February 10, 2018

Barefooted Learnings

Somewhere between Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay, Wilson's Promontory

My eldest daughter and I did a three day walk at Wilson’s Prom in January this year. It felt like an enormous stretch into neglected psychic terrain for me. My daughter asked for us to go hiking together and for me that was such a precious gift, a blessed opportunity to spend time with her and so I knew I had to rise to meet this challenge. And I did, I managed the preparation and the packing, overcoming my fears and procrastination and potentially sabotaging energies to arrive there, in that incredibly beautiful place, on day 2 of the walk, nearly half way through, sore but alive, tired but awake, struggling along under our conspicuous and precarious loads of gear, food and water.

 As I walked along in that exquisite environment I could feel the lessons landing within me, as I stretched into the wilderness of my own unlived capacity. On the first day as I walked, my pack heavy on my back and my feet already starting to hurt, I had mused upon the fact that I actually had to just receive the weight of my load, not resist or adjust, or wish it was less or fret about having put too much in it. I just had to say yes, this was the weight that I was carrying, opening myself to receive it, to own it, this load I had chosen before we had departed. Later that night as I lay drifting into sleep I realised that I could apply that same insight to the stories and the history that I carry with me through my life, the particular weight and shape of the narratives that shape and form the life I lead, the burdens life asks of me to carry, to receive or to resist. I was struck as I walked along, how much easier it was when I just accepted the weight and all the aches and pains it elicited, rather than fighting to change what clearly was and what needed to be.

On the  morning of the second day the issue arose with my feet. I am a little bit resistant to shoes in general in my life and I often wear big broad comfortable Birkenstocks that allow my toes to take their space and the full breadth of my foot span to spread, or thin soled moccasins that allow me to feel as close to bare footed as possible. But for this walk I had made the dubious decision of buying some brand new hiking shoes to wear, so comfortable to begin with but by day 2 my feet were sore. I was feeling them with each and every step, my squashed and blistered toes. So in my pain, I decided to walk bare-footed for a bit and was instantly amazed at how different it felt. My pace slowed, but my body felt instantly and infinitely more intelligent, as the instinct of each and every toe and bone of foot was released to experience the nuanced contour of the land under foot. 

As I walked barefoot along the winding path, a song sprang to mind that I have often sung throughout my life, “The Earth is our mother we must take care of Her,” only this time the words changed for me. Curiously the words shifted slightly underfoot and became “The Earth is my mother, She will take care of me.” This change of intention in the wording of the song triggered for me a well known inner terrain, a rising within of the narrative of shame that springs from belonging to a disconnected people who always take from the land and never give back, a people so far and distantly removed from the regenerative interface of our own indigenous ancestors, traumatised so implicitly by the brutality of all the intervening years. A small voice arose within me asking, Do I have the right to ask her to take care for me? The great Motherwound of my cultural inheritance reared it’s head. Beneath the brutal determination and belligerent self sufficiency, the anxious questions underpinned, that ask, Is it okay for me to receive from you? Am I enough? Will you love me? Am I safe to love you? Will I be met with love if I lower my guard? Will I be received with love in my vulnerability? Is it safe to let you in? Will you receive me if I show you who I truly am? Can I rest, deeply, in the holy peace of your vast love? Can I depend upon something greater than my own selfish need?

There was a deeper truth showing herself to me here, as I walked and sang and wept and listened, barefooted and heavy packed, undone by this blessed and challenging pilgrimage with my darling big girl.  It spoke to what I had felt the night before in camp, where after all the prep and the packing, the  days walking and the setting up at our planned destination, we had several hours to while away the late afternoon and evening. There was nothing to do but rest and be, but I felt a disarming restlessness, glaringly aware of my own internal resistance to resting, to receiving, to simply being, to bask in the simplicity of being in this divine place of natural wonder and beauty, with my gorgeous daughter. There were no small children to care for, no domestic tasks waiting for me, no work commitments to attend to, no elaborate meal to prep, just this invitation to be still and receive. I had a book, and a basket to weave. But instead I just sat and wandered and sat, gently leaning into this internal resistance to being satisfied, being still, being fed and nourished by the beauty and power of the place that held me. All evening I sat with it inside, this coming into the body, retreating from the anxious mind. Patiently waiting to arrive, in my pelvis, in my skin, in the now.

And then here the next day, as  I walked my battered bare-feet through the forest, across sand and through salty ocean, through streams and over rocks, I wondered  if perhaps the way my people take from this land arises from a deep sense of lack, of scarcity and pain. Perhaps for my kind there is indeed a necessary imperative to let go and to learn how to deeply listen, to learn the capacity to truly receive from the earth, to come to know ourselves as the utterly helpless dependant creatures that we are upon the back and belly of our mother. What if we did truly learn that the Earth is our Mother, and that She will take care of us? Even though we already take so brutally from the resources of the Earth, desecrating her body, raping her essence, perhaps we do this because we no longer know how to take of her love, to receive from her nourishment. We have forgotten how to receive the magnificent nurturance that flows from Her and surrounds us in every living moment, Her clean air, Her sacred waters, Her life-giving forests, Her precious minerals and plants, Her energetic sustenance, Her vital restoration.

Perhaps we need to dismantle the outcome-oriented, grasping hunger, the insatiable need, and learn to richly suckle, luxuriously rest in our utter dependancy upon Her, to accept the reality that before we can care for our “Mother” we have to learn first how to receive of Her succour, know our inseparable embeddedness in the matrix of Her, understand the potent treasure of Her nourishing and regenerative capacity, become whole and bonded and grown up and initiated human beings. So that when we take from Her it is with utter indebtedness and humble gratitude. So that our needs are minimised by the fullness of what is received just in the pure delight of Her earthly body’s succulent nourishment.

I put my shoes on again, and took them off again. On and off, over the ensuing and final days of the walk, but I was left with a deeper understanding of the stark difference between the two states, the shod and the unshod. I felt a new understanding of  the absurdity of our perpetual insulation, through our houses and our footwear, our cars and our concrete, from the vast conduit of electro-magnetic intelligence that exists available to ourselves in every life-giving moment, through the soles of our precious feet, from the great body of Earth that is our source of life and nourishment. I made a commitment to myself to take every opportunity I can find in my life to sit upon the body of the Earth and drink in that life-giving vibration.

As this year had begun I had been struggling to find a New Year's resolution that felt true to me. The closest I had come was to commit to deepening into my capacity to be infinitely gentle with myself. Here on this walk, through that pristine and exquisitely wild place, I found another quality that I felt willing and able to call in for the year to come. This sense of endeavouring to receive more surrenderedly from the Earth, to render myself ever more helpless and vulnerable at the mouth of her undying succour, that I may rise ever stronger in my capacity to give back in return, with strength and power and a supple receptive sole, listening sweetly upon Her gentle ground.

Words and image © Lucy Pierce 2018


  1. This is beautiful and inspiring.

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