Running: Training For the Mind

Sit down, breathe deep, lace my runners and set out for a little “me” time. As my body begins to warm up through a brisk walk I make my way past the houses, cars and people in my neighborhood. Fortunately, in Fernie the trailhead is just moments away. The anticipation swells as I can see the space where the trees briefly part and the pathway leads up hill. As my pace quickens and my stride opens up, my thoughts begin to recede and my senses gradually amplify. I physically move away from the gross to the subtle and my mind begins to take the shift along with me. I am no marathoner, my runs don’t exceed 40 minutes, but I love the freedom that comes from two feet and a heart beat!

For many, running can be equated to meditation in motion. The body is set on a repetitive pattern thus allowing the mind to tune into the present moment through the senses. The visual of sunlight dancing on the leaves, the smells of new life, or even the sound of silence. As our senses are heightened, our awareness begins to shift from the head and into the body. We start to become embodied. This expression of embodiment can be a key component to reducing stress, calming anxiety and capturing a moment in the present. Here is how it works.

When our days are filled with mind activity we find ourselves either worrying about things in the future, which we have no control over, or brooding on things in the past, which we cannot change. The mind, like the body, needs to be trained. How we rope in the mind from spinning out in several directions is to rein it back into our body. Every system in the body works in the present moment. Breath, heartbeat, digestion, temperature etc. By taking the mind out of the head and into the body, we drop into the present moment. Here’s one way to assist the transition. Notice the breath. Is it rigid or smooth? Does the inhale length match the exhale? How do you feel both emotionally and physically? This internal dialogue is mapped with an air of curiosity rather than criticism. Taking the time to be embodied can lead us into the recognition that the guru is the self.

Running is a wonderful way to naturally amalgamate the mind and body together. According to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, author of Running with the Mind of Meditation, “If we train only the body and ignore the mind, the body is getting in shape while the mind is being neglected. Conversely, if we focus only on the mind, then the body is neglected, and we feel the ill effects of our stagnant physical demeanor.” Rinpoche offers a few techniques to help improve the moulding of mind and body through the discipline of running.

Challenge: Running sessions will present challenges. By shifting our prospect from seeing challenges as problematic to regarding them as new frontiers for growth and strength this allows us to hone in on the positive, while seeing where and how we can improve. In running, this works whether we are challenging ourselves physically to run a little farther or faster, or challenging ourselves mentally to remain more present. Overtime this conscious shift has the potential to spill into our everyday challenges of life.

Appreciation: When we forget to appreciate our workout, a precious opportunity is lost. Thoughts are powerful. As with the body, the effects of how you are treating the mind are felt immediately. Appreciation brings perspective to the mind. It creates mental flexibility and a healthy self-identity. We can use it as a gateway to experiencing the internal happiness that is always available.

The integration of mind and body through running results in a feeling of worthiness. We feel good because we are thoroughly engaged. Great vitality and power occur: we feel worthy to be who we are, where we are and doing what we are doing. We have connected with our innate core of goodness and strength.

Running is good for the body and stillness is good for the mind. The integration of the two allows for optimism and the feeling of inclusion. Using running as an extension of tapping into our own innate auspiciousness helps us and helps the world.