The removal of shoes before entering homes and holy places is common for many of us living in warmer climates. But is it just for hygiene reasons? What does this really symbolize? And why has this tradition been handed down from generation to generation?
Shoes, most often made of leather, are a metaphor for the physical aspect of the human being… the leather of ‘body consciousness’ so to speak. As I enter a mosque, a church, a synagogue or a temple, no matter how rich or poor, I cannot carry my ego or arrogance with me, even concealed in the cloak of my noble character… I have to leave all that at the door.
Body consciousness can come in many forms, for example being over concerned about the way I look (no wonder the beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar business) or needing to acquire, (and show off) wealth and assets to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ i.e. to inflate my position in the eyes of others. In simple language, body consciousness reveals itself to us in some of the following ways: complaining, criticising, commenting, cursing, condemning, carping etc. Judgement, jealousy and a discontentment are very often the root of body consciousness.
The antithesis of this body conscious attitude would be ‘soul consciousness’. Or, the antidote to this self-destructive behaviour
would be the state of soul consciousness where I, the real self, am completely calm, cool, content and comfortable inside. A feeling of satisfaction and security comes when I understand that all of my authentic, invisible assets are within me; for it is from this place that my qualities of peace, love, joy, power, truth, creativity and compassion emerge.
In the eyes of God, we are all equal and transparent; there is only a disparity in rank when we look at the body. All religions suggest that the body is merely a veil of mud or dust covering the soul, spirit, ruh, atma. Interestingly, the name atma, or atom comes from the Greek atomos, which means indivisible – something that cannot be divided any further. Thus, when we are stripped to our essence, we are free of any fancy labels, brandings or hallmarks of our heritage or education.
Similarly, as we arrive home, the act of taking off our shoes represents an un-layering – the transition of roles – from the variety of characters we play in our work place to ‘becoming ourselves’ once again.
Ironically, as we cast off the layers of ego that we have been comfortably hiding behind for so long, we become whole again. We
are grounded, becoming one with our universal family. We accept ourselves, and can accept others for who they are. We can begin to appreciate their real qualities as we begin to see the light of the soul of each and every one behind their physical costume.
Light cannot be weighed against gold or diamonds, it is measured in attributes. It is the virtues (or lack of) in the soul that makes
the soul shine (or dull). With every layer of body consciousness that we uncover, we reveal another tier of virtue in the soul.
It’s time… to take off your ‘shoes’. Get real. Be honest. Feel the ground upon which you stand. No need for masks or masquerades. In meditation, practice being conscious of the light of the soul and you will automatically discard the mantle of body consciousness. Similar to walking into a room; you do not attempt to chase away the darkness; you simply switch on the light!