The path to non-attachment is studded with footwear distractions

This weekend I taught essential yoga theory to a wonderful group of yoga teachers and soon to be yoga teachers – some experienced yogis, some not so experienced. Yoga theory is literally impossible to teach in the abstract. It is also hard to teach yoga theory without sounding like you are examining your own belly button fluff. As a result, I found myself falling back on some of my own lack of enlightenment experiences to illustrate the Eight Limbs of Yoga.

Some of you might remember my struggle with reconciling ahimsa, the yoga doctrine that encourages people to avoid causing harm or pain to other living creatures, with wearing my Gran’s fur coat and leather shoes generally.

One of the things that I struggle with is my love for collecting shoes. We all have a Thing that we like to collect. My husband collects enamel badges of comic book and cartoon characters, tin clockwork toys and penguin soft toys. My children collect small plastic expensive Things that are regularly fed into the DVD player and two of every bit of Harry Potter memorabilia that an Australian newspaper has been selling over the last week or so.

(If you walk past our house you will hear me yelling at the Minx to put the wand down before she puts someone’s eye out with it.)

To me, shoe collecting is one of my flaws as well as one of the things that makes me happy. It is my Thing. While my children have tried to lay claim to my shoes, the higher heels have thwarted them.

I get a bit twitchy when the kids wear my heels which tends to suggest, sadly, that I am becoming more attached to Things than my children.

Then there is my continued persistent drooling over shoes. For example, despite having at least 4 pairs of Gianmarco Lorenzi shoes when my daily eBay search throws up a show stopping pair of double platforms like these I still look at them lustfully:

and think to myself – I can afford $650.00. Of course I can’t afford $650.00 and, in fact, it would be complete insanity for me to spend $650 on a pair of shoes. But I want to very much.

This to me seems to be quite at odds with aparigraha: the principle of non-grasping and non-possessiveness. According to the Yoga Sutras (and mental health practitioners everywhere) the more we practice not being attached to Things, the more happy and contented we will be.

So collecting Things and wanting things is the anthithesis and the arch-enemy of aparigraha and not good right?

Look at these shiny red heels though (deep breath)

Would it be different if I hung them on the wall and called them art?

Gianmarco Lorenzi Pumps - photos copyright eBay seller robbie7469

What Things do you collect? How would you feel about giving them up?

With particular thanks to Tracey and Chrissy for some of your insights and for your energy yesterday. 

10 thoughts on “The path to non-attachment is studded with footwear distractions

  1. I collect radios….mainly 1920s types. A passion since I was a teenager. I was genetically programmed to be technical and technically acquisitive from both sides of my family…maternal grandfather and ;paternal great grandfather.

    Ebay has led to a dramatic expansion of my collection, to the point that my dedicated “show room” doesn’t have enough shelves.

    I have started chucking out and giving away “useful” technical stuff I have hoarded for decades. It is cathartic as I have found that “stuff” becomes a millstone and takes over your living space.

    As for my radio collection, I will start to cull, to focus on certain special items eg my parents’ first radio or those that I have put a great deal of effort into restoring (and written articles about).

    Culling will stop when the number of radios equals shelf capacity.

    I have found a long time ago that I get the most satisfaction from restoring or fixing a radio for a friend or relo, and then handing it back! Knowing that I have restored a radio to working condition, after it has been silent for decades, is very satisfying. Seeing the look on the owner’s face….priceless. Knowing it is out of my life…satisfying.

    • About 30 years ago we went on a family holiday to Sri Lanka and there were all these old OLD British cars buzzing up and down the streets. Being expensive items, the Sinhalese wanted to make sure that the cars kept on going.

      To me, your Thing is a wonderful thing for two reasons:

      1. you keep beautifully manufactured things working
      2. by doing so, your craft/skill survives another generation.

      It would be good if you could offer workshops to budding young engineers/radio enthusiasts just in case anyone ever accidentallly deletes the Internet.

  2. Thought-provoking. I used to collect books, as you know. But now I am happy to borrow or re-cycle. But then I am at that stage of life where things just aren’t so important. Being here is and love is.

  3. I have considered doing a western version of Sannyasa, the final stage of renunciation of all worldly goods, walking off with just a begging bowl. In my version, I sell or give away all my goods, and, living off my pension alone, walk across the United States, saying farewell to my favourite people and places, and checking in with the places I’ve always meant to see. I would have to wait for widowhood to do that and given my husband’s great health and fitness, I may be 100 before that happens. Still, it’s a thought.

  4. My downfall is books. And china. I realize how silly it is every time I move. I would imagine there is some evolutionary reason as to why we collect. I’m not sure what it is. There must be some good theories out there.

    I had an amazing yoga moment yesterday, and thought of you. The teacher started reading from a book — the part she read had to do with embracing chaos. Coincidentally, my grandmother had told me to read the same book many many years ago. I never read it, and have always felt guilty about it. But thankfully, due to my collecting of books — I still have the book she gave me, and started reading it last night.

  5. shoes are pretty. I love to look but I know I’d never wear most of them so I am happy just to look.

    But for me it’s wool. Beautiful, pretty, colourful wool by the skein – I have a sizeable collection that I’ve been trying to knit from this year, rather than add to. But it’s hard. I justify it by saying at least it’s something I’m using rather than just letting gather dust!

  6. Well… shoes, you know. The collection grows day after day. I think in July it grew about 10 pairs… oh my… I am considering not buying for a period of time, but… as you said, it’s my Thing!
    There were times that I wasn’t attached to anything… and I wish I were this way now… but it’s difficult. I love to be surrounded by my things… but we should try to focus on thoughts, knowledge and not on material things… this is what I tell myself, but… I still like my things!

  7. I share your love for shoes. I can absolutely relate to the thought – “I can *afford* them but I can’t afford them” and then buy them anyway. At this very moment I’m eyeing 4 (four) pairs of shoe in total of more than 1000 euros. Among them there’s one pair of Louboutins and one particular black Ruthie Davis pair I want sooo very much.. but I guess I will let it go.. I’m working on my will power..
    If I had to give up all of my shoes I’d survive.. but after a while I’d start a new collection. So what’s the point of giving it up?)

  8. another collection is old books. Technical books and maritime history (one and only one ship from the mid 19th century).

    I have a small number of treasures from the early 20th and mid to late 19th centuries.

    To lose them to say fire or theft…devastating. To sell them….well, we are only temporary minders of antiques anyway.

    These days they just sit there in protective bookcases. I rarely look at them unless I am researching something.

    I think we all eventually get over having stuff anchoring us. We find security not in posessions, but in ourselves and people, as we get a bit older

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