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When my grandmother was in her late eighties and her annual appointment with our family doctor loomed, she always made sure she was wearing slip-on shoes, the easier to display her feet and so begin their conversation about her current state of well being and quality of life. Taking care of our feet through exercise and bodymind health practices is paramount if we want to be as autonomous as possible as we age. In spite of the vital importance of foot care, I’ve met many people who hate their feet, don’t like to touch them, and cram them into shoes that do not fit because they believe style is more important than foot mobility and comfort. We may be able to get away with a little foot abuse when we are young, but as we age, our feet become more and more important to our overall well being. Tapping to overcome our feet prejudices and even podophobia, an intense fear of feet, helps us to positively relate to our feet and increase our well being as we age.
A Geriatrician Teaches a Surgeon About the Importance of Foot Care
I was reminded of my grandmother’s many positive foot habits while watching an interview with surgeon Atul Gawande, who describes an important lesson in geriatrics in his new book, Being Mortal. The experience Gawande recalls served to bridge the gap between a geriatrician or aging specialist and a surgeon whose knowledge of the aging process and older persons’ needs was, at the time, sorely lacking. Gawande learned that the geriatrician’s first line of inquiry involved his patient’s feet, since foot challenges cause instability and the risk of serious falls that can lead to broken bones and the end of prized independence. The anecdote reinforces the importance of foot health and its relationship to our stability as we age.
For example, If we cannot reach our feet to trim our nails, we run the risk of developing sores between the toes that impact our desire to walk because of pain. Care of the feet, including nail trimming, becomes a front line-defense for a stable walking gait and movement generally. Besides being highly pleasurable when we have happy feet, walking and various healthful movement practices help to keep our bones and muscles strong. For more about the importance of our feet as described in Being Mortal, see the interview with Atul Gawande at http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/7/being_mortal_dr_atul_gawande_on. (In Being Mortal, Gawande provides an in-depth look at the dangers of medicalizing the aging process; he also explores the alternatives to the current, widespread institutionalization of the elderly in nursing homes adhering to the medical model where safety rather than well being is paramount. This book is must reading for every adult whose goal is inspired aging.)
Exercise Experts and the Feet
In the two previous blogs, I referred to Miranda Esmonde-White’s Health and Wellness, Classical Stretch dvd series. She too emphasizes the importance of foot health through stretching and balance work that strengthen the feet so we are able to more stably connect with whatever surface we happen to be standing or walking on. She advocates doing workouts in bare feet to avoid the loss of foot flexibility and strength. Many of her stretches involve working all parts of the feet and ankles in a variety of ways. Although I am only a beginner in her practice, I can attest that my own feet feel stronger and more flexible in only a few short weeks and that these benefits travel upward, making my legs stronger and my posture straighter.
Danny Dreyer, Creator of the Chi Walking/Running movement, also emphasizes foot flexibility and strength in the warmups he teaches that precede all walking and running sessions. His method is all about mindfulness and injury prevention through body awareness. I discovered Chi Running after reading Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, a book celebrating the tireless Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who run everywhere barefoot. The minimalist shoe movement that began because of these remarkable barefoot runners’ successes in ultra-marathon events is very much a part of Chi Running instruction, again because foot flexibility and strength prevent injury and improve posture. You can learn more about Chi Walking and Running, general wellness, and foot health at http://www.chirunning.com/what-is-chirunning/ . You will find Chris McDougall’s site at http://www.chrismcdougall.com/ and more about the Tarahumara barefoot runners of Mexico’s Copper Canyons at http://www.chrismcdougall.com/born-to-run/.
Tapping to Reconnect with our Feet
Phobias abound in modern life. Traumatizing events that may not even register in the moment, can leave us metaphorically as well as physically fearful of our feet. A gym teacher’s brutal practice sessions that injured our feet, a comment about foot size or shape, and even a memory of being shamed because of ill fitting shoes in childhood can make us reluctant to relate positively to our feet. Because we deny trauma when we cannot escape it, our feelings of shame or fear go underground into that vast world of unconscious beliefs and fears psychoanalysis calls the Shadow. For this reason, tapping on gratitude for our feet is always a good place to begin because the body does not resist gratitude in the way that it resists moving into the painful or frightening memories at the heart of Shadow work.
A possible gratitude script might begin: “Even though I haven’t said so lately, I’m very grateful for my feet. You’ve been faithful to me a long time, and I would like to begin to let you know how much I appreciate all the places you have taken me. I really appreciate your faithfulness, because I know I couldn’t get around without you.”
When Pain Prevents Movement
If, because of diabetes or other chronic conditions, your feet no longer support your desire to walk for purpose or for pleasure, you can tap on past foot faithfulness and joy. Recalling your agility in riding a bike during childhood, or playing baseball, or dancing, are great memories to inspire a gratitude tapping focus. If tears should come, tapping while expressing grief is also very healing. “I miss you, my wonderful feet, and all the adventures we used to have. I’m sorry for all the pain you’re experiencing. I appreciate you, no matter what,” is a great place to begin when grief is the primary emotion.
Sometimes, it is anger we feel when pain and physical instability rule our lives. We feel betrayed by our bodies, especially our feet, let down by their weakness. Sometimes, we become furious with the aging process itself. Anger, rage, and resentment are always fertile material for tapping: “I feel let down. You betrayed me. Why can’t you just be healthy? Why can’t you just be perfect. I’m so mad at you. You make me feel so vulnerable, and I hate feeling vulnerable,” is a great place to begin. Get the anger out . . . , say the worst; swear if it feels right to do so. If you feel inhibited, think of how lancing a boil supports healing. Tapping on the negative emotions surrounding our feet clears out any toxicity standing in the way of an attitude shift into peace,
Ritual Feet Celebration
You can do this alone or with friends. Wash your feet with great tenderness. After bathing and drying each one, consciously anoint them with a lotion or cream whose scent you love. During this ritual, think of the promises you would like to make to your feet. Write these promises on a paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Perhaps one of your promises is to invest in toe spacers to maximize the flexibility of your toes. Perhaps you know it is time to see a podiatrist about having callouses removed. Perhaps you simply promise to use a pumice stone during your bath or shower. Whatever you promise, be aware of any promises you resist keeping. This resistance will lead you into a deeper and more loving relationship with your feet simply by tapping, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t know why I’m resisting this. I trust I’ll learn about this resistance. I open to healing my relationship with my feet.”
Caring for your feet personally in some small way every day is an important way to reestablish friendly relations with a body part that keeps us upright and ready for life’s dance, wherever it may take us. If you are no longer able to get around on your own two feet, celebrate the places you’ve been by tapping as you replay the happy memories of simply walking somewhere you wanted to go. Eventually, after faithful practice, you will feel more gratitude and appreciation for your feet than resentment, and this will bring more joy and appreciation to all you do.
Until next week
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Advanced Practitioner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-533-9277
Jane is a Learning Coach specializing in neutralizing cultural age, gender, and race constructs to support learners of every age. To engage her coaching services, please contact Jane by phone (802) 533-9277 or email, email@example.com. Be sure to put Coaching Query in the subject line.