When I’m not running… I meditate

I picked up a new activity recently: meditation. It started accidentally in late April while I took a hiatus from running training, after completing the half marathon. During the break, I decided to visit Land of the Medicine Buddha in Santa Cruz as I was searching for some spiritual guidance. Actually, that sounded more worldly than it really was. Something was bugging me with work so I wanted to take a day to reflect and be away from all of it. I decided to go to LMB since it was very much out of character for me. I tended to use exercise to “take out” any stress/frustration (hello, running!) Going the quiet, spiritual type of search was certainly out-of-my-element (Or maybe I finally reached the age for needing wisdom, ha!)

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In any event, it has been about a month now. Between running training and practicing meditation, my down time is very much filled, happily I should add. Of course, like running, there is up and down with meditation. I’d say mostly “up’s” as I find myself more in tune with myself and taking each day more at face value and not “add” too much “story” to it.

I practice at a Buddhist center near my place. It happens to be in the same tradition as LMB (although I still have not looked into what exactly this branch is) To me, that is what attracts me in the first place. The Buddhist center is obviously Buddhist, but the folks there are diverse and open-minded, including the teachers. My favorite teacher is an ordained American nun and she explains things in a practical matter (not always referring to Buddhist principles) It is very easy to relate to. Who can’t relate to “constantly grabbing the iPhone and checking e-mails/facebook?” That transcends across culture and religion divide.

With meditation, I’m learning (slowly) what ticks for me. Each meditation is 30 minutes and in silence. I’ve done guided meditation and that is easier to adjust to as the mind can focus on the guidance. In silent meditation, however, the room is sometimes so quiet (even with 30 members!) that I can hear different breathing rhythm. Boy, the mind is then racing, jumping, and freaking out in dealing with that kind of stand-still. I’m so used to constantly in motion or in some kind of chatter that silence is very disturbing at first. I notice that I’d get restless around 15 minutes into the quietness. Then, I would open my eyes, stare at people/the wall/the teacher; anything but meditate!

It finally asked the teacher of my restlessness this week. She wisely told me that if I was restless on the cushion, then I was likely restless in life. That was simply but profound! I never pictured myself as restless (I coded it as “go-getter”, hahaha!) but I could start seeing my habits of checking my iPhone for e-mails/messages/facebook was stemming from that restlessness. My teacher said to observe my daily actions and try to find what trigger the restlessness. She said it could be stress, an emotion, an action, or a person. The key was to be mindful and eventually with time and practice, I would learn to let it go. So far, I haven’t had any progress in pin point the trigger, but at least I am more mindful when the desire to reach for the phone showed up. I would stop and ask “do I need to check Facebook while waiting in line?” I’m teaching myself to stay in the present, even if it’s waiting in line to check out grocery.

I’m not sure where this new “hobby” will take me. One thing for sure is that with meditation, I’m more at ease,  more calm, and more centered. So far so good!

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Off the Running Path, Onto Meditation

As a planned break from running, I continued to take this week off from running. It felt kind of strange to be completely off training. But overall, I think it is doing me good – for sure the “pent up” energy will be good when I resume this weekend with San Jose Fit.

On my mini break, I’ve ventured into meditation. I have meditated on and off (mostly off – especially since I took up running in the last year). I used to meditate after yoga practice and it was very soothing. Almost always I felt more refreshing. I went back to meditation last weekend. At first, it was very challenging to let the mind focus on the present. I had a hard time sitting still. I had to use a guided meditation mp3 to guide the mind towards a path and towards breathing.

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After my first meditation in over a year, I went into this deep meditative state and probably went asleep too. It felt like a deep rest that I did not feel for a long time! Next day, I went to a meditation class (again something new for me). This time, it was not much “guidance” during meditation and it was mostly a silent meditation. Wow, talking about sitting still and not moving – that was completely opposite of running.

I practiced again last night. Wow, this time, for whatever reason, sitting still was the hardest part. The mind did not wonder as much but the body seemed to want to move (maybe all that pent up energy was showing signs of impatience?) I was not able to complete the entire 30 minutes of practice. I was probably shy of 7-8 minutes. That was okay since I still felt a renewal of energy afterwards.

I was thinking how to combine running with meditation. In some ways, I had always felt like running was kind of mediation in itself. At each moment, it is about putting one foot in front of another, although the mind is too smart. It can multi-task especially running can become auto-piloting. How many times have I ran and thought about “hm… what should I cook when I get home”? Way too often! I was reminded that the times when the run was challenging (be it a trail run or a long distance run) were the times when I had to focus on breathing. Those were the runs that felt more nurturing for the mind. Something about focusing on breathing brought me to the present moment.

Well, I’m considering to add one-day meditation practice as part of the exercise routine. It’s about balancing the mind and the body. How many times have we runners say that running has been mostly about the mind, especially when it comes to diligent training and completing endurance/long distance races? Well, it makes perfect sense to me to train the mind too!

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