Why meditate? There are many benefits to meditation, but I like that it helps me find and understand my true self albeit slowly and sometimes painfully. Let's face it, it's not easy to sit with yourself and your own thoughts. And no, I don’t mean the self that’s summarized in my report cards, my performance reviews, my job description, what I wrote on my college applications, or even what I tell my closest friends.
I mean the self that’s beneath those layers and that wants to hide from my own conscious mind. If you’re like me, your mind is constantly engaged in convincing you that you are person X, when you are actually person Y. So, if you care about who you really are, meditation can help you cut through the conscious layers into the subconscious core of you.
The Mind May Not Want to Meditate
Meditation isn’t as easy as it looks. It takes some practice to overcome both mental and physical obstacles. Mental obstacles are the thoughts and feelings that nag at you when you’re trying to empty your mind. Physical obstacles come into play when your meditation posture is uncomfortable, or your environment promotes restlessness. Running can help to overcome both types of obstacles.
The point of meditation is to be in the present, and your restless mind is likely to do whatever it can to prevent that. It wants to plague you with regrets about your past or worries about your future. These are distractions from the present, and you need to get beyond them to meditate successfully.
Distracting from the Distractions
Over generations, meditators have developed techniques to distract themselves from these distractions. One way to do this is to make use of repetition. Some meditators use a repetitive chant. With enough repetition, a chant becomes meaningless, and focusing on the meaningless is the next best thing to focusing on nothing. With practice, you may be able to use the repetition of your breathing instead of a chant.
But there are other ways to get into the meditative zone. I like running. The repetition of my footfalls during a good run can go a long way toward clearing my mind of distractions. It’s almost mystical the way running keeps me in the present even while I am aware of my surroundings. I’m not the only one to notice this. “Running IS Meditation” is the title of a 2016 post by psychologist Ben Michaelis at Psychology Today. “I have found that meditation and prayer can be hard for some people,” he writes, “and so for my patients who have a hard time sitting still I often prescribe running and have seen amazing results.” Meditating at 6 MPH
An article at the Chopra website, “Running as Meditation,” points out that running and meditation share several benefits:
- both generate endorphins
- both tend to lead to a tranquil mind
- both induce an in-the-moment awareness
- both tend to create self-confidence
Ten minutes per mile is a decent pace for a low- to moderate-intensity workout. It also translates to 6 miles per hour. If you feel like you’re losing your mental balance, try going for a run. It’s the most reliable way I know to get into and stay in the present.
Image: “Running” by Kekka is licensed under CC BY 2.0