Sunday, August 12, 2007

Conquering The Beast (A Running Meditation)

They call this trail “The Beast.” It is uphill the whole way, 4.86 miles to the top. When I first read about it, I was skeptical. Could it really be uphill for almost five miles? One Wednesday morning, as part of my training, I decided to find out.
As I struggled up the first three-quarters of a mile, which are considered the most difficult, I had already decided that its name and reputation were warranted. An absolutely unrelenting climb, it is a beast.
Yet worth all of the effort, I discovered, continuing upward. Further away from the traffic below, winding around different curves, I found view after breathtaking view. Beautiful canyon walls stood high on either side of the trail, gorgeous mountains rising up in the distance.

I stopped--simply to take in the view. Surprised not to find myself fatigued or cramping, I breathed deeply. Inhaling, I took in the clear beauty of the world around me. The magnificence of Mother Nature overwhelmed me. Being devoured by the Beast was nothing like I had imagined. I felt myself moving inside it, its unfettered beauty all around me.
My mind traveled to a place I had visited once in Thailand. I stumbled upon an inviting temple in Bangkok and ventured inside, looking to meditate. Seeing my attempt was not going so well, an observant nun invited me to join her for a “walking meditation.” She taught me to concentrate on my breathing, to be mindful of my body, to be present to the meditation as a process I was experiencing.
Returning my attention to the Beast, I drew on my experience in Thailand and sought to complete the run with a meditative focus--a “running meditation,” if you will . . .
right, left, right – breathe in
left, right – breathe out
left, right, left – breathe in
right, left – breathe out
right, left, right – focus in
left, right – breathe out (exhaling stress)
left, right, left – focus in (there is tension in my right shoulder)
right, left – release the tension
right, left, right – focus in
left, right – tension out
Repeat. Repeat. Climb.

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