Mindful Running: A Practice & A Journey

1 Comment March 8, 2011 / Posted in Mindful Running, The Running Mind


These were some of my reflections back in 1998 first titled: Thoughts on Running Observing Thoughts It was a poem I wrote after a run on St. Valentine’s Day.

From those thoughts flowed: On the road to Mindful Running

Life is the childhood of our immortality


Mindfulness or being mindful is being aware of your present moment. You are not judging, reflecting or thinking. You are simply observing the moment in which you find yourself. Moments are like a breath. Each breath is replaced by the next breath. You’re there with no other purpose than being awake and aware of that moment. As Jon Kabat Zinn says reflecting on a Japanese mindfulness puzzle: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

If you start by being aware of your breath, you know it comes and goes. It is like the end of one wave from among the endless ocean waves. They continue to come and disappear to be followed by another and another and another. They come. They disappear. They come, they end, they flow back to be covered by another incoming wave. You can hear the sound. It’s rhythm puts the mind into a trance, and you go far away but wherever you go, there you are.

The ebb and flow, and the constant sound of the waves can carry you away as you sit here or there on the east coast of the Pacific Ocean, or the West Coast to many who forget that “here” and “there” depend on one’s observing what is.

Like your thoughts, each breath comes and goes. Even as you are aware of your breathing, your mindfulness of your breath comes and goes. You’ve changed nothing but with each breath there’s a new present moment.

The previous breath is no longer. The next breath does not yet exist. There is only the present breath you are taking. If you worry about your next breath or dwell too long on the past breath, you’ve lost the moment with the present breath you are taking.

The past is gone. You can do nothing about it. The future is not yet here so there is no need to worry about it. The only gift of life you have is now. That’s why they call this gift of life, our present.


The other part of this mindful running equation is running. For most runners it carries them into the present moment. It is their gift to themselves, for it brings out what St. George Sheehan would have called “Being a good animal.” It is the poet, artist, philosopher, hero, saint coming together in the athlete.

To begin the journey of mindful running we will observe. In this journey it will be a path which allows you to observe yourself and others. It is a road which allows you to teach and be taught. It is a sojourn which will give you points of observation with which to play. The direction is one of atavism. It is an ancestral throwback. It is a recurrence of animal homo erectus’ ability to run after its prey or to run away from its predator. While there is the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we will be focusing on man’s first fall and how it has effected our inability to run mindfully.

The direction, the journey, and the practice of mindful running begins and ends with these words, “Running is falling and catching yourself gracefully with every step.” It is a mindfulness puzzle, a scientific and observable experiment of one, and a reclaiming of the athlete within. It is a center point where mind, body and spirit are united and attend to what is.

This is from a book I have carried with me for almost 40 years: The Way of Chuang Tzu translated by Thomas Merton. You may find Choosing to Love the World: On Contemplation helpful

Flight From The Shadow
The Way of Chuang Tzu
Thomas Merton
© 1965 Abbey of Gethsemani
New Directions Publishing Corp.

There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them.

So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, which his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.

He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.

He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps. [xxxi.]

Knowing that it is so easy to get caught or caught up in the doing, remember there is always a place in the shade where you don’t have to catch your shadow and a spot where you can sit to get away from your foot steps. It’s only a matter of observing your breath and putting a smile on your face and you are back in the gift of life, the present.

The practice of mindful running begins with being a good animal and a mindful athlete. The good animal runs playfully. The mindful athlete observes what is humanly possible and participates fully in life: balance, flexibility, agility, awareness, clarity, stamina and fortitude.

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  1. Mindfulness « 30-Day Triathlon Countdown said on October 14th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    […] Mindful Running: A Practice & A Journey. […]

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