No Silver Bullets

From The Runner’s World Complete Guide to Minimalism and Barefoot Running:

The basic premise of this book is that minimalism and barefoot running are means to an end. That end is running with better form and less injury, both of which should make you faster and help you enjoy your running more.

It’s important to keep this means-to-an-end framework in mind. Minimalism and barefoot running are tools, not magic bullets. As Jay Johnson, who has coached national champions, collegiate runners, and recreational runners, says, “I think most people want the easy fix. There’s no easy answer in running. Ever!”

That’s another way of saying that, in running, there are no secrets — either of modern elites or of supposedly lost tribes. There are, however, best practices worked out through experimentation by ambitious, experienced, open-minded runners. The distinction matters because secrets imply, “Do this one thing and everything will be fixed.” Best practices imply, “Here’s a process that you can implement to improve as a runner.”

“There are no secrets” also means keeping the importance of this or any aspect of running in perspective. There’s no one element of running that deserves obsessive focus while you underemphasize other contributor to successful running. What you have on your feet when you run matters a lot. So do a lot of other things: how much and how far you run, how strong and flexible you are, your diet, your running form, and how you spend your non-running time. Zealotry never works out over the long term in running.

I find this passage quite profound and not only with regard to running. My impression is that most of us do seem to want an easy fix that does not exist. There is no easy answer in any worthwhile endeavor, ever. Excellence is never achieved through silver bullets or magic wands or secret knowledge, only through persistent and intelligent practice, whether the field is running, nutrition, computer programming, investing, scientific research, customer service, overcoming addiction, or simply living one’s life well.

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Posted by on 2013/08/10 in Uncategorized


Hermit Time

A pattern I have noticed in myself over time is that I get involved with organizations or groups for a while and eventually withdraw from them. I’ve been involved in martial arts, healing practices (Reiki, Healing Touch), meditation groups, churches, and online forums and sooner or later found myself pulling away from these involvements.

One of my inner voices tells me that this pattern shows me to be inconsistent and unreliable. That could be I suppose. There have been times when I have not followed through on commitments as completely as I might wish. This point of view makes me never want to make commitments to avoid the seemingly inevitable lapse that eventually comes.

Another inner voice says it’s normal to try things out and withdraw from them after a while, when their time has passed. I might discover a new food, enjoy it for a while, then find I’m not enjoying it so much anymore and stop buying it. I might be interested in reading about physics for a while, then find after a few weeks that I’m ready for an action novel instead.

At this point in my life, I find myself wanting to withdraw from a number of “outer” involvements to focus more inwardly, to be quieter and calmer, to simplify and have more time for reading and reflection. I’m afraid some of my friends may be disappointed that I’m less available, but that may just be my egocentricity talking. 🙂 As I complete this post, I notice I’m feeling a sense of relief and freedom, and also some sadness.

It’s feeling like it’s time to be a hermit now, until the next cycle starts.

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Posted by on 2013/06/08 in Uncategorized


A Quick Start Guide to Plant Based Eating

As they transition to plant based eating, different people will find themselves confronting different challenges. Some of us view food as an exciting adventure and look forward to new and exotic food experiences. We like trying out new recipes and sharing our discoveries with friends.

Some of us regard food as a dear friend that has been there for us for years and we rely on the familiarity and comfort of specific tastes or even food items to help us get through the day.

Some of us simply regard food as fuel and just want it to be there when needed with as little fuss and bother as possible.

Perhaps some of us even find ourselves moving from one category to another at different times. In any case, our differing relationships with food create differing challenges for us as we think about transitioning to a greener, more healthful way of eating.

Do you consider yourself a skilled cook or chef? Do you enjoy exploring new foods? Do you look forward to your next culinary adventure? Do you consider yourself competent in the kitchen? When you eat out, do you plan what to have based on your knowledge of the restaurant’s menu and your past experience there? Do you want your food to be familiar and comforting? Do you get lost when you go in the kitchen? Do you want your food to just show up? Now!? Is the most important thing about food to you that it be quickly and easily available? Can you eat more or less the same thing every day?
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Posted by on 2013/05/19 in ecology, nutrition, wellness


The Refuge of Experience

Remember the Native American legend of the good wolf and the evil wolf? The little boy asks his grandfather which one will win. Do you remember what the grandfather answers? “The one you feed.”

The implication is that we should feed one of the wolves and let the other starve. If we’re patient and consistent enough, eventually, we can eliminate the evil wolf and have only good.

In his teaching, Fred Davis ( makes a distinction between thinking and experience. Experience can mean something we accumulate slowly over time. “She is very good at what she does because she has so much experience.” However, what Fred is talking about is what we might call momentary experience — the experience going on in this moment now.

In each moment, I can trust my thinking or I can trust my experience. If I go with my thinking, I wind up identified with the body/mind, separate, and sooner or later, suffering. When I go with experience, there’s peace, ease, aliveness, connection, and no problems. Only a thought can have a problem. When I catch myself having problems, that’s a clue that I’m identifying with the thinking and an opportunity to shift back to experience.

Which wolf will win? The one I feed more, certainly, but the thinking wolf has its uses. We don’t want to starve it to death. We just want to remember that we can always turn to the wolf of experience for a break from the responsibilities and problems and stresses the wolf of thought brings us.

