Ed note: This is the first in a series of a few guest blog posts on different topics, ranging from running to the Paleo diet to boxing. I’ll be spacing these out over the rest of the year. Enjoy a few different voices here on Runner’s Delight! Up first, transportation planner Brian muses on being in the moment when running.
When Alicia asked me to write a guest spot on the running blog my first inclination was to write something about runners deuce (she said it had already done) or the crazy things witnessed on many outings around Lake Merritt in Oakland (of which there are many!). But then I thought about why I love running, how it makes me feel, and realized that something amazing happens when I run, my thinking shuts off, which is to say that the chatter in my mind about the day ahead and things on the agenda fall away. I realized that I’m doing something like meditation, but not the type where you sit cross-legged, saying a mantra.
In the past I have read a book on mindfulness and after reading this article in the New York Times I was inspired to enroll in a class on mindful meditation. I have tried mindfulness meditation with some good results, but also found that it was difficult for me to sit longer than 10 minutes and I would not find the time to do it on a regular basis. Then much to my surprise, without even knowing what was happening, the things that I learned and practiced were occurring when I did not expect them to, while running.
Running alone or with a partner are different experiences, but still reveal an essence of mindfulness. Running alone I tend to feel all the experiences in my body. My breathing becomes super important and focused when I run. I notice my feet hitting the ground, my legs swinging, and my arms moving back and forth. I also think: “I feel sweat dripping in my eyes” or “my foot feels weird” or “look at those birds.” Immediately I am transported to my experiences in the moment, feeling each of these sensations as they happen. Welcome to mindfulness and all things that the meditation book and teacher had referenced.
When running with a partner, namely Alicia, our conversations are remarkable. From our first date until now Alicia and I have been, in my opinion, great at the art of conversation and banter. Somehow our exchanges get beyond this when we run. I find that I will reveal and share even more openly and honestly than usual. It is as if some part of my brain is turned way down when I run–the part that makes me second guess, judge or take something personally.
In running I have found an outlet that helps my mind as much as it helps my body. It has also exposed me to the possibility that mindfulness can be a useful tool in my life. By noticing how I react and feel while I run, I am able to more readily access the mindfulness part of myself and turn down the volume on the chatter even when I’m not running.