All of us know people who are out of the ordinary. Actually we’re probably all out of the ordinary for something. But some are so very visibly. One friend who is in that category is Lizzy Hawker. If you’re not a runner you may never have heard of her. If you are, you might know her as the queen of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
She recently published a piece on her feet. I loved it because it’s a beautiful honouring of embodied thinking.
I might sometimes talk about spirit. But our spirit, mind, heart, soul are inextricably linked to our physical body, at least in this life, and as we are living it at the moment. Our eyes might be our windows onto the world, but it is our feet that connect us to the earth we live on. Well, yes alright, that connection is all too often mediated through layers of concrete (pavements) or rubber and plastic (shoes). But you know what I mean.
Our feet let us stand, they let us walk, run, jump, they give us motion and balance. They quite literally ‘ground’ us.
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. (Khalil Gibran)
The above made me think of one of my favorite thinkers: George Lakoff. He’s been a formative force since I came across his and Mark Johnson’s Metaphors we Live (1984) during my university years. In his later work he build on this foundation and argues for an understanding of human thought in which human reason is imaginative, metaphorical, and intrinsically linked with the human body. From the way we categorize (Women, fire,and dangerous things), to the basic concepts of the mind, time, causation, morality, and the self (Philosophy in the flesh) to where mathematics comes from.
Obviously the thought is very ancient. We are bodies ‘with’ beautiful and not so beautiful minds and if you wanna explore whatever either is a good starting point, but wherever you actually do start from, the other is always going to be part of it. Or maybe better said, you’ll always end up with the other. Yoga, and other bodily disciplines, like the one of the marathon monks of mount Hiei in Japan that I referred to in an earlier post, they’re not at all about bodily performance. And mental disciplines? Well, we all know the zen master will slap you in the face when you start producing solipsistic crap and the benchmark for your meditation practice is actually if you sit straight.
Now all of that sounds very intellectual but Lizzy’s paragraph really goes beyond this body-mind musing. The Khalil Gibran quote ensures that we don’t get stuck with what to do with those that have no feet but still think very deep stuff about the universe (Stephen Hawking is a very easy example). The saving grace for Lizzy, and all those others, myself included, who are being their body, and feel we ‘reach’ out to the earth, is that we might equally say that the earth ‘reaches’ out to us. But I’ll leave it at that because we go non-dualism here and that’s a nut I haven’t cracked yet.
So, let’s go back to the lady who triggered this post: