Making Fists with Your Feet

You know those movies that you’ve seen a million times? 
The ones you saw in the theater when they first came out and then again and again because they were in the HBO rotation forever? 
If you’re under 40, you’ll have to trust me here.

Die Hard is one of those movies for me, and last week, when it came up on Netflix, Paul and I decided to watch it for old times' sake. 

Oddly, I didn’t remember the beginning of the movie at all.  I probably hadn’t seen that part since it was first released in – gasp – 1988. 
For those of you who’ve never seen it, Bruce Willis is barefoot through most of the film. It’s a bit of a plot point so I remembered that part, but I hadn’t remembered why. 
I laughed out loud when I realized that he was practicing mindfulness (although he had no idea that that’s what he was doing).
Here’s what happens: 
His seat-mate, on a flight to LA, notices that he’s a bit uptight about flying.  The guy tells him that whenever he gets anxious, his therapist recommends that he take off his shoes and socks and make “fists with his feet” in the carpet.  “Sounds crazy,” he says, “but it really works.”
Willis, when he reaches his destination, has a conversation with his ex-wife that goes south quickly, and in an effort to calm himself down, decides to give it a try.  It starts to work...(I'll stop the story here, before the spoiler.)
So why does it work?
And what does it have to do with mindfulness?
Making fists with your bare feet in the carpet (or sand, or grass) is a highly sensory experience. Those of you who’ve been following MindfulMonday for a while now, know that intentionally focusing on your senses is one of the easiest ways to bring yourself into the present moment.
And, when you’re focused on the moment you’re in, it quiets the noise in your head, calms you down and helps you to re-focus.
It’s not magic, there’s some really cool stuff happening in your brain when you practice Mindfulness, but for now, we’ll just stick with the tips…

This Week:
Making fists with your feet and other ways to tap into touch…

Try this for a moment or two whenever you need a bit of calm or clarity:

  1. As with every mindfulness technique, begin by noticing your own breathing. 
    • You don’t need breathe in any particular way, just notice.
    • Notice where it feels most obvious (the nostrils, the lungs or the belly) for a few cycles in and out.
  2. Now choose one of these sensory experiences – or make up your own.
    • Take off your shoes and socks and make fists with your feet in the carpet (or sand or grass)
    • Simply scrunch your toes inside of your shoes (a much better choice if you’re in a meeting)
    • Rub your fingers and thumb together in a circular pattern
    • Tap the outside of your knees
    • Brush your hair
  3. Focus your full attention on the sensation.  Try to notice every aspect of what it feels like.
  4. When a distracting thought or story pops up, it’s ok.  Simply notice it and redirect your attention back to the sensory experience.
    • This may happen many times – no worries – it’s actually useful.  The practice of intentionally re-directing your thoughts helps build a stronger network of neural pathways in your brain giving you access to greater focus overall.
  5. When you’re ready, direct your attention back to your breath for a few seconds. 

Notice the way you feel at the end of this 60 second respite.