January 25, 2012

How to live The Barefoot Philosophy

It's time to take off your shoes

By Leo Baubata 

Image courtesy: Daniel Laflor
footYesterday morning, I ran a few miles in my Vibram Fivefingers, designed to mimic barefoot running. And then I took off the minimalist Fivefinger shoes and ran completely barefoot for half a mile. It was liberating. It was

how to live a fulfilling life.

Imagine walking barefoot on thick grass or cool night sand. 
These are wonderful sensations that shod walkers cannot enjoy. Going barefoot, I realized, is a perfect metaphor for my philosophy of life: the barefoot philosophy. When you go barefoot, you become naked, you simplify, you become a minimalist.
It’s a hard philosophy to explain because others often judge it as weird, hippy-like (as if that’s bad), unpractical. It’s very practical, and although it may indeed be weird, it’s also beautiful. It’s the simple life, in a nutshell. The philosophy is how to relieve the stress of life.
The Barefoot Philosophy, in Bits
To embrace the Barefoot Philosophy, you don’t actually have to go barefoot. Again, it’s a metaphor for how you might live your life, and these principles can be applied to anything you do. 
Light: When you’re barefoot, you feel light, and you’re not burdened by stuff. In anything in life, if you can be light, it’s a wonderful feeling. Think traveling light or moving to a new city without too much stuff.
Free: Walking barefoot, you feel free, without the restrictions of shoes. The fewer burdens and restrictions you have in life, the freer you are. Think of how easy it would be to pick up and travel, or move, or change jobs or do something with a friend in the middle of a workday.
Pleasureful: The point of walking barefoot is to experience the pleasure of feeling the surface beneath your feet. The sensations are marvelous: cool, warm, textured, plush, smooth, rough. In anything in life, if you can experience the sensations of whatever you’re doing, this is a beautiful thing. Think of the sensations of eating, swimming, washing dishes, sitting on a breezy porch, lying in the grass under the sun, kissing in the rain.
Aware: Walking barefoot, you’re more aware of the ground you’re walking over—when you’re shod, you can walk for miles without really thinking about the surfaces you’re traveling over. In anything you do, increasing your awareness of your surroundings is a desirable thing. Think of walking outside versus being inside a car or shutting off the mobile device so you can talk to the people around you or pay attention to the beauty around you.
Present: The beauty of walking barefoot is that it brings you back to the present moment. It’s hard to be stuck in a perceived slight by someone else earlier in the day or worry about what might happen later in the day when you are walking barefoot. In anything you do, if you can stay in the present moment, you will experience life to the fullest, will be less likely to be stuck in anger or consumed by worry or stressed by coming events.
Non-conformist: One of the hardest things about walking barefoot isn’t the temperature or possible pain of pebbles, it’s the nonconformity of it all—it’s being worried that others will think you’re a dork, or homeless or some kind of dangerous radical. And yet, I’ve learned to embrace my nonconformist side, to relish in being a bit different, to be proud I’m not one of the sheep. There’s nothing wrong with bucking societal norms, if it’s for good reason.
Non-consumerist: The shoe companies would hate it if there were a major barefoot movement because there is no product they could sell you as a solution. This isn’t true of environmentalism—there are tons of green products that are making millions of dollars for corporations. I believe in ditching shoes like I believe in ditching any kind of product that you buy as a solution to life’s problems. Life is better with less, not more, and when you think of yourself as a human rather than a consumer, you’re breaking free from the endless cycle of earning and buying and using up. 
How to Live a Barefoot Life
The above philosophy is fine and might appeal to some, but what you want is a practical guide, no? I’m not going to give it to you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it desirable to live the life prescribed by someone else. The whole point is to do it on your own, without buying one of my books or doing it exactly as I do.
Live this philosophy, in small bits, and see if you like it. It takes some time to adjust to this approach, but it’s lovely in the end. 
Leo Baubata is the creator of zenhabits.net.

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