These aren’t my feet.
Carole King had it right. Sometimes feeling different textures under your feet can not only feel great, but also is spiritually grounding.
If you’re prone to dissociation and anxiety, like I am (I’m a “Freeze” 4F C-PTSD type–which means my primary defensive reaction is dissociation (the “freeze” subtype) and that keeps me alone and isolated from others (dissociative types tend to be shy hermits). When dissociated, sometimes we feel disconnected from our bodies, our emotions, from other people, from the whole world. Dissociation in its various forms (derealization and depersonalization) can feel so weird, disorienting and surreal (like a bad drug high) that it can throw me into a panic attack if there’s nothing around to ground me or bring me “back to earth.” The intense anxiety these episodes cause only seems to make the dissociation even worse, which leads to more panic and anxiety. It’s a positive feedback loop, but it’s anything but positive!
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to mowing the grass today, but it was a beautiful day and the grass needed a haircut. My usual impulse would be to procrastinate–another way I avoid having to make decisions or do something I don’t want.
So I got out there and cranked up the old mower, and soon I was falling into the rhythm and exertion of this necessary task. After a while, as usually begins to happen, my thoughts slowed and sped up at the same time. That just means when I get into this state, my mind begins to think quickly and creatively. These are the times when I usually get an inspiration for a new blog post, the kind I just itch to write. These have been some of my best posts. At the same time, the pace of my thoughts is slowed down. Random snippets of thoughts aren’t racing all over the place, smashing into and bouncing off of each other and causing my head to hurt and my heart to race. Instead, I’ll mosy down a creative or philosophical tangent and then think deeply about it, looking at all its facets and hidden crevices. Then I can draw all kinds of inferences and hidden meanings–both insane and profound–that wouldn’t have been there when I was in my normal hypervigilant, anxious, scattered state, when I can barely think at all.
This slowed down but more profound way of thinking has an awesome grounding effect, but it’s also at these times I become hyper-aware of my body (a type of mindfulness) — what it’s doing and any sensations it’s taking in from the world around it. When mowing, the repetition and exertion of it combine with the sharp, sweet smell of fresh-cut grass, and this stewpot of sensations combine to send me into a Zen-like state.
After mowing, I like to kick off my Crocs (I hate Crocs but they make good mowing and gardening shoes), stretch my feet and toes out as far as they will go, and wiggle them. My feet have always been one of the most sensitive parts of my body (This is not an invitation to any foot fetishists lurking around!). This is good because my feet are what grounds me to the earth and staying grounded has always been one of my biggest problems. It’s why my most basic “survival skills” are so poor (I live inside my head most of the time). Focusing on my feet on the ground and the feelings of the different textures under them have a way of kicking dissociation’s butt like a kung fu master.
The freshly cut grass still had its spring softness, but it is dry like alfalfa, which makes it soft and scratchy at the same, and it felt unbelievably good! Then I stepped onto the front porch and walked around on the smooth, worn cement and felt its coolness and smoothness under my feet, a wonderful contrast to the soft but dry grass. Then I walked on the grass again. Then on the cement again, which was warmer this time from the sun. A sense of well being and groundedness came over me, and the residual anxiety I had been feeling before mowing the grass was gone.
Going a step further, you can step on pinecones. No, I’m not joking.