Running is the expression of our childhood’s spontaneity, the lightness of the body, our mind’s freedom from worries and the dynamism of our intent. Running reminds us about our free nature and ability to reach on our own places that are farther than our usual surroundings.
Running is a form of discovery, a discovery not only of the physical world around us, but of our own physical capacities and of deeper reservoirs of our character. No wonder then that running has so many similarities to meditation. Meditation itself is the exploration of the deeper aspects of our being. Both running and meditation come naturally. The more we practice them, the more of their hidden fruits reveal themselves to us. And the more we practice them both at the same time, the more synergistically their combined benefits shower upon our being.
The goal of running is to reach farther and to go faster. The goal of meditation is to reach higher and to reach deeper. Both complement each other like the leaves and the branches of a tree, for without one the other is incomplete.
Running can be done with intent or with spontaneity. Meditation too can arise from deliberate practice or from the fountain of aspiration within us that comes to the surface of its own accord and at its chosen hour. The benefits of both running and meditation can be enhanced through regular practice. Also, the more one practices, the farther one can go and the deeper one can dive.
Long before we have become adults, running to and fro had been a great source of joy to us as children. Some of us may have forgotten how it feels to run. Many of us can start, want to start and eventually do start to run again. At first, we should go slowly and carefully, as we come to remind ourselves of what this marvel of nature’s ingenuity called the human body is capable of. Later on, we can move more vigorously and with more confidence, daring to expand the possibilities of the human body to our own advantage and joy.
In reality, there is no need to learn how to run. We just need to remind ourselves about something we have known for a long time. Our busy lives full of duties and desires, social norms and comfortable cars may have inhibited our inclination to rely on our bodies to run and experience life the natural way.
And so it is with meditation. Meditation does not need to be learned. Rather, it needs to be simply experienced, anew. Like the discovery (rather than invention) of fire by man who can no longer imagine living without it, meditation is what has always been with us. Like it is the case with fire, we need to learn how to light up our meditation and expertly handle its burning aspiration-flames to our advantage.
Meditation creates a state of being high, without drugs. Running, especially long-distance or endurance running, also creates a similar exalted feeling as hormones and endorphins rush into our bloodstream. It is under such circumstances that an endurance runner becomes intimately familiar with a state of being also brought about by meditation and longs for it long after his race is over. All that he needs to do to relive again this state of being high is to start a regular meditation practice in the comfort of his own home.
Running and meditation are great when done in a group. Every runner knows that he can run longer and faster if he runs together with his running mates. Every meditator knows that his meditations can be more fulfilling and of consistently higher quality when he meditates in a group.
Both meditation and running fulfil an ancient and deep-seated human dream. This dream is to fly freely in the vast expanse of the blue sky. While no words can truly describe meditation, it is sometimes said that a great meditation is one in which one identifies with and becomes as large as the vast sky in which one can fly like a bird. With each step we take during running, an instance arises when, even if for a fleeting second, neither of our two legs touches the ground. So running itself, just like meditation, is flying.
From times immemorial, techniques for controlling and stilling one’s breath have been a treasured and well-guarded secret of many meditating yogis. Even today, simple preparatory exercises that lead to becoming more aware of one’s breathing and that help with calming one’s inhalation and exhalation patterns are relied upon as doorways to the inner chambers of the heart and soul. And here again, running, with its joyous simplicity and rhythmic breathing, stands on an equal footing with meditation. By focusing on one’s breathing cycle, be it during running or meditation, an inner state of awareness develops. Our life-supporting breath thus opens the secret door, normally tightly shut, and shows us the beautiful vista of the universal bliss.
For more articles on integrating meditation into the present-day lifestyle and for more information on starting a meditation practice of your own, visit www.GenevaMeditation.ch.
To learn more about how to integrate running into your daily lifestyle, please visit www.AllAboutRunning.net .
The following link is to a news video story from CBS News about the longest certified foot race in the world, the 3,100 mile Self-Transcendence Race, founded by Sri Chinmoy. This race is the embodiment of the unlimited capacity that all human beings have and that can be developed through meditation.