Light Up Your Feet

"Light up your feet" – this proverb appears at the entrance of some Zen temples. What is the meaning of this proverb?

  1. Put your shoes in a neat and orderly manner when you enter the Dojo. The shoes should be placed facing out.
  2. During class: pay attention to one's feet work: The feet must keep in touch with the ground while moving – throughout the whole movement. This gives stability. In Japanese it is called:  Suri Ashi which means "keep both feet on the ground" – even during the movement.
  3. While performing a technique: Make sure that both the movement and the direction of the feet are synchronized.

The above three emphasizes are the literal meaning. They give us some direction to check ourselves, to see how successful we are in awareness and attention to our feet.

The less known part of this training is to see how paying attention to our feet fits together with our daily life?

We are all physically built with our eyes looking outward. During our lives we cannot see ourselves. The closest we can get is by looking in the mirror. This fact fits together with the human inclination: We all tend to see other peoples' faults and mistakes, but not ours.  Other peoples' mistakes are crystal clear. But me? I am perfect.

The proverb "Light up your feet" gives us a new emphasis: direct the lamp, the spotlight – towards your own feet. Check your closest place that is the hardest to see. Check yourself!

Most of us, when we are confused and losing our head, tend to miss the thing that is closest to us, our own selves, and unnoticeably we tend to look for answers further away.

Mencius (a wise old Chinese lived in the fourth century BC) wrote:

"The road is close but we tend to seek it far away.
Things are simple but we tend to complicate them"

Correct foot work coincides with a better approach to life:

  1. Be close to the ground and not detached.
  2. To take responsibility, and always check upon my own responsibility for what happens to me. A person should be responsible to his fate, rather than being a victim who has no control over his own life. This principle applies to all kinds of relationships: with the spouse, parent – child, work colleagues and everywhere.

And everything starts with attention to the feet. To light up my own feet.

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fourteen − three =

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