I was recently at the playground with my son and he wanted to run around in his bare feet. In general, going barefoot is an available option for my son. In over 3 years of walking barefoot outside (in the city, too!), he's not once had any issue with glass or cuts or rashes or anything.
So here we are at the playground and a pre-school group shows up to play - mostly 4 and 5 year olds. Three girls come over to him and wonder why he's barefoot. One informs me that it's dangerous for him to be barefoot.
A 4 year old. Apprising me of my son's safety needs.
And then she and the other kids offered a few more thoughts on what we should and should not be doing (we were climbing under and over a tennis court net). To which I said, "Geez, it seems like you guys have a lot of rules you like to follow."
And one kid replied, "Yeah. We're in school. We have a lot of rules."
And then I found that I felt really sad.
And it wasn't about the bare feet. I totally get that going barefoot isn't for everyone. And there are real dangers.
And it wasn't about the rules exactly. There's good reason for many rules - spoken and unspoken.
But I could feel the weight of the rules in her body. I could feel how these rules might come to define what's possible for her. How taking on the rules of the culture, of the adults around her might protect her from danger, sure, but it might also expose her to a different set of insidious threats.
WHAT'S IN A RULE
Not going barefoot weakens the foot. Immobilizes it. Prevents full function. And a foot that doesn't fully function creates a ripple effect up the body. We become prone to knee issues and hip problems. Our pelvic floors can weaken and our spines degenerate. We lose relationship with the earth beneath us.
So yes, we avoid the very real dangers of cuts that lead to infection that could maybe, possibly, lead to illness or death.
But we open ourselves up to a whole host of other problems that aren't so much issues of "maybe and possible" but are the sorts of things we've just come to count on and expect in our culture.
I was brainstorming with The Resilient Body facebook group the other day about these body rules, about the ways we've been taught to use or not use our bodies in order to avoid danger. Here's a brief list of what came up for us:
don't be barefoot
women should sit with their legs together
stay on the sidewalk
wear heels to make your legs look better
don't walk on fences
wear a coat
don't look weird in public
don't climb fences
don't jump up and down (or you'll displace your uterus)
walk with your feet turned out
wear nylons, stockings (anything with a tight waist)
finish your meal
dress modestly so as not to attract attention
finish whatever you're doing before you take a break to pee
don't jiggle your legs
wear a bra (or your breasts will sag)
don't eat apples or carrots uncut (or it will damage teeth)
don't touch the logs, trees, grass (insects)
Sigh. It's unsurprisingly a list of rules aimed mostly at women. And children.
WHAT ARE YOUR RULES
Of course, we all have rules.
Bringing it back to bare feet, why don't YOU go barefoot. I know for me it often has to do with temperature or really, just not wanting to get dirty. The thought of having to put my dirty feet in my shoes or taking the time to wash my feet when I come in just feels like too much.
Do you resonate?
I invite you to explore your rules. When you find that you are making a particular choice with your body, whether it be to do something specific or to NOT do something, see if you can unravel what's beneath it.
Why exactly do you have that rule? Do the benefits of following the rule outweigh the downsides? What might be the biological cost of following this rule?
P.S. I also have opened the doors for registration for my 8 week course designed to bring you INTO your body so you can start moving and stop hurting. It's all about taking a heart-centered approach to whole-body movement.
Take a peek: