Sunday, June 21, 2015

Running and the thought train

Came from one of those weekend runs around the university's academic oval.  It was late in the morning, but many joggers and strollers were still doing their thing under the oval's dark green canopy of acacia leaves.  Telltale signs of summer's end in the Philippines: grasses, trees, and flowers thriving everywhere, drizzle or heavy rain in the afternoon becoming more regular and extending through the early evening, sometimes with loud and frightening thunder or lightning as prelude.  Not much sun this morning, which made running easy and pleasant.  Though I still had to walk after a few hundred meters to catch my breath and ease my heart's pounding.

One thing that caught my attention while doing my laps today was how running takes the mind away from the usual stream of thoughts that flows through consciousness.  Like what a former boss used to describe as "going into the balcony" and just observing all these ideas, and notions, and feelings parading "below", with all of their antics and noises.  Something like reading a good book or watching this movie, with moments of excitement to know what will come next and a determination to persevere and push on, and moments of simply giving up on the whole business altogether and being just this passive, disinterested (though not inattentive) observer.

This latter state often proves to be the more interesting one.  Physical exertion mixing with a certain level of detachment.  Yet the detachment is not complete - but awareness is here linked by a tenuous umbilical cord to being and existence.  And its focus broadens, or attains this new level altogether: not anymore concerned much with what has gone by or what is yet to come, but simply noting and letting go while nurturing insights into such mental materials and processes.  Insights too about the body, like how that sharp pain in the ankles or those shaky legs, or that tightness in the guts are so intimately connected to recent thoughts of inadequacy.

Reflections and thoughts along these lines are what I'm expecting to read from all those books and materials on zen and running.  Like this one title in my personal library that I have yet to open in the coming days.  Something to include in my daily To Do lists before the next weekend comes, before these feet carry me again through another meditative and self-reflexive journey around the campus.  And enjoy the unrelenting thought train from a distance.

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