In 2006 when I was living in Brooklyn I started attending meditation services at a Buddhist temple. I was working as a cook at the time, and really just absorbed in my job. I worked, I went to a bar, and then I went home. I moved to New York because I wanted to cook there, and I did really like my job. I never totally fell in love with the city. I was an angry person when I moved there and I think some part of me thought that moving to a new city would reduce some of that. Not surprisingly it didn’t. When at work I was busy enough to stay out of my own head. Outside of work I reverted to my angry self-destructive self. I bought a bike and started commuting. That release and feeling of freedom was the first thing that really helped me. Second was finding this temple.
The more I meditate, and study and talk about meditation it is reinforced that there is not a correct way to meditate. It’s the act of trying that will cause you to reap the benefits. So even if you’re struggling to clear your mind during your practice, you’re benefiting from the attempt. It’s that word practice that becomes so important.
The thing that I loved most about the temple was the quiet. That’s a hard thing to find in New York. I would get off work late, get a few hours sleep, ride my bike to an early morning service at the temple. The streets were quiet, the temple was quiet. I loved sitting and trying to shut down my mind, but sitting still was the challenge. Then I attended a walking meditation. You focus on slow steps and breathe and walk in a circle around the room. Adding physical movement changed my meditation practice. My mind could quiet more.
When I moved back to Kansas City I missed this. I wasn’t getting this on my own in the same way, and I wasn’t cycling much either. I needed something and I wasn’t sure what it was. I’m going to give a very abridged timeline. I found trail running and fell in love immediately. I found ultrarunning and fell in love. Then I found timed racing.
I was back to moving in circles. I know exactly what is coming. Rather than focusing on the shifting course I can just focus on my breath and clearing my mind. All I have to do is move. Move and breathe. I get to know a space intimately through that sort of movement. Throughout the course of an event I may get to know what parts of a loop are colder, warmer, how the sun changes the way that things are seen and feel; how other people and animals interact in a space. I get to know a bit more about myself and my body. I meditate.
As I grow I find that I need different things out of running. My goals shift, the way I view endurance shifts. The way I view my limits shifts. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with my personal running in a year. I’ll be seeking new growth, and I’m sure that there will be some loops involved.