How My Feet Strike the Ground

I’m at a bucolic setting outside of Sperryville, Virginia. Today my friend and I hiked Little Devils Stairs along the Shenandoah Mountain Ridge. We crossed a beautiful, rocky stream many times as we curved our way up. I divided my attention between my footing so I’d be stable and the sights in my environment so that I wouldn’t miss the beauty of the forest. The wildflowers were spectacular. I was uninterested in being reminded that rocks are unforgiving when they serve to break a fall. I proceeded apace without falling. My feet were placed carefully and they met the ground consciously…heel first, followed by a gradual shift of my weight onto the ball of my foot. My back leg was my ballast until it followed suit.

As he aged, I asked an accomplished runner and friend of mine how he managed to skirt injury. He replied that it was all about “how your foot strikes the ground.” His words implied full engagement of the mind and senses. I enjoyed running back then and I remember the protective feeling associated with reciting this friend’s statement to myself as I clicked off the miles.

In 2002 I attended a Peace Walk led by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Han. Serendipity worked in my favor. Thich Nhat Hanh ambled towards the beginning of the walk just as I was entering the event through the same portal. I had never seen anyone whose feet struck the ground with such careful placement. He wasn’t just stepping. He was feeling the earth beneath his feet. There was a palpable exchange between his absorption of the energy of the earth and the earth’s absorption of his energy. It gave me pause. I was mesmerized by how Tich Nhat Hanh’s carried himself on the planet. It was conveyed by the way his feet met the ground.

I participated in walking meditations during several Buddhist retreats. Walking meditation involves deliberately thinking about and doing a series of actions that you normally do automatically. It called me into consciousness. One of its rewards is a elevated level of awareness can be brought to any everyday activity. It heightened my sense of presence. The walking meditation began with establishing intention for how my feet struck the ground. The intention was fulfilling.

How does becoming aware of how my feet strike the ground have application to other areas of my life? It offers guidelines for how I approach relationship…with respect, with awareness, with my feelers out, with senses open, and with an open mind for connection. Connection is tactile. Just ask my dog. Our feet often strike the ground in unison.

Published by jmlewisjr

Hello. This is Jimmy Lewis. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. My golden doodle, Lola and I are leaving on a North American tour in May, 2021. We'll be traveling in a 2021 Jayco Melbourne 24L motorhome. We have neither time constraints nor exact destination specifications. We'll spend May in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and then head north through New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. If Canadians resume the practice of putting out a welcome mat for Americans, then we'll cross the border.  The seed for this journey began after my wife, Sarla passed away in May, 2020. Sarla was a yogi. An early yoga teacher of hers implored her to "Have what you need, and use what you have." As I prepare to close on the sale of our home on April 30, 2021, I'm deciding what I need based on the likelihood of using what I have. I give some things away without a flicker of feeling. When more meaningful items like the piano I inherited from my parents leave the premises, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time. Sarla's death lessened my attachment to the home we had enjoyed for 15 years and life as I knew it. I didn't need and couldn't possibly use a house that could satisfy the needs of a family with four children. I'll no longer experience residence, a concept identified with staying in a specified place, as I've heretofore known it. Life will never be the same, nor do I want to attempt to shape my future into a likeness of what I once knew.   I've set my sights on adventure. I want to be challenged by not knowing who or what I'll meet on the road. The outdoors is one of my default antidotes for stress. Other than my rig, I won't have an indoors base. Whereas others might opt to downsize so that they have the stability of a landing spot, I won't be able to go "home" as I've known it. I'm jazzed about the prospect of being at the whim of the muse, to go where my finger lands on turning pages of the Rand McNally atlas. My dog, Lola is indifferent even though I've been talking to her about the journey every day. She looks quizzically at me when I enthusiastically say we're hitting the road together. I'm confident that she'll do well. We've previously driven together to and from a destination 12 hours from home. She curiously gazed out the window and occasionally snoozed in the passenger seat. She didn't express displeasure about the podcasts and music selection that I chose to entertain and inform me while driving. This trip isn't driven by personal goals. Will I learn more about myself? Will I take advantage of the opportunity to reflect? Will I be lonely? Will I be uneasy? I'm motivated by a curiosity to follow the questions.

2 thoughts on “How My Feet Strike the Ground

  1. I love the idea of walking meditation. Look forward to setting my feet more consciously, especially on new trails. Here’s to mindfulness throughout the day!


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