
Here’s what I wrote down after I did that exercise:
Wow, we spend a lot of time hiding our feet. Our feet are usually the only thing we have to support ourselves and is usually the only connection we have on the ground. I wonder what we are doing when we hide it all day and don’t let it out for air. Is a metaphor for how we hide other parts of ourselves and feel cramped and squeezed as a result.
My feet have been ignored for so long; it’s the first thing that Sam identified in the beginning of my three-day immersion. We didn’t work on it because I wasn’t ready to, but I see now.
I see how my feet is a measure of how connected I am to the world around me. My feet are often times the most often thing that touches the ground. It is the thing that crosses most often the paths of where others have walked. Countless things have been written about feet, from how you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked in their shoes to religious stories like Jesus washing his disciplines’ feet. I wrote my story about Footprints in the Sand about how I thought life would be like after I went to college; it made my high school English teacher cry (still one of favorite memories of high school). I remember how terrible it felt to have dislocated my toe and then sprained my foot in martial arts and having to go through the terrible process of rehab and crutches. But I remember triumphs too where my feet have taken me — things like a personal record in a 10K race that I barely finished the first time around, to the steep slopes of Mt. Snow for adventure races. I remember the beautiful moments like from walking down the aisle to see the most beautiful man of my life to mundane moments like grabbing an irresponsible amount of eggs and vodka for a New Years’ party, RSVP numbering just two. All of these moments have involved my feet.
I have taken so many steps forward and some steps back, but my feet have learned to do so much more. They are the first thing that come to my aid when I get knocked down again and get up. They carry me from adventure to adversity to achievement. I owe so much to thinking more about my feet, how they move, how can they best serve me, and maybe the world around me too.