Finding our feet can be tough.
Working out how to use them, how to become stable, strong and able to stand, takes time.
We watch our little children, the children of others.
Their first attempts, their struggles, wobbles and falls.
How they pull themselves up – again and again.
And how they go down just as often – plop.
After that initial getting upright, we are off.
Exploring and advancing through each day with curiosity, wonder and great enthusiasm.
We walk, we skip, hop and run. We are not worried about our feet, or our path – our main attention is outward, on the colourful flower, the waddling ducks, the airborne stream of rainbow-tinged bubbles our big sister is blowing for us.
It is only as we get older we are taught to ‘Pay attention to the path’, to ‘Watch where you put your feet’, ‘Look where you are going’.
The advice is helpful, it teaches us focus, it keeps us safe.
As we grow, we also learn other new skills – how to kick a ball, how to climb, how to dance – these become new structures to follow, different ways to use our feet and bodies with awareness, thought and confidence.
By the time we are adults, we’ve fallen down a lot – at the ice rink, outside the bar, down the steps.
But for grown-ups, falling down is not seen as normal, it’s an embarrassment, an error, something shameful.
We hope no one saw us, we get up quickly, dust ourselves off and move on as fast as we can.
But by adulthood, it’s not only physical falls we have taken, there have been many other tumbles – disappointments, betrayals, let downs and heartbreaks.
Our recovery is not always quick or easy. It can take time, and unlike the toddler who might cry in shock but then pull himself up on the coffee table and begin again, we can find we have lost not only our footing, but our confidence too.
Instead of looking out at life with curiosity, wonder and intrigue, we begin to doubt our strength, our feet, our purpose and path.
After a fall, we feel uncertain, second guess ourselves and are reticent to start again. After several setbacks we wonder why we should even bother at all.
We lose faith in our feet. We forget all our previous years of stability and ability to move forward. We lose hope and so hold ourselves in the same spot, sometimes for a very long time.
The toddler doesn’t know where the path leads. It doesn’t have to. The child doesn’t think about how to use her feet, she just does.
Little children have not developed their skills for reasoning and safety, but there is still much to learn from them.
Children keep getting up.
They don’t give in. They try again.
They don’t worry about the path ahead – is it right for me? Does it have a purpose?
They explore, with their eyes, their hands and hearts wide open. They learn through experience and through trying, failing and having another go.
As adults we have critical thinking skills. We have the benefits of hindsight and careful observation to guide us.
It is helpful. But it can also hinder us, hold us back.
Next time your are feeling scared to take a step, try not to worry so much about the path ahead – is it taking me where I need to go?
Is it part of my true soul purpose?
Drop the seriousness and intent for just a little while.
Look down, see your feet.
Feel them, the solidity of your experience, the stability of the ground beneath you, the fact that you’ve made it this far through your life already.
Maybe even feel some gratitude for them?
Sure, you’ve had some tumbles.
Maybe you even have wounds or scars that remain.
But you are here, and so are your feet.
Have faith in them, in yourself.
Step forward, take one tiny step.
Do it with courage, with the curiosity of a child.
And with a little bit of confidence, remembering what you’ve done, how far you have already come.
As we age we become very destination driven.
Forget the path for a while.
Get up, go out and feel the earth beneath you.
Find your feet, your faith and sense of child-like fun.
They’ve all been waiting for you.
It’s time to explore again.
(C) Chandu Bickford
Artist credit – Lucy Hardie