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Friday, November 20, 2009

Life's Floor Boards

When I took piano lessons as a kid, my teacher told me I had to learn the classics before diving into rock & roll.  This, she implied, would provide me with a foundation from which I could do anything.  In a similar spirit, one of my mother’s parenting philosophies (which I know was not unique) was that it was their job, as parents, to give us roots so we could one day sprout and exercise our wings.  I always really liked that image.

I live in a neighborhood which is home to many trees that were part of William Penn’s original nursery (so I’ve been told).  Walking through the intertwining & interconnecting streets, one can tell the ancient trees from their younger counterparts.  The variety of flowering & non-flowering trees, their shapes & sizes and many shades of green give expression to the flora foundation of this character-rich neighborhood.  It’s hard to believe it all began with a seed.

Our feet are our physical foundation. They are what enable us to move through the world without much thought or notice.  I have a Yoga teacher who tells us that Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and Downward Dog are the foundations for all the standing poses and to find stability there first.  This instruction always evokes the image of human roots and the elusive wings that result.  I have definitely noticed increased stability in my body over the years, in these seemingly simple poses, and recognize when they take root off the mat.  The forward bending required to clear the floor of the day’s toys that never got put away, the reach to the top shelf for the hidden chocolate stash or simply standing in line at the grocery store have all found a new place of ease.

When I lived in Manhattan, apartment living required a softer, more mindful approach to moving about one’s home.  After all, every floor, or foundation, was someone else’s ceiling.  Roots and wings took on a different form but effectively shared the same sentiment.  The practical uses of Yoga off the mat took flight with every gentle step.

Occasionally, I honor my feet for their hard work by getting a pedicure (or more likely, painting them myself).  The fresh nail polish reflects a fresh appreciation for keeping me upright and mobile.  But, as so often can happen, I end up taking them for granted.  This is shown in the dull chipping of the toe paint and general “whatever” attitude toward repainting or refreshing.   

I spent the last few months recognizing this behavior in each pose that brought me face to feet.  I’d say to myself that I would take care of it when I got home and then would systematically forget.  Something interesting happened around the same time.  I had always been baffled by the notion of rolling over my toes from Up Dog to Down Dog.  I would try, but it always seemed so unnatural.  I can’t remember what happened first; I removed the remaining polish from my neglected toes and organically began rolling over said toes.  

I tend to have a casual foundation toward many things, which allows me to watch the toe polish gradually disintegrate.  I also have a foundation of trust, which keeps me on a path where anything's possible, even rolling over toes.

What is the foundation that keeps you rooted to the earth?  Upright?  Head in the clouds? 
Able to roll over your toes? 
I'd love to know.

Earth        Roots        Floors        Feet

*I am sensitive to the fact that there are many who are moving through their lives without active use of their feet or legs.  I am extremely grateful for my functioning body and though I would never pretend to be able to name what constitutes their physical foundation, the sentiment is the same.

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