How Do You Remove Your Shoes?

As I lifted my feet up into shoulder stand, the yoga teacher leading the class went into a personal story about listening to one of her teachers back in Japan. He was a Zen monk. He explained how you can tell a lot about a person by the way they take off their shoes. She said all the students turned towards the front door, embarrassed by the utter shoe disarray. She laughed a little and continued. “The next day, all the shoes were perfectly aligned.”

She explained how in Japan, there is great emphasis on the way you enter another home. The way you take off your shoes, hang your jacket, etc. is a direct reflection of the way you were raised (I know my Mom is emphatically nodding reading this, “Yes, yes it is!”). So, out of compassion for one’s parents, and to represent them best, you take great care in carefully taking off your shoes, setting them down intentionally, and hanging your jacket. Very often, this simple entrance ritual is lost and we barbarically enter a house half way to the kitchen before remembering to remove our shoes. I know if I smell some sort of baking deliciousness happening, I totally forget.

If our mind is already on the food, or the friends, family, maybe neighbors we’re about to see, we forget the entrance, which is a necessary step along the way.

Taking your shoes off is one of those seemingly meaningless tasks. Who really cares? Kick em right off. But that carelessness adds up and carries over into other seemingly meaningless tasks. Bringing mindfulness to even the smallest tasks helps live in the present fully. It’s a practice in taking one’s time, bringing intention to each action, and yanking the mind back from all the places it wants to jump forward to. If the mind is always on the future, what needs to be done, all the things it wants, etc., you’ll find not just your mind barreling forward, but your self. Move about life gracefully, and take your shoes off with some intention.

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