I’m participating in Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Real Happiness Meditation Challenge again this year, and my plan for this blog series is to write a poem or reflection on each day’s practice. You can find all the responses on the landing page.

With apologies to Wallace Stevens, I do not know which to prefer, the precariousness of walking on thick mud or the precariousness of walking on slick ice, or the precariousness of walking on slippery icy mud.

I was spoilt for choice today walking around the lake, all these surfaces options, or rather, requirements, and all prompting me to a hyper-awareness of my “body as a whole, as it moves through space,” as Sharon instructs in the mindful movement meditation today. I wasn’t quite like the millipede who ends up in a tangle when it stops to think about how to coordinate the movement of all of its legs, but I was conscious of focusing a bit more than usual on my feet as they met the challenging surfaces and on my body as it rapidly adjusted to the changing degrees of slickness or squealchiness.

Our sense of our body as it moves through space is known as proprioception, the “body awareness sense,” which tells us where our body parts are without seeing them and mostly without thinking about their location. It’s why we can walk. It keeps us coordinated, gives us balance, tells us how much force and speed to use when manipulating things (e.g., pushing, pulling, carrying), tells our joints and limbs where they are and how to position themselves.

It’s actually quite a complicated and holistic system that involves sensory receptors located in our muscles, joints, tendons, and skin which send detailed messages to our brain about our positions and actions; the brain processes these messages and works with our vision, nervous system, and vestibular system to create our perception of where our body is in space and how it’s moving. (Paraphrased from WebMD.)

As I watched and took cues from my feet in mud and on ice today, I couldn’t help but think that it felt like a lot of work to walk succcessfully on these surfaces, without sliding, slipping, or splatting, and about how normally I’m fortunate to be able to think about other things than the mechanics of walking while I’m walking.

Not only do I usually not have to pay much attention to my balance, foot placement and force, and so on, but it’s actually a source of pleasure, one I’m often aware of, to feel my body moving in space, moving through space, fluidly. I love that feeling: Walking, running/jogging, swimming; working out and lifting weights with my arms, moving my legs through space, punching the air; hanging my arm outside a moving car window, the happy feeling of the wind’s force acting on my arm and also my arm’s force acting against the wind, that graceful undulation as you swoop your arm like a wave.

Today I was anything but graceful or fluid a lot of the time, but at least I didn’t break any limbs, twist an ankle, or come home covered in icy mud. And I had a little meditation on mud, ice, and the miracle of proprioception.

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