Running with the mind of meditation has brought greater mindfulness and awareness to my everyday experience. I have enjoyed the practice of meditation for years and find many parallels with running. These complementary practices build the strength, stability, and clarity inherent to us as human beings.
In the beginning, I struggled to prioritize my running and meditation practices. My legs would ache and my lungs would throb after a couple miles of running. So too with meditation, my mind would become inundated with a constant stream of thoughts. Often I would become distracted by my thoughts. I would convince myself it was time to turn around and go home early. I lacked clear intention thus, my motivation was not guiding me anywhere – I hadn’t built a base.
I decided it was time to examine my situation as a runner and as a meditator. In meditation, I started to lean on the knowledge and experience of instructors 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 many areas of overlap. Let’s take a moment 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.
We begin by feeling connectivity from our belly button through the central core, leading to the 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 is important to be mindful of the entire body.
Once you feel comfortable standing upright for a little while; your breath filling your lungs fully with air, the gentle curve of your spine, the connection from your naval to your nostrils, 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 (heel, mid-foot, toe). Does our foot land directly under the hip minimizing 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 gently 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.
This is an overview of the physical running technique which serves as a 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.