To paraphrase the Buddha’s conversation with Angulimala (the murderer) “We are all running!”, running away from ourselves. On the weekend of May 1-3 2015, I will be leading a Running with the Mind of Meditation workshop at Hawkwood College, (www.hawkwoodcollege.org.uk) in the cotswolds near Stroud. The w/e is inspired by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s book and teaching, and my own experience of integrating running and meditation.
I am a psychotherapist and a qualified neurotic so there are often a lot of thoughts and feelings flowing through me. When running, I literally run out some of the physical impact of people’s emotional distress and work with my own resistance or doubt. I love running and at the same time I hate it. Almost every time I set out and run there is a grumpy teenager moment of “Uhh! do I have to!” During the run I often feel a moment of that is enough, my body wants to stop. I can then stop or I can notice the thought and sensation in the body and simply relax and wait to see if it continues or it dissipates. If I really feel like stopping, I stop or walk or make the route shorter and if the feeling/thought disspates, I continue. It doesn’t matter. What matters is my relationship to myself. Running provides me with a great opportunity to challenge myself, to feel a sense of freedom and confidence in my body that I can travel over hill and dale under my own energy. This is such an antidote to the modern age when we are often relying on gadgets and things.
Running with the mind of meditation is about being with our running; paying full attention to the experience of running in our mind and body rather than distracting ourselves from the effort by listening to music or focusing on the goal. This includes feeling where each foot makes contact with the ground, taking in our sense perceptions, what we hear and smell, feeling the breath and the physical exertion of our body and being aware of the focus of our mind.
We may all have different motivations to run: to get fit, to develop discipline or to gain a sense of achievement. We can do all this with a sense of will, an underlying aggression of trying to overcome our body. Or we can have the same motivations and run with a sense of gentleness that respects our body’s limitations, the weather conditions, our mood of the day and our own timetable of what needs attending to. We can set ourselves a reasonable target in this context and feel good, a positive sense of satisfaction when we achieve it.
“If we do not push ourselves enough, we do not grow, but if we push ourselves too much, we regress. What is enough will change, depending on where we are and what we are doing. In that sense, the present moment is always some kind of beginning.” (Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche)
Although on an outer level, running is about the body, ultimately it is about the mind. Everything we experience, we experience through the mind: so for example when we feel pain, it is not so much about the feeling of pain in the body at that moment but how the mind reacts or relates to the feeling of pain. Does it represent a sense of defeat or failure or bring up fear that we are not going to make it or that we are not capable? When our body and mind are synchronised we experience joy, a natural self-exisitng energy. Running wih the mind of meditation is simply attending and being fully present to the flow of experience in and outside of us.