Foot Care as a Spiritual Practice
By Kirsten Antony R.N. ~
“Walk as if you were kissing the Earth with your feet”. This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh epitomizes the sacred nature of the feet and our interactions with the Earth. It speaks to how we can walk in gratitude in this journey of life. We can glean from this quote that the feet can be revered as they often are in many parts of the world and in many spiritual traditions. Unfortunately, the feet are commonly perceived as lowly servants of the body. Many people have lost insight into the power of their feet and how to care for them.
For over 20 years, I have sat 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 feet can easily be neglected, especially as we age. Diminished eyesight, decreased flexibility, strength, and sensation to the feet are a few reasons why people fail to care for their feet as they did when they were younger. It is upsetting to witness the discomfort, pain and sometimes infections that occur from the inattention to basic foot care. The feet are so dedicated to getting our bodies around in life, but often go unappreciated. It is time to give them the attention they deserve.
From a physical point of view, 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 over 200,000 nerve endings. Leonardo da Vinci thought the feet were not only an engineering miracle but also a work of art. I have seen enough feet in my lifetime to agree that they are a masterpiece of mobility. Have you ever thought of how amazing your feet are?
The feet are amazing workhorses as they serve us as vehicles to climb mountains, dance, swim, run and enjoy life as we make our way around the world. The feet are also spiritually venerated in many places on Earth. In India, touching the feet of elders is a sign of respect and can bestow blessings and wisdom. The feet are also seen as 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 obtained.
From a spiritual perspective, the washing of feet is also practiced in many spiritual traditions. The washing of feet symbolizes purification, humility and divine love. Caring for the feet of others is a wonderful expression of love, especially to those in palliative and hospice care. It can truly 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 beautiful way to show kindness to yourself and others. Below are tips for daily foot care along with self-care rituals for yourself or others:
- Be grateful for your feet. Ask yourself where they have carried you in life and what important lessons you have learned. What is the most interesting place they have taken you to? Give thanks that they have taken you so many miles in life.
- Inspect and observe your feet daily. Do you remember what your feet looked like as a child? How have they changed? I’ve noticed that the feet and toes take on a life of their own as we age. Be aware of any changes and if you are concerned, please consider a visit with a foot care specialist.
- Pampering foot bath. A warm foot bath is practicing good hygiene but is also incredibly relaxing and comforting. Try adding salts and essential oils to make it a special experience. Do make sure to dry your feet completely and give extra attention to the toes.
- Bless and anoint the feet with oils and creams. The oils and creams are also wonderful for dry feet. If using essential oils, please research the properties of the oil and if there are any contraindications that would apply to you.
- Massage your feet. Reflexology and massage not only feel wonderful, but have many benefits that can affect the whole body such as increased circulation, pain reduction, relaxation, and bringing homeostasis to the body. The solar plexus reflex point, also known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the bubbling spring, is located on the soles at the bottom of the ball of the foot toward the mid-line. This is one of the most powerful points in the practice of reflexology. Applying pressure to this point can bring about relaxation and stress relief.
The feet act as conduits in bringing the earth’s energy into the body when placed barefoot on the ground. This is known as Earthing or Grounding as the feet are the energetic roots to our bodies and our anchor to this world. This is a wonderful way to balance the energy in the body when we feel emotionally exhausted and need a boost of energy. It is also a beautiful way to connect with Mother Nature. Please be aware of your surroundings and if you have a medical condition to be mindful of if you decide to practice Earthing.
Walking meditation or mindful walking is a way to become spiritually connected to the Earth through our feet. With each step you take, become aware of your breathing and connect with the present moment. Offer gratitude to this life and each and every step of the way that has brought you to this current moment in time. The journey is the destination. Enjoy it each step of the way.
Kirsten Antony is a Registered Nurse and practices holistic nursing in the Denver area. For more information, please visit: www.kirstenantony.com or www.facebook.com/soultosoleholistichealthcare or call 303-668-8992.