A Run Into Emptiness

What is the View?

It is nothing less than seeing the actual state of things as they are; it is knowing that the true nature of mind is the true nature of everything—Sogyal Rinpoche

Mindfulness and Running: Consciously Achieving an Empty Mental State

Most people start exercising as a means to lose weight or keep in shape. And running has the added advantage of burning a lot of calories. So people tend to gravitate towards it.

Once someone gets into the swing of running, it can get addictive. It feels good. That runner’s high is not a myth; it’s real. Once you get past the point of huffing and puffing and using muscles that you’ve never used before, you start getting into “the zone.”

There are many ways of describing this feeling—“the runner’s high,” “the zone,” “the dopamine high” etc. But none of them actually capture the feeling of running.

Can the Runner’s High Cause Injury?

The runner’s high is so real that sometimes, runners push themselves past their comfort zone. They end up with legs that ache for days, because they couldn’t stop running in that moment.

They know that they should be more careful, that they shouldn’t increase how much they run by more than 10% per week. But the moment that feeling starts to invade your mind and body, you lose all sense of caution.

Are There Similarities Between Mindfulness and Running?

There are certain similarities between the high that people experience from mindfulness and the runner’s high, which obviously leads into the contention that there are similarities between the process of meditation/mindfulness and running.

On the face of it, no two processes could be more dissimilar. Mindfulness usually involves sitting still in one place while running covers a lot of ground. Mindfulness is stillness while running is motion. But in the process of motion, is it possible to reach a feeling of stillness?

The similarity between mindfulness and running lies in the fact that you’re concentrating on only one thing in both cases. In mindfulness, you’re usually concentrating on your breath. In running, you’re focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on.

So there is a physical component to both activities, one which people don’t always grasp or realize. Mindfulness is not completely a mental exercise. It involves an awareness of the body in some way, shape or form, just like running.

How Do You Empty Your Mind and Feel Free?

In both, meditation and running, the extent of your focus eventually becomes so great that your mind empties itself out. And you’re thinking about nothing. This is complete freedom—freedom from your own thoughts.

Most people are caught up in rounds of anxiety, unhappiness, grief, depression etc. And all of these are caused by certain ways of thinking. Now, if you can stop that flow of thought, then the source of anxiety, grief etc. goes away. And what’s left in its place? Happiness.

It’s a revolutionary thought that maybe happiness is our natural state. When we’re not overthinking things, when we’re not focusing on the things that are causing us pain, we’re happy.

How Do You Consciously Achieve an Empty Mental State?        

Getting to that state when your mind is empty isn’t easy. Mindfulness and running are two ways in which people can sometimes reach that state. And it’s also possible to run in a mindful way which will increase the chances of getting to that empty state all the sooner.

When you focus on the physical aspects of running—the way your body moves, breathes and impacts the ground, you’re more likely to empty your mind of other thoughts faster.

When Should You Pay Attention to Intrusive Thoughts?

Remember that your body also has a way of telling you when it’s had quite enough of mindfulness and the resultant happiness. Your body is aware of when things are going wrong—when you’re about to twist a muscle that you’ve overworked, get dehydrated or injure yourself in some other way.

So it’s important to keep listening to what it’s telling you. Happiness is not always an ideal state. Sure, we might long for it because we’re wired to do so but pain is an equally important reminder that something has gone wrong or is about to do so.

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