Of Being Paleo, In the “Now”

“…When we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

Alan Watts

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

The above, although a wonderful statement and sentiment, is actually a misquote of Einstein’s actual words.  For more about the “quote”, look here.

photo cred: Okinawa Soba

Hopefully this will not come across as too squishy a post, but this is something I’ve noticed in many Paleo/physical culture “transformationalists”.  I like to tell people to relax and enjoy the ride, that transformation won’t happen over night – and that it won’t happen at all if it’s pursued as just a means to an end.  In Western culture, though, this mindset has come to be seen as a kind of blaspheme.  Well, maybe – but I’ve seen the strongest of will powers laid waste to over a bout with diet/physical transformation.  It may take longer for some than for others, but if all you bring to the game is sheer will power directed toward finishing and finishing alone, you’re doomed to fail.  Those who succeed are able to find something redeeming in the small stuff – the moments, the downtime, etc.  How much time surfing is actually spent on the wave?  Very little.  The rest is spent quietly perched upon the board, paddling, searching for the perfect set up.

The opening quotes from Watts and Einstein pertain to Physical Culture, writ large, and, more specifically, the Paleo lifestyle, in conveying this “in the moment” message.  Consider the comment that the elderly Zen master is purported to have made about a young archer’s struggling while in competition: “His need to win prevents him from hitting his mark.” Or, as Eckhart Tolle puts it  “His Need to Win Drains him of his Power.Archery undertaken as a means to an end of achieving the notoriety of winning the event is doomed to sub par results at best.  When perused for the love of the sport itself, though – the intricacies, the down time, the feel, sound, smells and sights – when winning becomes simply a cool by-product of the love – this is what brings true success and longevity.  Think Tiger Woods and Golf.  Everyone needs goals and visions, and these are in fact useful.  Every goal reached, though, is only done so via a succession of small, individual steps – moments strung together – and here is where true success is found – or lost.

Know this: the past is done, and can in no way be altered.  The future is largely unknowable, and only on a topical level can it be influenced.  Therefore, all you really have control over is this moment in time.  That is to say, all you really have is this particular rep, this particular bite, this particular food choice.  There is a time for planning, to be sure – and a time for execution and reflection as well.  The key is not to confuse these elements.  Another very Zen idea along these lines is this: when doing dishes, do dishes.  Transport this idea to the gym, and it looks like this: when performing explosive dips, perform explosive dips.  Only this moment matters – only this moment can you affect.

Success in the moment will result, without your having to worry about it, success in the long haul.  Obsessing about “how long will it take to realize such-and-such a change” only leads to stress about the desired change and, eventually, that stress becomes overwhelming, ultimately leading to “giving up” and no change at all.

In health,


33 responses to “Of Being Paleo, In the “Now”

  1. Great post and great blog. Been starting my day w your early morning tweets lately. Inspiring. Happy holidays.

  2. Much on the same wavelength with this one. I have a post all ready with a similar theme (based on my post from yesterday). I hope you don’t mind me quoting you (with credit, of course!).
    Great post.

  3. Keith,

    An awesome post, and one that will certainly be revisited by me from time to time. It combines the principles of “being present” (that I forget more than I practice) along with my desire to enjoy a truly vibrant life with my family. Now it looks like I need to revisit my Twitter account so I can follow along there as well.

  4. I subscribe to “being in the moment” – esp at the gym. And it shows. I was at a women’s-only health club which I loved (chronic cardio) and I thought I was strong. I switched to Crossfit for the challenge and to gain strength. It’s only been 2 months but I went from being a pipsqueak Mom to an underdog doing prescribed weights (not all but many). And I owe it to simply working as hard as I can – and switching to paleo. Reading your blog has helped me understand it so much better. As well as HIT and balancing everything else (work, fam, grief, etc – life)

    Where we put our trust is very important. There is so much WRONG information out there tauted by supposed experts. I was a chronic cardio person for 2 years and didn’t lose weight, had problems with my feet and energy issues. Personal trainers reccommended low cal diets. It didn’t work. I switched to paleo for energy reasons and I’ve lost abuot 10lbs. I haven’t been on a scale in 3 months, so I don’t know exactly. But all clothes are very loose. I feel so much better physically adhering to paleo eating. And I like to cook and experiment.

    All these are reasons why I truly enjoy reading your blog. You make sense and you read all the articles I have no time to read (or find) on my own and post them (thanks!). I think I’m a good example of “not trying” and accidentally achieving results. And I’m excited to see how much better I will become without worry about “arriving” or reaching a destination.

    Thanks for all your hard work and this great blog.

  5. Nice reflection, Keith.

    I do think golf is very good in this regard, especially given the challenge of the sport, the randomness inherent in every shot, the lack of control one has over that darn ball, and the extensive ‘down time’ in-between shots to think about it all!

    Tournament golf takes it to another level, and all the point you hit in this post come to life vividly all at one time.



    • PS.

      There are, it seems, multiple “in the moment” processes going on at once. Think of golf: if all you cared about was that exact shot, at the moment, without any context at all, you would attack the flag aggressively. However, in the context of the entire round of golf, or that specific hole, being “in the moment” may require consideration of the next “moment”–that is, you may have to position yourself on the green in light of a tier, a false front, etc. Zooming out to another level, you must also consider the context of which holes are ‘green lights’ and where you need to protect yourself against disaster. Thus, a round of golf, while ultimately dictated by a series of focused “in the moment”, one-shot-at-a-time actions, requires parallel considerations embedded within the context of a bigger goal, purpose, etc. for that round of golf, then that round in the context of all the tournament rounds, then that tournament in the context of a season, etc.

