There are two things that have been a big part of my COVID coping kit these past three months: barefoot wandering and meditation with Susan Reifer.
The barefoot walks were inspired by Kera Willis, the founder of Mountain Horse School, and a post she wrote for Traced Elements, when our isolation practice began and she asked herself “if I’m not able to teach in person– to create the kind of meaning filled and deeply felt transformative encounters between horses, humans and land I feel we so badly need right now– what can I offer through other means that can give people the skills to create experiences for themselves?”
This was part of her answer, and it intrigued me. So I did.
Take off your shoes. And your socks. Find a patch of ground that looks warm and safe and inviting and stand on it. If you want more, go for a little walk. If you’ve tried a warm and inviting patch of ground already, try standing on snow. Try pavement. Try mud. Try exploring a liminal zone by walking from a shadow to sunlight, and track the differences in temperature with the bottom of your feet. Want to level up? Watch my video, “Place Based Walking,” for some ideas. Or walk on some gravel for a free acupressure session. (Top tip: touching the earth barefoot grounds and stabilizes the electromagnetic systems in the body. It literally rewires us to attune to the larger electromagnetic field of the earth, which helps us to come closer to a state of heart and brain coherence. Think of this as your antidote to all the wireless technology we’re saturated with, and the true savasana with which to end your online yoga class.)
I took off my shoes. It made a tedious moment outside feeling bored by my seven year old’s play, something deeply engaging. It made a walk a slow meditation, because my feet are tender-soled and I had to go more slowly, tentatively, and I began to feel things I didn’t know about the world – how lush and cooling clover feels, how cold the grass is first thing in the morning, how squishy the world is when the snow is first melting, how nasty gravel driveways are, how yielding forest trails are, how hard it is to wash your feet clean of pine cone flecks.
In the past 3 months, I have come across this toolkit,
Tolerance for Uncertainty: A COVID-19 Workbook
multiple times, and I actually downloaded it more than once, having forgotten it was sitting there on my desktop, inviting me to develop healthy practices to build my tolerance for uncertainty. (You can download it in French or in English here.)
It strikes me as a beautiful and helpful resource. But frankly, every time I open the pdf, I get stressed. It feels like WORK. Even the simple checklist of coping suggestions freaks me out. An aromatic candle? Where the heck am I going to get an aromatic candle?
What has surprised and delighted me, is that a 45 minute meditation class with Susan Reifer, does not feel like work. She said once that sometimes these self-improvement ideas can feel like an act of violence against the self, and that sank into my flesh and bones and landed with a soft thud. Yes. All the aspirational shit. Feels like a mountain to climb. When the pack is already pretty heavy.
Susan has been practicing meditation for more than 30 years – check out her website here for more of her story. And more recently, she has been offering free meditation classes through the Whistler Public Library. I talked to her about it in late 2018, when she walked me through the benefits of a gratitude practice. And thanks to COVID, her free meditation classes are now even more accessible – because they are being streamed via Zoom. I haven’t had to navigate childcare or a commute, to participate. I just walk upstairs to my office and close the door. (Granted, sometimes the kid opens the door and spends some of the session sitting on my head.) But I have come away from each session so much lighter. And with little nuggets of practice and insight tucked into my sleeves and pockets.
Honestly, I can’t recommend this experience more highly.
It’s generous and gentle and grounding.
On her website, Susan explains that her mission as a teacher is to “demystify and clearly share mindfulness and meditation practices, providing students with practical and simple yet powerful tools they can put to use in their own daily lives right away.”
She does it. You don’t have to have any experience with meditation, or any particular ability to sit still.
Email Program Coordinator, Jeanette Bruce, at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. and to get the Zoom link for the meeting.