Mindfulness calls you to notice thoughts and emotions and let them float through your mind like passing clouds in the sky, rather than getting hung up on wrestling them into submission or attempting to deny them altogether. We can’t change the weather, so why waste energy compounding the storm?
Understand that turning your attention to your mind to take stock of the content of your cognitions is no easy feat. Even master meditators are susceptible to having their minds wander from the task at hand. And that is precisely the point. Each time you notice that you are distracted, gently bring your attention back to the present, again and again. This practice is akin to running intervals on the track or pumping iron at the gym. Repeatedly redirecting your attention fortifies neural pathways and strengthens the muscle of the mind.
- Start by noticing and acknowledging the top three thoughts running through your mind.
- Take stock of the speed of your thoughts. Is your mind racing, are you feeling more lethargic, or are you somewhere in between?
- Identify whether you’re attaching emotions to the thoughts. Are you worrying about work or stressing about what you have to do after the run?
- What is the storyline you’re following? Are the thoughts you’re having being fed by a certain identity you’ve created for yourself?
- Notice whether stress in your everyday life is shaping your attitude toward your run. Are the anxieties stemming from other venues causing you to feel bored, hurried, tired, or uncomfortable?
- Remember, being mindful is all about noticing the thoughts without judgment. Identify each thought as it pops into your head and let it move along without obsessing over it, trying to push it away, or clinging to it.
Hopefully, by observing your surroundings, physical sensations, thoughts and emotions on the run, you’ve tapped into a wellspring of information.
In Mindful Running, lifelong runner, coach, and fitness journalist Mackenzie L. Havey recounts her personal practice of meditative running and the influence it has had on her life. She taps a wide range of sources – from weekend warriors to Olympic runners, from coaches and sports psychologists to neuroscientists and meditation experts – to examine how training mental fitness through mindfulness can enhance your running practice and lead to a more contented existence.