Reconnecting the feminine in every woman through dance, healthful living, sisterhood and walking barefoot in the grass.
Hello, my name is Janice and I've recently relearned the importance of getting out into the yard and walking barefoot in the grass. This sounds like the opening statement of a person new to a 12 point program, and it could very well be. I guess I should say I'm a "barefoot grass-walking addict".
I've lived a relatively healthy life for the majority of my (soon to be) sixty years. In fact my doctor once told me as a patient I was boring since I presented no real health issues. Then my thyroid went south, and the Hypothyroid brought along its buddies of weight gain, lack of sleep, hair loss and a host of other symptoms that my doctor never warned me about. He didn't know I'm a bulldog on researching whatever comes into my head to uncover, like an archeologist sweeping grains of sands away from buried bones. I found several accompanying symptoms and at my next doctor's visit gave him the list and demanded treatment, one of these piggy-backing buddies of Hypothyroid for me was Stage 2 High Blood Pressure. From being a normal size 14 I ballooned up to a size 22+ in three or four months. And from a normal BP to dangerously high along with heart palpitations in a short period of time not only physically hurt but killed my self-esteem. I couldn't get up off the toilet without using my arms to lever myself up, and walking up a short set of five steps leading into our house was a project filmed in slow motion. I was totally out of breath by the time I got inside the house. Heat bothered me and sent my heart racing, my sex drive disappeared and I had to force myself to leave the house as depression surrounded me. During the past years of struggling to adjust my life to living with the Hypotension and everything it brought I had also allowed my connection to the Earth slip away. I was miserable all the time, I hurt, I was lethargic, and I felt old beyond my years. It happened like a sneak thief and I didn't realized how lost from myself and my spirituality I'd become. I no longer kept up my altar, no longer celebrated the Sabbats, no longer communed with the trees or even paid attention to the moon.
I was losing myself completely. I had to fight against becoming immersed in depression and hiding away; that wasn't me. I'm the type to face down the lion, so I grabbed myself by the scruff of the neck and worked to correct the situation. I've rediscovered my connection with the Goddesses, with the Earth, with Nature and Myself. In this column I hope to present tidbits I've picked up along my road back to ME and wisdom from other strong ladies I've met who have been a haven for me.
One of my first paths back to re-connections was exercise. My doctor advised me I needed to do it several times a week and I had to drop the extra weight I'd put on. My choice was to take up belly dance lessons, low impact and something I could handle, even with becoming out of breath or stopping to let my racing heart calm down during the classes. I was dancing with ladies young enough to be my daughters and doing my best to keep up with them. Now I not only perform at public events and teach Tribal Style belly dance, I also have my own performing theatrical belly dance group (more about that later).
I was working at an office doing third party billing but when the economy took a nose dive I was laid off. After two years of no nine to five paycheck and living solely on my writing and unemployment I decided it was time for a change. I enrolled in massage therapy school. I graduate June 10th 2013 and will become a fully licensed LMT shortly after.
We've experienced some wonderful teachers. One is a neuromuscular professional and he points out we must begin our body's healing from the ground floor up; from our feet and our pelvic region. He showed images of elderly women in a third world country supporting large jars of water on their heads as they walked miles to their home. Their shoes were flimsy flip flops yet they were fit, healthy and happy. He studied this occurrence and found in a muscular sense that the flimsy footwear allowed them to connect fully with the land, with every contour of the Earth. This allowed the muscles of their feet and legs to perform the task they were designed to do. Their gait was natural from heel strike to the pushing off/flexing of their toes. In Bali, elderly women carry Jamu products strapped to their back to sell in the villages. They too walk for miles and are happy, healthy and carry strong postures, unlike our younger people today who are hunched over computers and experienced restricted, protracted postures. Many of the third world countries have areas known as Blue Zones where the populace lives long, healthy, productive lives. Theses cultures still connect with the Earth, and each other in the form of touch, in family traditions of massage and of natural living, and honor the elderly’s wisdom. Women often remain the wise teachers and keepers of traditions.
In school, our study of Reflexology taught us the points within our hands and feet that stimulates and clears blockages within our system. Our teacher (a retired Podatrist) recalled his treatments of using this technique to discover a woman was pregnant before anyone else knew or how thumb-walking (worm-walking) across the big toe, which is corresponds to the head (brain) and neck can help calm an Autistic child or prepare a student to take a test. For me he located a displaced cuboid bone and gently massaged it back where it belonged with wonderful results in the way my foot felt afterwards and the new strength found in my arch. In Kinesiology (the study of how the body moves) our teacher once gave us exercises for our feet, ones that would move our toes out sideways and back, a movement simple enough, and one we see babies and children perform with ease. To our embarrassment most of the class could not flex their big toe away from the pack. Further, when walking in our natural gait most of us did not spring forward from our toes, we pronated inward collapsing the arch of our foot. Our stunted gait indicated muscle weakness along the inside of our feet and many of us discovered we were beginning to show the signs of bunions forming.
