…Until You’ve Walked In Their Moccasins

Edward Mills Quote - Old ShoesThere’s a Native American saying that goes something like this:

“Don’t pass judgment on another person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins.”

It’s easy to pass judgment on others. I still do it: “Why did they take up 2 spaces when they parked?” “Why is he just standing there, in the way, so no one else can get by?” “If they’re going to drive so darned slow why don’t they use the turnout and let the rest of us pass?”

Ultimately, judgment is a defensive mechanism.

If they are so unconscious/clueless/irresponsible as to do or not do whatever we are judging them for, we immediately set ourselves apart from and above them. I would NEVER do THAT.

And while it’s true that I might never do exactly what they are doing, the fact that I’m judging them means there’s a pretty good chance that I already am doing something else very similar to what they are doing.

As the Native American Proverb reminds us… until we walk in their shoes… until we deeply and fully understand their life and their motivations, their sorrows and joys, their wounds and gifts… until we truly KNOW THEM, our judgement literally bounces off of them and reflects back onto us!

Recently, when I was at Amma’s Ashram for one of her “hugs,” I had an interesting experience where I really DID get to walk in someone else’s Merrells… er Moccasins!

Amma-hugging-saintI was at Amma’s retreat center to receive Darshan or a transmission of unconditional love. Amma, or as she is sometimes known “The Hugging Saint,” offers this transmission through hugs. She will sit and give hugs for many, many hours. I’m not sure of her record… but that night she began hugging at around 8:00pm. I got my hug at 8:00am and she finished at around 10:00am!

That’s 14-hours of hugging… with NO breaks!

Nope… not even bathroom breaks!

All joking aside, there is some seriously powerful energy in that space. Amma brings an energy of pure unconditional acceptance. You can feel it pulsing through the room. I was able to stay up all night long, riding the waves of that energy of love.

But this story is about shoes… Merrells to be exact.

As with most spiritual centers, you take your shoes off before entering. Sometime after midnight I decided to go outside, to get some fresh air and enjoy the stillness of the early morning.

There are literally hundreds of shoes in cubbies along the walls and overflowing onto the ground in front of the cubbies. I found mine, with a little more effort than usual,  slipped them on and began walking.

My state of inner focus was so high that I was halfway around the lake before I noticed that my shoes didn’t feel quite right. They were brown Merrell Mocs and the right size but they felt strange on my feet.

Like anything that we connect with on a regular basis, shoes conform to our shape… in the case of shoes, they take on the shape of your feet. And obviously, the more you wear the shoes, the more they mold to the shape of your feet.

Those Merrells were my go-to shoes… I wore them almost every day. They were well worn and fully formed to the shape of my feet!

And as I walked around Amma’s beautiful center the certainty grew, surprisingly slowly, that I was walking in someone else’s shoes!

And because I was already so open from being in the space with Amma, I began to tune into the owner of those shoes. I could sense things about him – not specific details of his life but feelings and impressions about the way he walks in the world.

I literally could sense what it was like to walk in his shoes!

And I began wondering what it would be like if we really could walk in someone else’s moccasins. How would it change our relationships if we could trade places with people for a day or even just for a moment?

What if you could switch places with your spouse or partner for a day and really get a sense of what she experiences?

What if you could live a day in the life of your mother or father and taste the essence of their reality?

How would it change the way you interact with them? How would it change the way you feel when they do something that doesn’t mesh with your desires and worldviews?

There is another Native Americans saying:

“When you point a finger at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

Go ahead, try it. Look in the mirror and point your finger at yourself. Now look at your hand… Three fingers pointing back at you!

Anytime we point the finger at someone else or judge them that judgment says more about us than about them!

So the next time you find yourself pointing a finger at someone else, stop and take a moment to imagine what it would be like to walk in their moccasins or their Merrells or their Tevas…

Even if you can’t feel into their experience just the act of stopping and asking yourself that question will lift you up out of judgment and move you into compassion and acceptance.

Leave a comment below… or come join us in the Abundant Mystic Tribe Facebook Group to discuss this even more!

Photo Credit – Old Shoes by Jose Fares

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