by Juliet Bonnay
In 1990 I was fortunate to be able to take part in a volunteer facilitator’s training program at Jerry Jampolsky’s Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon.
In one of our exercises we were asked to exchange shoes with a partner. If they were too small we had to carry them while holding hands and walking in a circle around the room. We were to try to picture certain aspects of the other’s life and feel or visualise what it was like to walk in their shoes.
My partner was a tall man with big feet and I shuffled awkwardly in his shoes. However a vision soon came, and I saw him in a desert, standing on the bank of a vast river. Sadness had caused him to set out on a journey to find himself. By the end of the exercise he seemed calm and peaceful.
Later, when she shared what we had seen, the young man told me he had recently been in a desert in Kuwait, right by the sea. He was on his way to India to “find himself.”
He saw me as a little girl of about five, running across the fields in a white dress with a pink bow. I was carefree and full of innocence. As I stumbled, unsteady in his big shoes, he saw that I was trying to become what someone else expected me to be. He said that I seemed relieved when I took off his shoes.
His perception was correct. I guess it was no coincidence that just prior to this I had read in Anne Wilson Schaef’s book, Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, that parents can put a great deal of energy into trying to mould and control their children, “not for their sakes, but so they will reflect better on us.”
“We are unable to see them as separate and important beings who are here to share a time with us so that we can learn from each other. We think we need them to validate our lives and choices in life. When we do that, we use them as objects, which is totally disrespectful to them and ourselves.”
We all have a right to be who we are rather than to mould ourselves or be moulded to suit other people’s expectations or needs.
We owe it to ourselves to live a life that is meaningful to us. I constantly meet people who live their lives according to the expectations and wishes of others. They are unhappy because they are disconnected from who they really are. What have they got to share? Only unhappiness and frustration?
If we could be happy with who we are for ourselves alone first, and fully develop our potential in order to share it with others rather than be for others, this world would be a much richer place.
Maybe it’s time to take off the ‘shoes’ that don’t fit and find the ones that do.
First published in the Ballarat News, May 03, 1995