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Vincent van Gogh

What does tying your shoe have to do with Zen?

Have you ever heard an old Zen saying that goes something like: "When you are hungry, eat. When you are tired, rest. When you are cold, put on extra flannel." Well, tying shoes fits right in there and is a key to the understanding or grasping of things Zen.

How many of you that tie your shoes ever really THINK about it when doing it? Not many, probably. The function somehow becomes an ingrained second nature ablity. So how did you learn? Someone probably showed you, or you watched an older sibiling that learned prior to you, or perhaps it was peer pressure, or trial and error of doing it over and over. The same goes for such things as swimming, riding a bicycle, or typing.

It is that same ingrained second nature ablity we are after here as related to Enlightenment and things Zen. When you get into the course you will find there are pages and pages of Zen, Buddhist, Sanskrit, and Pali related Enlightenment sources. Some academic, some secular, some religious, some philosophic, some in support of and some against Zen either inside or outside the scriptures, some even written by me. There are over a thousand links, some four deep, but the whole idea is for YOU to grasp as an innate second nature ability things Zen.

You will run into terms like Anuttara Samyak Sambodi that you will be told means "Consumation of Incomparable Enlightenment." But WHAT does THAT mean? Well, there is a link that takes you to a page that exlplains the term in further that YOU will have a better understanding what it means. There are tons of links that do the samething on all kinds of stuff. None of it is intended to overload you or swamp you with excess information...only to help set things in order as you go along in order to possess a reservoir of ingrained second-nature fund of back in your consciousness understanding to draw you do without thinking when you tie your shoe.

Shoe tying is best learned in short (10-minute) sessions in an environment free from distractions so the frustration level will be kept to a minimum.

The two most popular methods of tying shoes are the bunny ears and the one-loop wrap. The bunny ears method is easier to understand although it requires more coordination. In this method you begin with a basic half knot and make two bunny ears or loops. Cross one loop over the other, wrap it around and under the other loop. Complete by pulling both loops tight. Sometimes your own hands get in the way with this method if you do not have sufficient hand dexterity to isolate your index fingers.

A one-loop wrap method requires less refined motor coordination. Hold a lace in each hand. Put each lace in the other hand to make a letter X. It is less confusing if you always use the dominant hand to put one lace under to tie a half-knot. Success depends on which way you wrap the lace before going under and will be most successful if you discover your own which way to go. Start over if you go the wrong way, instead of correcting mid-task, so that you learn the correct method without needing directional cues. You need good bilateral coordination to use both hands to pull the ends of the laces tight. When you have mastered tying a half-knot independently, you are ready to learn the one-wrap method.

Make a loop to hold in non-dominant hand. Put two dots on the shoelace to match up when you make the loop. Otherwise, you will eventually figure out with practice how to make a loop on your own. Hand-over-hand, help lay the lace over the loop, wrap it around and begin to push it under the loop to create the second loop. Now you should change your hold on the first loop and prepare to pull both loops tight. Verbal directions should be kept to a minimum if each shoe tying attempt is set up to end successfully.

In the above few paragraphs I have presented over THREE HUNDRED words explaining how to tie your shoes, three hundred words you don't even use or think about while tying your shoes. The truth is, you probably couldn't even tie your shoes if you concentrated on the words...if you DIDN'T, you probably could.


Starting with a pair of shoestring tie-type shoes, take off both shoes. Call up the link that appears on the next page titled Association with the Wise. In a comfortable position with both shoes at close reach, sit in front of the computer and start reading the material. Part way into your reading, while continuing to read, reach down and put on one shoe, then the other. As you continue to read, tie both shoes. Finish reading. The question comes up, how DID you tie your shoes? It's a Zen thing.