Running is moving Zen

I never liked running. I thought it was too physical. Exhausting rather than enjoyable. Then, my wife had an accident and went through ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction surgery. The surgery replaced the ligament in her right knee with a graft and metal screws. She used to train Taekwondo and was good at it. After gruel rehabilitation for 6 months, she found limitations in her choice of sports.

“We should try jogging!” she said, one bright Sunday morning in the fall.

Not to betray her new-found, overdue excitement, I said, “Sure.” That’s how I got dragged in.

Running Zen

Knowing nothing about running, we ran for 1 minute and walked for 1 minute for 30 minutes. We ran 3 times a week. In 1 month, we could run 12 minutes, alternating with 3 minute walks. We never talked about quitting. It was painful for me to see her limping, knowing that she was an accomplished athlete. For me it was more of a sympathy run. For her, it was a battle for her dignity.

To reduce our pain and struggling, we learned about how to run correctly. We tried different breathing techniques. We changed our diets. Running slowly but surely began to change our lifestyle.

We ran through the winter. By spring, we had collected memories of the streets, brooks, changing colors of leaves, a half dozen state parks, and all sorts of passing thoughts. For the past 15 years, we have run in Hartford, Boston, New York, London, Seoul, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and wherever else we traveled. We proudly finished 2 half marathons.

I have learned to like running.

Running is moving Zen. It makes me happy. It brings problems and struggles to the surface. It gives me time to regurgitate them, chew them, spit them out. Because running in nature broadens my awareness of my inner self and the outer world, by the end, I am quite far removed from the problems and see things as they are. Office life could never do that.

Only in running, the sole of the foot meets with the soul in the mind.

3 thoughts on “Running is moving Zen

  1. I love this post! Every time I go to run I am reminded of a video I watched on YouTube by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. It was that video that introduced me to mindfulness as a philosophy and as a practice. It helped me tremendously with my running but more so than that catapulted me to a place of spiritual inquiry, reflection and discovery. The practice of mindfulness is perhaps the most transforming spiritual practice (that and chanting) that I have learned over the last couple of years of seeking.

    • Thank you! I also enjoy chanting. For years, while driving back and forth between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, I used to chant Banya Shimkyung (Heart Sutra). 60 minutes passed like 3 minutes. By the time I arrived in Albuquerque, I was very calm and energized. I haven’t seen the video you mentioned but I will check it out.

  2. This is a great post. I was in the Active Duty Army for 4 1/2 years and in the Minnesota Army National Guard Army for 3 years. I found that your mind has to blend with your body and to be able to focus on your breathing. I had to learn what my legs did during each run to figure out what felt the best. Your body tells you what you are doing right or wrong by hurting or feeling good.

    When I run, I see other people listening to music while walking or running. I never listen to music when running outside. I have found that the beauty of the nature’s colors and sounds are what truly get you to almost forget you are in a running pace. At times, I feel like I am meditating while running which allows me to then also be able to focus on anything other than the running itself.

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