When I first sought volunteers for this series, my friend Ed came to me about his experience of running as mindfulness practice. And I said, “Hey! That is perfect!” I am so glad he offered his thoughts to this series. While I practice yoga as my entry into mindfulness, I want to stress in this series that there are numerous ways for one to find a meditative center. As I shared in the previous entry of this series, the Radiance Sutras propose 112 different practices! There are many modes of entry into a meditative state. All of the world religions – at least the ones with which I am familiar – utilize meditation as a way to clear the proverbial mental, spiritual, and emotional (even physical) road in order to experience truth. Simply through their cultural difference, variety in meditation emerged.
I was thrilled when Ed said he wanted to talk about running! A lot of Americans might not realize that running is a wonderful entry point for mindfulness. As a reminder, mindfulness meditation is simply the practice of developing concentration: on the breath, physical sensations, sound, a mantra… in order to develop the skill of mindfulness during other parts of one’s life. Most seasoned meditators will tell you that they still have both difficult practice sessions right along with the moments that are easy and second nature. The reminder is always: meditation is a practice.
Running, or any repetitive activity, can absolutely get the mind into a meditative state. This might be the perfect solution for someone who has difficulty sitting still for long periods of time. Teachers of mindfulness meditation and Zen meditation utilize walking meditation as a way to quiet the mind, and this will be a topic for further discussion on Oak Tree Notebook. As a runner (though not as much these days), I can attest to Ed’s insights on movement meditation. The thump, thump, thump, thump of your feet on the ground, rhythmic breathing, and ability to soften the gaze to a point (what yogis call “drishti”) slight in front of you creates an environment that cultivates mindfulness.
Thanks to Ed for giving a unique perspective on mindfulness, and please see the list of resources at the end of this article for further reading on the subject.
How long have you practiced meditation?
On-and-off, since 1985. Began with TM [transcendental meditation]; later, in the 1990s, did more Zen meditation. I’ve changed much since then. In about 2000, I began working out and running. For me, running alone is my best meditation. It helps me to completely empty my mind and be conscious without thinking.
How often and for how long do you try to meditate?
I run about 3 times a week and do other aerobic and weight-lifting workouts another 3-4 times a week.
What inspired you to begin meditating?
Originally, I was just seeking to clear my mind and read a book on TM. After I began working out and started to feel the peace that I sought by physically exerting myself, it seemed that these workouts helped me, not only physically, but mentally.
What does meditation mean to you?
Liberating the mind from thinking and focusing, instead, on being present.
What does your practice “look like?” What kind of meditation do you like best (e.g. following breath, walking meditation)?
Running and other kinds of physical exertion.
Do you have a special place you go to meditate? Describe it, please. If not, what are the most welcoming spaces for you to practice meditation?
Running different routes.
How does meditation impact your life?
Provides me with peace of mind; intellectually stimulating and physically relaxing (This is running/working out as meditation.)
What kind of struggles do you face in maintaining a meditation practice?
What are the benefits you see in your life from meditation?
Calm and rejuvenated mind and spirit as well as physical benefits.
Are there particular teachers or books (or other resources) you found that help you?
What would you say to someone who is interested in meditation but is nervous about starting a regular practice?
Find what works for what you seek. I would have never thought that physical exertion would be my route to finding the peace that I sought. TM and Zen meditation were definitely helpful. Running/lifting/other aerobic workouts took it to the next level for me.
Are there any other thoughts you would like to add about how meditation affects your life?
Again, physical health benefits.