The call to adventure was the call to walk two miles barefoot on a trail I'd hiked before, but never without shoes. My companion was none other than the queen of barefooting, Sue Regan Kenney, who has developed her own line of shoes that enable people to walk barefoot almost anywhere, called Barebottoms. Sue is in town for the launch of her book and for the Barefoot Strong Summit in Manhattan. I picked Sue up from her lodging and drove to one of my favorite nature preserves in Westchester County, Hart's Brook Preserve. It is the site of the Cornell University Extension Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden, which makes it the perfect place to reflect on the subtle differences between manicured gardens and untamed forest.
I let Sue know that this would be my first time actually trying to hike barefoot. She asked if I'd like to carry my shoes, but there was no way I would do that. I was committed! And, too lazy to carry my shoes. I only took my iPhone and my water bottle.
As we approached the trailhead, we met two burly men walking pitbulls. They noticed we were barefoot and warned us to avoid dog poop. This didn't faze us, because we knew it wouldn't hurt us and we could wash our feet afterward if we'd had the misfortune to step in dog doo. The younger man was in his 40s, tan and muscle bound, and wore a tight ponytail. He had the build of a Viking.
He was intrigued by barefooting.
He said he'd tried to walk this trail barefoot, several times, and failed. He warned us that the trail was lined with sharp lava rocks. Of course, we're nowhere near any volcanoes, so, his repeated references to lava rocks seemed like an exaggeration.
On the hero's journey, Gatekeepers, or Threshold Guardians, test the hero before she faces great challenges. They can appear at any stage of the story, but they always block an entrance or border of some kind. Their message to the hero is clear: “Go home and forget your quest. Turn back now.” They also have a message for the audience: “This way lies danger.” Then the hero must prove her worth by answering a riddle, sneaking past, or defeating the guardian in combat. (Source: Mythcreants)
We gave him the link to How to Wear Bare Feet and continued on.
The minute we entered the forest, we realized the Viking and his pal weren't exaggerating. Black, sharp rocks exactly like lava lined the first hundred yards of the trail! "Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch," I said, with every step. Sue taught me a few helpful tips. Despite the threat of poison ivy, we had to graze the sides of the trail, where ferns and leaf detritus provided relief from the rocks. We did encounter some glass, and Sue explained that most glass lies flat on the ground, so it's best not to drag your feet.
I hadn't brought my shoes along, so there was no chance to wimp out. My feet warmed up to the experience, and once the trail changed character to be more foot-friendly, I thoroughly enjoyed this familiar trek in a whole new way. When walking barefoot, your senses are all heightened. Obviously, you must keep a vigilant lookout for sharp items, so you're focused on the ground. But I noticed my senses of smell and hearing grew sharper! I heard each voice in a chorus of birds, and smelled the shifting aromas of greenery and earth, and sensed the change in temperature on the ground as my feet stepped alternately on rock, mud, and moss. Moss feels like a pillow to bare feet! As you may already know, reflexogists believe that pressure points in the feet correspond with certain organs. Applying pressure to targeted areas has proven health benefits. Sue explained that walking barefoot on rugged terrain is like a therapeutic treatment. I believe this. She said I'd miss it as soon as the next day, and want to keep doing it, and she's right. Even though a day later I can feel a touch of tenderness on my soles, my soul's energized!
This may also be due to the bit of sungazing that we did. Crossing the Threshold signifies that the Hero has finally committed to the Journey. He is prepared to cross the gateway that separates the Ordinary World from the Special World. The Crossing may require more than accepting one’s fears, a map, or a swift kick in the rear from a Mentor. The Hero must confront an event that forces him to commit to entering the Special World, from which there is no turning back. Outside forces may push the Hero ahead, such as an abduction of someone close to the Hero. (Source: Christopher Vogler)
In this case, Sue expressed that she did not wish to hike in the dark. Initially the trail was very rocky and I was moving slower than my normal hiking pace, so I worried about getting us to the labyrinth before the forest fell dark, even though I love night hiking and am comfortable hiking a familiar trail in the dark. Also, we wished to reach the top of the hill before sunset so we could catch a ray of sun for some UV-free sungazing, so we hurried ahead.
At the labyrinth, I chose one thing I wish to RELEASE, and one thing I wish to RECEIVE. I wish to release dependence on technology and things like shoes, that I think I need but I really don't; and I wish to receive abundance, or at least the feeling I have everything I need for now. I took my barefoot walking to the next level, and would be glad to share the pleasure with others. The lessons I learned were:
Don't drag your feet!
A good reflexology session can be had for free by simply taking a barefoot walk over earthen ground.
Sungazing is safe 45 minutes after sunrise, and 45 minutes before sunset.
Vitality comes straight from Mother Earth (and the Sun), and is available for all to enjoy freely.