Barefoot Breathing

» Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 | 14 comments

As mentioned in my February post, I’m dedicating this year to exploring who is underneath all my ‘stories’ and getting in touch with my essence.  There are so many amazing opportunities out there for doing this sort of exploration that I’ve had to make a list and a schedule to keep up! At the moment, I’m taking an unusual journey of exploration via a process known as Barefoot Breathing.

This is a unique course that provides the opportunity to explore our connection to the heart of nature and ourselves. I’m lucky because most of the participants are in the northern hemisphere where it’s still cold and even snowing in many parts, whereas I’ve been happily wandering around barefoot in the grass and mud and even standing in the river at one point. To their credit, many participants have still found ways to go barefoot for short periods, but I’m glad it was summer here!

As a precursor to this course, run by Essence of Wild, I completed the free course they offered entitled ’10 Steps to Soothe Your Soul in Nature”. This required us to find a wild place where we could stand barefoot, take some deep breaths, and complete a different assignment each day for ten days. We were invited to post our thoughts and photos on a forum to share our experiences and insights with other participants.

Some surprising things happened during those ten days. First of all I discovered and rediscovered some beautiful wild places within walking distance of my house that I had been taking for granted or was not even aware of. I found two places in particular that now feel like ‘mine’ – one is a wooden seat by the river just off a nature trail about 700 metres in from the road. I imagine most people would miss it if they weren’t looking closely, I have never seen anyone else on ‘my’ seat.

My Seat

There’s a small clearing through the undergrowth in front of the seat where a few steps take you right down to the water’s edge. Here’s a photo of my feet in the water!

Sparkles on the water

I came down here three times to do assignments and I noticed that each time I was visited by nature’s creatures. The first day, a chicken hawk soared above my head. The next day as I stood in the water trying to photograph my feet, a fish the length of my hand swam right across my toes (I didn’t snap fast enough to capture him in the photo unfortunately). And the third time it was a duck floating lazily downstream.

One assignment I completed there asked us to close our eyes, breathe, and then notice the first thing that caught our attention when we opened our eyes. This is what I saw:


Another day, we were asked to go for a walk using our intuition to guide us on which direction to go. I found a long stretch of green grass and trees beside the bay that, despite its beauty, is not popular with walkers because of its marshy swamplands, especially after rain. I started out on my walk feeling pulled in the direction of a steep ridge. I clambered up with bare feet, the dry twigs under my feet were painful but this was the direction I felt I had to go. At the top of the ridge I discovered a house with a ‘for sale’ sign on it. What an amazing spot for a house – I looked it up on the real estate site when I got home and they were asking $1.5M – it didn’t stop me putting it on my vision board though!

Dream house location

Next I wandered down the ridge back to the soft grass and around the corner I found two trees, a tall stark tree beside another tree with long leafy branches almost reaching the ground.  A few days earlier I had read a quote that said:

 “There is a tree very close to where you live that longs to hear your dreams, hold your fears and support you when you need a friend”.

I felt these were both my trees, so different from each other but standing together in quiet comradeship. I sat down between them for a while and waited to see if they had a message for me. The leafy one seemed to be telling me to keep reaching out as far as I can into the world, while the bare one seemed to tell me to stand up tall no matter how foolish I might think I appear to others.

I took a little souvenir from each tree to bring home – some leaves and bark – but I ended up returning them later in the week when I made a compass. During this walk I met two magpies, two plovers and a lizard, as well as a lady walking her dog wearing a beautiful red hat which I complimented her on. I was barefoot the whole time, it was a special afternoon – except for the insect bites!

I went back down to this place another day after it had rained for three days straight, there was about an inch of water still sitting in the grass which I squelched my way through to get to my trees. I felt like I was 8 years old again, I came home with mud between my toes and it felt delicious!

Most indigenous cultures view the four directions of the compass as having wisdom  and insights to guide us, so the next assignment involved discovering which direction called us most strongly. Using only what I found along the way, I created a compass by laying my gifts from nature on the ground to represent the four directions. This is my compass – some moss I found hanging from a tree, a fallen hibiscus flower with my tree’s bark next to it, my other tree’s leaves, and another trail of leaves I found on the grass.

My Compass

After taking my barefoot breaths, I stood facing each of the four directions. East called most strongly to me and was where I felt most at home. In native American Indian symbolism, the east represents strength, endurance and vision, re-awakening after a long sleep and the power of new life. That certainly sounded right to me!

This ten day adventure opened up a whole new world in my own neighbourhood that I had been missing out on, and it also took me back to the Leanne I was in my childhood who would spend all day outside in nature. This Leanne has been indoors too long, and as I commence the official Barefoot Breathing program, I know that connecting with the earth and her wild places is a central part of my essence and as such will become a central part of my business.

I loved reading about the unique ways my fellow participants connected with nature in their own special parts of the world. How do you connect with nature and the earth? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.


  1. Hey Leanne, I love your blog. You know how beautiful our garden is. This is one of the main ways we keep connected. Animals too.. like our gorgeous Oscar. I allowed myself the adventure, over the weekend, of finding something new for the house, which led me to Gumtree where I picked up some circa 1980 framed original posters owned by a forest ranger – the kids commented when they came home that now it really feels like we have the garden inside too. But I miss the water and I’m coming for a walk with you soon (and a juice) x

  2. Hi Maria, yes your garden is gorgeous and so is your beautiful Oscar. Love the sound of your posters. I would LOVE to take you for a walk – you’ll have to take your shoes off though :) x
    PS bring Oscar!

  3. Leanne,
    What a lovely blog and site you’ve created…

    • Thank you Brenda, lovely to see you here! x

  4. How great to read about your experiences with Barefoot Breathing! I did the program the last time it ran (I think we started in September) and it was amazing. It was a daily practice for me even after the course, until it got too cold to go outside barefooted – but now that the weather has warmed up, I’ve started going outside barefooted again to walk around, to be in nature… and to close my eyes and take 100 lovely breaths. Thanks for this post!

    • Hi Gina, good to meet another barefoot breather :) Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience with it, impressed to hear it’s been a daily practice for you, although I can understand the cold would get in the way. Even though our winters aren’t too bad here I’ll have to see how I go in a month or two!

  5. I took Barefoot Breathing last year and loved it! Now that the weather is warming up, I’m looking forward to getting my feet back outside.

    • Great to hear from you Loran, enjoy your warmer weather!

  6. Barefoot Breathing looks very interesting …so many great images and experiences. Loving the dream house!

    • So do I Samantha, wish I could afford it!

  7. I live in semi-urban area and my primary way to connect to nature is an almost-daily walk around my neighbourhood. I walk slowly and pay attention to all the gardens on my block – each has its own ecosystem that evolves throughout the seasons. Right now most are awash with magnolia and cherry trees in blossoms and chatty birds flitting between them.

    • Sounds idyllic Jo, a great way to live more consciously! Thanks for sharing :)

  8. I love your blog, Leanne and this post is gorgeous. I am doing the 10 Steps course and I am loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to do the BB course.

    Big hugs, Karina

    • Hi Karina, yes i remember seeing you over there, I loved the 10 Steps. Thanks so much for dropping by, look forward to seeing you in the Essence community too :)