“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,

Love is knowing I am everything,

And between the two my life moves.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Humility > Dogma

Not just in spirituality, but in all things.

And yes, even in the testosterone-and-ego-fueled world of fitness.

The classic Zen story of Nan-in and the professor is an example of the necessity of humility.  Of cultivating the beginner’s mind.

A professor of Buddhist studies went to meet with the Zen master Nan-in. After bowing, the professor asked the master to teach him about Zen, but quickly started rambling on about his own extensive studies while the master patiently listened. Nan-in suggested they continue talking over some tea and poured himself a cup.

He then started pouring tea into the professor’s cup and continued to pour, even after the cup began to overflow. Eventually the professor cried out, “Stop, you are spilling tea everywhere! Can’t you see the cup is full!” The Zen master smiled and said, “You are like this cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back when your mind is empty.”

True learning is not a debate.  To remain open is to accept that there is no “winner” and no “loser”; a notion difficult for the dualistic Western mind to grasp.

And I get it — I’ve been conditioned by this culture, too!  But to learn anything — truly learn — you have to first raise the white flag and admit your ignorance.

But first let’s remove the negative connection of  “ignorance” with “stupidity”.  Ignorance simply means you don’t know… yet.  But you’re ready, eager and open.

“Stupid” has more correlation with “arrogance”; neither having any place in the continuing search for the truth of a matter.

I’ve been in this game for 40+ years, and I try to approach each day as if it were my first day in the gym.  As Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki has said: “In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

Compare and contrast this to the more “secular” version of the same idea: epistemocracy, or the idea that all knowledge should be continually scrutinized.  And that one’s own knowledge and bias should be held in greatest suspicion.

Now, this doesn’t mean that common sense and intuition are to be thrown out.  They are, in fact, constituents (along with curiousity) of beginner’s mind.  Again, you have to quit painting yourself in the corner of duality.

There is a middle way.  Past knowledge needn’t be tossed out.  Simply questioned; looked at through a new lens.  Make use of hard-earned experience. Don’t negate it, but keep an open mind on how to apply it to each new circumstance.

Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world ~


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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.


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