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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

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Here in Queensland, Australia, the State’s electricity companies run a safety campaign called “Look Up and Live”. It is a reminder to the population that many areas in the State have overhead power lines; and that looking up and making sure the truck you are driving or work you are doing is not going to interfere with the power lines is just as important as checking there is no power running underground before you dig. The catch cry, obviously, is to Look Up And Live.

This has come to mind because my wife said something similar in regards to electronic devices. Our family were in a restaurant and the family of five at the table behind us were all engrossed in their own individual smart-thing. She said she wanted to start a campaign called “Look Up…” to get people, particularly young children, away from being engrossed in the led-lit screens that far too many parents use these days as convenient baby-sitters.

And that is why the power companies’ complete slogan makes so much sense. Are we really living when our faces are buried in our smart-things? Are we really living when our gatherings these days consist of people gathered, yes, but engaged with Instagramming their food or Tweeting someone’s quip or FourSquaring their location or Facebooking what they are doing as opposed to actually doing it.

Perhaps the Look Up And Live slogan is very timely for us right now? Perhaps looking up and living the moment will be far more valuable long term than posting it. Sure, take a picture or Tweet a quote – but don’t do it at the expense of being in the moment. Surely that Tweet or pic can be posted later.

Because let’s face it, not only do we post it, but then we wait to see it appear in our timeline, and then we check other things on our timeline, and then we respond to comments on our timeline, and then we live respond to people commenting on the post we just put up and before we know it, the moment is gone and the conversation has passed and all we have to show for it is a blip in a Universe of information that within the next few hours will disappear into oblivion and will be lost to all, including yourself.

I’m starting today. You meet with me and maybe I’ll take a picture if the moment warrants it. Otherwise, my attention is yours because I want to Live the moment.

Look Up and Live.

Live Simply and Simply Live,

Mark G

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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

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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

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This is our simple table.

Our simple table was built by hand. It’s wood was first used to build the grandstand at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds in Queensland, Australia in 1905. The craftsman rescued the wood when it was pulled down in the early 90’s and made furniture with it. Our table was built in 1994.

Our table was the first major furniture purchase we made as a married couple. We bought it not long after it was made. We loved it’s size, it’s history and it’s simplicity. We loved that it was strong and robust and built to last – like we hoped our love would. It had to last because we bought it never intending to part with it. And we knew that over the years our simple table would develop marks and chips and scratches because with all good, loving use comes accidents. Funny enough, when we bought our simple table, the salesman asked us if we wanted him to send the table back to the craftsman to create the “rustic look” by beating it with a heavy chain. We said no, we would take it as it was. While many in an “instant age” might have done so, we wanted our rustic look to come from authentic wear and tear. We wanted our simple table to develop a character in its own right over time. We wanted to be able to look at the dents and scratches and remember the wonderful times we have had around our simple table.

Our simple table seats four most nights, but is just as comfortable seating twelve. It’s simple bench style seats means you can squeeze room for one more when you need it. That said, our simple table can just as comfortably seat one. And when you sit alone, it doesn’t feel like the scenes you often see in movies of the one person sitting at the long, big, empty table. Our simple table somehow feels just right no matter how many are seated there.

Our simple table is extremely versatile. Of course, we eat at it. Every day. We never wanted to be an “eat in front of the TV” family. But it does much more than that. Out table has served as an office desk, a sewing table and an operating table for more than one scratched knee. Every year at various times, it becomes the resource creation station for creating teaching resources and then an assessment collation area both for my teacher wife. It has been the place at which businesses were launched, ideas were birthed, songs and books were written and assignments hammered out long into the night.

Our simple table has been host to a wonderful array of events. It has been the venue for our children’s parties, for the planning of weddings and for celebratory dinners and board games evenings with family and friends. But it has also been the place for tears, for sadness and for pain. Heated and hard conversations have taken place here, and across it’s breadth hands have been held. Tightly.

This past week, our simple table has been the venue for some very special moments. Within the last five days, twice we have gathered around it with friends – you know, the type who are more than friends – who we do not get to see very often and ate together. One of those families have lived overseas for many years now and to share food, fellowship and colouring in over our table with them and with their children that we had never met was a great joy.

And as I write this, I sit at our simple table surrounded by party things because tomorrow our simple table will host our daughter’s 14th birthday party. What I love about that is that our simple table was also the place at which she ate her first solid foods, the place where she did her first homework and, if Dad is honest, was the place for more than one quick nappy change…

I love our simple table not because it is a thing, but because it is not a thing. It is not minimal in terms of its size, but in terms of its simple design, its materials, how it was built, its longevity and for the amazing memories it holds, our simple table is very much a symbol of everything being NoXS Minimal stands for.

Simple, stable, built to last. Somehow I think our simple table will be a beautiful anomaly in a throw away world. And I hope that it’s message and encouragement to me in pursuing a simple, NoXS lifestyle will be loud and clear every time I look at it.

Live Simply, Simply Live.

Mark G

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Just last week, something quite sentimental came to an end. It had a life span of, we estimate, 45 years. It had been used by three generations and had come into contact with four. It was a handkerchief. Not just any hankie, mind. It was my Dad’s military issue hankie. And this simple yet practical piece of material has taught me more about materialism and being NoXS Minimal than just about anything else in recent days. Let me share the ways…

1. IT WAS MADE TO LAST
This handkerchief would have found its way into a pocket at least once a week in that 45 years. Who knows how many times it was taken in and out of that pocket? Who knows how many nose blows it took, bleeding wounds it covered, tears it wiped or table spills it mopped? Yet the material chosen and the sewing of the edges has held up. Someone made this to last, not to be thrown away after one or two uses.

2. IT IS SIMPLE IN DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
One colour, four edges. Nothing fancy or elaborate needed – it’s main task was to wait in a pocket until it was taken out to wipe noses and that is what informed it’s make. Need fancy edges? No. Pretty pictures? Who will see them? Not needed! Easy to make means more can be spent on the material rather than the manufacture, which is probably why the material lasted so long!

3. IT WAS USED, NOT HIDDEN
Sounds weird, but I think you will understand – when I was given this hankie, I was considering not using it. It reminded me of my Dad and I was afraid that it would be ruined if I did. But then I realised that my Dad was a practical man who made good use of everything he had or came upon – a trait he inherited from his father. While their extreme of keeping everything until it’s needed was something I wanted to avoid (you should have seen what we had to do when Dad and later, Pa, passed away to clear up their collection of screws, bolts etc etc etc x 100!!) I thought it best to use what I had. This would be an important part of going NoXS Minimal – use it or lose it! So I continued to use! as Dad had, as a way to honour him and because the idea of buying another hankie when I already had this good one (and a few others as well) was a bit redundant.

And so, after 20 years in my possession, it comes to this – a nice, neat tear down the middle where the centre fold had been placed for 45 years or so altogether. Which brings me to the last key lesson – SOME THINGS WILL DIE. And when they do, you get a choice: replace or not replace. Well, with a couple more hankies still in my draw, I think it is safe to leave it for now. Who knows, maybe ask can get 45 years out of them too?

Live Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G