I’m sure we’re all familiar with that niggly, annoying and uncomfortable sensation of when a rogue little stone or pebble makes it way into one of our shoes! So many times, just after starting my daily walk, a small pebble somehow makes its way into one of my boots, even after shaking out the boots beforehand!
Needless to say, it is very annoying and a continuous focus point as the pebble moves around in my boot and as I feel it under my foot. I can hear you scream, ‘just take your boot off and shake it out’ or ‘get a new pair of boots’! But I usually walk on with the ‘uncomfortable’ stone in my shoe and let me tell you why.
I use the sensation of this pebble in my shoe as a continuous anchor to the moment that I am in, as I walk along. I bring my awareness to the pebble as I stop and bang my foot on the ground to try and move the pebble to a more comfortable position under my foot. This sensation always creates a recognition and consciousness in me, that sometimes, this uncomfortable physical sensation, can be similar to how it feels to ‘walk’ or ‘move’ through daily life while perhaps living with anxieties, fears, traumas, grief, regrets, hopes, dreams, aspirations. These common elements of life can be so disruptive as we experience them and they can have the potential to railroad us, to create an unbearable or incomprehensible mountain for us to climb in our daily living. The ‘stone in the shoe’ can be more difficult to live with than overcoming or living alongside anxieties, fears, trauma, grief and even conquering your life’s goals and ambitions.
As quoted by ‘Muhammad Ali’:
“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you down. It’s the pebble in your shoe.”
Sometimes, we can feel that it is not ‘normal’ or ‘ok’ to feel or live alongside our anxieties, fears, traumas etc. I always ask the question, ‘what is normal anyway, who sets the prerequisites or parameters when it comes to being normal?’ I always encourage myself and others to:
“Today …. Just let yourself be …. Whatever you need to be.”
I really find that by allowing ourselves the mental, emotional and physical space, we can accept any ‘pebbles we have in our own shoes’. We can realise that it is possible to live alongside these discomforts daily and that it is also possible to adopt life practices to help to cope with and manage the impacts of these discomforts. Mindfulness, meditation and self-compassion have helped me to accept my own anxieties, fears, traumas, which in turn better equips me with the ability to continue to walk or live alongside my own demons, my own mental clutter, the internal noise and disruption of my own inner critic, negative thoughts and emotions. I have learned coping mechanisms which empower me with the tools and breathing techniques to quieten and tame these disruptive elements in my life, to accept that they are a part of me, a part of my life experience and that it is ‘ok’ that they are present with me.
I can now comfortably live alongside these discomforts with the skills I have learned and that I teach. I love the words of ‘Cynthia Go’ in relation to self-compassion and self-care:
“Let your mind and heart rest for a while. You will catch up, the world will not stop spinning for you, but you will catch up. Take a rest.”
It takes time and patience to learn to walk with ‘the uncomfortable stone in your shoe’. Sometimes, all that we can see, hear and feel is the discomfort of the mental, emotional and physical sensations that arises with life’s pains and anxieties. So much so, that we can start to feel that we are out of balance or out of control and that we can’t keep up. This in turn increases the stresses, anxieties and unhappiness that we experience. We can prevent this from happening by learning how to live along the up’s and down’s that we experience as part of our human existence.
The best way that we can do this to learn to use our breath as our dominant regulator, as our anchor to slowing down the pace of our breathing, our heartbeat, to release more oxygen into our bloodstream. If it is difficult to use your breath, you can use any of your five senses instead. This practice helps us to feel calmer, more balanced and in control of our response to whatever stressor we are experiencing. As so beautifully put by ‘Amit Ray’, one of the ways that you can learn to live with ‘the uncomfortable stone in your shoe’ is:
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
How to learn to live with ‘the uncomfortable stone in your shoe’:
The following is a guide on how to learn to live with ‘the uncomfortable stone in your shoe’:
- Each morning, affirm to yourself that ‘Today … Just let yourself be … Whatever you need to be’. Gift yourself the respect to allow yourself to ‘feel’ and to ‘be’ however you are in each moment of your day.
2. When you feel the uncomfortable sensations of your anxieties, fears, traumas, grief etc arising in or outside your body, affirm to yourself that ‘this is ok’, ‘these feelings are a part of my experience, they are a part of me’.
3. Use your breath as a regulation tool to create calm, balance and acceptance in your mind and body. Take as many regulating breaths as you need to, in through your nose and out through your mouth, or whatever breathing pattern feels right for you.
4. If you find it difficult to use your breath as your anchor, bring your awareness to your feet. Visualise them being deeply pulled into the earth underneath you or you can use your smell to smell something that will help you to feel more relaxed.
5. Remind yourself that while the ‘stone in your shoe’ may be uncomfortable and the sensations that arise from it may be distressing, ‘everything is temporary, nothing is permanent’. The stone WILL come out of your shoe, the sensations WILL pass.
Treat yourself with kindness, compassion and beauty.
Thank you as always to Brian O’Loughlin and his team at Celtic Media Group (https://www.anglocelt.ie/, https://www.con-telegraph.ie/, https://www.meathchronicle.ie/, https://www.offalyindependent.ie/, https://www.westmeathexaminer.ie/ and https://www.westmeathindependent.ie/ for all their wonderful help!
As published by The Celtic Media Group in The Anglo Celt, Connaught Telegraph, Meath Chronicle, Offaly Independent, Westmeath Examiner and Westmeath Independent newspapers w/c 08/02/2021