Archive

Minimalism

Micah True - aka Caballo Blanco (The a White Horse) www.ultracb.com

Micah True – aka Caballo Blanco (The a White Horse) http://www.ultracb.com


The other day I was contemplating the economy. Not something I usually do. But a question popped up I could not shake:

“Why does our economy have to grow?”

Now, every economist in the world will be able to give me a plethora of reasons. I even thought of a few myself. But here is the thing: I will bet that every one has as it’s core the need for someone else to continue to make money, and more of it. So one might say, “The economy has to grow so we can employ people as the population grows.” True – but you could employ more people now without the same growth if some of the executives in your company were happy to take home a little less pay. Or the shareholders were happy to take home a little less dividend.

As I chewed this, the concept of Korima came up. Korima is a concept within the culture of the Tarahumara people (also known as the Raramuri). Basically Korima means “What I have, you have too.” It is a simple way of ensuring everyone in the community has what they need to survive. At the same time, nobody presupposes Korima will save them and therefore the Raramuri do not allow it to be a motivation to laziness. This is no communist system in that sense – but instead a commitment to ensuring that nobody in the community lacks anything.

Korima is a challenging concept because it demands that I recognise that I have more than enough; and the more is capable of being given to one who has little. And that even if I think I have (or do actually have) little, I will always have enough to give something to someone with less.

I first became aware of Korima through a man who became my mentor in running and in life. Micah True first moved to the Copper Canyons to live with the Tarahumara to learn how to run from them. (Hint: if you want the full story read Born to Run). But he learned so much more. One of those things was Korima and he was so taken by it that he began to embrace and practice it in his own life.

Korima shone through in everything Micah True (known to the Tarahumara as Caballo Blanco – The White Horse) did. And as he mixed in the running community, he mixed the two and carved out a community among us runners that practiced Korima among ourselves. Unfortunately Micah True passed away two years ago this week while out on a run in the Canyons. But his legacy loves on, especially among the trail and ultra communities that I mix in.

Maybe Korima is not only a great way to start making change (see last week’s post) but also a way to discover what it means to be truly human? What I do know is that John Lennon was right – if people wanted peace more than a TV, we’d have peace – and that Korima might hold the key…

Live Simply and Simply Live
Mark G

(picture sourced from http://www.ultracb.com)

When a young lady was barred from playing in a high school soccer tournament recently in the US for wearing a hijab, next day her team mates and coaches turned up, with her, in hijabs for their next game. They were all allowed to play.

I was taken by this news report (click on the underlined above to see the link) because of the NoXS Minimal way this young lady’s team mates and coaches brought about change. They entered into her world with her and showed others how silly their rule was. In doing so, they showed solidarity with her as well as “sticking it to the man” for her (or rather together with her).

Bringing about change is easy. Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Michael Jackson put it in Man in the Mirror as “If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make the change.” The bottom line is massive change would happen if we would. Change that is. And a part of that means standing alongside those for whom change is needed (as opposed to needed to change).

Like the young lady in the hijab – her friends took a big risk, identifying with her. But they knew change was needed. And they knew that while they technically were not effected, that they would need to change and enter into her world, risk ridicule, being treated similarly and even possibly losing their place in the tournament. But they knew a stand needed to be taken and if someone was going to bring about change, it would have to be them.

John Lennon once said that if the world wanted peace instead of TV sets, we’d have peace. Sure, there are a gazillion and one ideas that might bring about change. But if none of them change you, they are just not going to make much difference in the long run.

Unfortunately (or fortunately if you like) this is very simple and minimal and requires no connections, dollars or lobbying power. Just the intestinal fortitude to change self for the betterment of the world.

And all of us can do that today.

Love Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G

20140309-165227.jpg

The older I get the more I am convinced that everyone needs at least one space they call a “Sacred Space”. This is a space that is set aside in your heart and mind as a space which you find significant because in it you encounter peace, connection and centredness.

