Foot care as a spiritual practice
By Kirsten Antony RN ~
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet”. This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh embodies the sacred nature of the feet and our interactions with the Earth. It shows how we can gratefully walk this journey of life. We can glean from this quote that the feet can be worshiped as they often are in many parts of the world and in many spiritual traditions. Unfortunately, the feet are commonly seen as humble servants of the body. Many people have lost the understanding of how powerful their feet are and how to take care of them.
For more than 20 years, I have been sitting at the feet of my elders. I have washed, massaged and cared for feet from all walks of life. In my work, I observe how easily the feet can be neglected, especially with age. Impaired eyesight, decreased flexibility, strength and feel in the feet are some of the reasons people don’t take care of their feet like they did when they were younger. It is heartbreaking to witness the discomfort, pain and sometimes infections that result from inattention to basic foot care. The feet are so devoted to moving our bodies in life, but they are often not appreciated. It’s time to give them the attention they deserve.
From a physical standpoint, the feet are an engineering miracle. The feet contain 26 bones, 30 joints, over 100 ligaments, tendons and muscles. The soles of the feet have more than 200,000 nerve endings. Leonardo da Vinci believed that the feet were not only an engineering miracle but also a work of art. I have seen enough feet in my life to agree that they are a mobility masterpiece. Have you ever thought about how amazing your feet are?
Feet are incredible workhorses because they serve as vehicles for us to climb mountains, dance, swim, run and enjoy life as we travel the world. The feet are also worshiped spiritually in many places on Earth. In India, touching the feet of elders is a sign of respect and can confer blessings and wisdom. The feet are also considered a symbol of enlightenment. The feet of a spiritual master are considered lotus feet and by touching the feet of a spiritual master a transfer of spiritual knowledge and joy can be achieved.
From a spiritual perspective, the washing of the feet is also practiced in many spiritual traditions. The washing of the feet symbolizes purification, humility and divine love. Caring for the feet of others is a wonderful expression of love, especially for people in hospice and palliative care. It can really be a way to show devotion and love. Foot care is a holistic practice that can affect the body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
Working with the feet is a great way to show kindness to yourself and to others. Below are tips for daily foot care as well as self-care rituals for yourself or others:
- Be thankful for your feet. Ask yourself where they have taken you in life and what important lessons you have learned. What’s the most interesting place they’ve taken you to? Thank you that they took you so many miles in your life.
- Inspect and observe your feet daily. Do you remember what your feet looked like when you were a kid? How have they changed? I have noticed that the feet and toes take on a life of their own as they age. Be aware of any changes and if you are concerned, please consider a visit with a foot care specialist.
- Cocooning foot bath. A warm foot bath is a good hygiene practice, but also incredibly relaxing and comforting. Try adding salts and essential oils to make it a special experience. Make sure to completely dry your feet and pay special attention to the toes.
- Bless and anoint the feet with oils and creams. Oils and creams are also wonderful for dry feet. If you are using essential oils, please research the properties of the oil and whether there are any contraindications that would apply to you.
- Massage your feet. Reflexology and massage are not only wonderful, but have many benefits that can affect the whole body, such as increased blood circulation, reduced pain, relaxation and providing homeostasis to the body. The solar plexus reflex point, also known in traditional Chinese medicine as the bubbling spring, is located on the sole of the foot at the bottom of the sole of the foot towards the midline. This is one of the most powerful points in the practice of reflexology. Applying pressure at this point can provide relaxation and stress relief.
The feet act as conduits by bringing the energy of the earth into the body when placed barefoot on the ground. This is known as Earthing or Grounding because the feet are the energetic roots of our body and our anchor in this world. It is a wonderful way to balance the energy in the body when we are feeling emotionally drained and in need of an energy boost. It’s also a great way to connect with Mother Nature. Please be aware of your surroundings and if you have a health concern to consider if you decide to practice grounding.
Walking meditation or mindful walking is a way to spiritually connect to the Earth through our feet. With every step you take, become aware of your breathing and connect with the present moment. Offer gratitude to this life and every step of the way that has brought you to this present moment in time. The journey is the destination. Enjoy it every step of the way.
Kirsten Antony is a Registered Nurse practicing Holistic Nursing in the Denver area. For more information, please visit: www.kirstenantony.com Where www.facebook.com/soultosoleholistichealthcare or call 303-668-8992.