Among my 2010 goals are the following:
- Run a half marathon.
- Re-establish meditation practice.
I wrote those goals on January 3. I looked back at them a few days ago – as I was completing week 1 of training for the NYC Half Marathon – and thought “Hmmm…got the running thing down. Haven’t meditated even once. Maybe next month.”
Then it dawned on me, as I was slogging through my first 5+ mile “long run,” that running is meditation. It’s moving meditation.
Transcendental meditation is defined as “a technique, based on ancient Hindu writings, by which one seeks to achieve a relaxed state through regular periods of meditation during which a mantra is repeated.” My mantra during that long run was “just make it to the other side of the bridge, just make it to the other side of the bridge, just make it to the other side of the bridge.”
I came across the term “moving meditation” recently in an article that mentioned the way in which Pilates becomes meditative through the use of good breath and the seamless flow of movements. I’ve also seen it used to describe yoga and tai chi. And for you Star Wars geeks: A quick Google search revealed moving meditation as a Jedi meditation technique involving the building or repair of mechanical objects. :) Regardless of the type of movement it describes, moving meditation conjures a feeling of rhythmic, energy-induced calm and focus. It seems like a paradox; but for some of us, keeping our bodies busy allows us to access that calm in a way that sitting on a pillow with our legs folded never could. (Or in my case, for longer than sitting on a pillow can…my record with “real” meditation is about 10 minutes!)
A few things I do to access that meditative state while I’m running or practicing Pilates:
- Find the natural rhythm to the movement and try to focus on it. With running, it’s the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground or of my breath as I inhale and exhale. With Pilates, it’s the breath and the natural, dance-like flow of the exercises.
- Leave the music at home. I get that a lot of people use music to “enter the zone,” but I find it distracting. Far more interesting to listen to the noise in my head and give it a chance to quiet down in relative silence.
- Accept that my brain will likely not be able to focus on the rhythm of the exercise the whole time. It’s nearly impossible to stay focused during meditation 100% of the time (unless you’re a Buddhist monk, I guess). I make a game of gently pulling my mind back into focus when I notice it wandering. In fact, I sort of see it as a plus that I can’t stay 100% focused – the thoughts that float in and out of my brain while I work out often form into new ideas if I can just balance them with those moments of rhythmic calm.
Here I’ve been beating myself up for not meditating more often when all the while I just chose movement over sitting still to quiet my mind.
What other tips do you have for using movement as meditation? What kinds of movement do you use to do it?
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