For most, immediately a church or chapel comes to mind. There are a few spaces like these that I would call sacred spaces. One is the church in Morpeth, NSW in which my parents were married and where I was baptised. I also find the same connection to the outdoor chapel at a retreat centre in Canungra, Qld and to the labyrinth on the grounds of St Mark’s National Theological Centre in Canberra.

But the space need not be religious per se. Many people I know have a sacred space they have created in their own homes. For reasons I won’t go into here, probably my most significant sacred space is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Furthermore, it need not even be a defined “space”. I find trail running a sacred experience sometimes. I also feel a certain sacredness around certain people who are very important to me as spiritual mentors no matter where I am with them.

What is important is not just that we can identity our sacred spaces, but that we spend time in or with them. What you do there is up to you. How long you spend there will be determined by your commitments and schedule. But the point is that you find yourself there and that your encounters with the Holy in that space bring peace, hope and balance.

Within the Spiritual Sphere of being NoXS Minimal there are three “P”‘s – Purpose, Prayer and Provision. It is in the sacred spaces that we find a deeper understanding of these things and become more in tune to them outside of the sacred space. Silence, solitude, meditation and reflection take place and provides room for rest, re-creation and gratitude.

And here we get a grasp of what is real, what is necessary and in turn, what we don’t need and can let go of. In sacred space, our understanding of why and how NoXS Minimalism makes our lives better becomes clear.

Where are your sacred spaces? When was the last time you spent time there? What did you discover…?

Live Simply and Simply Live,

Mark G

20140301-112529.jpg

Disclaimer: Yes, I am sponsored by Luna Sandals. But it should be noted that:
A) I bought the review sandals for this review at full price;
B) I have been wearing them for nearly 18 months;
C) I approached Luna for the sponsorship BECAUSE of what I wrote in this review;
D) I had formed my opinion of these sandals well and truly before I was offered the sponsorship (an opinion which, as I mention in point C, pushed me to seek the relationship with Luna that I now enjoy and appreciate).
Okay, that said, let’s get on with it!!

Many readers of this blog will know that my minimalist tendencies also cross over into my sport – distance running. For the long story read the first few paragraphs on my review for Xero Shoes or read the long story short which goes a little something like this…

I have always had an off again/on again love with running – more often off again. This was due to two key factors:
A. Just plain lazy, and
B. Put off because of the injuries that would always come upon me.

I was turned onto the idea of minimalist running in 2006 after reading an article by Christopher McDougall in Men’s Health Magazine about the Tarahumara/Raramuri running people of Mexico. I began running barefoot and in Nike Free, the only other minimalist shoe of the time. The in again/off again continued (due to laziness alone now as the injuries were gone!) until the start if 2012 when I decided to get off the couch and change my life.

By this time, there was a plethora of new minimalist options and Luna Sandals were one of these. Luna were the company started by Barefoot Ted McDonald. Barefoot Ted was one of the “gurus” of the Barefoot/Minimalist movement who was further brought to notoriety via McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Ted famously had a pair of huarache running sandals made for him from car tyres by Raramuri runner Manuel Luna. When Ted began making sandals, he called them Luna’s in honour of the man who showed him how.

I bought my first Luna’s back in September 2012. I bought the Leadville Pacer: a 9mm trail sandal with Monkey a Grip Technology footbed and the All Terrain System laces. It must be made clear that the Leadville pacer is designed as a trail sandal. My intention was to begin getting out on the trails in sandals – I had been wearing another huarache on the road but needed something that could provide a little more protection. The plan did not quite happen at first. If I am honest, I tried a number of other minimalist shoes for running with the Luna’s being relegated to my casual wear.

So let’s start there – as a casual huarache, the Pacer is excellent. It is comfortable and although when new ground feel was there but a little limited, now after much use there is plenty of feel. Set the ATS laces and you can slip on/slip off the sandal every day and never give the laces another thought. It also looks like a casual sandal as opposed to the traditional huarache lacing that gets people staring. So for everyday lifestyle wear, exceptional.

