For me running with the mind of meditation has brought greater mindfulness and awareness to my everyday experience. I've enjoyed the practice of meditation for years and find many parallels with running. These complementary practices build the strength, stability, and clarity that are inherent in being human. In the beginning, I struggled to prioritize my running and meditation practices. My legs would ache and my lung would throb after a couple miles of running. So too with meditation, my mind would be inundated with a constant stream of thoughts like a waterfall. Often I would get so distracted by my thoughts that I would convince myself it was time to turn around and go home early. I didn't have a clear intention and so my motivation wasn't taking me anywhere- I hadn't built a base.
I began to examine my situation as a runner and as a meditator. In meditation I began to learn on the knowledge and experience of instructor in the community of meditators, called a sangha. In running I worked with coaches and went to races with other runners. I was surprised to learn that these two practices, running and meditating, have so many areas of overlap. Let's take a little time to examine the technique of running with the mind of meditation. In the book “Running with the Mind of Meditation” Sakyong Mipham emphasizes the importance of having good posture in both sitting meditation and running meditation. “Paying attention to it is how you ingrain the habit of good running posture”(67) the benefits of being mindful of your posture can easily carry over into your daily life too.
We begin by feeling connectivity from your belly button though the central core, leading to mouth and nostrils. Let your eyes soften and your general focus to come from the core. A slight pelvic tilt will allow a natural curve in your spine. An upright head and shoulder posture will allow your lungs to fill in the front and also in the back of your torso. “An upright posture allows for the best and most efficient usage of the cardiovascular system”(68).
The movement of the legs should require as little force as possible. Even though the activity of running is done primarily with the legs it’s important to over focus and be mindful of our entire body.
Once you feel comfortable standing upright for a little while; your breath filling your lungs fully with air, the gentle curve in your spine, the connection from your naval to your nostrils. Then tip forward an inch or two and your legs will naturally begin to swing under you.
You want to feel where your foot is striking the earth with each step (heal, mid-foot, toe). Does our foot land directly under the hip to minimize excess strain on the tendons of the inside or outside of the knee and leg? Pay attention to how and where your body is contacting the earth.
As you run let your mind gentle focus on relaxing the hip flexors that help lift the leg. The hip flexors begin at the base of the lungs with the psoas muscle. You can visualize your legs starting directly below your sternum to help integrate the movement of the upper and lower body. The arms are slightly bent and swing naturally. “With the movement of running or walking integrated throughout the whole body, the body will be in fluid motion, like grass blowing in the wind”(70).
This is an overview of the physical running technique which serves as constant reference point in this mindfulness practice. For more information please visit RunningMind.org
Sakyong Mipham. Running with the Mind of Meditation. New York: Harmony Books, 2012.