BreathingPosted: April 22, 2013
Thanks to a book called Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham, running has become more meaningful to me. Not that preparing and training to run the marathon wasn’t meaningful already. When I was thinking about my grandmother, how this run will honor her life, how it will raise money for LUNGevity to support lung cancer research, and hopefully help others, running has meaning. But this incredible book also helped bring to light the concept of how running, like meditation, requires good form, posture, and even part ceremony to really be meaningful as well – and to get better at it, you have to keep doing it the right way.
It started with breathing the right way. In the past, when I ran, I just moved my legs faster than I did when I was walking, swung my arms, and hoped at some point I would catch my breath. I struggled, huffing and puffing, and felt miserable during most of it. That was my experience of running, so I took it at face value. It was hard and exhausting. But in the book, the author talks about deep and mindful breathing while running, so inhaling for as many steps as you comfortably can, and then exhaling the same way. Once I tried it, I found longer inhales and exhales helped immensely. Previously, “finding my breathing” meant an inhale would take two steps followed by an exhale of two steps, inhale – one, two, exhale – one, two, and so on. When I started inhaling deeply with multiples steps, then exhaling fully through several steps, I was less tired and less winded. Running became – dare I say – pleasurable.
Today was hot. My car thermostat said 100 degrees fahrenheit when I left work. It dropped a few degrees by the time I got to the trailhead, but it was full sun and steamy. I had some water with me but I knew the run was going to be exhausting. And it was, but I ran it better. I breathed through the heat and pain, stayed present, and all was right with the world. And this run, with my focus on my breath, became meaningful in a different way. I can’t really explain it yet, but I felt like I could endure, even in the 97-98 degree weather, more. What’s even scarier is I found pleasure in it. What’s happening to me?
So I’d like to gratefully thank Sakyong Mipham for opening my mind to the concept of focused, but gentle running. While I’m in the phase of the tiger, I can feel the seeds of each phase expectant in me waiting to be unleashed. And I’m running.