However all that time, I was wearing and experimenting with a whole heap of other shoes. The Pacers got relegated to shopping, caf├ęs and BBQ’s. Then one day in September of 2013, I out them on for a run. Don’t know why – all I know is that my training log shows that morning of the 23rd, I put on the Pacers and hit the street and came home 11.05km later. And after that, almost every run on road and a few on trail have been run in the Pacers.

The Leadville Pacer is a 9mm thick but light sandal made for trails. It has an aggressive Vibram rubber tread on bottom; and on top a thin footbed of what Luna calls it’s “Monkey Grip Technology”. It comes with Luna’s ATS (All Terrain System) laces which are smooth, flattened tubular nylon straps with a buckle slide for secure fastening. The heel part is made of an elasticised vegan material which allows for a very easy slide on/off once the laces are secured. There is really not much more to say about them because that is all there is of them!

So how have they fared nearly 6 months later of almost daily use? Brilliant!! The Leadville Pacer is currently my go-to running shoe. It is comfortable, reliable and offers great ground feel for it’s 9mm sole. I have worn the tread away under the ball of my feet where my foot falls, but to be fair, Luna make it clear on their website that, “The aggressive tread will wear out quickly on pavement though, so stick to trails with these sandals!” That tread has done me well in wet and dry on trail and (way much more) pavement. And despite the wear, it continues to perform and will continue to, although I think my use has jeopardised the trail life of the sandal. But remember, that is my fault, not the sandals.

I was concerned that the buckle would cause me issues. It hasn’t. On the one occasion it did, it wasn’t the buckle, but the fine sand that got stuck under it (I was running down the beach) that I left there. A quick finger swipe would have fixed it, but I was too proud to stoop down for a quick second and didn’t fix it. I have run along the beach and on trails many times since with no problems (and certainly no need to finger swipe under the buckle every time).

As someone who travels a lot, I must say travel with running gear is a breeze – they take up less room than my tech shirt and shorts in the bag. And they don’t smell!

As I said in the disclaimer, this review was well underway before I began a conversation with Luna about sponsorship. But the performance of these sandals was enough to prompt me to approach them for support of my upcoming running event. I am so glad they came to the party – this is a product I am proud to wear and promote because I believe in it wholeheartedly. So much so, I would have bought at full price the sandals for my event and training for it had Luna needed to decline official involvement.

Some have complained about the price (the Pacers are $85USD plus shipping), but I believe their value for money is excellent. As more and more people get on the Luna bandwagon, Luna Monkey’s the world over are wearing Luna’s in everything from 5k’s to 100mile Ultra’s. And at some of those you will find Luna’s on the podium.

Of course, Luna’s may not suit all as a running “shoe”. If you are a barefooter or used to running in minimalist shoes you will find a transition to a huarache like the Luna easy. But don’t let that stop you – Luna’s are the ideal Lifestyle shoe and it is well worth a visit to the Luna Sandals website to check out their styles.

Running NoXS Minimal for me is about carefree running. No hi-tech, flashy latest doo-dad stuff here. If you are into that, great. But what I love about Luna is it’s down to earth “let’s let running be about running for the sake of running” vibe. Each day, I pull them on and off I go – bit of protection for the soles of my feet with a strap to hold them on. Nothing more, nothing less. And off a I go with a smile on my face.

I love them and look forward to wearing them for years to come.

20140216-152704.jpg
Lots has already been written about the problems with digital music. As a musician, while digitalisation has made many things easy, it has also made other things lame. Digital means low cost, high quality recording with no loss of quality as you over dub, redub and reproduce tracks. It means you can very quickly bring your music to the finished product with very little equipment in your bedroom. (An iPhone app called StudioMini gives you a 4-track recording studio that fits in your pocket!) It also means that artists can very quickly sell and publish their music via digital music stores. And via social media it’s possible for an artist to develop a following very quickly without leaving home.

