Running as a Meditation

Running as meditation

My husband has been training for the marathon, and I gladly sent him off into the woods, sitting down in front of my computer instead. After three months of watching, my body started to tell me, “you’ve got to move”.

I never liked running. It seemed monotonous, and devoid of excitement. I rather played volleyball or badminton instead. Running, I used to think, is boring.

That was twenty years ago. Now my body isn’t so fast anymore. I prefer yoga to bouncing around on a tennis court. And while Yoga can be pretty exhausting, it usually takes place indoors. More and more, I crave to move outdoors, in nature.

So I am trying to motivate myself to run. The good news is, you start very slowly. You’re not supposed to go and wear yourself out. You’re supposed to begin very gently. Walking is one walk to tackle it.

One writer who mastered not just the art of running, but also that of meditating, is Buddhist teacher Sakyong Mipham. In his book Running with the Mind of Meditation, one of the things he says is to be gentle with yourself, especially when you first start.

Gentleness keeps the mind from being too critical with yourself.  When your inner critic wants to scold you for not being fast enough, not running far enough, then the gentle voice will make it easier to persist by letting you do what feels right. “Gentleness allows us to keep our eyes on the prize without getting infatuated and without losing heart”, writes Mipham.

He discusses our usual habit of pushing ourselves aggressively rather than gently. “I have to be more aggressive” me might try and push ourselves. But Mipham contradicts: “In order to be determined you need not to be aggressive. Those aggressive mental states are taxing. We are more emotional, so were are less able to observe reality accurately. … Aggression is a short term solution for a long term problem. Gentleness is persistent. Gentleness is therefore a sign of strength, while aggression is often a sign of weakness. Aggression is often a last resort. Where do you go from there? If you become more aggressive, you seem insane, whereas if you have gentleness, you are like a great ocean holding a lot of power.”

What a wonderful way to look at gentleness – that it is an asset rather than a sign of weakness, which it is often interpreted as in our society.


About Gerti Schoen LP

Gerti Schoen Gerti Schoen is a psychotherapist for couples and individuals in private practice in NYC and Ridgewood, NJ. Her work has been informed by psychoanalytic thought, Imago Relationship Therapy, Mindfulness, Shamanic healing and Internal Family Systems Therapy. Before becoming a mental health professional, she had a fulfilling career as a journalist and writer in Germany. She has published two books, The Gentle Self and Buddha Betrayed.