Author: Sakyong Mipham
Published April 10, 2012
As a spiritual leader, Sakyong Mipham knows about training the mind. As a 3:05 marathoner he is adept at training his body. As a wise teacher, he applies what he knows about the mind/body connection to each of these pursuits, and writes easily about both.
The title suggests that this is a book for runners or people that meditate, but it’s more than that. The principles discussed can be applied to athletes and non-athletes alike. It’s a manual for conscious living, and learning how to find grace and beauty in movement and stillness alike.
The book is divided into six sections that build on each other. This is an intuitive way to describe the lessons discussed; just as meditation begins with the first day of sitting on a cushion, running begins by lacing up the shoes. Novices to each activity will recognize the growing pains as they became accustomed to the rigor of each activity, as well as the self-doubts, negative thoughts and physical pains that manifest.
The Sakyong is clear that running is not meditation, just as meditation is not running. One activity is for the mind, and the other is for the body. By using the principles of meditation for the activity of running, he describes a way of bringing the mind into focus. His premise is that a runner who controls his mind is a better runner.
I found the concept of conscious running profoundly intriguing. Instead of tuning out with music, allowing thoughts of the day to run rampant through the mind or focus on daily troubles or irritations, he talks about using the principles of meditation to clear the mind during the exercise of running in order to be more present and focused on the moment.
He notes that often people use running to wear the body down so that the mind’s thoughts quiet. When this occurs a runner is not practicing conscious running; they are using endorphins to exhaust themselves. The mind has not had time to relax into the moment.
As a trail runner I enjoyed reading about the inner weaving of meditation and running. There seems to be a natural connection between the two. A trail runner will have a bad day when they lose focus and stop paying attention. One false step or lack of awareness of the surroundings can lead to injuries or miscalculations of the trail and conditions. Yet, hyper-vigilance is exhausting. A runner that finds a balance between sustained movement and being present in the moment can cultivate a Zen quality of running that emerges when mind and body are in agreement.