Think of standing on your mat in class holding Mountain Pose, and that your mat is the entire focus of your attention. In your mind, shift your awareness to the place where the soles of your feet make contact with your mat and pretend as if that place is all that exists. Your entire world is made up of the space that forms two outlines on the bottom of your feet. This is what Gestalt calls the “figure,” and everything else – except that one patch where your two feet make contact – is the background/landscape of perception and awareness.
My yoga class sometimes reminds me of lectures in Gestalt psychology when my professor spoke about making contact; and with that heightened contact, the impact of fully digesting food and digesting experience. His inference was that one can digest both life and food when one takes time for focus on the figure of awareness.
Recently, while absent-mindedly walking barefoot on a wood floor, I reached for something and felt a little off balance. Immediately, I was aware of a strong corrective to my imbalance, but it wasn’t coming from my brain, it was coming from the soles of my feet.
I was surprised, for I had never before felt a corrective to in my balance coming from my feet. I asked myself, Are my feet becoming smarter, or am I just becoming more aware of their contact and catching up to that reality? This small example is the wider truth of yoga practice. It increases bodily intelligence and directly related mental intelligence.
When awareness grows to the point that our physical contact points are making corrections in balance for us, rather than our brain, our whole body is beginning to act in immediate intelligence based on contact.
Yoga improves brain and body intelligence though its disciplined repetition of one asana at a time. In the midst of that asana, our brain reaches for the intelligence in our bodies and picks up our growing ability to learn from the soles of our feet, from the twists of our spines, from the placement of our palms and fingers.
Focus on the contact figure opens the mind and allows for it to receive the body’s intelligence. The soles of our feet literally can become like a microchip feeding information to the mother board. It’s stunning to think that this a two-way communication as our brains are further enriched by feedback from the soles of our feet. Breathe deep the gathering wisdom and learn what your bodily contact is teaching.
MEDITATION from The Poetry of Yoga, a contemporary Anthology Vol. 1
God help me pray more accurately
On the stones in your rivers
And the grass of your fields
Where I spun with barefooted toes and outstretched hands
The sun melting my face into submissive joy
That could not be filled or defined otherwise