We of the more cultured nations often don't allow ourselves to touch the ground. We wear thick, unforgiving soled shoes, or worse yet, the tall stilts of high heels that throw a female's gravity base off whack and cause problems in our backs and legs. Our feet become stunted with hammer toes resulting from tight shoes, or bunions because we don't pay any more attention to the health of our feet than clipping nails and painting smothering chemicals over them.
Good health and well-being of Self often begins and the bottom, the ground floor, and we neglect our feet beyond the nail polish or nail clipping.
We lose our connection with the Earth, with our Mother and finally with each other. We as women become too busy, harried, and feel plastic like a store window mannequin. We forget how to flex our toes like a baby, or feel them digging into sand like they did when we were kids and heard the voice of the world, of the spirits around us. Or, like me, we fall prey to a dysfunction in our system. With the training I’ve received at school I know more about healthier eating habits, the benefits of herbs beyond use in rituals, and one of the reasons why people living in the Midwest suffer more from thyroid issues than those living on in coastal regions.
As far as connecting with myself again, I spend as much time without shoes as I can and feeling the grass beneath my feet is as refreshing as a long soak in a hot, lavender scented tub. Growing up on a Missouri farm I ran around outside barefoot all summer if possible, scrambling up the sides of trees like a squirrel and building hay forts. That’s when I talked with Nature, that’s when Spirits spoke with me. And that’s when my heart was lighter and my lungs filled with the Goddess being of simply being alive. I was my own Heroine.
I've rediscovered my own yard, of walking barefoot and touching the wildness of the Goddesses who were nature incarnate, wild and strong. I've found the fun of having my cat prowl after me delighted that I am padding about as soft footed as she in the grass. She pounces on my toes only to race away, she who never loses sight of who she is, nor loses touch with the Earth. I walk barefoot in my yard and now my life and I am healthier for doing so. I have bunions developing from lurching side to side gait brought on by the sudden weight gain and pain suffered at the onset of my thyroid issues. I had pain in my joints and understand now the odd gait of the elderly. Using the exercises from my teachers I can already see results and experience the changes in my feet. Knowing muscle release techniques now as a therapist the pain in my hips is nearly dissipated.
While many can’t book a Reflexology session a simple solution might be in giving yourself or a loved one a foot massage to stimulate blood flow. Wiggle the toes as in the “This Little Piggy” kids’ game to activate the muscles that move them. Flex your toes, spread them wide. Walk outside barefoot in the grass (be mindful of large or sharp stones or hidden objects that could cut your feet). Connect with the earth, allowing yourself to become grounded. This is a good time to allow negative energy to be released from your body down and out via your feet into the ground. Breathe deeply, taste the scent of the air. Listen to the wind. Walking can be meditative or a mini-vacation from stress. There are books on the market now expounding the benefits of walking barefoot outdoors such as Mark Sisson’s Primal Connection, or, Earthing: The most important health discovery ever? by Clinton Ober, Stephen Sinatra M.D. and Martin Zucker. Some Chiropractors and Acupuncturists are advising their clients to go outside for a walk…barefoot, over small smooth pebbles. By walking barefoot over open countryside, early man was inadvertently enjoying the benefits of reflexology, a therapeutic form of foot massage. (Self-Healing Techniques: Reflexology, The Complete Guide to Natural Healing)
Both ancient Chinese and Egyptian cultures extolled the healing effects of reflexology on the entire body. (Same source)
Try this approach to self-healing, to reconnecting your energy to Mother Earth. Be mindful of finding soil, not concrete. As I’ve heard in school, man was meant to walk the ‘earth’ not concrete. The soil gives and feeds energy back into us, concrete does not and is un-giving and harsh on our feet and up throughout our bodies. For a fun touch, buy or make yourself a pair of “Goddess Sandals” using a piece of small elastic to wrap around your second toe and crocheted or beaded adornments running up the top of your foot with ribbons or cords to tie around the back of your ankle or even higher as in a Roman Sandal look. Wear these outside as you stroll in your yard and feel pretty all the way down to your toes.
As a side note; my school is a 900 hour program lasting a year. During this past year I’ve dropped the 2X dress size, I can now wear an XL or Large depending on the style and manufacturer. I have more energy and can make it up the long flight of stairs to our second floor classrooms without gasping for air. My posture has improved with both the weight loss and re gaining self-confidence. My goal is to slowly wean myself from my thyroid meds. I write this after the weekend of the SuperMoon, June 25th 2013. Like many of us I used the opportunity to set out my crystals for cleansing and recharging. I also placed myself in the moon’s glow, walking barefoot over the newly mowed lawn. I held my arms out, breathed deeply, listened to the wind in the trees overhead and gazed up at the Lunar Hare in the moon as my cat stalked invisibles in the grass; her silvery-gray coat shining as the moonlight outlined her back and lashing tail. I have one day left of school and it will be our exit Exams all day, then we take our test to get our State License, both days will cover everything that was crammed into our heads this past year. I’m better prepared now, re-filled, jump-started if you will, by bathing in the moonlight and allowing the Lunar and Earth energies to flow into me, from head to toe.
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