People had warned me about how difficult it was going to be running at the high altitudes in Colorado, but I didn’t know exactly what they meant until I got out here. The other week I was running around my new neighborhood and I got to this massive hill. I had anticipated its arrival because I’d been on this route before, but it was still breathtaking when it was staring me right in the face. This hill is steep, there’s no denying this. But I was ready to conquer it.
I took it one step at a time and tried to focus on the top of the hill, although it was hard to see where it ended exactly. When I got to the top, I congratulated myself and was surprised to hear someone else doing the same. A stranger was passing me on his bike from the other direction and he stuck up his thumb and flashed me a smile while yelling, “That hill’s a beast!” I gasped back between my huffing and puffing, “I know, it’s awful!”
In the past I would have criticized myself for not going faster up the hill, but my outlook on running has changed since reading Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham.
“Of course, we all go through our own experiences. If we do not push ourselves enough, we do not grow, but if we push ourselves too much, we regress. What is enough will change, depending on where we are and what we are doing. In that sense, the present moment is always some kind of beginning.” – Sakyong Mipham
Running with the Mind of Meditation has helped me remain focused and positive when running. I’ve noticed that I now have awesome runs not because I’ve reached a personal best with time or because of the distance that was covered. It’s because I’m completely present, enjoying every moment of being outside running. I’m more aware of my surroundings and am fully aware of the birds that fly overhead, the trees that sway in the breeze and even the deer who cross my path (there are so many deer out here – it’s absolutely beautiful!).
“By paying attention to how your mind and body feel, you are empowering both yourself and your running. Developing this respect for mind and body changes running from simple exercise to a journey of discovery and growth. Respecting how you feel during your run allows you to appreciate who you are in the very life you are leading.” – Sakyong Mipham
Although running has been extremely challenging since my arrival in Colorado Springs, I’m still enjoying it. I’ve been in awe with the scenery – it’s quite different than the landscape in Atlanta! The course and the altitude may be different, but I find myself meditating on the same thoughts that I had while running in Atlanta. I always circle back to the animals. I think a lot about what I could be doing to make a positive impact and create a better life for these sentient beings.
While running, I recall conversations I’ve had with people and what I would’ve said differently to promote veganism. I look ahead to the future on how I can be a better activist, whether it’s leafleting more or volunteering with different animal rights groups. I also think a lot about how I’m so blessed to be free and run this Earth while there are billions of animals that are locked up for human consumption or use. I love this excerpt from the book because it really honed in on this pattern I started noticing with my thoughts while running:
“In contemplative meditation, rather than continually placing our mind on the breath, we place it on certain powerful themes, such as generosity. As our mind becomes more familiar with them, those themes begin to make an imprint. This technique works with two principles, that of the word and that of the meaning. For example, we may decide to contemplate the theme of love. The more we place our mind on that word, the more it engenders that feeling.
As we run, we have various thoughts in our mind, so if our focus is well trained, we can direct it to certain themes. For example, we could focus on feeling fortunate or grateful. With enough familiarity, that contemplative meditation becomes our attitude.” – Sakyong Mipham
Because of running, I’ve become stronger and more confident. I’ve realized that I can be a powerful voice for the animals and will never give up when obstacles stand in my way of changing the world for them. I run for not only myself but for the animals.
I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Running with the Mind of Meditation because it’s a stronger and more powerful message than I’d ever be able to deliver about how running is so much more than exercising to me.
“Having the intention to run for the benefit of others changes the fabric of our consciousness. Such a noble, vast intention brings our mind and body strength. It gives character to our being. Our run is no longer centered just on staying in shape or making it to the finish. Rather, it becomes a process of actively training our intention to benefit others in the world.
Having such intention adds dignity to our run. We are no longer just one person running along a trail, in the countryside, or on the street. Our mind and heart are extending further – even globally. In one run, we are contemplating all beings and how we can help the universe.
When we contemplate like this, we should not be constricted by thought, wondering, ‘What can one person really do?’ Rather than worry about specific outcomes, we need to focus on developing our intention. In reality, most ideas that have helped the world have come through intention. The Buddha sat under a tree. Jesus walked in the desert. The Taoist sage Lao-tzu sat in the forest. All these beings had powerful ways to develop their intention. Through that intention they were able to help the world.” – Sakyong Mipham