Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bare Feet

A few days before I left the States, I met a young man for coffee. When he arrived, I noticed that he wasn't wearing shoes. After watching him go in and out of the coffeeshop sans shoes (we met outside), I said something to him about it. He gave me several websites to look at about the value of going shoeless, as well as some information about legal cases in support of people's right to go shoeless in public places. Of course, as I was frantically trying to prepare for my departure, I did not look at any of the recommended materials.

I have been thinking about being barefoot since then and being in India, I have had many occasions to consider the idea. As I have been traveling, I have noticed lots of people without shoes- children without shoes, many auto rickshaw drivers driving without shoes (though they all seem to have a pair sitting on the floor next to their feet)...yesterday all the servers were shoeless in one restaurant. As I have been observing the lack of shoes, I have been thinking about how horrified some in the U.S. would be by such a perceived violation of sanitary standards. Personally, I am intrigued...

During my first days in Delhi I visited two temples for which, before entering, everyone had to remove their shoes. For the first day of the festival of Ganesh (elephant-headed Hindu god), I was in a home and we all took our shoes off before entering. Today I went to mass and before entering the church, I, along with everyone else, took my shoes off. For me, going barefoot has been a way to connect with the place I am. My feet, not the soles of my shoes, are connecting with these holy places. My feet feel the sandstone path to a temple. My feet feel the smooth marble or the soft carpet inside, which soothe the soles of my feet, just as being in those holy spaces soothes my soul. Going barefoot in these places feels real and helps me to feel grounded, since it is my body touching the ground. It helps me to know where I am in a way I wouldn't if I were wearing shoes.

My feet tread where many other feet have tread and so in a way, my bare feet connect me not only with the place, but also with other seekers. My feet connect me with others' desire to be, to feel, to understand the holy in a physical way that is new to me. It doesn't feel dirty or unsanitary to take off my shoes- in fact, in the Sikh temple, everyone had to wash hands and feet before entering. Being barefoot may also serve as an equalizer, as those who arrived with no shoes cannot be distinguished from those who have shoes waiting outside...

I have to say I never dreamed the first thing I'd write about in India would be bare feet, but I am thankful that I have occasion to do so and look forward to what I'm sure will be many other surprising topics to consider...

No comments:

Post a Comment