My FiveFingers

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Barefoot Zen

by admin » on May 11, 2011 3

The following a guest post from Dan Bernardo, the Barefoot Zen Man.

Hello there, My name is Dan Bernardo and I’m very honored to be here on to talk about… me I guess. I’m not entirely sure how to get this started, so we might as well start in the middle.

“… and then I decided to simplify it all, and focus on an act that not only was natural but simple. An act that required a different disposition to the moment, to life, to everything. This was the beginning of Barefootism (or how I view it).”

This quote from my book in progress “Barefootism: Tread Peacefully” is a great summation of my day-to-day life. Now don’t sit there and scratch your head, I didn’t create anything. I just simply found something within myself that lies within each and every one of us… compassion. I now know two incontrovertible truths, I exist and I am not an independent being. I contend that everything beyond that is pure opinion based on perception and perspective. And because of these “truths” I have discerned that it behooves me to be compassionate. So where does being barefoot fall into those truths? One simple word… Practice.

It is not enough to understand a thing, one must also experience a thing. In the spiritual sense, this is achieved through some form of practice, aka; the moment one acts upon the understanding (this is where I believe spirituality becomes religion, but that is a whole other topic). For me, putting the understanding into practice was easy; I took off my shoes and paid attention. Let’s go back to the middle, being barefoot was an act that not only was natural but simple. There is no way of walking more natural than with bare feet. And there can be no simpler way to practice a spirituality than by taking off your shoes. Not only is it free, but it’s free-ing. It also doesn’t take years and years of practice, nor a dispensation of logic or reason. This I began teaching as a meditation called Barefoot Zen, which consists of Walking and Sitting meditation,

Now the most compelling thing about this concept, is that being barefoot requires a different disposition to the moment. Once you take off your shoes, you start to pay attention to where you’re walking, how fast your walking, which part of your feet you’re walking with, etc… This all happens automatically, you don’t even have to “learn” mindfulness to walk mindfully. It just happens. This mindfulness is actually a very natural part of our “true selves”, because deep down we know that we are not independent. We know that we are inextricably connected to everything else in the universe. It is this “connected dependence”that solidifies our compassionate foundation. Taking off your shoes is a natural mindfulness and surrendering to this connection. Our first and foremost connection to the rest of existence is through our senses. Our body works this way naturally by what is called Bio-feedback. Our senses pick up information from outside the body, which the brain then decodes and tells the body how to react to said information. This is important because we as humans like to live in a nice comfy, cushy, safe world. And we wear shoes which make the ground soft and comfy all the time. But the world is not always so, and without proper connection/bio- feedback, we cannot act accordingly.

My Vibram Five Finger shoes have allowed me to practice Barefootism in places that it would normally not be permitted. At work for example… I drive a school bus as my day job, and my company requires the wear of closed-toe/heel shoes. This kicks out flip-flops, which are my usual “have to” footwear. The almost barefoot design of the VFF’s have allowed me to go about my usual work day with the ability to feel the earth beneath my feet. Where we park our cars and buses at work is gravel, and I always get the questions; “Don’t you feel the rocks?” and “Aren’t your feet cold?” What shocks many of them is I will answer emphatically “YES, IT’S FANTASTIC!” They don’t know how to react. I have been shocked to find out that I’m starting to win over my coworkers who have initial negativity towards Barefootism and Vibram Five Finger shoes. Since I started wearing them, and spreading the the concept of Barefootism, two of my coworkers have bought VFF’s, and one other has taken off her shoes and walked around the gravel lot with me barefoot while loving it!

To conclude, I suppose I will just bow and hope I didn’t ramble or lose my focus at all. If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments below!


  1. Marcus

    May 11th, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with your observations. One of my hobbies is identifying and trying the many wild edibles in my area, I have noticed that I am much more successful when I am in my FiveFinger’s than when I am wearing hiking boots, I pay soo much more attention to what is around me, and it also forces me to move slower through my surroundings.

    Also, about the whole work think, that seems to happen. I got a lot of strange looks, I got a lot of odd comments, and guess what, I now have my own Vibram club at work! There is at least half a dozen people wearing vibrams at work now, and we have more joining the club every day!


    • Dan Bernardo

      May 13th, 2011 at 11:13 am

      That is awesome that you have such great feedback at work! AMAZING!

      It’s incredible how a simple act can create such an elaborate effect, isn’t it?


  2. Attila

    May 28th, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Isn’t it great when you convince someone just by example of the beauty of the barefoot/VFF way of life?! I’ve converted nearly 10 people at my job and 2 in my personal life, and they all love it. They tell me with great excitement of their Adventures in their new Vff’s or barefoot experience.


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