A Run as a form of Meditation
And how a daily dose can help to improve anyone’s mental health.
My first runs, certainly, did not feel like meditation.
They did not feel like fun at first, either — but I did them. And then, eventually, they became fun. And then, one day, they became so much more than that.
For the first several years of my running career — throughout high school competition and into college — running was my sport. What started after being cut from a high school Junior Varsity soccer team soon became a daily routine. As I first stuggled to complete daily practices, I fought with the notion that this just was not meant for me.
Then I started to get into good shape, and I started to compete, and I began to enjoy it.
So, I started to run more. I started to run outside of the fall cross country season and into the winter and then into the spring and, eventually, year-round.
It became a passion; an adventure; a means to explore the world. It was a fierce competition against myself-of-yesterday, a constant pursuit of improvement.
It certainly did not feel like an activity to pursue for the sake of my mental health.
That is, until my mental health began to struggle and I started looking for options of ways to practice mindfulness and theraputic alternatives and I started to do yoga and to try meditation and to learn more about the art of balance in life that mindfulness drives to pursue— in thought and in action.
I started to reflect on the idea of being mindful.
And then it came to me — running is my best form of meditation.
I learned about the goal of mindfulness — what we seek when we attempt yoga or meditation. It is the ability for the mind to cease thinking and digesting and reflecting and to take on the act of simply being. It is the ability to free one’s mind momentarily from the clutter of normal daily thought.
And then I started to think about my greatest runs and how I felt during them, and they all share this common arch —
They start as any exercise would with my mind convincing my legs to begin to move and then I run for a few minutes thinking about the heat and the sun and how my legs are kind of sore from yesterday or the day before and how I am annoyed or upset about work or school or something and then I enter the trails and I start to push myself a little harder and I start to think a little less about those things in my daily life — so I push a little harder because it feels good to not think as much. I wind among the shade of summer trees and over the rocks and the roots and the leaves, but then I stop noticing them. I stop noticing things around me or inside of me, outside of the movement of my lungs and my legs. Things become a pretty hazy blur. And then, suddenly, all I am doing is running. I am not really thinking; I am not really reflecting. I am simply being, moving my legs to the rhythm of my body that day and subconsciously pushing myself to this place of balance between my breathing and my heartbeat and everything else where I can simply run for the sake of running. And then I finish and I feel like my mind is a little lighter and I feel a little happier.
It is a place of mindfulness.
And, for that time, it is all I am or need.
It doesn’t have to be running; it can be anything in life that accomplishes a similar feat for anyone else. Being mindful can simply mean having something in your life that you love and that you can push yourself to an edge at which you lose yourself in sake of simply being in that activity.
If you have something like that in your life — it is there for a reason. Use it.
If not — keep trying things (maybe running??) until you find this. Mindfulness can be found anywhere to the observant eye. And it can make a world of a difference in improving one’s mental health.