Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Springtime Reflections on a New Year's Resolution

I love running in the spring when it seems as if the whole world is waking up again. Gardens in my neighbourhood are already decorated in the brilliant colours of tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and other spring flowers, and it will only be a matter of days now until the azaleas, dogwood and cherry trees are in full bloom.

As well as lifting my spirits, springtime inspires me to revisit my new year's resolutions to see how I'm doing. This year, I kept my list of resolutions short and have managed to stick to most of them so far. More regular exercise? Check. More patience with unending home renovations? Check. More time with friends? Check.

The one resolution I've struggled with is the one I wrote about here a few months ago -- that is, my resolution to "love fearlessly". What I meant by that was that I wanted to try to care for others without worrying about whether they deserved it, what it might cost me, or whether my love would be returned in the ways I wanted.

The yogis I know make that kind of love look easy. Their open-hearted acceptance of others shines through their eyes and faces. Their expressions say they know who and what you are but they love you anyway. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as they make it look -- at least for me.

And that's a shame because loving is a glorious thing in and of itself. All the individual acts of love -- giving, sharing, accepting, listening, understanding, supporting -- feel really good when I do them. Things only go wrong when I start to focus, not on the love, but on what I want or expect in return.

In another post, I wrote about "wanting" and concluded it wasn't always such a bad thing. I still believe that. But wanting too much or wanting things I can't have can be painful and uncomfortable for all concerned -- which of course begs the question, why do it? Rationally, doesn't it make more sense to just love without wanting or expecting anything in return, trusting that in the fullness of time what goes around comes around, sometimes in unexpected ways?

As a general rule, I think so -- which is why I used my run this beautiful, uplifting spring morning to recommit to that new year's resolution: to love fearlessly, with optimism and hope and without expectation, and to be genuinely grateful for whatever love comes back to me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Running Meditation

Meditation is something I've long aspired to make a habit, but never seem to find the time or quiet for in my day-to-day life. This week, I read an excellent article in Runner's World about running meditation so decided to give it a try it on my long slow run this morning. It sounded simple enough. All I had to do was focus on my breathing.

Simple. Right. In reality, not so much. I did focus on my breathing -- for all of about 30 seconds before my "monkey brain" started fidgeting and talking to me. "This will be a cool topic for your blog." "What do you want to say?" "Hey, that guy must be cold in shorts this morning." Etcetera.

In fact, despite repeated efforts over the course of my two hour run, I suspect I managed to focus on my breathing for no more than a few minutes in total. The temptation to daydream or carry on (silent) conversations with myself was simply too great.

That said, the effort wasn't a complete waste. Even those few minutes were enough to get me to pay more attention to my surroundings and what my body was doing.

The latter was especially important because I'm nursing a knee injury at the moment. When I headed out the door, I was determined to avoid aggravating it by pushing too hard, but for the first 5 kms every time I checked my pace I found I was running too fast.

All that changed at the 5km mark when I began to focus on my breathing. Immediately, I noticed it was laboured -- which it wouldn't have been if I'd been running the right pace for a long slow run -- so I consciously slowed down until I could breathe in a more relaxed way. By refocussing on my breath every few minutes for the rest of the run, I was able to maintain a more comfortable pace without constantly checking my GPS, and -- as a result -- finished 18km with my knee in remarkably good shape.

Attempting to run meditatively also helped me pay closer attention to the world around me -- the soft furry growth on the branches of a shrub growing along the river, yellow green weeping willow leaves and fuschia cherry blossoms emerging from their buds, and a bench strewn with flowers in memory of Nadia (1989-2008) -- details that allowed me to experience the run in a way I wouldn't have if I'd been distracted by my own thoughts.

All in all, then, I'd have to say my first attempt at running mediation was a success and certainly something I'll try again the next time I head out for a long slow run on my own.