30 June 2023. Originally posted in the spring of 2014, I am hauling this piece out again, especially since I am busy developing my LITTLE TOE – my tiny Theory of Everything. Somehow, they make good company. Unfortunately, Grace Lin, the colleague mentioned here who was experiencing her own toe dramas, passed away just recently. I miss her.
I returned from a most extraordinary trip to the East Coast only to discover that all that walking around had damaged my right big toe. It was blue purple, bleeding, swollen, looking as if the nail would pop right off at the slightest touch. We walked a lot in New York City, but I had not bumped into anything or slammed my foot into a door. Having been teased and stared at quizzically on the last trip to the mainland’s East Coast, however, my vanity took over and I left my beloved toe shoes at home this time, settling for a more conventional pair.
After returning home to Honolulu I could not move, could not tolerate anything touching my big toe. Potential medical issues ran the gamut from “No big deal: suck it up and put a bandage on it.” to “This could be the sign of a life-threatening illness!”
Thoroughly immersed in a worldview that insists on the intimate connection between mind and body, I finally asked myself the same question I would ask of any client: “Why is this happening, and why now?” What is the deeper message my big toe is trying to tell me? What have I been missing so often that I had to get a big blue toe to force me to stop and think?”
In my intuitive dictionary, the feet and toes have to do with an impulse – often a suppressed impulse – to run away or perhaps even run towards something: a person, situation, challenge, even a shift in professional or personal identity. The index finger and the big toe have to do with direction – Direction with a capital “D.” The finger has to do more with immediate decision making, but the toe has to do with fundamental direction and identity, with destination, perhaps even with destiny.
As if divinely staged, I ran into a colleague soon after whose symptoms were mirroring my own but derived from a trip to the Far East, not the East Coast, affecting the other foot and a different toe. We hooted at the discovery of all these synchronicities, including our insistent and deep, heretofore unspoken prod to make important decisions about the fundamentals of professional and personal direction.
I am convinced that the body talks when the mind is afraid to look within on a conscious basis. My colleague and I share a worldview that toe stubs are more than toe stubs; they are consciousness stubs as well, pointing us to ways in which we may be “running away from” our deepest fulfillment. Stubbing our toes made it impossible to run, hindering our movement just long enough to stop and think about what we were doing. We were asking similar questions and our bodies were sending out similar clues and alarms if we would only take the time to notice. With all we had read and all we thought we knew, we still struggled with the message, but we knew there was one.
Eventually, we talked our way through our unique configuration of core beliefs, as well as the impact the old ones were still having on our present circumstances.
What challenging fun! There is no need to divulge here the content of our discussion. Rather, I invite you to trigger your own conversation with your body and to listen to its answers.
Notice your aches:
If the ear: are you listening well or being heard?
If the back: are you feeling betrayed or are you betraying someone?
If the eyes: are you observing something that makes you uncomfortable, but feel unable to do anything about it?
If the arms: are you holding back from implementing something at work or in your home life for fear your efforts will be rejected?
If the chest: are you feeling constrained by external forces, or is there some unexpressed grief?
If the knees: are you struggling to make a decision to stay or leave a situation, person, position, profession?
If the base of your head: are you still carrying old rage about events from the far past?
If your neck: does your head tell you to do one thing, while your heart wants to do something else?
If the hands: is there someone you would like to punch out?
If the forearms: is there something you would like to implement but hold back from fear of rejection or failure?
You can modify this list to make it your own in a way that matches your body’s communications. These are just examples. By paying attention you will be amazed at the coherence between physical symptoms and emotional states.
Yesterday I made a fundamental decision that gave me a sense of relief and got me back on track, thanks to my big toe. Today the color is gradually returning to that right toe, even though I may lose the nail. I am going to heal, I am going to live, I am going to do what feels good, regardless of public image, and by golly, I am going to wear my toe shoes no matter what anybody thinks about them!
Today I remembered to thank my body for the other aches and pains I have been ignoring, the ones associated not simply with growing old or being out of shape, but rather those coded communications from the inside out that are gently tugging me towards my own fulfillment and warning me if I go astray. After all, age “ain’t nuthin’ but a number!”
What is your body telling you about your direction, your relationships, your dreams and fears, and most importantly, about your core beliefs? Ultimately, it is your beliefs about yourself, human nature, and the future of the world that support and hinder not only your body, but your fulfillment as well. Conversations not only in the flesh, but with the flesh: what a hoot, what a wonder, what fun!