Have you ever heard an old Zen saying that goes something like: “When you are hungry, eat. When you are tired, rest. When you are cold, put on extra flannel.”(see)Well, tying shoes fits right in there and is a key to the understanding or grasping of things Zen.

Shoe tying is best learned in short (10-minute) sessions in an environment free from distractions so the frustration level will be kept to a minimum.

The two most popular methods of tying shoes are the bunny ears and the one-loop wrap. The bunny ears method is easier to understand although it requires more coordination. In this method you begin with a basic half knot and make two bunny ears or loops. Cross one loop over the other, wrap it around and under the other loop. Complete by pulling both loops tight. Sometimes your own hands get in the way with this method if you do not have sufficient hand dexterity to isolate your index fingers.

A one-loop wrap method requires less refined motor coordination. Hold a lace in each hand. Put each lace in the other hand to make a letter X. It is less confusing if you always use the dominant hand to put one lace under to tie a half-knot. Success depends on which way you wrap the lace before going under and will be most successful if you discover your own which way to go. Start over if you go the wrong way, instead of correcting mid-task, so that you learn the correct method without needing directional cues. You need good bilateral coordination to use both hands to pull the ends of the laces tight. When you have mastered tying a half-knot independently, you are ready to learn the one-wrap method.

Make a loop to hold in non-dominant hand. Put two dots on the shoelace to match up when you make the loop. Otherwise, you will eventually figure out with practice how to make a loop on your own. Hand-over-hand, help lay the lace over the loop, wrap it around and begin to push it under the loop to create the second loop. Now you should change your hold on the first loop and prepare to pull both loops tight. Verbal directions should be kept to a minimum if each shoe tying attempt is set up to end successfully.


How many of you that tie your shoes ever really THINK about it when doing it? Not many, probably. The function somehow becomes an ingrained second nature ablity. So how did you learn? Someone probably showed you, or you watched an older sibiling that learned prior to you, or perhaps it was peer pressure, or trial and error of doing it over and over. The same goes for such things as swimming, riding a bicycle, or typing.

In the above few paragraphs I have presented over THREE HUNDRED words explaining how to tie your shoes, three hundred words you don’t even use or think about while tying your shoes. The truth is, you probably couldn’t even tie your shoes if you concentrated on the words. However, you probably could if you didn’t!


TAKE THE FOLLOWING LITTLE TEST:Starting with a pair of shoestring tie-type shoes, take off both shoes. Call up the following relatively long BUT super interesting link by simply clicking THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES, for example. In a comfortable position with both shoes at close reach, sit in front of the computer and start reading the material, or any page, book, magazine or paper. Part way into your reading, while continuing to read, reach down and put on one shoe, then the other. As you continue to read, tie both shoes. Finish reading. The question comes up, how DID you tie your shoes? It’s a Zen thing.

It is that same ingrained second nature ablity we are after here. As related to Enlightenment and things Zen you will run into words such as the three S’s:SamadhiSiddhis and Satori, as well as words such as Kensho, and a variety of “number” concepts such as The Four Bodhisattva VowsThe Five Degrees of TozanThe Ten Fetters of Buddhism and Twelve-year Rule…but WHAT are they, what do THEY mean? What does the Twelve-year Rule or The Ten Fetters have to do, if anything, with Enlightenment or your quest or interest in it? Are they some sort of steadfast rules you HAVE to follow or NO Enlightenment or are they more like the Law of Gravity — a sort of natural order of things?