“To me, the relationship between meditation and running is natural, for one is a training of the mind and another is a training of the body.” — Sakyong Mipham
My recent post “Awakening to My Runner-Self” sparked some discussion of whether exercise counts as a kind of meditation. I know that after I run or do other sustained cardio exercise, I feel completely relaxed, renewed, and at peace.
Although I had tried to meditate from time to time over the years, I had never studied it in any serious way, and never experienced much benefit. (As a former economist, everything comes down to the cost/benefit analysis.)
Meditation is knocking on my door again in this period of personal transformation. I thought I’d try to approach it a little more prepared this time.
The question about the interplay between meditation and exercise was also in the forefront. Since I have never been able to make room in my life for regular meditation sessions, I had hoped that my post-breast cancer routine of daily exercise counted in some way as a substitute.
In his new book Running With the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind, Sakyong Mipham–a Tibetan Lama, meditation master, and marathon runner–clarifies (with me in mind, apparently) why both exercise and meditation are important components in maximizing our well-being.
I will delve more into the details of the book in upcoming posts, but the title alone sheds light on why learning to meditate is like learning to run. It’s the “Lessons for Training Body and Mind” part that really got me thinking about the similarities. Running and meditation both require a training regime. They also require shedding preconceived notions.
Until very recently, I did not think I met the criteria to call myself a “runner.” Runners, in the image I held for most of my life, had the ambition to compete in a half or full marathon some day. They strove to increase their distances and shorten their times. Their legs were long and sinewy, their bodies ultra lean. None of these qualities describe me, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter.
In much the same vein, I did not fit my own stereotype of someone who meditated. People I had met over the years who talked about meditating usually had a retreat or two under their belts, were Buddhist, or had lives that weren’t dominated by kids, carpools, and overall chaos. I don’t yearn to escape to a meditation retreat. I am not a Buddhist. And once again, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter.
I have since managed to incorporate running (almost three years ago) and meditation (one month ago) into my routine. Granted, with only a month of meditating almost every day under my belt, it may not count yet as an official habit. I’m hopeful, though, because the benefits are finally outweighing the costs.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing about the tools I’ve used to work these two activities into my routine. I’ll also be sharing tips and research I’ve come across, and my own experience of learning to meditate.
As always, I would love hear your own stories. Have you tried meditating? What has your experience been?