Friday, June 17, 2011

The Lesson of the Orange Shoes

For me, shoe shopping happens when there is an immediate need -- either because an old pair of shoes has worn out, or a new pair is needed for a fast-approaching special event.

The task is not entertaining. It’s no-nonsense pursuit, moving fast to complete the task.

Yesterday I took a few spare moments to zip to the shoe store for a new pair of sandals.  The chore squeezed into a frazzled day of juggling the demands of teen-agers, attending end-of-school events, hosting out-of-town in-laws, attempting to exercise, conducting a lengthy phone meeting and working on business-to-business marketing projects for 3 different clients in one day. 

It was a typical day of hyper-speed multi-tasking.

A Lesson is Offered
After a fast look at the store’s inventory, while simultaneously keeping a frantic watch for work-related emails on my Smartphone and fielding a call from my son’s Orthodontist, the final choice was between two versions of the same model of sandals: one pair in brown and the other pair in orange.

Brown or orange?  A choice between sandals in a conservative, safe color or something with a tad more flair?

Taking a Moment
The shoe decision offered the chance to be still and become fully immersed in the task.
 By taking that moment, I realized I had been standing up the entire time since entering the store, even when trying on all the shoes that came before these sandals.   Here was a chance to sit in a comfortable wicker chair and contemplate the decision.

There was time to take several deep breaths. The concerns of the day were gone in that moment.

It was a chance to become fully immersed in the present moment.

A Single Focus
The focus was on brown or orange.  The other distractions and concerns momentarily quieted.

A gift, really, all because of the orange shoes.

If that sandal was only available in the conservative brown, there would be no chance to pause for mindful consideration.

I would have promptly chosen the brown sandals, and hurried out the door onto the next task.

Instead, I immersed myself in the decision and considered.

I chose orange.

Why Orange Shoes?
These orange shoes offer the opportunity for learning to be present.   Not a trivial matter.

Perhaps wearing them will help me get into the habit of remembering to focus, of remembering to be present, of being more aware.

When you see me in orange shoes, it’s because they serve as a reminder to do one thing at a time.  To approach tasks slowly and deliberately

The orange shoes will serve as a reminder to pay attention to the present more completely and with more concentration. 

Zen and the Art of Shoe Shopping
Don’t you find that it’s a challenge to focus on what one is doing, right now, and enjoy the present moment?

Maybe a pair of orange shoes can help in this important effort.

Or to paraphrase the Zen proverb: "When the student is ready the orange shoes will appear."


  1. A most engaging read - many thanks! One question - can we look forward to seeing you sporting these mandarin muses during our visit?

  2. Absolutely, watch for two tangerine tootsies!!