It might be useful to notice that thought happens within experience. We can have experience without thought, but we can’t have thought without experience. Experiencing awareness has to be present before thought can happen. Moment by moment experience is primary and fundamental. Thought, sensation, everything happens only within that primary and fundamental experience.

Posted by on 2013/04/06 in Uncategorized


Tiny Habits (3)

For the past week, I’ve been working on these habits:

  1. After I peel a banana, I will say thanks for one thing
  2. After I put something in the microwave, I will fill my water bottle if necessary and take a sip
  3. After pulling out of the garage, I will sit in the driveway to watch the garage door close

The banana habit has gone well. Sometimes I catch myself remembering to give thanks for something a few minutes after having peeled the banana. On the other hand, sometimes I notice that I think of the habit a few minutes before getting to the banana and going ahead and finding a gratitude at that point. The purpose of course, is just to get create more gratitude in my life and that’s what’s happening.

The goal of number 2 is to get me to drink water earlier in the day on weekends. When I fix my breakfast, I usually microwave my frozen blueberries for 30 seconds and water for a hot drink for two minutes. So that gives me triggers to take two sips of water. Taking the two sips reminds me that I want to drink more water (and take my water bottle with me when I leave the house), so that’s headed in the right direction.

Number 3 comes from some episodes last year when I thoughtlessly managed to ride off on my bike (or drive off in my car) leaving the garage door open. It’s not such a big deal when Karen is home, but it’s not so good to just go off and leave the house wide open to whatever critters might wander in. So this week I’ve done a good job of paying attention to closing the garage door because of making a point of sitting in the driveway to watch it close.

I may stick with this set for another week. I’m not feeling as automatic and confident with them as I did the first set.

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Posted by on 2013/04/06 in Uncategorized


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Tiny Habits Project (2)

I want to say a little more about the third habit I worked on last week, “After I open the door on my way out of the house, I will touch the door jamb and say, ‘I’ll be back.’”

In the Middle Ages, one of the vows Benedictine monks would make was called stability. It wasn’t about their emotional life, rather it was a commitment to live out their life in a particular community. They promised that they would not pull up stakes and leave without their abbot’s permission.

In a lot of ways, our current home is perfect for us. It’s a condominium, so we don’t have to take care of the yard. It has an attached two-car garage. From our back windows, we see lots of Nature since we overlook a greenbelt that the city has committed to never develop. It’s small so it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. And we got it new, something Karen had always wanted.

I wanted a simple leave-taking ritual to remind me of all this when I leave the house. That’s what the tiny habit is about. Touching the door jamb and saying “I’ll be back” reminds me of my commitment to this house. We’ve moved enough times already. Our plan is to stay here.


Posted by on 2013/04/01 in Uncategorized


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My Tiny Habits Project

Recently, I learned about something called “Tiny Habits”. I don’t remember exactly how I was directed there, but I watched this video and everything flowed from that.

If you watch the video and follow the links, you’ll learn that what Dr. Fogg offers is, effectively, a method of programming oneself to perform desired behaviors in an automatic and consistent way. His method consists of identifying a “tiny habit”, a small action you can execute reliably and easily in under 30 seconds in response to a trigger or “anchor” you select. He offers a week-long (online) class in which he coaches students through their efforts to identify, execute, and establish three new habits in one week.

He recommends formulating your habits in the following terms:

  • After [anchor], I will [tiny habit].

The anchor serves as a trigger to stimulate, or prompt the tiny habit. Once the easy, tiny habit is automatic, it can be expanded into a much more complex behavior if desired. By taking the process in baby steps, it never feels overwhelming or demanding. For me, it really turned out to be fun. Here are the habits I started out with for the past week (as part of Dr. Fogg’s class):

  1. After I get out of bed in the morning, I will go in the living room and adjust the temperature.
  2. After I open my computer, I will look at the list of messages in my e-mail inbox.
  3. After I walk through the kitchen on my way out of the house, I will touch the door jamb and say, “I’ll be back.”

Dr. Fogg emphasizes that tweaking and revising our habits in an integral part of the process. After my wife beat me to the thermostat a couple of days, I revised habit 1 to be “After I get out of bed in the morning, I will go in the living room and touch the thermostat/adjust the temperature.” That way, I could execute the behavior even if the temperature was already adjusted.

Habit number 2 just gets me to look at my e-mail. Once I look, I’m usually motivated to read some and process some of the stream, but even if I don’t, even if I just look and see, “Oh, wow, 50 messages,” I count it as a win and celebrate. That’s the other piece of the method. Every time you execute one of your habits, you celebrate. A celebration can be a word spoken aloud (“Awesome!” “Righteous!” “Woohoo!”) or internally (“I did it!” “I rock!” “Yay, me :)”), a physical gesture (fist pump, thumbs up, quick little dance, etc.), a quiet smile, or anything else that lets you know that you’re happy with what you just did. It’s a little internal reward.

For habit 3, I found that I needed a more specific anchor, so it got revised to, “After I open the door on my way out of the house, I will touch the door jamb and say, ‘I’ll be back.'”

I was able to complete all three habits every day for the week. It was exciting to see the behaviors become more automatic over the course of the week.

I plan to continue formulating and working on three habits each week and I plan to write more about this project here. In my next post, I’ll talk about the habits I plan to work on in the coming week.

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Posted by on 2013/03/31 in Uncategorized


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