When I am running my mind empties itself. Everything I think while running is subordinate to the process. The thoughts that impose themselves on me while running are like light gusts of wind — they appear all of a sudden, disappear again and change nothing." ~ Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
I love to run. I especially love trail running. Getting lost in nature takes me away from all the concerns of my everyday life and gives me a renewed focus. I also really enjoy yoga. Not only does it keep my back from throwing a hissy fit, but it's helps keep me physically and mentally balanced.
Whenever I'm focusing on my body in this way—pushing it, stretching it, engaging it, wearing it out—it clears my mind. It's hard to explain, but when I'm exercising I think of everything and nothing at the same time. All the same unmindful thoughts come in, but they move right through me, like passing clouds. They don't carry the same weight they normally do. I see them for what they are... temporary.
This is the mindfulness of exercise.
Up until now I've mostly used this blog to explore the ways I find mindfulness in my everyday life, and it usually involves some sort of reminder that takes us away from drama and back to a happy place:
Physical activity is the best way I know to quickly screw my head back into place. By going out to the mountains, by laying down on my mat, by lacing up my shoes and putting on an empowering-pop-music playlist, I escape from the craziness that's weighing on my mind and put the focus back on breathing, being present, seeing the world around me, and not letting the little things get to me. By engaging my body in exercise, I almost force myself into mindfulness.
My March Monthly Challenge to you is to take on a mindfulness activity.
If you're not used to activity at all, start small: get up from your desk once a day and go on a walk. I find the Human app to be a great motivator. The more you walk, the more you want to walk. And thus begins you mindful activity addiction.
If you're already a gym rat but don't find it to be very mindful, you also start small: instead of going to your normal gym with all its normal distractions, go outside and exercise in public. Run on a path, take an outdoor yoga class, or use the exercise equipment built into many of today's parks.
For everyone, every time you exercise take a moment beforehand to breath and clear your head. In yoga we the start every practice with breathing—inhaling the positive and exhaling the negative—and the same should go for every activity. You don't exercise to cause your body pain, you do it to foster physical health and mental happiness. So take 1 minute, close your eyes, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and allow yourself to focus on the activity at hand.
When you're out there walking, running, stretching, and moving, focus on only what you're doing and what's around you. Every other thought that comes into your mind is like a cloud, passing by.
After all the clouds move through and you're done moving your body, you'll feel calm. You just hit the reset button on your mind, and you're ready to take on the world.