LR10: Barefoot Hiking

Sandstone

The goal for LR10: Mindfulness is to learn to live more in the moment, to strip life down to its essence. To get rid of the nonsense, and truly experience what I normally take for granted.

Becoming a vegan is perhaps the purest, most consistent way for me to be more mindful for it forces me to think about everything I take in. There is no drive thru for a vegan. When you’re at a party you can’t just grab a handful of whatever is put in front of you. You have conversations with the creators of your food, the chef. I think through the menu before making a reservation. I call days in advance to chat with the chef about possible dishes. It has made me more mindful of the chef’s part in my meal. Every meal has become more intimate for me.

Spiked Oak Leaves, Sticks and RocksLast year, I broke with my long held tradition of not running unless someone was chasing me. After reading Born to Run (my favorite book from a previous resolution to read 50 books in a year), I developed an interest in running. It started with weekly 5k’s, then a half marathon, a sprint triathlon and finally an ultramarathon. I bought a GPS watch, started tracking my trail runs and competing against my best times. Instead of enjoying my time in the mountains, just Stella and me, taking in the scenery, breathing in the air and sorting through my thoughts, I was focused and concentrated. It took all the joy out of hiking.

Sharp, annoying little rocksI wanted to return to my old ways, but it’s hard to break a habit. In fact, it requires extreme measures at times to break a habit, even one as simple as not running when you go for a hike. My solution? Go barefoot.

You see, running barefoot hurts. These aren’t asphalt surfaces, they are trails of spiked oak leaves, lined with poison oak, populated by rattlesnakes, with lots of sticks, sharp Atop Saddlerock Trailrocks, hot sand and tons of sandstone, which is like walking on sandpaper, not to mention the occasional dog poop. When you hike in big hiking boots or even trail runners, nothing fazes you. Water, rocks, poison oak, even snakes are of little concern. Hiking barefoot, on the other hand, requires you to be aware of every hazard including the threat of a stubbed toe. Essentially, it forces you to be mindful of your environment, to be aware of everything directly in front of you. Everything else is a distraction.

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LR7: My 1st Week as a Vegan

Becoming a vegan is not unlike joining a cult, or at least it evokes a very similar reaction from the people around you.

Fellow vegans welcome you, but it’s not a simple, “good for you”, it’s more about indoctrinating you and lecturing you on things that go way being simply switching to a plant-based diet. It brings diatribes about “cleansing” and “detox”. They seem to feel the need to bestow all of their wisdom and hokey science upon you and most will attempt to sell you on the benefits of higher energy levels.

Better breakfastMeat-eaters, or shall we say, the majority of people in this world, seem to be repulsed by the thought of living solely on plants. “You can’t even eat eggs?” They want to impart their wisdom, which by the way is almost exclusively based on the question, “where will you get your protein?” They all seem to have the same advice too. “Make sure you eat lots of beans and nuts.” They all attempt to sell you on the “fact” that all the vegans they know are always sick and are the unhealthiest people they know.

I have not joined a cult. I believe the prevalence of huge waistlines, double chins, cancers, heart problems, high cholesterol levels and diabetes among Americans is evidence enough that our eating habits need improvement. It’s amazing to me how many people select the high octane fuels for their cars, yet shovel low octane fuel into themselves, and even worse, their kids. When I eat a thick, juicy steak, it’s good, but the sluggish, bloated feeling that lingers long after is not good. It’s a fact, red meat does more harm than good. The same goes for refined foods and dairy products. And that is the essence of my argument for becoming a vegan. The cost / benefit analysis when it comes to food is simply nonexistent for most of us, yet there is no more important issue for our health.

Why did we switch from a healthy diet to such obviously poor eating habits? The answer is convenience. Question you have to answer is, “Is my health and the health of my family worth taking a little more time for food gathering and preparation?”

As for cravings, I haven’t experienced any yet. In fact, I am repulsed by the idea of meat and even for things that come in a box. I don’t eat much tofu because I’m not trying to replicate the texture of meat. I am reveling in the incredible flavors and textures I had been missing out on all my life. I’m not looking to convert anyone, but I hope I can inspire you to think about your choices.

Finally, I don’t anticipate posting recipes and nutritional advice in my blog, but I am thankful for those who do. Fruits and vegetables come in an extraordinary number of varieties and it can be overwhelming to a newbie. If you have any great blogs, websites or books you can recommend to those of us trying navigate these unchartered waters, please do share them here.