How climbing falls helped me feel my feet and overcome trauma

My friend, Sioban, and me at the top of a wall at The Reach, Woolwich.

About 5 years ago, I began climbing. I loved it. I’d go to the local bouldering wall and get lost in the movements and challenges of working out the routes. However, I had a couple of falls where I twisted my ankle. When I returned to climbing I felt very afraid, even on ‘easy’ routes. I used my sage to work out what had happened during those falls. There is a guideline in climbing that you need to have 3 points of contact with the wall for balance. What I noticed was when I took my attention from my feet to my hands, the contact between my feet and the holds was loose. That was why I had slipped. I couldn’t feel my feet.

I wondered about not being able to feel my feet. When walking I often stumbled or stamped. It occurred to me that it was a trauma symptom and stemmed from not being in my body. I designed some experiments. The first was a walking activity. When walking I would focus on feeling my feet. It was hard at first because I was still stumbling and stamping. I felt embarrassed. But when my sage was ‘online’ I could just notice what it was like rather than judge it. I began to notice little sensations in my feet – how they felt inside my shoes and as my shoes made contact with the ground I didn’t need to stamp any more. 

Another experiment was to climb the easiest routes available and pay attention to feeling sensations in my feet as I climbed up and down. I would do each route 4 times, just focusing on my feet. Gradually, I began to trust my feet to hold me, even when I was looking at my hands. I didn’t have to use so much energy to keep paying attention to my feet whilst looking elsewhere. I could pay attention to both my feet and my hands. 

I began to experiment with other areas of my body. I wasn’t aware of my glutes at all. So I began paying attention to that part of me whilst walking and climbing, and even whilst rising from a chair. I felt such joy at feeling these sensations in my body. My body – I felt like I owned my body at long last! I resided in it, it was mine, and I loved it!

Embodiment is just one aspect of being in sage and I’m covering so much more in the upcoming 5 day free masterclass in The Art of Self-Compassion. Join us to expand your ease and flow and have better relationships with yourself and everyone else! Click here to register.