Meditation through running

A good friend gave me a copy of Haruki Murakami‘s book What I talk about when I talk about running. I have read and enjoyed a few of his novels and short stories and didn’t realise he does a lot of running and is a triathlete – he tries to do at least one marathon race a year. This book is a collection of his reflections about his running, how it affects his life and his writing and what it means to him.

One passage I found particularly interesting from a yoga point of view, was his description of his mental state during an ultra marathon (very long distance). He writes:

“To exaggerate a bit, it was as if by completing this over-sixty mile race I’d stepped into a different place. After my fatigue disappeared somewhere after the forty-seventh mile, my mind went into a blank state you might even call philosophical or religious. Something urged me to become more introspective, and this new found introspection transformed my attitude toward the act of running.” (p.117-118) [his italics]

Might this ‘blank state’ be the same or similar to a meditative state of mind (samadhi) which can be reached during yoga and meditation? The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says that: “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.” (YS 1:2), and that “A steady, continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region is meditation [dhyana].” (YS 3:2) The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says: “This state of unity – when the prana decreases and the mind dissovles – is called samadhi” (HYP 4:5).

Image CC by Nicubunu on ClipArt

For people who find sitting still and focusing on either something or nothing difficult, or for days when you know you just cannot settle, other ways or reaching a meditative state may be appropriate. I have experienced walking meditation practice and found that useful, and although my tentative running is not as far as Murakami’s sessions, I sometimes find one phrase going round and round in my head as I jog, in time with my breath and my steps. Sometimes it can be quite an inane phrase, other times it’s a form of positive mental attitude so that I don’t stop ( e.g. you can do it, you can do it). Maybe a lot of runners are actually practising meditation without realising it?!

For anyone who is interested in running, or who is a writer, or who likes Murakami’s works I would recommend this book.

3 thoughts on “Meditation through running

  1. Great post, Alyson! I agree that running or any type of movement can be a great way to slip into a meditative state. I like your quote about samadhi — how when the breath decreases and the mind dissolves — we are able to enter into a blank state or be “without mind.” It sounds similar to the Japanese definition of mushin, which is a meditative state that martial artists are able to access in combat. Check out my blog the “Mushin Project” as it talks about some similar themes you address in your blog. http://mushinproject.wordpress.com/. I look forward to following your blog!

  2. Hi Kristen, thanks for your comments and the link to your blog. I think there are overlaps between some martial art principles and yoga principles – for example the moving of the chi (energy force) which in yoga is called prana, and sometimes doing a flowing sequence of movements in a tai chi style can also help facilitate a meditative state. I find meditation techniques can be quite personal, suiting some people and not others, so it’s good to have access to different approaches.

  3. Pingback: Meditation and just being | Holistic yoga with Alyson

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