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Run With Yoda, Meditate With Mermaids

August 12, 2012

I run like I meditate, as regularly as possible and with a certain degree of dogged determination. The only real difference is that I don’t tend to sweat profusely or twist my ankle while meditating and I rarely nod off mid-stride on the road.

The view on my morning run.

This week I am vacationing with my family on the Central California coast and I have taken the opportunity to run each morning up and down the beach. Perhaps “run” is too strong a word. If the image of a gazelle comes to mind when you think of running, aim lower. Perhaps the shambling gait of a water buffalo better captures my stride.

But be that as it may, as I labored north toward a distant pier, it occurred to me that running along the hard sand near the waterline is a lot like meditation. The rhythmic waves of the Pacific are like my breath when I sit, coming and going of their own accord, sometimes more, sometimes less prominent in my awareness. My northward direction is like my intention to sit, gently guiding me, keeping me on track amidst the arising stimuli of the landscape.

The fog-shrouded surf offers occasional glimpses of craggy rocks, the lines of dutiful seabirds shuttling along, or the seen-but-not-seen illusion of mythical creatures in the mist. It all resembles the flights of fancy I periodically find myself in while meditating, the seductive, the scary, the lure of the unknown.

And land to my right feels much like what we tend to refer to as “real life.” The mussel shell splayed open in the sand, the luxurious home on the bluff, even the malodorous rotting fish head represent certain aspects of what life offers from time to time. I noted a jab of nostalgia when a certain shell reminded me of a distant memory. I smiled inwardly at a particularly rambunctious puppy chasing his tennis ball in the surf. I even speeded up a bit when I noticed I was approaching another runner from behind who looked even more winded than me, breezing past as if the Olympic marathon was in my future (and simultaneously hoping I didn’t stumble or pass out in full view of my fellow athlete seconds later).

But I realized that none of this (mermaid or sand dollar or imagined competition) was actually what my run was about. My run was my run, and all that arose while I was running was just what it was. Existing in a moment of my time, fleeting and insubstantial, like the thoughts that arise while sitting.

My wife asked me upon my return if I had a good run. I have thought in the past that a run is a run and there is no good or bad to it, but realized that it was actually a “good run” BECAUSE I ran! A meditation is good if you formulate the intention to meditate and then sit down. I like to quote Yoda from Star Wars when someone says that they “tried” to meditate. “Do or do not,” says the small, wise green creature, “there is no try.”

I run, therefore it is a good run. I have a good meditation if I stop, pay attention and notice what happens. We sometimes confuse what we notice with the fact that we are noticing, and it is the latter that matters. 3+ miles covered, sweaty running gear that is now spring-fresh tumbling in the dryer and a few thousand footprints in the sand, all fleeting evidence of a good run. A butt-shaped dent in the meditation cushion, a couple of stiff knees and a ton of random thoughts that seemed important . . . until they didn’t, all signs of a good meditation. There isn’t any other kind!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2012 4:07 pm

    Reblogged this on A Charmed Yogi and commented:
    Love this pose. Aaah, if only I were a runner.

  2. Connie Oden permalink
    August 12, 2012 5:43 pm

    Good grief, this says it all. Please keep writing your wisdom; you always bring meditation back to the simple wonder in a day.
    Connie Oden, LCSW, Birmingham, Alabama

  3. Maggie permalink
    August 13, 2012 7:21 am

    Thanks

  4. mindful4health permalink
    August 14, 2012 7:07 pm

    Great blog! I especially Love the bit about how ‘thoughts that seemed so important…until they didn’t..’…just makes me chuckle because I can so relate. Also love the point that it doesn’t really matter What we’re noticing – it’s the fact That we’re noticing that’s important (and the fact that we’re practicing in the first place). That was also one of the take aways when I did my MBCT teacher training with you at UCSD. Very profound! 😉

  5. August 14, 2012 8:22 pm

    I salute your discipline. With you all the way. Running, sitting, even day-dreaming is on the mark, if we have that little vigilant observer within, noticing everything, grasping at none of it. And meditating is what trains that observer and hones that awareness to a fine edge. It’s afterall, the way to true freedom. Because the real tyrant is our mind’s habits, learned over a lifetime of drifting in a glut of garbage information and loose thought. Freedom, not freedumb.

  6. Terri Lynn Langdon permalink
    August 15, 2012 9:57 am

    This is fantastic…thank-you so much for writting it and sharing it. Take care,

    Terri-Lynn

  7. August 21, 2012 11:11 am

    Nicely put. Time for a book.

    Ed

    • August 21, 2012 12:14 pm

      Thanks Ed. You apparently have the ability to read minds, because I am hoping for this to lead to that 😉

      Steve

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