Mindfulness and the Agony of de Feet

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So in the past year I have taken up running in those Vibram 5-Finger funky toe-shoes. There is a long back story about that which I won’t get into here, but am happy to geek out about if you’re interested. The main problem with these shoes – besides never being able to be taken seriously whilst wearing them – is that when running on the trail there is no cushioning between the stony surface and my flesh and bone soles.

Why would you run in those torture traps? Well, here’s my point. When running on Marshall Mesa the other day, early on in my run received a jabbing stone right on the ball of the foot that got my attention pretty quick, and I asked myself the same question that opened this paragraph! Why would I do this. As I continued my run holding the intention for more attention, it came to me.

The pain of my sole (pun intended) served to wake me up and bring me in to the present moment so that I could attend to my run and learn more about what my needs are in that situation. In this case it was pretty obvious that one of my big needs was to avoid landing my soft foot on sharp pointy rocks. As I engaged my awareness in scanning the trail in front of me as I was running, I became aware of a process whereby the information I was taking in visually was needing to be transmitted through my body quickly in order for my movements to adjust to the changing trail conditions and still keep my balance and speed.

As I relaxed my analyzer and allowed my visual awareness to communicate as effortlessly as possibly with my kinesthetic awareness, I was struck by a quality of mindful attention and presence that I often inhabit in my sitting meditation. As thoughts would enter my field of awareness, I noticed that if I entertained them I became distracted and BAM! a rock underfoot would bring me right back to what I was doing. As I relaxed and let the information come in with mindful awareness, my body was seemingly responding to that information without much effort or delay.

Pain in this instance – and in many aspects of our life – serves as a guide for us and as an opportunity to check in with what we need first in this moment and second to carry us through towards the life we truly wish to lead. My sole was crying out for more care and attention, and I could only offer it by first listening to the pain and then showing up in the present moment and making some new, deliberate choices about how I was acting.