Where is your park?
Do you remember that Ivy Park advertisement for their Spring/Summer collection 2016? We see Beyonce standing on a court in the rain in her sports outfit. She speaks about her youth. The times when her dad would wake her up to go for an early morning run. These runs taught her discipline. During these runs, she would want to stop but pushed herself to keep going.
Last Sunday I went for a run in the Oosterpark, on the east side of Amsterdam. Even though it is my favorite park in the city, I hadn’t been there for two weeks. The last time I was there, I came there for the exact same reasons as I did last Sunday: to clear my mind, give my body a workout and let my skin absorb the sunbeams. Gaining more discipline is not my first aim when I run and often I do not push myself to keep going. 9 times out of 10, I go there for a short run. I run to escape from things, rather than running towards a goal. A round in the park is less than a mile, so yes I run several rounds, but often no more than 3. It is not the miles, but just entering that park that instantly relaxes my mind.
The Oosterpark is my favorite park for several reasons. One of them being that the park is so close to my home, I can easily walk or run to it. It is only little over a mile from my home, so usually, I just run to get there. It is a good warm up before I do some stretching. And when I am done running, I use the distance between the park and my home to cool down and walk it out.
My love for this park already starts with the route towards, which is lovely. I start by running over a bridge that connects the center of Amsterdam (where I live) with the East side of the city (where the park is). I run past Artis, the Amsterdam Zoo. I run past houses and offices that I would love to move into. The neighborhood is so lovely, that I often find myself wandering around on my way back home, taking detours through it. And before I see the entrance of the park, I run past my favorite museum: the Tropenmuseum.
The Tropenmuseum is the museum where I did my first internship during my BA in History. Years ago, before I lived in this neighborhood, I would bike for 30 minutes to get to this museum and then spend my days researching the collection. I would enjoy the inside of this old building, but would also admire the views it has from the top floors. The building of the museum overlooks the Oosterpark.
Inside the Oosterpark is the National Monument of the History of Slavery, which commemorates the abolition of slavery in the Netherlands. The monument was made in 2002 by Surinamese painter and sculptor Erwin Jules de Vries and revealed on the first of July of that year. It was no coincidence that it happened on that date since it is the day on which Dutch slavery was abolished.
Now, as I was running past these sites and through this park last Sunday, I was actually thinking about running as a form of mental training. In the past couple of months, I have made a habit of meditating first thing in the morning, sitting still on the floor or a chair for 10–20 minutes, visualizing and focusing. But now while I was running through the park, not having my headphones on like I usually do, I came in a different kind of meditative state. I focused on the sounds and smells of the park, the warmth of the sun on my skin and my legs carrying me with a steady pace. I took some deep breaths and felt persistent to keep going. I felt like I wasn’t just training my body, but also training my mind.
So coming back to the question ‘Where is your park?’, it is not so much the actual location of the park, but rather the state of mind that park can bring you in that is the relevant answer. And more important is the question, “can you take your park with you, mentally, wherever you go, whenever you need it?”