As with many others, I struggled to find a way to meditate that felt true to myself. The idea of finding a quiet space and sitting (NOT my favorite position) did not resonate with me. Guided imagery helped but felt more of a chore. Other tools such as choosing a mantra or focusing on the breath made it a little easier but this practice never fell into a routine for me. I had sort of abandoned the idea of including meditation in my life when I realized I was doing it a lot already. Like 3 or 4 times a week…
Turns out, without intention, I was meditating while I was running. I first noticed that I would get a word or phrase in my head and then repeat it over and over. It would match up with my breath. And then with my foot falls. And then all three would coincide. And then 20 minutes later I’d be back home.
Running and meditation have many similarities and both practices can support the other. Strengthening the body helps to strengthen the mind. Strengthening the mind strengthens the body.
I started meditating as an experienced runner but, in retrospect, meditation would have been a great tool when I was just beginning to help deal with the struggles and frustrations that come from starting something new.
To meditate while running it is important to avoid any blatant outside distractions such as music or traffic laden streets if you are outdoors and TV, magazines, books, or stereos in you are running inside. Start by letting go of any thoughts, worries, concerns. Bring your attention to your posture – are you slouching, rounded forward, shoulders shrugged to your ears? Find a long spine. Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Quiet your footsteps. Bring your awareness to your breath. This may be all you need. Start small and build from there. Align your breath with your stride. Counting steps can be a mantra: 10, 20, 100, and begin again. A mantra doesn’t even need to be anything special or meaningful. I’ve meditated on song lyrics or spelling a word over and over again. When your thoughts start to wander, bring them back to your posture, your breath.
For a more in depth perspective on Running and Meditation read Sakyong Mipham’s Running with the Mind of Meditation.
~ Alison Aiken