“Put on your shoes!” was the inner prompting, which I chose to ignore. We had just completed our annual yoga retreat in Kerala, India, and I had a romantic notion this last day to stand barefoot on “Mother India” while doing my daily exercises at the edge of the Arabian Sea.
Afterwards I was standing quietly on the grass when I felt something bite the sole of my foot. I glanced at it, saw nothing notable, and put it out of my mind.
A few hours later, when we boarded the plane back to America, I noticed that my shoe felt tight on the foot that was bitten. By the time we reached Singapore four and a half hours later, the foot was hot, swollen, and red.
Halfway through the next ten-hour flight, the leg was hot, red, and swollen almost to the knee. I called the flight attendant, who put a message on the intercom, “Is there a doctor on board?”
Fortunately there was. He thought I was having an allergic reaction to a bee sting, gave me an antihistamine, and arranged for me to lie down and elevate my leg for the rest of the trip.
By the time we landed I could barely walk. Between the pain and the intense itching it was almost two weeks before I got a good night’s sleep.
“Next time,” I resolved, “I’ll listen.”
But I didn’t.
A few years later I was organizing my closet when I picked up a new pair of walking shoes I had recently acquired. I was admiring how classy they looked when a voice inside gently suggested, “Give them away.”
Even though I heard the message loud and clear, I pretended nothing had happened, finished the closet, and went on with my day.
The next morning, getting ready to take the ten-minute walk to work, I picked up the new shoes and responded with some emotion to the inner message of the day before.
“These are great shoes!” I inwardly declared. “I don’t earn that much money, and I paid a lot for these. I can’t give them away!”
To emphasize my point, I put them on and walked out the door.
“See,” I said to God as I returned home at the end of the day, “These are a great pair of shoes.”
Early the next morning, on my way to meditate in the community temple, again I chose to wear them.
Two minutes later I hit a stone on our gravel driveway and twisted my ankle so badly that, like a cartoon character, I saw stars. I had to crawl back home on my hands and knees.
For a week I couldn’t put any weight on that ankle. For a month I couldn’t exercise. It took many treatments and adjustments before I could properly use the foot again.
A few months later a chiropractor friend came to visit. Without comment, I showed her the shoes.
“Give them away,” she said.
“Why?!” I asked.
She pointed out all the ways in which they were entirely unsuitable for me—the general structure, the height of the heel, the lack of support.
“If you trip on a stone in this shoe,” she told me, “it will severely strain the ligaments of your ankle.”
It was a year and half before my foot was back to normal. The scar tissue remains as a constant reminder: “When God speaks, listen”