April 17, 2020

Why is it so Freaking Hard to Remove my Shoes? The Art of Mindful Presence.

Savor the moment. Don’t be distracted. Really focus on what you are doing right now.

Even in this moment, our minds are about five different places.

I can hear the birds chirping, the hammers at the construction site across the street. I am wondering where this article will go from here; how much time before my next task? I even think about which kids I haven’t heard from this week.

As the reader, you are wondering if you want to continue reading (you do, please). You noticed the ad on the webpage and now you want to know how did someone know you thought about cast-iron pans yesterday? At the mention of kids, you began to wonder about your own family.

Our conscious and subconscious minds are Olympian-level runners. Our thoughts dash from distant memories to earlier today then to what’s next and what about next month? We may be writing, driving, cooking, reading, watching TV, working out, working, and that little Olympian in our head constantly hears the start gun and the race is ongoing.

Pulling into the parking space, we wonder how we got here. Pouring the batter into the cake pan, we cannot remember if we added the salt or the baking powder. Arriving in the bedroom, we don’t remember why we came here. 

If there is an “even worse,” we often cannot recall what we were thinking about when we were supposed to be thinking about the “moment.” We live in a state of semi-amnesia.

There are multiple ways to practice mindfulness. Visit your local bookstore, meander to the self-help section; you will find many books to help with mindfulness—meditation, breathwork, establishing ritual, the big book, the little book, the medium-sized book. There are websites and apps. Your local yoga studio probably offers a class. We are surrounded by self-help tools.  

So, Why is It So Freaking Hard to Remove My Shoes? I accepted a “Mindful Life Challenge,” which required us to remove our shoes before entering the house. In this action, I would take a moment, pause, and be. Some would say it also eliminates the dirt, germs, and other unsavories on our soles from entering the house—not my motivation. 

Removing shoes for hygiene and respect is common in many religions, cultures, and homes. It has never been a common practice in my religion, culture, or home. You would never remove your shoes at Mass. Sinful.

In the Mindful Life Challenge, I was more attracted to the mindfulness practice, the breaking out of old patterns. I am a creature of habit, and some of my habits and patterns could do for a makeover. So, how easy it would be to take the moment, remove my shoes before entering the house, and proceed more mindfully.

Epic. Failure.  

After the first few days of failure, I put a note on the door. I didn’t read it. I was busy thinking about ________?????

I left other shoes outside the door as a reminder. Didn’t faze me. I left my slippers in the entryway. The dog chewed them.

Just prior to this Mindful Life Challenge, I participated in a 40-Day Transformation—diet, yoga, movement, plank, meditation. I managed 40 days without bread, butter, chocolate, and martinis. I executed roughly two hours in plank. I cannot even begin to estimate the number of vinyasa performed, or minutes on my bolster checking my breath. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of times I removed my shoes. That number drops significantly if I took a moment of mindfulness.

It is not really, “Why is it so freaking hard to remove my shoes? Rather, why is mindfulness so freaking hard? And, really, why is it necessary?”

It is hard because there is so much going on in our life and around us. Being present in the moment takes a lot of practice.

Let’s go back to the Olympian runner. Our mind is here, there, and everywhere, until we say stop. Silence. Don’t move. But we don’t really say that often.

It’s possible some of us don’t want our mind to be silent, because then we hear the whispers of things we don’t want to think about—painful memories, difficult decisions, regrets, tasks we don’t want to do. If we let the running continue, we can procrastinate, ignore, and not deal with the hard bits, the unsavories on our soles.

I know this because I am a master procrastinator. Change my morning routine, tomorrow. Be more active after dinner, but that’s my down time. Remove my shoes, I guess not.

As for my mindfulness, my breaking patterns, my establishing new patterns, I am still committed to removing my shoes, verbally and rhetorically. When I find myself on a thought path that has nothing to do with the moment, I’ll take a breath, find my place, and do my best to continue on the intended path. 

My mantra for running is now my mantra for living: slow and steady wins the race. And, by slowing down, taking the moment, and being present, I am learning to enjoy more of my life, more of what I do in life. And I am changing patterns, creating new rituals, and dealing with the unsavory bits.

Shoes optional.


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