by Anne Bluethenthal, Professor in the Department of Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry and Artistic Director of ABD Productions
Think of the soles of your feet opening to the floor.
I can’t feel that at all.
OK, then. Think about the palms of your hands.
That’s easier. I can feel that. But my feet—they are just… so far away!
Really? Far away from what?
Where do we locate our identity, (I wonder obsessively)?
When exactly did we reduce ourselves to a mere part? What fragment of me speaks, moves, dances, writes? What would it be to live a day identified with the soles of my feet? Would my words sound different? Would they resonate more deeply? Would my friends and colleagues look at me as though I was suddenly not myself? Or not visible at all?
Are we so broken that we not only forget our connection to earth and other beings, but even to that wholeness that exists within the boundaries of our own skin?
I think it may be nothing less than revolutionary to yield our dominant fragments—head, shoulders, chest—to the less accessible, or marginalized parts—pelvis, back, feet. Our western culture of aspiration has us pulled up out of ourselves, out of the ground, out of our centers. And there we are, beautiful vertical beings reduced to eyeballs and mouths, while our lower parts are somewhere in an alternate universe miles away, carrying their infinite wisdom with them.
I need all the information I can get. And I don’t fancy walking through life as an isolated brain. So, I need to cultivate foot consciousness, if for no other reason than to remember literally and metaphorically that there is ground beneath me.
Further, I have a hard time with boundaries, which should make this foot meditation a simple matter for me. And yet, I have to remind myself constantly that I am the totality; that my art does not spring instantly from neural activity, but is being cultivated in every move I make – conscious or unconscious; is influenced by every book, image, food, conversation, sonata, news story, and foot-fall I ingest or perpetrate on my way to the studio.
This issue of sole is a personal one, emerging from a determination to liberate myself from the calcification of habit. The practice of sole opening keeps me from locking down into the most available piece of myself and therefore forgetting, or sleeping. I suspect foot consciousness might in fact be a welcomed antidote to sleep-walking. At least it’s working for me. My sole opening practice settles me right down into the present moment even while the habit of a lifetime wants to pull me out of my skin and into the future.