Running Into The Moment
While driving from Asheville, NC down to Hilton Head, SC a couple of weeks ago I was dumbstruck by a billboard covered with a Rebel flag. Emblazoned across it in a huge swirly font were the words, “Never Forget.” Those words struck my heart like a dagger filled with sadness, and I thought to myself, “Wow, someone out there is still carrying a grudge held by their ancestors more than 150 years ago.”
This, of course, brought up the question, “Where in my life am I slow to change?” and “Where do I hold onto ways of thinking that no longer serve, either me or the greater good?”
This associative path then led me to thinking about being in the present, and how challenging that is for everyone; and how painful it can be to live a life ruled by either past trauma or anxiety about the future. And, within only a few moments my thoughts shifted to, of all things, running and meditation; two powerful tools I've used for many years to get, and keep, myself in the moment, where I can actually experience Life happening instead of “living under the influence.”
I can't tell you how many people over the years have come up to me at the end of a ChiRunning workshop and confided in me, “This is not really about running, is it?” At which point I lean in, put my hand on their shoulder, and say, “No, it isn't. Running is just the vehicle. Presence is the goal.”
With each stride I take, I ask my body questions like, “What am I doing? How does it feel? What is being required of me right now? Am I holding tension… am I landing softly? How does this hill feel… do I need to drink some water?” All of these questions lead me into body sensing what my body is experiencing, so that if something isn't right, I can respond immediately to correct the situation.
This practice has a twofold benefit. Firstly, as I sense each stimulus and respond accordingly, I am constantly steering myself away from any pain or discomfort that could lead to injury if I ignore it. In essence I'm learning to run more “cleanly” by shortening my response time to the demands of the run. Actually, the end goal of this practice is to get myself to the point where my response time is as close to immediate as possible. Because, when that happens, I have much more ability to create a positive outcome to any, and every, run.
But, the second, and most important benefit, is that every time I sense and respond, I am brought back into the present moment and out of my incessant, rambling thoughts and musings; back into a world where I'm momentarily no longer ruled by my past or the future; where angst disburses, like fog in the warm sunlight.
This is really why I run – for the joy of discovering that “unencumbered” moment when I fall into a sense of freedom from my usual self.
Life… it's what's happening when I’m running.