“Life Isn’t a Matter of Milestones but Moments” ~ Rose Kennedy
I began running when I was fourteen after meeting a young Persian woman in my neighborhood. We instantly became friends. She and I would have long, intimate conversations during our nightly runs. Our strolls through the hilly West End streets of Richmond, Virginia gave us the opportunity to become quite close. It was a needed relationship to soothe our sorrows. Her husband and my mother were often away for work. Thus our frequent outdoor outings filled with regular bolts of feel good endorphins and close communications formed a bond that helped ease our souls.
Even after I moved, I continued to jog through other neighborhoods. Running became my sanctuary. I explored new territory and escaped the pain living at home. I didn’t realize it until many years later that my regime of running was a form of meditation. It was my solace. It was the one place where I had control. I could be with my thoughts and feelings without anyone else telling me I was wrong or stupid. I gave myself the respect and listened while others were too busy to pay attention.
I reaped many health and psychological benefits from running. Running increased my lung capacity, my muscle strength, muscle tone, my endurance, and saved me through my adolescent years.
Benefits of Running
Studies support regular running increases metabolism for weight reduction, promotes good mental health, and overall mind/body/spiritual health. Jogging releases endorphins a natural painkiller and mood enhancer. It increases the capacity to focus, practice perseverance, and dedication. It’s no wonder runner enthusiasts exist everywhere.
Meditation offers many of the same advantages as running. Meditation produces the same feel good chemicals in the brain, promotes a tranquil mind, increases self-confidence, and presents moment-to-moment awareness.
Meditation is deliberately paying attention moment by moment. It is being acutely aware of what is happening inside and outside of our body and mind. Meditation is listening to our minds chatter, sensations in our body, and the connections to our surroundings.
Meditation and Running
Although most people run while being plugged-in, stopping to check and respond to our mobile mail, or listening to our iPod, taking a brief break from our digital worlds has tremendous benefits.
Mindful running is unplugging, paying attention, and making the choice to focus internally and externally. It entails suspending any agendas, goals, deadlines for the moment and enjoy the full experience of running free. Running while meditating gives the opportunity to sort through problems, find solutions, and let go of any frustrations of the day.
Mindful running is a practice. It is not a performance, a comparison, nor a pre-determined result. Mindful running is directing our attention. Soak in wisps of the wind as it softly tickles the hair on your skin. Take in the sweet smells of fresh blossoms in the air. Taste the saltiness of the ocean air if you are so fortunate or the sweat that bubbles above your lip. Bask in the warmth of the sun and delightful sights as your body swiftly sweeps through the streets. Each stride is an opportunity to notice all that we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and think without criticism, judgment, or evaluation. The regime for mindful running calls for soothing kindness and curiosity.
There is so much to learn from our thoughts and feelings. Running provides self-reflective time for greater awareness. By paying attention, creative solutions can be discovered. And curiosity while roaming in nature and natural surroundings can create a spiritual connection.
The next time you run leave your ear plugs, your mobile, or any other digital device at home. There is a whole world to discover and experience not only outside but in your mind.