Barefoot Shoes for the Soul


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I like when I learn gracefully from Life. Now, that doesn’t always happen, but I just want to say that I like it better when it does.

When I don’t learn gracefully, I think Life must have compassion on me, and seeing as how I’m not catching on so fast, it throws extra lessons in as a bonus.

Or maybe Life does that to make sure I hang onto what I finally learned… In either case, Life looks out for me that way.

Well today my barefoot shoes got here!! Oh happy day!!! Oh happy me…  and what a fun bonus!!

I’ll back up a bit…

Last summer after leaving a high stress job where I had been working far too many hours for far too long, I had the realization that I had traded my active lifestyle for one where I lived on the computer and the phone. I loved what I did… it was my passion and my calling, but I had let go of self care to such a huge degree that I was literally, as well as figuratively, atrophying. So I made a quality determination to begin moving again.

My favorite type of movement is walking. I love being outside… I love the quiet, and the open spaces, and the time away from all that pulls on me.

This time it was even better. Both my boys were wanting to exercise, and we went on walks each morning – taking in the heavy summer air, before the sun burned the dew off the grass and fields.

It started as walking…  but I was enjoying that so much, and feeling so good, that I pushed myself to try a walk/jog combination.

Now, you have to understand something… I’ve NEVER done any running before. (Unless you count a month long stint in 9th grade where I wanted to try out for track.) I ended up on the boy’s varsity swim team instead.

I used to joke that I didn’t run unless I was chasing something, or something was chasing me. Running always ended up hurting me. My knees, hips, or feet… So I decided long ago that walking and I got along just fine, and I would keep to that. Until last summer.

In my excitement to be running, my older son, Joshua, was my unflagging cheerleader, and my younger son, Jonathan, inspired me with his own growing strength and stamina on his bike.

Well… here’s where I missed the gentle lesson.

And it’s rarely just a single faceted equation.

First… the front of my right hip started burning. It was where the tendons and ligaments attached to that hip bone that pokes out. In spite of years as a massage therapist, and a lifetime of working with horses and dealing with their soft tissue injuries and rehab, I decided that I was going to just keep pushing forward and work through it.

Yeah. I know.

I hear myself saying it.

But you have to understand… the other part was that I was LOVING jogging. I have no idea what I looked like from the outside, but in my mind, I was flying down the road – unstoppable, alive… the picture of freedom. It was a high like no other.

And in my defense, my hip rarely hurt while jogging. It was just afterwards, that the burning would start. I conveniently forgot about endorphins…

And the part that never occurred to me until months later…  I followed conventional wisdom, and was using a pair of running shoes. I was, after all, pounding the pavement. The knowledgeable man in the store assured me that I would need something to cushion my body from the continual impact.

Now, I am a barefoot girl. I kick my shoes off as soon as I get in the house. I spent the greater part of my childhood summers barefoot. When I became a teen, I was one of those hippie granola types who lived in her Birkenstocks.

The only shoes I wear that have a heel, are my paddock boots, for riding horses, and those KILL my feet to walk in. But it never occurred to me that a jogging shoe is essentially a shoe with a heel. I just followed the advice of those who knew better… and didn’t tune into my own body, or my own knowing.

And when I was doing something that YES, my body loved to do, but it wasn’t working out so well… I didn’t question the methods… I didn’t question the timing… I didn’t question whether or not this was the best way for me to do this…

I got scared that I would fail… that it would get taken away… and that I would loose what I was falling in love with, and so I just pushed harder, because I didn’t want to give up something that was so fulfilling.

And this is the old, ingrained pattern. One that I have, and one that I see over and again in the amazing people whom I coach. When we get scared, we try harder.

We find it so difficult to believe that there’s a way to succeed that deeply honors us, and so when things don’t feel right, we’re quick to side against ourselves and our own wisdom, and instead, break ourselves upon the rocks of other’s beliefs, injunctions, or conventional wisdom.

This inevitably ends in failure, and a deepened sense of self doubt and fear.

A nasty, vicious cycle indeed.

By November, I was unable to sit without burning pain in the front of my right hip. I couldn’t cross my legs, because it would pull on those tendons and ligaments. I couldn’t walk more than a few steps without pain. By ignoring what my body was telling me, I had lost the jogging, and lost my walking too.

In the months of slow healing that followed, I had time to see the parallels. Those bonus lessons that Life so generously offers, began to unfold.

The way I pushed myself to jog… with tools that didn’t fit who I am… and timing that was born out of enthusiasm more than understanding – was the same way I had pushed myself to utter burnout, in the job I left the summer before. There again… I listened to others, and believed their perceptions over my own deep knowing, and allowed my enthusiasm and fear of loosing an opportunity, to drive me beyond all that was healthy or balanced.

Hmm…  definite pattern here.

So as my body healed, I also gave myself time to heal my soul. I began to reimagine what it would look like to live in such a way that I could run without injuring myself. In my work… in my home… in my relationships… and in my physical movement.

I began questioning everything that didn’t feel right, or didn’t work for me. What if I allowed myself to really trust that deep knowing within me? What if I allowed that to be the bar by which I measured the pressures and expectations of life?

I let go of things…  For someone who can be as driven as I am, that was a BIG deal!

I swept out everything that didn’t add to my aliveness, and made huge spaces in my life.

I slowed down. Waaaay down.

I gave myself time to deeply listen to that knowing, and to follow where it led me.

And where I needed to learn more, I sought out more understanding – only this time, if it didn’t feel right, or didn’t fit me, I let it go, and kept looking for something that resonated.

I began to heal, and get strong.

As the old saying goes, “We teach that which we need to learn.” My clients started coming to me with the same sorts of pains…. professionally, personally, spiritually. And as I was healing myself, I had the gift of supporting them in their own healing and rediscovery. The same things that were helping me to heal and get strong, were helping them. And in holding space for their unique expression in the world, I reinforced my own ability to do that for me.

I recognized this as the gift that happens when I’m following that inner voice.

As my body healed I began a quest to begin walking again, but in a healthy way. I discovered that when I walked barefoot on the beach, my hip didn’t hurt as much. And when I walked barefoot around the house, it no longer bothered me at all.

I studied body mechanics, and how to walk in a way that aligns with me. Funny, that I had to give myself ‘permission’ to come back to what had been mine all along.

… and in doing so, I learned about barefoot shoes!

Now, for some people, that deep listening will lead them to the very jogging shoes that contributed to my injury. Isn’t is wonderful that life really isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all? The secret is in listening to what works for us, and following that deep knowing!

My first pair of barefoot shoes arrived at my door today. (They’re a pair of Merrel’s – the Barefoot Pace Glove.) Can you tell I’m like a kid at Christmas?

I took a walk in them this afternoon – my body moving freely, my muscles readjusting to their own rhythm. I could feel my whole body sigh with relief… finally! It feels so good. Makes me want to take another walk tonight. But I’ll allow wisdom to prevail, and wait until morning. Enthusiasm is not replacement for taking good care of myself!

These lessons have been a long time in coming. When I find a way to live, following how I’m wired to be here, it becomes a joy and passion to engage – and I’m able to give my very best. I’m loving the places where I’m living barefoot in my business, in my spirituality, as a parent, as a partner, as a friend, as a woman!

What a cool thought… I’m here to live barefoot in this world.

Listening to my own soul.

To the deep knowing that is within me…

Celebrating the uniqueness of who I am!

… and one of my favorite bonuses: I get to give others permission and support, to heal and grow strong, as they learn to do the same.