Keep Still – Run Faster
In my late twenties I fell in love with a simple, straightforward way of practicing mindful meditation; a body based method of sitting in stillness, encompassing the breath within the whole physical structure. Practicing this form of keeping still actually made my running and racing flow with greater ease.
The way I was taught, sitting in meditation posture is an expression of Buddha nature rather than a means of obtaining the right state of mind. To take the form itself was the purpose of the practice. When I had the posture, I had the right state of mind, so there was no need to try to attain some special state.
“When you try to attain something your mind starts to wander about somewhere else. When you do not try to attain anything, you have your own body and mind right here. A Zen maser would say, ‘Kill the Buddha!’ Kill the Buddha if the Buddha exists somewhere else.”
“The most important thing is to own your physical body. If you slump, you will lose yourself. Your mind will be wandering about somewhere else; you will not be in your body. This is not the way. We must exist right here right now!” – Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (read the whole quote)
Mindfulness as Openness
One slight problem with today’s so-called “mindfulness movement” is due to vague, lofty claims and generalizations about what it is and what it can do, especially in the area of human performance. Thankfully, I now see how my enthusiasm for the topic can work against me: even though I have a meditation background (or perhaps because of it?), I can feel the powerful allure of such claims.
The way it is taught in almost all schools of Buddhism mindful meditation is about cultivating the ability to be present. This is done by allowing thoughts to come and go (to arise, to dwell, and to recede) without either indulging or suppressing them, and then returning to the object of meditation, which is commonly the breath.
Contrary to popular belief, The goal of meditation is not to have an undisturbed mind; rather, it is about cultivating equanimity: the patient, gentle attitude of allowing the mind to be as it is, disturbed or undisturbed, sleepy or wakeful or bored or irritated, and to be fine with that. As a recent issue of Psychology Today put it, “Training people to focus on their breath doesn’t stop their thoughts; it interposes distance and delay so they can pay less attention to them. They can let the thoughts pass without being compelled by them.”
The gradual (often very gradual) result of this kind of mindfulness meditation is greater relaxation, less self- and other-judgment, and greater mindfulness and awareness of one’s inner and outer environment.
In the Camp
To travel about peddling mindfulness techniques like goods or wares is a bit weird for me anyway. So I’m especially reverent when I teach it. In the camp you’ll learn the specific body position, the breathing and focusing techniques involved in this potent form of mindfulness meditation and sense the profound effect it has on how good you feel inside. In addition, you will participate in more sitting, lying and standing activities that reinforce the sense of calm and peace you experience through running. You’ll get practical instructions and a foundation of skills that eventually allow you sit quietly for 20-30 minutes every day and feel the subtle effects keeping still has on the quality of energy you bring to your running and to the rest of your life.