From the center of the room, she barks, “Find your feet!” She instructs us to root, firmly down, and to notice the four corners of our feet. “Find them!” she commands. I like her barking. I appreciate it. Her barking is the equivalent of a bitch-slapping, and this tough girl who has hand-crafted a protective 12-foot brick wall over a number of years of self-inflicted abuse sometimes finds herself in need of a good bitch-slapping to bring her back down to earth and to knock some of the bricks out of her wall.
So obediently, I listen, and I root down, and I find my feet. “I found them!” I want to scream and point to my feet to show teacher I’ve done a good job, but I’m a hot mess and doing so seems inappropriate in a 95 degree heated yoga studio full of 40-some other sweat-dripping aspiring yogis who are, just like me, trying to find their way—as well as their feet.
But what is all this talk about “finding your feet?” I mean, I get it…sorta…like the logical explanation…I get it—root down, stay grounded, know where you are, it’s okay to be exactly where you are yadda yadda yadda.
But have I ever felt my feet? Have I ever really felt them, actually supporting me and providing me with other enlightened yogi stuff like that?
Not by a long shot.
I mean, I can see my feet, but I haven’t necessarily found them.
Basking in the sunlight of a Florida beach, I stood at the very edge of the shore. The temperature rising in my body, I sought the refreshing cooling therapy of the ocean. The once galloping and charging wave that commenced deeper in the ocean—far out from where a non-swimmer like me would venture– now quietly reached the shore and gently tickled at my feet. The water spiraled around my toes before returning to the ocean and swiftly taking with her, sand from beneath my feet.
An uncomfortable feeling…
Having the sand swept out from underneath you…
And so I changed my position, having lifted my feet and moving to “higher ground” next to me, where the sand had re-leveled itself.
Ahhhh….much better….solid footing again…
Except it wasn’t solid footing at all. The dissipated wave now returned, spiraling my toes again, and returning to the ocean again, and swiftly, deftly, taking with her, sand from beneath my feet. Again.
And so I’d move to higher ground. Again.
Anything to avoid that uncomfortable feeling of what remained when the sand had been swept out from underneath me.
I looked down at my toes and took pause. Wait a minute, I thought, what if I just stay? What will happen if I allow the sand to be swept out from under me? What if I DON’T seek higher ground? What will happen if I just stay?
Where had I heard these questions before???
Cue the barking.
What would happen if I just stayed? What would happen if instead of seeking higher ground, I would find my feet? Would I lose balance? Fall over? Be washed into the vast ocean (which is a real and very scary threat to someone who never learned how to swim)?!?
The answer to all of those questions was clear:
Perhaps dangerously throwing caution to the wind, I said to myself well fuck it…let’s see what happens…
I recollected the commands of my insightful and valued yogi instructors…I rooted down…I noticed the four corners of my feet pressing down into the sand, the sand that would leave me as quickly as it had met me…
And I just stayed.
The sand had pulled away from my heels, leaving my feet in an upright, angled position.
An uncomfortable position.
And I stayed.
I weebled and wobbled.
Terribly inflexible, my feet angled this way caused some considerable pain…
Yet I stayed…
What will happen, I wondered, if I just stay here…if I stay here and just deal with the discomfort…if I just deal with the pain….what will happen?
Another dissipated wave came, and it too, swept even more sand out from underneath me, causing even further discomfort and further pain.
And I stayed.
I kept my feet there, but I re-positioned my hips, allowing one side to bear the brunt of my weight, and then shifting it to the other, allowing the other side to bear the similar burden of my bodyweight.
Hmmmm that’s not too bad. I’d discovered that re-positioning my body instead of removing my feet would deliver comfort, a different comfort than if I had removed my feet, but a comfort nevertheless.
Soon another dissipated wave came, over and over—you know the drill by now…but then I looked down at my feet again…
My toes were curling into the sand, gripping at the sand, clinging to it. Instead of trusting my re-positioning, my toes wanted to play anchor. They were gripping so tightly, eventually even cramping because I was hanging on so tight.
As quickly as I noticed my clinging…
“WHY ARE YOU GRIPPING? WHY ARE YOU CLINGING?!?” bark bark bark.
I let go.
And guess what?
I didn’t fall over.
Feeling encouraged by my new-found discovery and more confident, I wondered, what will happen if I go another 10 feet further into the ocean? Can I find my feet there, too? Can I stay? Can I find my anchor? Will I be able to root down? Can I allow myself to stop gripping? To stop clinging? Will I allow myself to let go?
Cautiously, I tip-toed further, and the waves grew more rapid and violent, stirring water around my shins this time.
The sand shifted. It came. It went.
And I stayed.
Over and over again, wave after wave,
And the most interesting thing happened after about fifteen minutes of just staying….and allowing for the discomfort…
The sand anchored my feet. One might say the sand “buried” my feet, but this optimist would suggest that the sand now supported my feet, enveloping my ankles and holding me in such a way that I did not have to shift my weight from one hip to the other; instead, I was held by something greater and more powerful than myself.
I found my feet!
And bricks are being broken, and walls are falling down.