Running: An Excellent Form of Meditation
With today’s lifestyle, we absolutely must take care of our bodies and minds. Out of all the forms of physical training, running is one of the most popular and also one of the healthiest.
That is, of course, if your physical condition allows it and you do it intelligently.
And then there’s meditation: meditation has become an accepted and beloved way to care for our mental and emotional selves.
Running is so good for you. Running is good for the heart — and the mind, too. It’s not uncommon for our minds to wander when we’re running, whether we’re thinking about our running itself or something else entirely.
You could say that good training is when the body and mind are in sync even though they’re doing different things. This state is where meditation finds a home, meaning.
“If you train your mind for running, everything else will be easy.”
The magic of meditation
The practice of meditation consists of focusing your attention with the purpose of clearing your mind and reducing your anxiety. It teaches you to disconnect from the worries that insidiously creep into the flow of your thoughts.
That’s why running can be a great way to free the mind and release tension from your body. In fact, it transforms the tension into movement.
Meditation not only provides peace, it also has other benefits for those who practice it. It has been shown to help reduce stress and stimulate the hormones that protect us from depression.
Meditation is also related to attention, and can help us deal with pain. It can even have a positive affect on the architecture of our brains, reinforcing important synaptic connections.
There are many ways to develop a meditation and mindfulness practice. For this, we don’t have to light candles, burn incense or sit on a special cushion in a specific pose.
In fact, when you are deeply engrossed in any activity, you can adopt a meditative attitude. Running is one of these activities, because when done properly it allows for flow.
Running is medicine for the mind
Runners often talk about running as medicine, a way of navigating through life’s problems. It’s a way to escape from negativity and beat your personal demons.
It goes beyond the need for physical exercise. There is also a need to get “fit” emotionally. “If I can get through this run, I can do anything.”
Running is a rhythmic, natural movement that allows energy to flow through the body and turn into movement. Instead of using the energy for negative thoughts and emotions, it becomes fuel for an activity that stimulates our nervous and endocrine systems.
Thus, once we are freed from negative emotions, it will be much easier to work with them. We can learn from them and move on.
It turns out that when running stimulates meditation, both the mind and body get stronger.
Furthermore, a 2016 study published in Translational Psychiatry found that directed meditation in combination with an activity such as walking or running reduced the symptoms of depression by 40% for participants who had been diagnosed with depression before the study.
The key to all this is that running helps us focus, especially when we’ve been running for a while and our movements become more automated. It also helps when we don’t have to work so hard anymore to run.
We move from “pulling” our body along to “accompanying” our body. This leads to the kind of active meditation that can be very comforting.
Running makes your mind slow down
Running slows down our train of thought. It gives us a new perspective, a new mood.
If you’ve never run or only done it a little, here’s something you’ve definitely experienced: how many times have you had a problem one night that was huge, and somehow it feels smaller in the morning?
Why does this happen? Because our way of thinking is very different at different times in the day.
Well, running produces the same effect. It produces a different way of thinking. The movement of running allows us to look at a problem without feeling the anxiety that we do at night.
On the other hand, if our mind doesn’t want to work on the problem, we can let it go and free our mind to focus on the stimuli around us. This allows our mind to work quietly.
Even when we don’t want to, running forces our mind to slow down. That intense storm of thought and worries gradually subsides.
Running puts us in the present
A lot of the time we’re completely unaware of the present. Our minds go from the past to the future without stopping in the present, so we don’t process a large part of the information our senses take in.
When we think, we have limited resources, so if we decide the past and future are more important to think about, we will not give the present very much attention.
The main objective of any meditative practice is to help us pay attention to the present. To help us understand that we must stop in the present for the past and future to have continuity.
Mental concentration is a fundamental part of all meditative practices, with the objective of bringing us to a state of consciousness without losing perspective. Thus, with meditation we are able to see the tree without losing our place in the forest.
Running helps us do exactly this: be more conscious of the present moment and handle problems that arise.
It also connects us to the present because it helps us communicate with our body, an almost perfect “machine” we’ve come to ignore unless it shouts loudly with pain.