Weight Stigma and Trekking Barefoot

I’ve talked before about how much meditation has helped me to live mindfully and peacefully.  Part of my practice involves meeting with a group up in the woods in the foothills.  Recently we engaged in a group walking meditation.  This meditation along some of the woodland trails is silent and very slow and deliberate.  We take a step, pause, and take another step moving through heel, sole and toe on each foot.  I had done walking meditation before, and I think it’s absolutely wonderful.  And I know from past experience that walking meditation works better barefoot.  I asked the teacher if it would be okay for me to do the meditation barefoot, and he said sure.

I was the only student in the class to do this barefoot.  And I remember spending just a moment before entering the trail wondering if I really wanted to do it.  What if I stepped on something sharp?  What if I hurt myself?  What if I ended up being miserable?

Just before I left the lodge, another student asked me if I was really sure I wanted to do it?  And I said yes and I took a chance.  And I’m so glad I did.

Yes, there were some moments when I stepped on twigs or leaves that were a little bit sharp.  My feet didn’t always feel perfectly great.  But the point is my feet FELT so very much.  The texture of the grass and soil and gravel and sand under my feet.  The temperature of the soil in the sun versus the soil in the shade.  The moisture in the grass versus the dry, sliding sand.  All of this made the walk so much better and more meaningful.  And as I walked I had a moment of clarity.  If I had allowed fear to control my actions, I would have missed so very much.  I would have protected myself and would have felt safe.  But I wouldn’t have experienced all those things through the soles of my feet.  And it made me ask myself an important question.  How am I “wearing shoes” to protect myself in my life.  How am I “wearing shoes all over” to keep from the potential of experiencing pain?

Another interesting moment came when we went back to the lodge and talked about our experience.  I mentioned my theory of “wearing shoes all over” to protect myself from the possibility of feeling pain.  And I wondered how much of life I am truly missing because of this virtual protection.  Another person in the group mentioned that they were worried for me.  And she said that that concern was distracting for her during the walk.  I also mentioned that before I started walking I was worried that other people would worry about me.  But I ultimately concluded that the other people on the walk had to be responsible for their own journey–and that concern for their journey shouldn’t prevent me from experiencing my own.

As I drove home, I thought about all I had learned and how it relates to the experience of weight stigma.  How often do we allow fear of pain–physical pain, emotional pain or spiritual pain–to prevent us from experiencing something potentially wonderful?  How often has past pain of weight stigma convinced us to avoid the whole mess, deaden our feelings and put shoes on our souls?  I think this is one of the most significant costs of weight stigma.  It robs us of what could be experienced, built and created by people who are too battered, too tired and too scared to do or dare or be all they can be.  It robs the world of the best of all of us.

That’s why I’m so excited about the Fit Fatties Forum that I run with Ragen Chastain.  We set it up, but it’s the wonderful members that make it such a wonderful place.  Nearly every day I read about somebody who found encouragement, pushed past fear and tried something new and fabulous.  Nearly every day I see how being in a group of people who truly support one another can encourage us all to bare our soles and bare our souls.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to join Fit Fatties and engage in our new virtual events that encourage you to break out and try new things?  Click here.

P.S.S. Want to participate in the upcoming Fat Activism Conference which helps fight weight stigma all over the world?  Click here.

P.S.S.S.  Want to book me to speak about pushing past fear and experiencing joy?  Click here.

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