      It’s very multifractal.

      It’s a good exercise in the art of the balancing act.



      • Yes, I think of this as “fractal” concentration. The odd thing (or maybe not so odd thing, depending upon your life-view), is that when you’re truly in the moment, all the surrounding issues just seem to fall into place precisely as required for a positive outcome.

  6. Keith,

    This is why I’m a fan of Shaun Phillip’s “FIT” idea, essentially meditation through training, and getting the hell away from the internet save for things like this.

    Meditation and walks on off days help as well; in fact they’re shown to increase the rate of progress in both training and vipassana.


    • I think this is one reason why I’m so drawn to the iron game (and sprinting as well); when I’m into a workout, a fall into what I would describe as a trance-like state – call it being in the zone, spaced-out, tunnel visioned, blindered, what-have-you. I would certainly consider it a crude form of meditation – and I say “crude” not in a derogatory sense, but in the sense that my mind is not able to properly “shut off” until I’m physically red-lined. The “lotus position” doesn’t yet work for me. Not yet, anyway. Maybe once I’m more skillful, I can progress past the point of requiring the precursor of physical exhaustion.

  7. As Yoda has said, there is no try, there is only do.

    Trying to do paleo will get you trying to do paleo. You can never arrive at doing paleo…until you actually arrive a doing paleo.

  8. Have you ever seen Peaceful Warrior, with Nick Nolte? It’s about an injured gymnast who turns to a humble guru of sorts to find the path to fully healing himself, in every sense of the word.

    In the end, it’s only through learning to execute each movement merely for the beauty of that movement, with no concern for the outcome, that the protagonist is able to achieve fulfillment of self.

    Here are some of the great quotes from the film. Some are cliche, but there are some gems in context. Unfortunately, my two favorites aren’t on the list:

    Student: “You’re out of your mind!”
    Teacher: “And it’s taken a lifetime of practice.”


    Teacher: “The difference between is is that you practice gymnastics . . . I practice everything.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve already watched it, but if you haven’t, give it a burn.


    • If you liked the movie, bryce, read the book! The Peaceful Warrior series (there are a few sequels now) is quite good, and was written by Dan Millman. PW had a huge impact on me in the very early nineties, and I credit that work with opening many new doors.

      I’m glad you mentioned it, it fits nicely with Keith’s post.

  9. Keith,

    Thanks for the inspiring post; as always, I really appreciate your eclectic mix of reflections and observations about training.

    I would even suggest that your blog is a living embodiment of the ideas you’ve highlighted here: it’s comprised of written meditations inspired by whatever is *presently engaging* you mentally and/or physically, with constant acknowledgment that the whole thing is a process and not a means to an end. I suppose this is one reason your posts typically seem so eloquent and insightful to me — it’s just your present-focused passion “writ large” on the page.

    Anyway, that’s just a wordy way of saying that you actually walk this talk, and I admire (and aspire to) that. Thanks again.


  10. Absolutely loved this post. While reading it, I recognized why I’m always in a love-hate relationship with playing sports. I begin to love basketball, so I start playing it more with the viewpoint of trying to improve the best I can to be a great player. Well, if you could believe it, I usually frustrate the heck out of myself trying to make the progress I think I have to in order to get to that point of greatness. Too bad I usually wear myself out in a couple weeks/months worth of time. Than I start really hating the sport and switch to a different one where I, once again, try to get as good as quick as I can to achieve greatness. But in the progress, I wear myself out.

    This post really helped point out a serious flaw of mine. Deep down, I truly love playing basketball or baseball, but when I set end-all goals, that love turns into a stress and wears me out mentally and physically. And it ultimately makes me temporarily lose that enjoyment I had.

    Anyways, again, great post. Opened my eyes a bit.


    • Yeah, true passion is derived from loving what you do – right here, right now – regardless of the ultimate outcome, or the judgment (good or bad) of others.

  11. Thanks , reading your tweets and blog is becoming a constant for me now. I am learnig a lot, getting inspired or do a diff work out routine great!

  12. Keith,

    Your post is inspirational, but is much more than pure philosophy. Once you think about this issue your statment is axiomatic. There is no finishing post to to aim for by living a healthy lifestyle – It’s not as if we are all doing this so that we can lie on our death beds and claim to be the healthiest person ever to have died! Therefore with healthy living the journey has to be its own reward!.

    Keep up the good work – Mark

  13. Keith,

    As always, great post!

    Vigorous physical activity is essential for health. Hunter-gatherers did it because they had to. We don’t. Well actually we do have to do it to survive and thrive. And, because of our lifestyle, we choose to do the vigorous physical activity in a kind of technological way: exercise equipment, training schemes, …

    Like vigorous physical activity, living in the ‘now’ is essential for health (if you look in stress related literature, and in meditation literature, this keeps coming back). And like with physical activity, HGs did it without thinking about it; they lived in the ‘now’.

    (Actually it probably is because they lived in the now that our brain/psychology is wired/made for this kind of life. And then the agricultural revolution came about…)

    Try walking the great Serengeti plains with your thoughts in the past or future… If you want an similar experience: go tracking some animals in the forest (e.g. birding), and do it barefoot! No time for past and future worries. It’s all about now.And then we still don’t have to worry about dangerous animals (in Belgium we don’t).

    Again, we could use a ‘technological’ manner to live in the now: relaxation, breathing techniques, meditation. Probably very useful.

    But not really my cup of tea. I’d prefer walking barefoot in the forest and doing some vigorous physical activity while I’m at it. And trying to see some game. I know this is not possible for everybody…

    I should look for the thing mentioned by skyler. that sound interesting

    Pieter D

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