Just over a week ago I completed a solo marathon in the heart of Athens. My Garmin registered at 26.2 miles, quite fittingly, within a throng of people, however, I was an anonymous face in the crowd. No encouragement, high fives, finish line announcements or medals awarded. It was a poetic moment, not in the grandiose sense, but one of complete calm and tranquility. While it was certainly a relief to be finished with the hours pounding the marble in the oppressive heat and hilly terrain of Athens, the run ended with a simple click of the watch and a slowing of pace. I recall observing the people around me, engaged in conversation, eating, laughing, lost in thought, fully absorbed in their own business. The moment wasn’t necessarily one of great significance. It was simply a moment that came and then passed.
I likened this experience to times spent on silent meditation retreats, which are, without question, the most challenging endurance events I’ve ever taken part in. Whether the bodily discomfort is due to sitting for 9 hours a day on a cushion or running for four hours straight, it’s there for you to contend with. And in stillness or movement, the mind is going to do what it does. Learning to be with all that arises, the highs and lows and the ever sweeping range of thoughts and mind states IS the practice.
Over the years, I’ve come to learn that relaxing in my meditation practice has brought about much more peace and a better understanding about myself. As I’ve brought my life into my sitting meditation practice, I’ve in turn brought my meditation practice into my running. As an athlete, there’s a satisfaction in applying diligent effort toward setting and meeting goals, and that often takes a steady, concentrated mental focus. However, I’ve found that too much rigidity creates unnecessary tension and makes that effort far more arduous than it needs to be. I want running to be a part of my life for as long as I live, and I run with sustainability and longevity as my focus, and taking to heart the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who states, “The path is the goal.”
Thank you to the supremely talented Cindy Giovagnoli for capturing this and many special moments on this journey, which I look forward to sharing in future posts.