Leading with My Feet

Next week I will be co-leading a professional development retreat for 135 of my esteemed colleagues from the Center for Courage and Renewal. My co-convener Dan and I have spent the better part of the past year steeped in the waters of planning and preparation, sifting through poems, stories and data.

Now that the agenda have been finalized and nearly all the pieces are in place, I sat down to consider the seemingly mundane question of packing my suitcase and figuring out what to wear. At first glance, this question may seem shallow, even vain. Standing with ease in front of a large room for four days is made a bit easier in comfortable clothes. I’m not a podium-based leader; rather, I tend to move around quite a bit as I engage with participants, especially when leading embodied practices.

Early this morning I began to think about what shoes to pack, and realized that I actually prefer to lead in my bare feet. This is a little embarrassing to admit publicly, because it’s not perceived as very professional (and sometimes is neither possible nor appropriate).  I have a powerful memory of the first time I took my shoes and socks off when I was leading a retreat. Feeling my bare feet on the nubby industrial carpet helped me feel more grounded and awake, two qualities that are critical for skillful leadership. I can feel it in my feet now even as I write this.

Then I remembered one of my favorite teachings from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (z”l) about praying with our feet. That’s my plan for next week.

Drumming Toes