Back to running
When I started running just before my 50th birthday, there was a re-awakening of something inside that had been dormant since my track and field days in high-school. It ignited a constellation of experiences which seemed to light up, not only the run, but the rest of my life. I was re-hooked on the magic of running, only this time I had behind me the experience of a life-time of meditation practice. It was time for running with meditation.
I was in the Umbrian countryside, the perfect place to re-kindle the joy of running. I followed the training plan, starting with a few kilometers a day. Soon I conceived the idea to run the Florence marathon, which I did one year later (yes, that was a little too fast out of the starting gate, and I could barely walk after the race!). Running felt like flying and I was inspired. I also viewed meditation practice in a similar way, and I became curious how the two disciplines could interplay.
Many of us know what running feels like, or for that matter, yoga, dancing or a brisk walk. There’s the joy of movement and letting the body express itself through feeling good. But what about meditation? What is it and why practice it? Like running, you meditate with the body. If you set the body up in a good posture it can automatically affect your mind. There’s the first magic. Your busy mind settles down, you breathe better, and you begin to separate the trees from the forest. Your vision opens out and you begin to smile, like fields of sunflowers in Italy. It all comes about because you learn to relax and be kind to yourself.
If you really get into it, meditation is about feeling good without conditions. It’s contentment with what you have. Runner’s high feels the same way because there is a mind and body synchronicity that comes from being fully present in the movement. You might feel that you want to run forever, or meditate forever. There’s the second magic– you can feel good in whatever you do, whether you’re moving or sitting still. I began to feel that unconditional goodness was the result of training in the stillness of meditation, and running with meditation. Meditation was a reminder to click into the present while running.
Running with Meditation
Running with meditation connects you to the mystery of life. We connect with our power as we burn our calories with amazing reserves that can keep us going for hours. Sometimes there’s an amazing outflow of ideas and bursting energy to initiate great projects. Meditation also connects you to that mysterious source. I don’t know about you, but this is the zone I like to hang out in. The power is infectious, and when the time comes, crowds love to get in on the group energy of a city marathon, complete with brass bands, rock bands, steel drums and the children who like to slap five as you run by. That’s magical mystery number three.
It’s not just the humans who enjoy a good run. There’s an amazing race around Lake Trasimeno in Umbria. The lake is peaceful and shines in shades of silver and grey. It’s circumference makes for the perfect 58 kilometer ultra marathon. Every year in March runners come together, not only for the ultra, but also for the 10k, 21k, 34k and marathon distances. I was in the final stretch of the 34k one year. I was having a bit of a hard time and feeling not at all powerful. Actually, I was in quite a bad mood and was wondering why the finish line wouldn’t arrive. At one point I looked down and there was a very small white dog running the race. He was going so strong, and he turned out to be my delightful guiding companion for the final stretch. His name was Oliver and he cheered me up as I followed him to the finish line. It turned out to be the best finish ever!
Enjoy every step
Running and meditation are like the right and left legs working together. Running gets you into the zone and meditation keeps you there. This is the magic of running and meditation together. A book by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “Running with the Mind of Meditation” takes you through four stages of training, mixing meditation and running. It turns out the zone is a big area. The best way to get there is to enjoy each step, each breath, the sunflowers, a little white dog, and the mystery of being alive.