Of course there are issues – no soul, loss of feel and the over “machined” vibe of digital music gets some musicians and fans cranky. But there is one big problem which I think defies the simplicity of a NoXS Minimal lifestyle by making music more complicated than it should.

Digital allows you to pick which songs you buy from an album and which you don’t.

“But what is wrong with that?” I hear you ask? Well, on the surface the idea of choosing our tracks and deciding to not buy the songs we don’t like seems good on the surface. But yesterday I had a revelation which made me think that perhaps digital has made listening to music less the experience it once was…

Over the weekend, I had to drive for some time and threw a few CD’s into my car which has (shock horror) no iPod port or dock. It was to be the first time in a long time that I had listened to a non-“Best Of” album from beginning to end. (For the record, if was Def Leppard’s Hysteria one way; Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge coming back). What I noted was that the album had a story. Neither of these is concept albums, but stories began to emerge that obviously resonated with things that were going on at the time in the world and the lives of the artists; and the producers had spent time placing the songs in an order that takes you on a journey and in fact gives more meaning and insight to the songs you are listening to.

When you buy the CD (or the LP or the cassette), you get this. (That said, with the CD you miss the A-Side/B-Side that vinyl and tapes provide which also adds to this). But with digital, you have options to mix it up and leave bits out and in doing so lose a part of the story that is a complete set of work (hence the name “album”) as opposed to individual sound bites stuck together.

And in some ways, listening to music like this is very much out of sync with a minimalist view. The minimalist ideal would just put the work as it is provided by the artist on and enjoy it for what it is as opposed to the complex and narcissistic idea of taking the sound bites (songs) I like and rejecting those I don’t as if they have no value at all.

Doesn’t mean we reject digital distribution. Just that instead of pick and choose we just click “Buy Album” and keep the tracks in order and listen to them in that order in one sitting and take in the full complexities of the artists work.

I have learned from experience this weekend that the old way – the minimalist way – really does give one much more listening pleasure. Methinks that in moving to “NoXS Minimal listening” of music, some of my complete albums are going to get quite a bit more of a run from now on in.

Live Simply, Simply Live,

Mark G

You may remember the old joke:

How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

Confession seems to be the starting point for most endeavours of change. People who want to defeat alcoholism must first face up to the fact that they are alcoholics. Getting things right can only come after realising something is wrong. Which ipso facto means that if change is not happening, one possible cause is that the confessional, realisation point either has been missed or had little meaning.

In terms of conforming to a minimalist lifestyle, it made me wonder if the areas of change I am struggling with in my own journey are hard because deep down I have not yet made the decision to change; and that this is because deeper down, in that area at least, I don’t actually want to change… At least not yet!

Let me give you a few examples:

– Do I really want to spend less on stuff? Or am I really only happy to spend less on stuff I don’t like, need or enjoy? Not buying the latest model car or shunning the next generation iThing isn’t that hard for me because, to be frank, I don’t care. But how many pairs of minimalist running shoes do I need; how many books on the “to be read” back burner is too many; and how many guitars can one guy really play at once?!

– Back on books, am I really serious about saving space and money by converting totally to eBooks?

– Do I really believe stuff you don’t use should be moved on? For example, is it okay to let some of my Dad’s old stuff go? Or am I actually scared my memories will fade if I give away the quilt-lined sleeping bag I have had sitting in the bottom the camping trunk for 20yrs?

– While the idea of having less leading to needing less money leading to not having to work as long or able to do what I love and earn less and not having it matter is great; do I deep down really believe that scaling back financially is the best thing for me and my family at this point? If not, why?

Nothing wrong with these things. After all – as I posted two weeks ago, the NoXS Minimal journey is yours and yours alone. So in reality, you could live with all the above if that’s the type of minimalism you want. But me – I’d like to think that less stuff and/or having it more space and money consciously (like eBooks); letting go of things I have never used and scaling back financially could become parts of the way I live.

Just that first I guess I have to *really* believe it… :o)

What are some areas you would like to happen but realise you have to believe more first?

Live Simply, Simply Live.

Mark G