I liked to make sure my little dog Brandy walked on several different surfaces every day – grass, packed earth, tarmac, mud, gravel… Needless to say, people thought I was nuts but I felt the sensory stimulation would keep him lively and perky. He did live to eighteen!
This exercise, based on the same idea, is a great way to ground yourself before any kind of creative work. I particularly like to do it before sitting down to write or when I’m stuck.
You can use any images, words or ideas that came to you during the exercise in your writing (free write, first draft, insert a new image/idea into something you’re already working on). Or you can simply use it to connect with the ‘now’, to be present with yourself and slip away from your controlling inner editor (or any outer editors for that matter).
First, find two or three different floor surfaces fairly near to each other. They could be inside or outside: tiles, wood, carpet, lino, grass, concrete, sand, pebbles… Obviously they should be physically safe, i.e., no nails, splintered wood, sharp edges, sudden steps or drops etc. Use doormats and bathmats – sisal, bamboo, rubber, felt…
Shoes off! Close your eyes (or use a soft gaze). Feel the surface with your toes and with the whole sole of your foot.
Shift your weight forward and back, then side to side. Now come to center.
Stand there and feel the space around you, in front of your chest, behind your back, behind your thighs, to each side of your rib cage.
Now start walking very slowly – I always find walking backwards works best for me. Keep it ultra slow. Travel through the whole foot. Be aware of the moment you shift your weight to your other foot. Be aware of when your toes or your heels first touch or leave the ground.
Is the surface you’re on warm, cold, even, uneven, on a slant, rough, furry, bubbly, scratchy? Does the floor creak? Are there other noises you can hear? As you listen, stay aware of that surface. Listen to your sole. What is it saying?
Are there moments when you feel slightly off balance? Is your sole firm on the surface? Is your sole feeling the texture and temperature beneath it? Turn slowly, keeping aware of the surface all the time, noticing when you transition to another surface. Is one surface easier to walk on than another?
When you finish, take a moment of stillness with your eyes closed.
Time to write (or dance or paint or sing…). Make sure that, as you write, you keep the soles of your feet placed firmly on the ground or (if you’re like me and have short legs) on a footstool or pile of old books.
Let me know how you found the exercise.
And keep an eye out – I’ll be adding podcasts of my exercises in the new year.
A form of mindfulness practice. I can see why this would work. Thanks for the idea.
Absolutely a mindfulness practice. But it can also generate some surprising vocabulary and images to use as a prompt. Especially interesting to do in a place one doesn’t know very well.