Several years ago I found a TedX Talk featuring one of my favorite teachers, respected elder and cultural practitioner, Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele. The YouTube records Aunty Pua's presentation "Living the myth, unlocking the metaphor." If you have visited this blog before you know I refer to this presentation often, I revisit it, fold it in posts I write, and feed on the style of storytelling as I learn new things (or remember lessons not yet pa'a).
The story Pualani retells in the YouTube presentation below has become one of the first-aid medicines I use when I am forgetful, or confused, or arrogant. The story of Pele's initiation regarding her kuleana (responsibilities) and her Uncle Lono's passing of knowledge resets my password, so to speak; I remember to remember. In my way, I create ceremony that puts me in the correct frame of mind to hear my Ancestors', and, open my heart. Ask for the lesson waiting in the wings for me. Make room for new information. Clear the way of old habits, images, beliefs. Give thanks.
Yesterday, I was applying Kanaka'ole's wisdom. But, with a slight tweak. Rather than live the myth, unlock the metaphor, I spent an hour feeling what it is to live the metaphor "Stand on your own two feet." Let me back up and give you a slight rerun to bring the experience into present time. Back in January, I was blissfully enjoying being in my boots, with my feet on the trails; a solution to the dark winters in the woods being sedentary and sullen. I was out and about and breathing deeply after what seemed such a long time. For six weeks in winter I was dressed for all manner of weather, and in the driver's seat for a drive to the walking trail with Salish Sea views to the left and right under open skies. The trails included gentle but definite hills. I relished being able to climb them with increasing comfort.
But in February I noticed old sensations in my lower legs, painful and bulging Achilles tendons. Old pain. In times past when the tendons would hurt, I simply lived with it, backed off from activity, wore a brace. When the pain and bulging persisted, I suspected there was something more to the pain. In place of 100% panic, the name of someone in our community who shared her practice of Somatics with Pete came to me. Somatics helped him to recover his ability to walk without a deeply angled gait. What is Somatics?
Somatics refers to practices in the field of movement studies which emphasize internal physical perception. The term is used in movement therapy to signify an approach based on the soma, or "the body as perceived from within," and in dance as an antonym for "performative techniques," such as ballet or modern dance, which emphasize the external observation of movement by an audience. Somatic techniques may be used in bodywork, psychotherapy, dance, or spiritual practices.
In my first hour-long session I became familiar with foot, fascia, and the faulty use of my feet -- a practice that was never corrected, nor recognized as erroneous. Basically, I have been pounding on my heels for decades and after all that punishment my body just wouldn't put up with it any longer. Now, those ancient pieces of me (the Achilles I was told are an ancient body part, like the ancient brain) are going through a remembering process. I waited for two months to see N. the Somatics practitioner, but the wait was just what I needed to appreciate the gift when it came.
In my first hour-long session I was:
given lessons on the many bones of the foot, leg, and connecting tissue (fascia)
became intimate with the tip of my big toe
was introduced to the fact that I was almost disconnected from 'knowing' how my toes work
was coached into awareness by a strong, and enforcing teacher
listened to a voice of power
felt my feet grow into a lifted arch
looked at how the bulge of tendon softened
learned about using the second toe (the one next to the big toe) as the center of my foot
practiced sitting with my knees, ankles and foot pointing straight ahead and over my bones
If these 'lessons' are incorrect they are my errors alone. I am writing from the memory of my first hour. My brain has not yet made the functional changes, yet. "It's not like using your left brain to learn to read words," she said. It's more like learning to use my body, my physical body, differently as I would if I was recovering from a stroke.
The keys to my first hour with Somatics:
- subtle not forceful,
- slow rather than fast
- don't 'try hard'
- Beginner's mind
To stand on my own two feet there is one other piece necessary. Footwear. Actually, barefoot would be ideal. Since it's a warm summer here in the Pacific Northwest I go to the muliwai, the beautiful estuary connected beach not far from our home in the woods. I walk barefoot in the sand for fun and for the exercise. A friend and I meet once a week for girl time and beach time. Fun!
But, when my feet need to be covered the issue of shoes is a puzzle. So far I have e-shopped for three pair of boots/shoes and will be returning the last two in the next few days. When you rethink how to walk, the old same-old same-old boot/shoe doesn't do it. As close to barefoot as possible is what you aim for now.
The other issue is the toxic stew and material most boots/shoes are made of. I'm chemical sensitive. The feet are home to the nerve endings of every little system in the body. To put my feet into a toxic stew makes no sense at all. I tried though, going into temporary lapse of memory. Until my feet started to tingle: the telltale sign of toxic invasion. (I discovered that reality when I was first diagnosed with MCS, and would notice I became very weak, and it always started with my feet. Doc said, "Nerve endings in your feet." Everything collects there.)
So this is my story, and I'm sticking to it. There is more to come of course, The journey continues. And to conclude, I've attached a wonderful second YouTube for "Making Moccasins Part I" (Part II comes up if you just let it...) I may try to make my own moccasins, if all the pieces and supplies come together for the project. Or, there is this link to a shoe company that seems to be catering to healthy feet, if you can afford a $125 pair of shoes. Not an uncommon full retail price. I haven't tried a pair, so can't vouch for them. But heard through the MCS grapevine that the were the only pair of shoes that didn't need to be seriously off-gassed before use. Here's a link to Soft Star Shoes, DYO Moccasin.
I'm sure more will show up here as the metaphor lives. Thank you N. that hour shook my world, and woke me up.
Oh, one last thing. About the YouTube below. I love that the script, and the narrator clearly states, "Don't steal our ponies!" (or in Appropriation Language: if you choose to bead the tops of your moccasins don't steal the Traditional Designs, they are not yours to take. For more about appropriating another people's culture read "Destiny: another visit to The Wing Luke.)
Any experience with learning to stand on your own two feet?