Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Running, Being Mindful and Wearing Funny Shoes

I find that trying to be mindful in all situations gets easier over time. Remaining present has its benefits, and, if you've been reading the blog for a while, you know that being present is really the only way to live a full, balanced, happy life...which leads me to running and being present. Today I went for a run but it wasn't just any type of run...I purposely set out to run "mindfully" in other words, "Running meditation. I would anchor my concentration on something specific in order to keep my mind on the present moment instead of the usual million other things. In this case it was concentrating on the step.

In running meditation we use the experience of running as our focus. We become mindful of our experience while running, and try to keep our awareness involved with the experience of running. I strapped on my Vibram Five Finger KSOs (If you don't know what these funny looking shoes are CLICK HERE) stretched a little and started my run. I can tell you simply what the benefits of mindful running are: You get far less tired, you are much more settled and at peace and you get in wonderful shape physically and mentally. How? Like in seated meditation, Zazen, you concentrate on the breath....nothing else. Not yesterday, tomorrow, grocery lists or birthday parties....The same holds true for running meditation. Like walking meditation one focuses on the step. Concentrate on each individual step. So as you start out, take it easy and think about everything that leads up to the step. Feel the ground meet the ball of your foot. Feel your heel come down. Be AWARE of the step. If it helps, every time you take a step say "step" in your mind..."Step, step, step, step...etc. By doing this you run peacefully. Although you are running you are slowing your mind down. Think of your breathing every once in a while during your run. Above all, don't expect anything from this! Don't tell yourself you are going to be more at peace or that you will feel this way or that. Simply be. Remember...The reason why this works so well is because you are not forcing yourself to do anything. As Nike would say JUST DO IT! Be the run. You are not running from something and there is no goal in mind so you are not running to something. You are just running. Be totally aware of all that is happening around you while taking your steps. Feel the wind on your face and neck, listen to the traffic. Look about four feet in front of you and try to not think that you are running to a certain point. If at all possible keep your mind anchored on the step, the sounds, your breathing. You will be present. You will naturally slow your mind down even though you are running! And guess what happens? You are not nearly as tired as you used to be. You are not thinking, "I must speed up" or "I have to get to the corner of the street." You are running for the sake of the moment. You become the step. You get closer to the world, the Universe around you. By doing so you open yourself up...you are "stilling" the glass of water that is your mind.

As I ran, I looked about four or five feet in front of me and concentrated on every action of my body...specifically how the ground felt every time my foot made contact with it. The lifting of one leg, the other coming down. Which leads me to the Vibram Five Finger shoes. Vibrams were invented in Italy for the sake of being a sensible, more natural alternative to traditional shoes. After all, humans have only been wearing shoes for a relatively short amount of time when you compare it to how long we've been around so the folks at Vibrams decided to design a shoe that would be the closest thing to barefoot as possible. Vibrams are like being barefoot. The small rubber "shell" of a shoe fits snugly on your foot. Your toes go into little "fingers" or pockets. It truly is like running, hiking, cycling, rock climbing or training with no shoes on. Go to Youtube and type in "Vibrams Five Finger" and see what happens...

Regardless of whether you wear funny little shoes or steel toed work boots, running mindfully is the way to go if you desire to be healthier, more in touch with the world and yourself and less stressed. It is amazing the difference in breathing when you run mindfully. If you concentrate on the step and the things that are present, your mind naturally does not force itself to focus on goals or whether you need a drink of water and so forth. As a result, the body is less fatigued, more alert and refreshed. You should know is that it’s easier, for most people, to be more intensely and more easily aware of their bodies while doing running meditation, compared to sitting forms of practice. When your body is in motion, it is generally easier to be aware of it compared to when you are sitting still. When we’re sitting still in meditation the sensations that arise in the body are much more subtle and harder to pay attention to than those that arise while we’re running or walking for that matter. This can make running meditation an intense experience. You can experience your body very intensely, and you can also find intense enjoyment from this practice.

So have at it...give it a try. You'll find just like I did that this mindfulness stuff is life changing and enjoyable beyond compare.

All right, now to mindfully vacuum my apartment!

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