In the technical sense of the word, running would not be considered a meditation, although some may argue that, I believe if you asked a master he or she would likely say, “no, but you can run with the mind of meditation.” I’m no master, nor am I an expert, I can only give you my personal thoughts on the matter, but I know one thing for sure: when I go into a run with meditation in mind, it transports me into a different state of being. One might call it a moving introspection.
Is that meditation? To me it is, and I believe this is true for many runners.
Running is a place for me to completely let go. With most runs, I go out with the intention of releasing my thoughts, disconnecting from my responsibilities, and letting go of my expectations of myself and others. I ease into a comfortable pace and, as the troubling thoughts pop into my mind, I refocus my attention to the rise and fall of my breath.
When I first started doing this, the thought of “letting go” was NOT something I desired. “If I let go,” I thought, “I will lose control and everything will fall apart.” For a long time, I’m not sure I even realized that I was letting my fear bamboozle me. I wasn’t able to separate myself from that voice in my mind. What I failed to realize at the time, was that my fear was a road block to living a better life. I was stuck, and still am sometimes. It’s like being in a vortex of fear.
As I slowly experimented with letting go of my thoughts on my runs, I began to see the window in my mind expand and open up to greater and greater joy. Letting go of all of the clutter in my rational brain and allowing myself to focus on my breathing, the sound of my foot fall, or repeating a mantra, became something I craved every single day. Like a warm cup of coffee first thing in the morning, I have come to count on these types of meditative runs.
It is difficult to put into words, but the more I let go, the more elation and contentment come flooding into my heart. Many times when I am running, I feel more relaxed and my thoughts slow down more than if I just sit down. I’m not sure of the science behind it all, but running is a vacation for my very busy brain. Throughout my day I am oftentimes a slave to my overloaded mind, this causes me so much stress, and it blocks my creative flow, something essential to my happiness. Too many “To-do” lists, activities, and full calendars are a sure fire way to barricade you from your true essence.
The simple act of being completely in the moment and not thinking about what you have to do, what happened in the carpool line yesterday, or the 20 miler you have scheduled this weekend improves our lives in so many ways.
Benefits of Meditation
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
- Decreases any tension-related pain, such as tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- Increases serotonin production, which improves mood and behavior
- Improves the immune system
- Increases the energy level as you gain an inner source of energy
It’s my belief that when you hear people say it’s tough to take a day off from running, or they are run addicts, part of this is them chasing the feelings of joy that I have described. I know this is certainly true for me personally.
Now, this doesn’t happen on every run. Sometimes I go out and I am very focused on pace, distance, or an upcoming race. There have been big chunks in my life when running was nothing more than that… running. But, as part of the Kohl’s Make Your Move Campaign, I feel this can’t be overlooked. Meditation, whether you’re running, sitting, or at a stop light in your car, is essential to living our best life, and that’s what Make Your Move is all about – sleeping better, eating cleaner, moving more, and improving our lives one small step at a time.
Being More Present
Being present is all about taking a few small moments – on a run, sitting in the carpool line, or sitting in home – and not thinking about what you have to do, what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow. It’s about releasing your thoughts, and focusing your attention on your breathing, a mantra, or even a object in nature. It’s about noticing the feelings that arise and not judging them, but rather observing and releasing them.
Being present not only improves our lives physically, it improves our mental well being, which will enhance your life and the lives of those around you.
It doesn’t take a long time. Small changes add up to big, so start with practicing for 5 minutes a day. Then, as you progress add another 5. Some days you will practice and others you won’t, try not judge. It is something that is always accessible to you when things get too stressful.
Cut Out Top
As I mentioned, Kohl’s Make Your Move is about living your best life – here are a few other posts from this series that can help get you started:
3. Clean Eating
4. How to Sleep more Sound
5. Strength Training
How about you? Do you ever get improved mental clarity from running? Do you consider running a moving meditation?
This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Kohl’s.