The Case of the Missing Shoes

I recently went to a nine day yoga festival in the high desert of New Mexico.  It was pure bliss!

At the door of each tent, we left our shoes to keep the class space clean and sacred.  After a particularly intense session, I went to collect my shoes and they were gone.  I had been very careful to leave them in the proper place so that no one would trip on them. I looked high and low, in case they had been moved anyway.

The shoes were gone!  The land there is pretty intense.  The low growing plants have prickers of all sorts, so walking barefoot back to my tent was out of the question.  I took a breath to think rather than react.  In my breath, I heard the answer: “Borrow a stranger’s shoes.”  I went looking for someone with a comparable size.  The stranger handed me her boots  without reservation.

I was much moved by her selflessness and her unquestioning manner.

My other pair of shoes were collected without incident and I gave my kind hero a copy of one of my CDs as a thank you.

The next morning, I saw how devotional my shoes are!  They reappeared at our early morning Sadhana* tent.  I was surprised to see them lined up with so many other practitioner’s shoes.

I took a breath.  I realized that they had been taken the day before and that I could now make a choice.

  1. I could retaliate and take the shoes back, showing the taker what I had to go through to take care of myself.  I knew this option would feel terrible.
  2. I could release the shoes to the taker and let them have them, which did not align with my need for self-advocacy.
  3. I could lovingly acknowledge that the shoes had been taken and give the taker a graceful way out.

I opted for number three.  I left a note in my shoes that said, “Hello, Dear. These are my shoes.  Please use them to collect your shoes and then bring them back to the (designated place).  Love, Sarah Anand”

I later saw someone reach for the shoes and start, perhaps when they saw the note, and walk away.  That is between her and her conscience.

What I learned from the experience is that I do not have to punish, but I can also act as a gentle guide, leading by example and offering a little direction.

It felt good to be neither a bulldozer nor a doormat.  Whether or not that person learned anything from the experience is beyond me.  I know that I had some lovely insights into what I am capable of being.

Your Assignment:

Is there an area where you can lovingly self-advocate or guide someone without succumbing to the lure of self-righteousness or superiority?  This is a subtle dance: are you ready to partake?

*Sadhana means “daily practice.”  In Kundalini Yoga and Meditation as taught by Yogi Bhajan, it generally starts at 3:45 with a prayer followed by yoga and chanting meditation.

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