I’ve been thinking a lot about skin. It’s endurance and its flaccidity. I had a theory that if I went a year without shoes I could create a temperance to every climate and forego my dependency on shoes. I mean, if someone breaks into your house and threatens you while you’re in your undies and you only then realize that you always thought karate was an inaccessible opportunity to you for any perceived reason and you now need to try to run from this intruder low budget horror film style. How inconvenient it would be at that moment to realize you need your shoes. “Hey, Mr. Criminal, before you shoot me could you give me a 3 minute head start? My hands are shaking and I might not be able to lace my shoes per usual.” Give me a break. I, for one, didn’t do karate and sometimes feel physically helpless in situations I’ve been in. It would be comforting to know that I could run fast and intentionally if the situation arises.
I learned a lot more by taking off my shoes. I learned what compost felt like after walking through glass and litter for 3 months. I’ve been in love with compost since that moment. The beautiful feeling of well kept, non tilled dirt. I found an amazing video that you can watch here https://youtu.be/breDQqrkikM that goes into detail on the web of interactions that are happening underneath our feet. The different textures, roughness, silkiness, warmth, coolness. It reminds me of my skin.
“An area of skin the size of a quarter contains some three million cells, one hundred sweat glands, fifty nerve endings, three feet of blood vessels, and nearly as many lymph vessels. The whole skin has approximately six hundred and forty thousand sensory receptors that are connected to the spinal cord by over a half a million nerve fibers; tactile points vary from seven to one hundred and thirty five per square centimeter.” Deane Juhan, Job’s Body
Notice how it says that the tactile points vary. The interesting thing is that through repetitive stimulation the amount of sensations you can become conscious of can grow. Your shirt has been on you since you put it on. But can you say that you consciously were aware of the stimulation of it touching a quarter sized area on your sternum containing around fifty nerve endings? What if you went outside without a shirt on? How long would it take before you stopped noticing the feeling of the wind on your chest? Each one of your hairs have sensation too. I’m pretty awestruck when I think about this.
So a year of new stimulation on the soles of your feet for a year…well…it turned into a year and a half. Unfortunately massage school needs you to wear shoes. Some of those steps went by unconsciously. Others hurt more than I could re-account. But now that schools over the shoes have been off and I have readapted much faster than I expected. Which was a side effect of the experiment that I had hoped for, but had not expected.
Another encouragement for this experiment was a appreciation for the physical abilities of Native American scouts.
“Consider, for instance, the Native American scout of centuries past. As a protector and provider, the scout served as the eyes and ears for the tribe…if necessary, he could run for two to three days without stopping. He found his way by the sun and the stars and variations in landscape. He could stalk as silently as a mountain lion and catch game with his bare hands. He could detect the presence of a fox in the croak of a tree frog and see the coming of a storm in the flight of a mosquito. He knew his environment intimately and felt a deep reverence for all the creatures that shared it with him…They were an expression of the potential that is in all of us.” - Tom Brown, Natural Observation and Tracking
I mean…dude. Come on, how awesome would that be to walk into a grove and know more about your environment in seconds that you could learn in years without the prior experience. Not to mention the physical stamina to run for two to three days? Imagine the heart muscles on these guys! So adapting my feet to rough surfaces seemed a small investment into this type of discipline.
But I found there were things that I could not do in society now that I had made this decision. And that was an investment I wasn’t expecting. That year and a half I didn’t go to a bar, got kicked out of restaurants, stores and malls. Oh, and I was jumping couches, laundry rooms and beds of trucks at the time…that was fun…more necessary than fun actually. I brought the new stimulation to the nerve endings throughout my body that had began acclimating to these new life decisions the moment I made them to the one place I didn’t expect to go. Massage school. The cheapest option I found to learn anatomy.
And so we go back to the skin. For the next year I learned the body and had the practice of touching and being touched in very safe and respectful ways. I lost a lot of the toughness that I had built, but gained references to stimulation so I could learn more about the environment of my body in seconds than I could in years without those experiences. And that durability and toughness is more important that I had realized. Through the help of a prior teacher who specializes in neuro-somatic reintegration I have been able to see my body flux between extremes in incorrect angles of bones weekly. She even moved my temporal lobe yesterday. Still feeling that one. :)
That durability. The ability to physically do what you mean to do that day without physical regression or injury. That’s important to me. I almost consider that the determining factor between predestination and free will as debated by theologians. Whether or not God predestined you before you were born to climb a tree at 40 years old, if you’re a 300 pound diabetic, I’m sorry, but you can’t physically climb that tree without some obstacles. Take God out of the equation; If you want to climb a tree as you walk past it and have not taken care of your physical body or your senses through consistent stimulation you might not be able to climb that tree. That’s predestination to me, and it encourages self discipline, so there ya go.
I know I didn’t incorporate this much into this rant of ideas, but the integrity of the ground is as important as the integrity of our skin and muscles. Only she takes a lot longer to heal in some cases. I believe the integrity and the detoxification from plastic of the dirt and the reversal of carbon being pumped into the air is as important, if not more important than everything stated above. I love compost and healthy dirt. My skin and the earth taught me that. I hope this encourages you to get outside and move around and grow some more nerve response to our environment. With practice and consistency we can learn to see and feel more in a moment than we could in a year. I’ll end with one more quote.
“Since we are no longer hunter-gatherers, it is not as important for us to be so aware of and alert to nature. Our society does not place much premium on nature awareness because modern conveniences have taken away its survival value. But we pay an unseen price for our comforts. Our senses, like unused muscles, either weaken and atrophy or are never developed to their full potential.” Tom Brown, Natural Observation and Tracking.