It was cold outside to be sure. Fashion had since turned from flip flops to boots. But, I had been longing to touch the earth, to commune with the outdoors in some way, and my spirit just wasn’t willing to wait 6 months for mid-spring to warm the earth.
As I transitioned from sweat-soaked yoga gear into fresh clothing, I gathered my items, stuffed my shoes into my backpack, strapped my mat on, and zipped up my coat. There I stood: hat, coat, leggings. And bare feet. Several of my friends asked, “Um…hey…so…where are your shoes???” Without a blink I replied, “They’re in my backpack.” A pause, some shoulder shrugs, and they said, “OK.”
Down the stairs I went and, on an inhale, I stepped out the door and onto the cold bricks. Exhale. I spread my toes out wide, gripped the ground, and felt the bricks under the full expanse of my naked feet. Then, I stepped further from the bricks onto the cobble stones in the driveway. Nervously, I watched my every move, wondering if there might be glass, bugs, or even a rat scampering by. I got in motion to journey home with one of my friends, and as we walked, this is where I, for the first time, actually felt the city in which I live.
You know, I thought I knew the city. Over a decade of being here, and I thought I “got” it. But in that moment, balancing every bare step on stones, bricks and cement, I realized that there is nothing like having the skin of my feet in direct contact with the streets.
Within 10 minutes, my feet had touched so many different types of surfaces indoors and outdoors: wood, marble, carpet, bricks, stone, cement, etc. Some surfaces were smooth, some prickly, some rough. I thought that just because I saw these different surfaces with my eyes, I knew them. But, really, I had never touched them, never felt them; I had only ever felt the cushion inside of my shoes.
This is also when I realized that my feet are not very strong. Certainly, yoga has been strengthening them and retraining me on how to use them. But, there is nothing like walking around the city barefoot. I had to slow my pace considerably. Every now and then, my friend would ask me if I was doing OK. “Yes,” I’d say, committed to marching on. After about 20 minutes of walking, I had to take a knee and put my shoes back on. The cold had gotten intense and my feet and legs were pretty exhausted from my barefoot adventure.
It was such a humbling and awakening experience. “This is what it feels like to use feet as they were intended,” I remarked while taking in a long gaze at my surroundings with a fresh appreciation for having truly felt the ground.
It’s funny, because before that experience I didn’t realize that I wasn’t barefoot at home. Even though I’ve been clothes free for several months, I often wore slippers of some sort around home. And I had no idea that I was wearing them, that I wasn’t feeling the floors of my home. Now? Now the slippers are gathering dust, because I’m actually barefoot at home all of the time. Clothes free from head to toe.