My feet are often purple. Poor circulation runs in my family. One particularly bad winter I got chilblains! I didn’t even know what they were. Kevin googled “swollen, itchy toes” and we discovered that I had more in common with those living at the turn of the century than originally suspected.
Recently, Kevin listened to a Gurdjieff lecture. An audience member posed a particularly combative question to Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff roared back, “where are your feet?” The audience member continued contesting. Gurdjieff asked again, “where are your feet?” The audience member heard, slowed, felt. The tenor of their exchange shifted radically to one of more mutual understanding.
Kevin relayed the exchange to me. I tried to feel my feet. I’ve taught yoga for more than 7 years and I’m not sure that I’ve felt them even in that time. Even teaching body awareness most days of the week.
And I am comparatively in my body. And my practice has landed me more deeply in my body than I lived prior.
And I rarely feel my feet.
So I now continuously ask myself, “where are your feet?” And the funny thing is that I start to feel sensation almost like pins and needles after the limb having fallen asleep. My attention is acting shifting circulation.
In yoga there’s a saying that “prana flows where citta goes” meaning energy flows in the direction of your attention. I’ve seen this again and again. When Kevin and I pay attention to each other, there is a flourishing in our marriage. When we first adopted our rescue cats they were a bit haggard— they’d been through a lot! As we attended to their safety, comfort, and fun they blossomed. Their eyes grew brighter, their fur shiny, and their sweet, authentic selves emerged. When I attend to my aloe plants the stems plump up and the green skin shines. I neglected my house for awhile and it showed. Now that I’m putting more care in painting a wall here, or replacing this appliance, or adding or removing a decoration there’s a different buzz in the walls and feeling in the air. Energy flows.
Feet are an interesting place to numb. It means that it’s also hard to feel where you are on the earth. I’m paying attention to all of my shoes— which shoes more contain me and which shoes offer a bit more breath.
Not feeling feet means less balance. Less ability to spread toes and nuance ones stance.
This energy flow is an overall inhabitation. Where I am that I am not? How often am I at home but mentally at work? How often am I in a conversation but actually talking to my high school teacher? How often for any of us?
We know presence is a practice. That understanding unfolds.
I wonder, too, at the fictions that convince us that presence is taxing. What feels simpler about checking out than staying in? What fear underpins numbness?
My body is proving a very trustworthy gauge. It’s a compass. It’s a locator. It’s a vessel. It’s a world unto itself.
I heard an interview recently where a young writer shared her frustration at working in a cubicle. She wanted to be “free” to write and her pragmatic 9-5 was other than her passion. In the course of the conversation her mantra emerged: “this is where the action is.”
I remembered all the times my life seemed other than where it was. The bored hours waiting tables, itching to get on the road. High school droning endlessly on until my life could begin. All the moments when I felt on the outside of my own life.
When I didn’t feel my feet.
Prana flows where citta goes.
I’m very invested in my life.
I am feeding it. I am paying attention to it. I am feeling it. I am grateful for it. It is where the action is.
I am in my feet.