This is a question I’ve asked myself a lot.
Mediation, mindfulness, self care, self-awareness… they are all buzz words that make lovely hashtags (I’ve used them myself!) but sometimes it is hard to understand what they really mean, and how we can apply them.
The good news?! A lot of people have been meditating and mindfulness-ing for years, and have achieved all the benefits without having to package what they are doing in a certain way.
Quite a few years ago, I was out for a run. It was a relatively long distance for me at the time, so I knew before I went out that I would have to go slowly to get it done without running out of steam.
So off I set (sans headphones, because at the time I didn’t have a smart phone or an iPod or even a diskman!), trying to make the jog as enjoyable as possible.
About 40 mins in, which was around three-quarters way through the run, something lovely happened. It had just been my and my thoughts for the last 40 minutes, and I had slowly quietened my mind and was almost lost in my lack of thoughts. I was aware of the pattern of my feet hitting the ground (1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2….), the temperature from the weak sun and my own body heat, the noises around me from nature and machines… and I had the loveliest thoughts.
“How lucky am I that I can do this. That my legs can bring me this far, that my heart and lungs are strong enough to keep me going. That my body and my limbs all work.
How lucky am I that I have this beautiful view of the ocean. That I can breath in this fresh air.
How lucky am I that I have someone at home who loves me, and who I can tell about this moment.
How lucky am I that I have so much to smile about.”
And these thoughts went around my head for a few minutes. The lovely thing is that they were mostly about that moment, and not about material things. I wasn’t thinking about how lucky I was to have a job, or a car, or clothes, or money, or stuff or things. Or about how I looked, how much I weighed, about my achievements.
There was no ego or forced thoughts. In that moment, I was able to feel genuinely grateful, happy and joyful.
The thing that struck me most was how grateful I was to have a fully-functioning body, and a clear mind.
And I’m happy to say that I have had this kind of “epiphany” many times since, and they have always been when I was on a run. So the answer to the title of this article is yes – for me, running is meditation in the truest sense of the word.
If you enjoy running, and I’ve sold you on the “running is mediation” thing, then there’s a few pointers to help you have this mental gratefulness yourself next time you hit the tarmac:
- Do not wear headphones or listen to music. Have as few distractions as possible.
- It should be at a moderate/slower pace so that you’re not focussed on time.
- It’s best if you don’t have too much on your mind, and you’re in the position to let thoughts come and go.
- Try to keep the same pace, so that your footsteps and breathing become rhythmic.
- For me, I always found it was on a run of 5k+ when the endorphins kicked in. Anything shorter and I didn’t seem to “peak meditation-ness”.
- Focus on clearing your head of thoughts or worries, and concentrating on how your body and your head feel in the moment.
And that’s it! It’s cheaper than therapy, and better for you than booze – and it’s accessible any time you want. Just throw on your runners, head out the door, and return home happier, healthier and totally zenned out 😉