I’ve practiced meditation on and off for the past couple of years and have found it to be the perfect remedy for a stressful work day, relationship issues or any particular problem that needs solving. Recently, I decided to combine meditation with my favorite hobby: running. I’ve been a runner for as long as I remember, and as I trained for my second half marathon this year, I turned to Sakyong Mipham’s Running with the Mind of Meditation for guidance. As it turns out, running and meditation are a perfect match! Here are some of the lessons I learned from the Sakyong, who is head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and an avid runner:
Step 1: Breathe
Combining running and meditation begins with the breath. Regulating your breath is critical to both mental and physical success while running. If you don’t pay attention to your breath, you may forget to breathe, and tire easily. Whereas if you focus on long, even breaths, you can increase your energy levels and stamina. The first step is to pay attention to your breath—when you pay attention to your breath, you bring yourself to the present moment, which clarifies your mental state. The Sakyong writes, “Being with the breath is the most effective way of being in the present. It completely connects us with reality.”
Step 2: Peaceful Abiding and Contemplation
A common meditation term is “peaceful abiding,” which describes the mental state after our breath is regulated and the mind is tame. Learning to abide peacefully is the reason that people engage in meditation—think of peaceful abiding as the ultimate goal. While it is difficult to establish peaceful abiding when running, runners can enter a meditative state by focusing on the breath and directing the mind toward a certain theme. For example, runners can focus on feeling fortunate or grateful, and over time, the mind will calm down while running and remain focused.
Step 3: Just Do It—With Gentleness
Perhaps the most important lesson in combining running and meditation is to just begin. Follow your breath as you run, bring your mind into the present moment, and focus on a particular theme or goal. By following these guidelines you may start to notices changes in your well-being. Your runs will develop a certain clarity that didn’t exist previously. You may find yourself reflecting on a sense of gratitude toward yourself or others. Most importantly, apply the concept of gentleness to your running. This may seem counterintuitive. However, the Sakyong describes how “with aggression, you may accomplish some things, but with gentleness, you can accomplish all things.” Go ahead and try it on your next run—be gentle to your mind while running. You may see that you run a bit farther (or faster) than expected.
So go to it! Apply the principles above to run with the mind of meditation.