The Mindful Runner

Being a Zen runner doesn’t mean you have to close your eyes and meditate to Buddha as you run. Zen running is more about how you view training, and less about a specific religious technique. One way to incorporate Zen into your training is through mindfulness. “Mindfulness is wordless. Mindfulness is meeting the moment as it is, moment after moment after moment, wordlessly attending to our experiencing as it actually is. It is opening to not just the fragments of our lives that we like or dislike or view as important, but the whole of our experiencing.” 1 Constant, hard training sessions and the stress of workout goals can reduce an athlete’s understanding of what is occurring in reality. As you train, it is important to focus on every detailed aspect of what you’re doing in the moment. What am I feeling at the moment? What are my arms telling me as I lift these iron weights?  What does the pavement feel like beneath my feet? The past year I have been working on increase my mindfulness as a runner and I’ll share a bit of my experience so far.

Nothing changes a run quite like the weather. My phone says it’s 58 degrees out and sunny. Being from Maine, this was a joy to see. I left my hat, gloves, and running jacket behind. More importantly though, I left my ipod. As I continue to work on Zen running, unplugging from blaring music has shown up in most of my research. As I leave my house and head down the road, I instead hear the sounds of running. Many of which, I hadn’t heard in a few years. I hear the crackle of salt and sand beneath my sneakers, the wind rustling through the trees above me. I look around and see the same wooden houses that I’ve run by for years. The curves and cracks in the road have a familiar feel, almost as if I could close my eyes and stay on track. The sweet Maine air fills and leaves my lungs as I ascend and descend the rolling hills on my route. I become aware of how each aspect of my body feel as I continue down the road. My legs feel stiff and heavy, but the warm air seems to loosen them with every step, like oil to a rusty hinge. I let myself become consumed by nature and with the ipod at home, I tune into the music of the world.