The Zen of Running

“I only run when chased”.  That used to be my response whenever the subject of running for sport ever came up in conversation.  I have always been secretly jealous of people that can tie up their gym shoes and run out their front door and enjoy it.  I’ve never enjoyed running.  I tried track in high school and quit immediately.  But my curiosity is peaked with so many people in my life lately talking about running and the happiness and sense of accomplishment it brings.  The hulabaloo over running a 5k or a marathon always peaks my interest as well.  It’s time for me to consider why I have always discounted running as a sport for someone else.

So I gave it a try.  I mapped out a 2 mile route in my car and decided to try it out.  At first there was a lot more walking than running and my times were far from impressive.  But, even after only a few runs and some seriously sore legs, I’m starting to understand what all the talk is about.  I’m happily surprised at how rewarding it feels to set a goal and run out my front door!

I’m starting to see all the benefits of running compared to some of the other types of exercise I’ve been doing.  I come home exhausted with a huge sense of accomplishment 20-30 minutes later instead of two hours later after a one hour class.  The roads are always open, and free, so no fitting in a class or driving anywhere and paying a fortune.  I just tie my shoes and go!  I can go in any direction, stop and start as I please and challenge myself any way I want.  There is no one out there looking at me or keeping track of what I can or cannot do.  It’s completely my own.  I benefit directly when I make the effort and I don’t benefit when I decide to slack.  No fake turning the resistance button on a spinning bike.

I have not started to focus on my breathing or form too much.  Right now I’m just working on not falling down.  I know that my body knows how to reward itself for this hard work, so now I am searching for the key to unlock the endorphins and let my brain chemistry work for me.  I’m hoping to go from running on empty to discovering the zen of running.

Be The Owl

I talk too much and I wear my heart on my sleeve.  A dangerous combination that leads to vulnerability.  If I can stop blabbering and be a little less transparent, I may be able to take another step toward happiness.

Native Americans believe that animals have unique meaning and power.  An animal guide, or spirit animal, can appear to you in a dream or in the physical world.  Whether or not you believe in the power or presence of animals as guides, they still have many important lessons to teach.  Native Americans used animal traits to teach their children lessons the way we use fairy tales and myths.  They used the world around them and what was available in their surroundings to impart knowledge and wisdom.  Every culture uses this practice in some way, but something about this Native American tradition speaks to me.  I’ve always had much respect for the simple, natural way they view the world with respect and awe.

Eleven years ago, I was in a bit of a low valley of my life and during a trip to Arizona to visit friends and regroup I stepped outside to enjoy the warm night air.  As I sat and let my mind wander in search of answers, I looked up and saw an owl.  We stared at each other for a long time.  In that time, my mind was quiet for what felt like the first time.  You never know where comfort and peace will come from, but being able to recognize those moments and draw from them is important.  Enlightening moments will not always show themselves as obvious as an owl looking down on you in the midst of a troubled time, so I need to learn to pay more attention even during the chaos in which I exist at times.

Since that night in Arizona, I believe that the owl had something to teach me.  Whether I was meant to have that chance encounter or I read too much into it, I drew knowledge and wisdom from that moment:  I need to be more like that owl.  I need to quiet my mouth to quiet my mind.  I need to learn to take in more and disclose less.

The truth is, that moment happened over a decade ago and I have still not been able to translate that insight into my life.  I’ve often gone back to that night in my mind, but haven’t known how to apply it.  As part of my happy promise, I pledge to unearth the premise that being more owl-like will lead to more happiness.

myhappypromise

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