Now, everyone that knows me knows that I’m obsessed with running…a little too obsessed is what friends and family members have hinted at over the years. I have run almost everyday for 30 years. Like the postman, through rain, sleet, and winter’s snow, I am out there.
Partly it’s simply a well ingrained habit, like brushing my teeth each morning and evening. Part of it is because I have a passion for food combined with a weakness of the will and running has, for the most part, allowed me to keep my “girlish” figure to some extent.
On those days when I’m feeling exhausted and blown out, when I have to push myself to “just do it”, I most often return with a renewed sense of energy…a clearer energy.
Lastly, lacing up those Asics and taking to the streets has become a ritual akin to meditation for me. When I’m stressed, the rhythm of my breath and the sound of my sneakers hitting the pavement begins to take my frenetic energy down a notch. It’s a time to think and to not think…both realities of meditative practice. My runs are usually between 4 and 5 miles, and occasionally, I will spent two miles or so simply repeating to myself the mantra, “one, two, one, two”. I return to my work feeling calm with the added occasional bonus of gleaning some insight on a problem that has been bedeviling me for a while.
But there is a fly in the ointment that only the sweetest, daffiest little lady that walks her dog by me every day for many years can see. She often smiles wisely at me as I am running by her as fast as I can. I say, “Good morning Shirley, can’t talk now, gotta run” and she kindly replies, “What are you running from today, Katherine?”
What are you running from today, Katherine? Good question. There has been a sense of urgency that I have felt for much of my life. What a shock when this urgency was unmasked as a terrible illusion. When feelings, situations, or reality APPEAR too hard to face, when being in my body is more than a little uncomfortable, this is when I need to stop running. The only thing that will allow for spiritual transformation is letting all of it…all those monsters real and imagined… just BE. To sit still, to allow painful emotions, or happy memories for that matter, to wash over me like waves, while I sit like the mountain, like a Redwood, like the Buddha. Ahh, that is where peace resides.
Mark Nepo, in The Book of Awakening, speaks to our instinctive flight or fight responses, ” The doorway to your next step of growth is always behind the urgency of now. Now more than ever, when all feels urgent, you must cut the strings to all events. Now more than ever, when the weights seemed tied to your wrists, you must not run or flail. Now more than ever, when each decision feels like the end, you must believe that each question is a beginning.” He continues, “In this way, pray to have your True Self inch through your turmoil.”
I have been taking this advice for a time now. I’m not sure if it’s made the way any easier (perhaps not in the short run, no pun intended). However, I’m sticking to the practice as someone put it, “as it my hair were on fire”. Again and again, renewed courage and expanding compassion bubble up from that invisible place where my soul resides.
Of course, in accepting my own human frailties, there are many moments when I don’t take the time to dip that proverbial bucket down deep enough in order to access that well where ease and wisdom exist eternally. Again and again, I need to be reminded to go back to the well, to tap it. It is a well that never “runs” dry.
I’d like to close with a quote for the day (haven’t done that for a while!):
“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal