Friday, March 7, 2014

A Runner's Guide to Meditation

I sit down.

Indian style. That’s offensive. Stupid too: did people not sit like this other than the North American indigenous peoples? Or wait—which Indians does that phrase refer to? Asian Indians or Columbus got turned around and misnamed them Indians?

"Wait, this isn't India? Better kill everyone just to be sure." - Christopher Columbus, 1492
No, wait, the website said to clear your mind. So shut up, brain. It also said to sit comfortably.

I adjust myself on the floor.

My tailbone hurts.  Would I run better with a tail? Shut UP, brain. I bet I would. Balance.

Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. That way your breath doesn’t feel as awkward leaving your head.  Like someone who just walks through a door and then turns around and leaves. Leave through a different entrance, less awkward for your breath.

SHUT UP, BRAIN. This isn’t how meditation works. It’s all about being mindful.  Being in the moment. But wait, didn’t it say not to repress thoughts? Yeah, just let them pass and don’t follow them down the rabbit hole. What movie had that Alice in Wonderland metaphor? Oh yeah, The Matrix, Neo and following the white rabbit and all that. What happened with that franchise? Awful stuff.

My reaction upon considering how terrible The Matrix sequels were
Wait, no, SHUT UP BRAIN!

Six seconds have passed since I sat down. I sigh impatiently out through my mouth after breathing in through my nose.

Focus on your breath. How can I focus on that? Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, and breathe out. This is all pretty predictable. It’s not like focusing on the plot to The Wire; there’s not a lot going on. No big surprises. It’s not like “breathe in” is suddenly going to have sex with “breathe out’s” brother and then get drunk on Christmas Eve. Now THAT I could focus on. I bet that she would get…

The thought flows away. I let it. More emerge, brightly colored and fast-moving, screaming past each other like cars on a highway. My mind does not follow them.


I read once that, during meditation, it helps to hear your breath as the ebb and flow of water on a beach. With your eyes closed, deep, slow breathing even has a similar sound. It is unrelenting, steady, and simple. Listening to that repetition can produce a calm, centered focus. You are mindful of the present. This is what meditation is all about.

But I’m a runner, so I don’t hear the beach when I breath. Instead, my breath is the sound of my feet hitting the pavement as I run. Like the beach,my footfalls are unrelenting and steady. Unlike the beach, the sound is mine and only mine.

But I’m a runner, so I know that my footfalls are as vital as my breath. Both keep me alive. Both keep me moving forward.

But I’m a runner, so I realize that meditation is a way of achieving sitting down what running gives you moving forward. Both strip away life’s pretense and ornamentation, reducing who you are to what you’re doing now - not who you were or what you might do in the future.

But I'm a runner, so I know and love repetition. Footfalls, breathing, stretching, my courses, my miles, my weeks, my months. Repetition and focus are the cement that holds the bricks of my life together.

Breathe in, breathe out. One foot lands, the other moves forward. Everything else doesn’t matter. Life flits around this central vibrancy like moths around an open flame.

Running is my meditation, and that's why I keep coming back to it. That's why it's so addicting. During a long run, you dig deeply into yourself to keep going. You dig until you hit the your central bedrock under all the dirt of fear, pride, shame, sarcasm, excuses, etc.

Life will be full of things you want to do, and that's fine. Make plans and fulfill them, think about who you want to be and be it. But underneath all that, there's you right now, and there's what you are right now. Running, like meditation, focuses you on that present, and it does so through the mantra of footfalls. Run. Listen to yourself. Focus on that, and everything can fall into place.


I open my eyes, stand up, and grab my running shoes. I’m not done meditating yet. I'm actually just getting started.

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