By Brian Shiers
In my conversations with runners of all types I sometimes hear a reaction to my suggestion that they try ditching the music or the problem solving for a while: “What? No way! That’s why I run in the first place!”
I totally get it. When I’m writing and get stuck on an idea and can’t push through, I’ll often go on a run, knowing that usually new ideas will come bubbling up midway through. When I run 5K’s, I play the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock” over and over on a loop (weird, I know – but it pumps me up like nothing else!). These are great ways to enjoy running. But mindfulness meditation in motion is another way to explore the runner behind your running, and it can have really big impacts.
I work with a very successful business mogul who is also a very successful diabetic. He knows the science as well as anyone and often speaks at medical conferences to educate physicians and researchers from the patient / consumer side. Once we were running and we decided to put meditation into action. The instruction was simple: take the meditative attention he normally used to tune into breathing and expand it to become a wide field that took in the road and sky, his body sensations (including breathing), his emotions, and the ongoing inner narrative of thoughts. We were quiet for some time, in and out of synchronized motion. Then he needed to stop.
“I’m feeling that ‘pushing’ inside where I don’t want to disappoint you, but I’m feeling afraid of going farther than my body can handle.”
This was big news. As we walked and talked, I learned that, although we’d stopped many times in the past to honor his blood sugar limitations, this was the first time he’d ever shared that he was afraid of hurting himself in order not to be seen a certain way by his coach. It was a huge moment of honesty, and vulnerability. It was a huge moment of strength, I told him, not weakness. From that conversation, a whole world of self-awareness opened up that shed light on his health challenges as well as the many he faced at work. New dimensions, new insights, new choices.
Meditation on the Run is really about deepening the relationship we all need to have with ourselves. We’re given this extraordinary faculty of attention, and we need to spend some time each day tuning that attention to ourselves, not as self-concepts, but as we actually are in the moment as an experience of being. When we’re mindful as our bodies are dynamic, with multiple systems cranking out energy and taking in impressions, we may benefit in totally new ways.