Frank Forencich, writer, philosopher, human advocate, and founder of Exuberant Animal (website | blog | book), has a fantastic post today about barefooting as meditation. He starts the post off talking about Mick Dodge a.k.a. the Barefoot Sensei (photo inset):
If you ever have the chance to hike the mountains and river valleys of the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, you just might run into a charismatic movement teacher by the name of Mick Dodge. Mick has been barefooting for almost 20 years and is a passionate advocate for the practice. Not only does Mick walk the walk, he also spreads the word wherever he goes, talking the talk in coffee shops, university bookstores, campgrounds and parks. He tells a story of personal transformation through barefooting and teaches people how to get back into their bodies. People call him “The Barefoot Sensei” and for good reason. Mick has found a way to reinvigorate human life and experience, by way of the foot.
When The Barefoot Sensei gives presentations on the virtues of barefooting, he often begins with a simple question: “What’s the first thing that happens when you take your shoes off?”
People grope for an answer, searching their memory banks for the last time they actually went barefoot, suspicious that this might be some sort of trick question. But before they can get their words in order, Sensei answers for them: ”You start paying attention!”
Frank goes on to discuss how barefooting focuses attention out of necessity. Paying attention* through barefooting means being aware of the ground beneath your feet, to avoid sharp rocks, to take purposeful steps, to adjust your weight when the earth gives way. It's likely this forced focus that corrects a barefoot runner's form—Christopher McDougall said as much about running in his fivefingers, "they keep you honest."
The rest of Frank's post is very much worth reading. If you don't have the time to read it now, just open the link in a new window and set it aside to read later. And if you enjoy Frank's insights, you'd likely benefit from reading his book Exuberant Animal, which is a series of essays that are, at their base, about getting in touch with your humanity.
Finally, the Barefoot Sensei is currently doing a 1,000 mile journey to deliver "the antidote to modern living." You can follow Mick Dodge's journey at his blog.
* The simple axiom "Pay attention" is a theme of another book I've recently finished reading called Constructive Living, which is about focusing attention on what you are doing, as the things you are doing now are the only things you can control (This relates to Morita Therapy).