Can we meditate on the move?
The other week I went for a 10K (6.2 miles) run after work. It was a Thursday, early evening. I tend to rest on Mondays and Tuesdays now as I have a lot on. I ran on Wednesday morning, just an easy 3 or 4 miles and had mentally prepared to run a moderate 10K the following day. Moderate to me means pushing a fair bit but not going all out for a PB.
I’m sort of naturally running negative splits at the moment. This means where each mile gets a little bit quicker throughout your entire run. Obviously the longer you run the harder it is to keep this up. It also depends massively on how quickly you actually start. But after lots of playing about with heart rate and stuff (read about that here), I’m learning to trust my legs to dictate the pace and they seem to be naturally speeding up as the run goes on.
Anyway I achieved a fairly decent time of 48:22 for the 10K. Nothing to write home about, it’s a good 4 minutes off my PB but anything under 50 minutes is good (for me) I think. Especially considering this was a “moderate” run. I really didn’t push too hard, I felt good throughout and I managed to naturally achieve the “Neggy Splits” or near enough.
The first mile was 8:18, then 8:02, then 7:46, a slight backwards step at 7:48 but that’s OK, 7:42, 7:27 and finishing with a 0.3 blast running at a 6:39 pace. Decent!
I hope I didn’t lose you there as the numbers are actually completely irrelevant. I’m not deleting them though. However here is what I found astonishing when I had returned home…
THERE WASN’T A SINGLE THOUGHT IN MY HEAD!
I unlocked my phone with the aim to talk a bit of rubbish on my Instagram story, something I try and do from time to time, off the recommendation of others, when I’m not actively releasing much music. And I literally had nothing to talk about. I couldn’t think of one thing I wanted to say. For someone who can be very much prone to a “washing machine head”, that is pure therapeutic bliss!
I started thinking more about this, especially during another run I did the following Sunday night where I literally only went and hammered out about 5 miles for an excuse to stare at the full moon which looked phenomenal… we’ve been blessed with some amazing skies early on and late at night recently!
I arrived at the idea that if running, (I no longer run with music either by the way) can clear my head so much that when I enter my house afterwards, I cannot pick one single thought out of my head… is it meditation?
Meditation can be defined as the practice of focusing one’s mind for a period of time, in silence, or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
It can be summed up even simpler as “to think deeply about (something)”. Definitions courtesy of Google.
I don’t claim to be a meditation expert. In the big wide World of meditation, I’m probably still barely even a white-belt. However I know a little bit.
I know that when I meditate, I try to centre my mind, and focus solely on being present.
I know that other thoughts often enter my mind during meditation and when they do, I recognise them, then try to focus on my breathing or focus on the small light particles I can see flickering under my eye lids so that I remain present and train my mind to be still.
These are just some techniques I have learnt but for me, meditation is not about switching off, it’s about being aware of my mind, being present in myself.
I also use to it to get closer to God and I usually conclude my meditation with a prayer but that’s just for me.
Now if we look at some of those points and relate them to running…
When I run (without music) I try to centre my mind to concentrate on running. Putting one foot in front of the other at a set pace and maintaining a rhythm. When I manage to achieve this (it isn’t easy), is when I’m running at my best.
Thoughts constantly enter my mind when I’m running and depending on how hard I am trying they can really affect my performance. If I’m going for a PB and I start thinking about something else, I can slow down dramatically without even noticing. My thoughts are really that powerful.
Likewise when I was doing heart rate training and trying to keep my heart rate low, I remember thinking about deadlifting in the gym and my heart rate instantly shot up due to me getting excited about lifting weights. It’s crazy.
So when I’m trying to run really well I try to be aware of all of my thoughts and as soon as I notice them come in, I go back to focusing on my feet hiting the pavement or my breathing. Just like meditation.
To get the most out of a run I really have to be in the moment and be focusing solely on that. I have to be present in what I’m doing. My eyes aren’t closed and I’m not sitting still, but I’m certainly focusing on being present just as much as I do during meditation.
The result of doing these things while running and focusing my entire being on what I’m doing at that moment, aware of distractions and not beating myself up if they happen but doing my best to come back to where I’m at, brings about a feeling of pure therapeutic freedom where my mind feels clear and I feel re-energised despite having completed a session of often vigorous exercise. That to me tells me that running, is as close to meditation as it gets! For me that is.
I’ve spoken before about meditation being a very personal practice and not everybody does it the same way. Seriously, please don’t listen to these people who tell you that you have to do things in a certain way and in the same breath then try and promote spirituality. Spirituality is not bound by rules and regulations. Spirituality is free.
The reason I started writing this article was to explore whether we can meditate on the move. I think I’ve answered my question. For me, the answer is yes. And running is a fantastic way to do that. But even if running isn’t your thing… a bike ride, a hike in the mountains, a good swim might have a similar affect.
I think there are some things which have to be consistent though to meditate on the move. Doing any of these things with another, especially if you talk, won’t work. You have to be alone. You have to be able to zone out and concentrate entirely on yourself and what you are doing at that moment. You have to do it for long enough to experience thoughts coming in, and then discarding them and focusing on what you’re doing again. That seems to get rid of them. I think this probably needs to happen more than once too. And you have to be able to finish and have enough quiet time afterwards to reflect on how you truly feel. I don’t think you can do that if you’re talking to your mate as soon as it’s over.
But I’ve just involved rules there. Which would mean it’s not entirely free.
So what the hell do I know anyway?
Do what you want.
I’ll keep running!