Running can be an incredible vehicle for meditation. You can practice letting go, surrendering, allowing your body to take over. If you ask your mind to take a back seat, your body will drive, and you can enjoy a beautiful show of the human body’s operations. Your body has the ability to function at its highest potential when your mind is not showing up. All it needs is your brain to say “I am running,” and the body will do the rest.
Observing is very different from controlling or thinking. This is an ongoing practice in a sitting meditation, to continuously shift from thought to observation. When running, there is much to observe, including the passing environment, each sound that comes to your ears, the way the air feels on your skin, what your eyes are taking in, moment by moment. The mind can become very active, and suddenly you can be lost in thought while running, but the moment you catch yourself in a thought should be a celebratory moment in which your being—your essence—steps forward.
Picture your heart pumping blood through your body, your breath coming in, your diaphragm moving downward, creating space in your chest for your lungs to expand. Oxygen-rich blood cells are carried throughout the body, and expiring cells, air rich with carbon dioxide, are being removed through the exhale, as your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward into the chest, forcing that air out through your mouth.
Notice the workings of your muscles, ligaments, and bones, and the detailed relationships between them. Be the observer, watching this all. Allow yourself to feel gratitude for living in this miraculous entity, experiencing it and appreciating it.
Your body will take what it needs and will go the pace it should. It will adjust the breaths, it will naturally push harder when it feels strong. When you can remove your thoughts from the experience, it is absolutely blissful to be there… to feel the breath’s pathways and notice the workings of your body in motion.
When you’re running and you feel sluggish or your breath is labored, I am willing to bet it’s because you are involved in a thought and your attention is not on your body in this moment. When you bring your awareness back to it, notice your back straighten up, your pace adjust, and your breath smooth out. You may slow down when you do this, and that just means that’s the pace your body is able to go to sustainably perform at its optimum. You may speed up, and that’s also your body knowing it is stronger with your attention on it rather than on your thoughts. It needs your full awareness to do its best.
I invite you to try a running meditation. And the more frequently you can practice this, you’ll find it becomes your natural way of running. I guarantee you’ll see great results in your performance.
Ann Everhart is a freelance writer and editor in Denver, Colorado, who incorporates yoga and meditation into her everyday experiences. She uses her writing to share her lessons and observations with other conscious minds who are on a path of awakening.