Smell the Flowers With your Toes

 I drove 40 minutes for a Tai Chi class, but it was cancelled due to Covid. Instead, I found these flowers (Indian Shot – in the canna family), so I guess it was worth it. I sent the picture to a few friends with a caption to “smell the flowers.” Taking my own advice, and not wanting to squander the trip, I Googled other yoga/tai chi places and made the rounds, to no avail. Then I stumbled upon a community farm stand with vendors. The highlight was a visit with two Bengal cats in a stroller, until I walked into a nearby massage place decked out in red, traditional woven Chinese knots (symbolizing good luck and fortune, love, happiness, etc.), reflexology posters, and giant comfy recliners, with meditation music and the faint, trickling sound of water in the background. My feet hurt (recently diagnosed with plantar fasciitis) and I was in a funk, so I opted for a foot massage.

Soaking the ache in hot water felt wonderful, and then Joyce washed my feet. It was oddly emotional, having my feet washed, because it required a bit of vulnerability on my part to have someone prostrate themselves in such an altruistic act. I quickly let that go and went with the flow. And then the magic started. Who knew there were so many nooks and crannies, pressure points, tickle spots, meridians of pain and pleasure hidden in feet? Obviously, thousands of people have known these sweet spots for centuries. In fact, Buddhists refer to the symbols on the soles of the feet of the Buddha as the 108 auspicious signs, but it was a revelatory discovery for me, literally, on a visceral level.

I had recently finished reading a book called Breath, by James Nestor (spoiler alert, this will be my Christmas present to everyone on my list this year), so I decided to focus on my breathing to settle into the experience. The advice, in a nutshell, is to breathe through the nose in a continuous loop, like filling a vase with water (bottom up) and pouring it out again (top down), but to do so slowly and intentionally. At first, properly using the diaphragm was my focus. As I progressed, I thought about channeling the inhales from my toes all the way up to my head and back down again, as if my body was a hollow vessel. Then everything slowed down, and a kaleidoscope of sensations rolled over me, with Joyce diligently alternating pinpointed pressure and broad strokes, rocking and pulling and pushing to release the tension from every muscle, nerve, tendon and joint in my feet.

The tangled city map of Boston with its nonsensical 8-point intersections, narrow alleys and vast thoroughfares comes to mind now when I think of my feet (those reflexology charts are oversimplified for us simpletons)!  There’s a whole world down there that’s interconnected to everything else going on in the body, and I dare say, the mind.

When I left, I said, “I think I’m in love… Thank you,” and proceeded to walk in the rain a bit, have a nice lunch, and bask in genuine gratitude for an unexpected day of self-care. On the way home, I thought back to the red blossoms that started the day, and realized I had not only smelled them, I had breathed them in from my toes!


If you find yourself in the neighborhood, I highly recommend the Carefoot Wellness Center (Gaithersburg, MD (301) 990-8896), and tell Joyce I said, “Namaste.”

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