What is it about walking barefoot that makes you feel so alive? Is it the feel of the earth beneath your feet? The warmth of the sand as it sifts between your toes? The exchange of energy between yourself and nature all around you? Or is it the resulting care with which we walk, and the slower, more present pace of a life lived barefoot?
If in walking barefoot we slow down and walk more carefully, and find ourselves suddenly caring more for how we walk than how far or how fast, wouldn’t it make sense that we will have a similar experience in other areas of our life if we walk bare-souled as well? Is it not our hearts that we guard the most carefully—and often times the hearts of others that we damage the most severely—as we strive to protect our own?
How then do we bridge the gap and begin to walk more bare-souled through life, and love, protect our own hearts, and still open ourselves to the experience of love?
I have come to learn that love is a choice. It is a choice that two people make as they choose to share their hearts with each other more and more and continue to walk the path toward each others’ hearts. One day they come to trust one another enough to allow them the freedom to walk the full length of the path beneath their feet. Trust is also a choice. Love comes as that trust is respected, honored, and cherished. Along the way, there will be setbacks, there will joys, there will be trials, there will be laughter, and there will be tears. But love, as with all things that matter, depends upon us choosing to continue walking. Love depends on us choosing to walk carefully, barefoot and bare-souled, down the path beneath our feet, down the path that must be walked until we meet. And from there, a new path can begin—one that is walked together.
Just as walking barefoot changes the experience of our physical walking, so too will walking bare-souled change the experience of our emotional and spiritual walking. This poem came to me on a day at Anasazi when I felt prompted to walk nearly a mile back to my own camp barefoot. I followed that prompting and the lessons which came taught me much.
THE WALKING OF THE FEET
(by Daniel Adam Freeman)
The road of love must be walked barefoot and bare-souled.
There lies a path beneath your feet…
will you walk until we meet?
For where the path is sandy, you will find,
a walking that cleanses both soul and mind.
Where the path is hard-packed dirt,
a time when the walking will not hurt.
Where the path is gravel you will know,
the shattered hopes and dreams below.
Where the path is rocky you will own,
a path paved with lily pads of stone.
The path, forever altered by a flood of tears,
changes course throughout the years.
And yet there lies beneath your feet,
a path made to walk until we meet,
a path made for the walking of your feet.
All that remains to be seen ,
is one brave enough to walk unseen,
With careful tread and gentle step,
toward the heart that would be met…
When we walk barefoot, we notice the ground beneath our feet in much greater detail. We have to watch where we place our feet and where we choose to place our weight. As the terrain changes, so too does the way we walk and the pace at which we walk. We can feel the difference in the ground around us. There are sandy washes, large rocky patches, hard-packed dirt sections, and areas filled with sharp gravel and shale rock. Is this physical change any different than the change that takes place as we walk the figurative path toward another’s heart? I don’t think so. Just as the physical paths change with each step so too does the path of the heart change with each step.
As I walked that barefoot mile, the gravel sections were the hardest and most uncomfortable, because everything was sharp enough, and small enough, to hurt. In these places, I walked much differently—more gently and with more care—than I did at other times. These places remind me of the hopes and dreams of people that, for whatever reason, have been dashed to pieces. It is here we must tread carefully, and tenderly, as we move
Upon seeing the rocky stretches, I would begin to worry about whether or not I would cut my feet on the larger, sharper rocks or even roll my ankle between them. And yet, in walking these rocky sections, I discovered that they were of the easiest sections to traverse. From a distance they were the most frightening, and I worried about them the most. But as I came to these sections, they truly seemed to be paved with lily pads of stone, guiding me quickly on my way.
In the middle of one of the last sandy washes, I felt prompted to stop and look around. Doing so, I noticed a huge, old sycamore growing out of the sand. There was driftwood piled up against its trunk and in its branches from recent flash floods. As I looked upon it, these words came to mind, “The flash floods of emotion, rising from another’s mindless passing, scar and forever alter the path beneath your feet… but there is still a path. All that remains is one brave enough and willing enough to do the walking.”
The lessons of this experience—as well as the resulting poem—have been upon my mind often. There are two paths to consider. One path is our own, which others walk in the hopes of reaching our hearts. It is here that others actions change and alter the paths of our heart forever. Some leave barely a trace, while others alter everything they touch for all who come behind. The second is the path we walk toward the hearts of those around us. It is here our walking affects the lives of others and the paths to their hearts. If we wear stiff boots and trod along carelessly, we may well miss many of the tender lessons upon the trail to another’s heart, and may likewise find ourselves swept away by a flash-flood of emotion that will forever alter the path for all who might walk it in the future. We must be gentle as we walk the path of someone else’s heart—just as we hope that those who would walk the path to our heart would be gentle.
The path of the heart is best walked barefoot and bare-souled, but it is up to you to do the walking. No one can walk the path of the heart for you on your behalf. It is a path that must be walked with care, love, and foresight into the future.
I wish you well on the journey of your heart. May you be blessed in your walking to both discover and appreciate the intricacies and tender lessons of the heart toward which you walk.